Watch My Food Grow ~ A South Florida Raised Vegetable Garden

Florida Backyard Raised Vegetable Garden

History of Wilmot Yard

December 10th, 2012 by Lila Steinhoff

Really Old Plants and Trees

When I posted the bougainvillea story last week, I mentioned the ‘old lady’ of my yard… a magenta bougainvillea about 80 years old.

Magenta Bougainvillea

It got me to thinking about the other plants and trees that were in this yard 40 years ago and the ones that are still here today.

Click on any picture to make it larger, then click on the right or left side of the image to move through the gallery.

The Old Homestead

My house was built in 1937, and I am guessing that most of the vegetation and trees were planted around the time the house was built. We bought the house in 1976, so many of the trees already may have been 40 years old when we moved in. Besides beauty, the place we’ve called home for 36 years has a wonderful edible history, too.

1976 – House and Yard

I grew up in a midwest farming community, so, being new to Florida, I was in awe of what grew in the yard without any help whatsoever. The yard had three coconut palms, two mango trees (a Haden – on the right in this picture – and an Alphonso – also called an Indian mango), many citrus trees (tangelo, calamondin, tangerine, key lime , grapefruit, navel orange), two varieties of avocados, a sapodilla tree and several Surinam cherries.

Coconut Palms All Gone

All of the coconut palms are gone. They were killed by lethal yellowing, a disease that wiped out nearly all of the coconut palms in South Florida in the late 1970s. I replaced the coconut palms with royal palms in the early 1980s.

Royal Palm Tree

Of the three seedling Royal palms, (bought for $1 each from a neighbor who grew them in coffee cans in her backyard) only one remains. One died of unknown causes in the first couple of years.

Palm Tree Felled by Hurricane Francis

The second was felled by Hurricane Francis in 2004. The third is now about 35 feet tall and beautiful.

Florida Wild Green Parrots

The remaining Royal Palm is visited by Florida’s wild green parrots who eat the new tender palm frond shoots.

Citrus and Sapodilla

There are no citrus trees left on this property. Early on, I learned that citrus trees had a lifespan of about 50 years, and they began dying off during the late 1970s on through the early 1990s. The tangelo, tangerine, key lime, naval orange and grapefruit trees died of old age. The calamondon tree was destroyed during Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

I replaced the key lime tree with two others grown from seed from the first tree, which was not a grafted tree.

Key Lime Destroyed by Hurricane Francis

One of the new key lime trees was destroyed by Hurricane Francis, and the second was eventually killed by citrus canker and had to be removed about three years ago.

The sapodilla tree is in the farthest corner of the yard and is pretty much ignored. It has never had much fruit on it. It does have a beautiful dark green canopy that shades the west side of the yard from the hot sun in the afternoons.


The larger of the two original avocado trees died about 20 years ago. The smaller of the two trees is still going strong and had two exceptionally productive years recently.

Avocado Tree

I don’t know what variety of avocado it is, but the fruit is buttery and smooth.


Both the Haden and the Alphonso mango trees keep us, our family and the neighbors in mangos every summer. The Alphonso is the most prolific of the two.

Haden Mango Tree

In 2011 and 2012, though, in the early spring, storms produced winds so strong that the mangos were blown off the tree in a stage that was way too early for them to ripen. A reduced crop was the result.

Florida Cherries

Surinam cherries, also known as Florida cherries, have fruit that varies from red to dark purple and have an exotic, wild taste.

Surinam Cherries

I pick and eat them right off the bush  if I am in the yard. Surinam cherries are considered an invasive species in south Florida, because they will take over the landscaping. They are not a problem in my yard, because I keep them pruned.

Stay Tuned

There is so much more to tell about what grows in my yard and other places I have been. Not to mention, I am just about ready to tackle the vegetable garden again this year.

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5 responses so far ↓

  • I have never seen the surinam cherries! I’m gonna look into these.

  • I am so envious! Avocados in your yard! I would be in heaven. I enjoyed the blog very much Lila and look forward to future articles.

  • Working on a raised garden in Florida myself. Just found your webpage and I needed it. Trying to figure out cost effective ways to backyard garden in a rental home!!!!

    • Glad to have you visit. After the first of the year, I will be setting up my garden for the season. There will be quite a bit of ‘getting started’ information on the blog. If you have read through the archive of the past 10 months or so, you will understand.

      If you would like to be notified via email each time a new post is released, go to the right side of the page and subscribe. I look forward to having you back.