Watch My Food Grow ~ A South Florida Raised Vegetable Garden

Florida Backyard Raised Vegetable Garden

Time to Cook the Garden

August 11th, 2014 by Lila Steinhoff

Prep Work

In South Florida, when the spring garden quits producing and dries up in July or early August, it is time to remove all the plants and cover it for soil solarization. (Click on the link if you want to know what that means.)

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Sun-baked Tomato Plants

This is necessary to get rid of weeds, insects, grubs, nematodes and other unwanted things in the soil before planting again in October. The heat of the sun kills whatever is in the soil.

 Cover the Soil

The garden is covered with clear plastic sheeting, so the sun can heat the soil.

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Clear Plastic Sheeting for Garden

Last season, there was an issue with rainwater pooling on  the plastic cover and growing algae. The algae, being dark green and thick, blocked the sun’s heat from  getting through the plastic sheets.

When preparing the soil to be covered this time, I decided to rake up a gentle hill in the middle to allow water to run off to the edges of the cover. The plastic is spread flat on the soil, and this year, I folded the edge of the sheet under just enough to make it even with the side of the garden.

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Plastic Cover for Garden

Then, I pushed the edges down about half an inch between the soil and the side of the box. This, along with the ‘hill’ in the middle, will allow the water to run off which will prevent pooling on the top of the plastic sheet.

Weight the Cover

I have a pile of red brick pieces that I keep stacked near the garden. I use the bricks as weights to keep the plastic from moving or being blown off until it is removed.

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Plastic Cover for Soil Solarization

The garden will bake in the sun for about eight weeks. In October, the plastic comes off and planting begins again.

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Memories for a Heart Garden

August 7th, 2014 by Lila Steinhoff

Visitor for the Day

I didn’t spend any time in the garden today. Instead, 3-year old grandson Graham spent the day with me. I picked him up at 8:30 this morning, and he created… and recreated… the ‘what to do’ list for the day.

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Boy on a Ladder

First stop was the carport where Graham checked out an open ladder. He decided that make-believe light bulbs needed changing, so he unscrewed them and handed them down. Then he was down and on to breakfast.


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Waffles with Lizard

Breakfast… a whole wheat waffle with apricot preserves…  was served in pizza shaped slices. The green lizard was on the table in case he got hungry

Next, we were on to the toy box and other favorites in the living room. A basket of small cars was dumped out on the carpet. He sorted through to find the ones he could put in the pool… along with the bag full of dragons that he brought with him.

A Dip in the Pool

It wasn’t even 10 AM, which is about the time the sun clears the house and begins to shine on the pool, but Graham was ready to swim anyway. We headed out.

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Graham had a great time paddling the pool float with a pool noodle oar. Then he was out and back up the ladder. While up there, he decided he needed to use my camera. I handed it to him and he took pictures of me and neighbor Bill (Jacqie) Jackson who had just walked over.

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Bill in Swing

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Gran Holding Ladder

Then Graham took 40 more pictures. Many of them were quite good. I see a camera in his future.

 A Little Music

We were in and dried off, and Graham moved on to the piano for a little freestyle rendition of the alphabet song. While he was in a music mood, he took a butterfly music box off the shelf. He knows exactly how it works and will tell you every detail.

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Music Box Demonstration

Graham shared his music box knowledge with neighbor Bill.

Lake Lytal Pool

I had suggested a trip to Lake Lytal Pool for time in the kiddie splash park on the drive in the morning.  Graham decided it was a good idea around noon, so we suited up, put on sunscreen and headed to the pool.

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Splash park at Lake Lytal

Graham had a great time trying out all the gadgets and gizmos at the water park.

Home and Pack Up

When Graham tired of splashing around, we headed back to my house to change clothes and pack up to head home. When we got out of the car, he spotted a huge full dumpster on sitting on the street. I could hear the tractor just finishing unloading an empty one for the business next door.

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Loading Full Dumpster

We waited out front and watched the tractor back up to the dumpster and raise the full one up on the tractor bed to be hauled away. The driver came around to our side to pull the cover over the dumpster and waved big to Graham. Graham was pleased and grabbed my camera to take his last picture of the day… a picture of the covered dumpster pulling away.

It was past lunchtime by the time were packed up and ready to return Graham to his house. We stopped for a burger with a toy and had a car picnic on the way home.

‘Growing’ Memories

Today was spent growing ‘food for the soul’… memories of a day spent with my grandson. On the drive home, Graham told me he thought Lytal pool was too loud and we should go to a different one next time. Yay! I was thrilled. He wants a ‘next time’. How cool is that? Life is good.

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Ladybug Desire

July 17th, 2014 by Lila Steinhoff

Aphids Made Me Do It

Last year, the okra in my garden was covered with aphids. I wanted to use natural pest control, and ladybugs were the answer. I ordered live ladybugs from an online vendor.

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Mail Order Ladybugs

I released my mail order ladybugs into the garden and the aphids were controlled in three days and for the rest of the season. All was well.

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Releasing Ladybugs

Where Will They Go?

I saw a few ladybugs on plants throughout the garden during the rest of the spring growing season, but I was concerned about what would happen to them at the end of the season. That is when all the plants are pulled out and the garden is covered with a sheet of clear plastic for about eight weeks of solarization to kill the weeds, insects, etc that are in the soil before it is planted again.

I considered building a ladybug habitat so they would have a place to go while the garden was covered. Procrastination got the better of me. I never got around to it. Since the herbs were all that was left during the summer, I really didn’t expect to see any ladybugs when I planted in October.

They’re Ba-a-ack…

Surprise! I didn’t have very many, but I did see a few ladybugs on different plants during the season.

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Ladybug on Spinach

Today, I noticed that I have aphids… again. I was thinking that I should order another bunch of ladybugs, because I had seen too few to take on a plague of aphids again. Then, I saw that my problem of needing more ladybugs was being solved on an eggplant leaf.

Nature Solving a Natural Problem…

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