Watch My Food Grow ~ A South Florida Raised Vegetable Garden

Florida Backyard Raised Vegetable Garden

Okra Update

September 27th, 2014 by Lila Steinhoff
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Still Blooming

Back in August when the other garden box was covered to solarize it for the remainder of the summer, the okra was still coming up strong. Since we don’t plant again until October, we decided to leave the okra until it quit producing.

Not only is the okra still producing, but it keeps on blooming! I know okra tolerates heat much better than anything else I grow, but, besides producing scads of okra, some of the plants are now 7-feet 4-inches tall using a tape measure.

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Tall Okra

I have never, ever had okra plants grow that tall. I have to pull the plants over sideways to bring them down low enough for me to cut the okra.

Over the last eight weeks, I have cut more okra than I ever expected to.

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Cut Okra

I have pickled okra, fried okra, put okra into gumbo and given away okra. I really like okra, but there is so much of it. I guess I will have to get new recipes off the internet.

Grandson Discovers Okra

Today, 3-year old grandson Graham came to visit and discovered okra. He saw me cutting it off the plants and wanted to help. I placed the cutters on the okra and let him squeeze them together to cut it. With a little help, he cut an impressive bunch of okra.

He piled up the okra and decided it looked really good. I washed a small piece and he bit into it.

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Grandson Eating Okra

It was a winner. He ate two pieces right off the plant. He knows good stuff when he tastes it.

Okra Festival

Graham’s Uncle Matt and Aunt Sarah (a former Okra Fest Queen) attend an okra festival near Orlando every year in October. Looks like Graham could be a tag-along for the next one.

 

 

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Sea Grape Tree

September 18th, 2014 by Lila Steinhoff
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Too Hot to Do This

I haven’t been able to do much in the way of gardening for the last month or so. The heat and humidity in south Florida in the summer is oppressive. Most yard work is delayed until the end of November when the weather is much more bearable.

However, today I had to bite the bullet and trim the beautiful sea grape tree in my front yard.

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Sea Grape Leaves

Our yard maintenance guy came, and I had to move my car to keep it from being sprayed with grass clippings. I parked under a very old and very beautiful sea grape tree. I was parked two feet out from curb, and I still hit my mirror on a tree branch. This  pruning job couldn’t wait two more months.

The Old Lady of the Manor

This 30-foot tall sea grape tree is a treasure… old, beautiful and has multiple trunks that are 10 to 12 inches in diameter. It is at least 75 years old. Most of the trees on this property were planted when the house was built in 1937. I think this tree may be older, though. It sits at the very edge of the property near the street. That would be an odd place to plant a tree, so my guess is that the tree was already here when the house was built.

Serious Wind Damage

The sea grape grows branches everywhere on the trunk and limbs, and it grows them fast. Besides being an inconvenient parking obstacle, this much additional foliage creates a thick canopy and a serious hurricane issue for the tree. This tree was pretty much shredded during Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

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Sea Grape tree damaged during Hurricane Wilma.

The canopy had grown so thick, wind couldn’t blow through. Limbs 8 to 10 inches in diameter were twisted, shredded and ripped off. Many were left hanging by a strip of bark.

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Sea Grape Limbs after Hurricane Wilma

There was so much damage, that the pile of tree limbs that had to be removed was 6 feet high and 20 feet long.

Arborists Do the Pruning

Since 2005, we have been more vigilant about managing the canopies in our trees. In February, we had an arborist  prune several of the large trees on our property, including the sea grape.

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Pruning Sea Grape Tree

Sea Grape Growing Habits

Sea grapes are found all over the coastal areas of south Florida, and most of them are bushes rather than trees. The nature of sea grapes is to grow new branches that spread the plant.  It becomes more of a 6-foot tall hedge than a single tall tree, and tree suckers grow fast.

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Base of Sea Grape Tree

Rows of cut tree suckers can be seen along the base of my tree. They have to be cut continually, or I’d have a hedge instead of a tree.

To control the fullness of the canopy, the tree suckers that appear all over the tree have to be removed regularly, and today was the day. There were new tree suckers from the ground all the way up the branches.

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Tree Suckers on Sea Grape Tree

I managed to cut most of the suckers around the bottom, but I had to enlist the help of neighbor Bill to get the ones that were higher than I could reach even with a ladder.

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Removing Tree Suckers

Finished. Looks good!

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Pruned Sea Grape Tree

It took about half an hour to get the job done, and the resulting tree looks almost as good as it did after the professionals were finished in February. On the other hand, it was hot, hot, hot, and I was drenched in sweat and totally wrung out. I walked straight from the tree to the pool. Wet is wet, regardless of the attire. Once I got cooled down, I had three glasses of iced tea followed by a nap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Time to Cook the Garden

August 11th, 2014 by Lila Steinhoff
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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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