Watch My Food Grow ~ A South Florida Raised Vegetable Garden

Florida Backyard Raised Vegetable Garden

Sea Grape Tree

September 18th, 2014 by Lila Steinhoff

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.

Sea Grape tree leaves

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.

wind damaged Sea Grape tree

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.

hurricane cleanup

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.

pruning Sea Grape tree

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.

base of tree

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.

overgrown Sea Grape tree

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.

pruning Sea Grape tree

Removing Tree Suckers

Finished. Looks good!

trimmed SeaGrape tree

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

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.)

sun-baked tomatoes

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.

clear plastic

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.

brick on plastic

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.

covered garden

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.


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.


waffles and lizard

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.

in pool

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.

Bill in Swing

Bill in Swing

Gran Holding Ladder

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.

music box demonstration

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.

splash park at Lake Lytal

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.

loading dumpster

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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