If you have been following me for awhile, you know I have recently taken up gardening and I love it! During our time in quarantine, I had some extra time on my hands and not much was open. I invested my time in a small garden. We live in the city, so our yard is not in abundance. My garden is tiny, 18″ x 48″. I over planted and moved some things to large pots, but overall, the garden has done well and we have been able to eat plenty of vegetables from it. The garden has also been fun for the kids to see where our food comes from and how we are able to grow and use food.
I was not really sure what I could even grow in Florida, especially in my tiny space. I thought this may be helpful to other mommas in the South that want to start a little garden but are not sure where to even begin. I had no idea what I was doing. I actually thought the tomato plants were peppers until my son noticed the first tomato growing on it! Some things were easier to grow than others, so I will walk you through what has worked for me.
I started my growing journey in the Home Depot garden center. Really fancy, I know, but you have to start somewhere and Home Depot was open. The lady that worked there though was super knowledgable and very helpful, so don’t be afraid to ask the people that work in the garden center for their help. I decided to use small plants, rather than starting from seed.
We would hopefully have tangible results a bit more quickly. I was also worried about attracting rodents to our yard so she advised me to put a cinnamon broom or cinnamon sticks in my garden and to add herbs. I bought tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sweet red and yellow peppers, strawberries, kale, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, mint and plenty of gardening soil. I found cinnamon sticks at the grocery store.
I quickly found out that is a lot of stuff for a tiny garden. Within a couple weeks, my garden looked more like a jungle! I bought 2 large pots, filled them with soil and moved the tomato plants, thyme, and basil. I also purchased large stakes for the tomato and pepper plants to grow around. Everything was flourishing for awhile.
Then, the bugs arrived. Tiny white bugs were all over the mint and something was eating the leaves of the tomato plants and the pepper plants were turning black where the leaves attached. It was important to me to keep everything organic so I did not want to use chemicals on my little plants. After some research on Google, I sprinkled black pepper on the mint to get rid of the tiny white bugs. I used an organic soap spray for the leaves of the the other plants. The red pepper plant died, but everything else hung on.
The herbs were the first things that we were able to use. My sister gave me a great tip for herbs. She told me they like to be used so pick off a few leaves every day. This really worked for my herbs. They have been the most sustainable plants in our garden. I have dried the oregano, thyme and rosemary and used in pasta sauce, and any other dish I could think of. I cut sprigs of rosemary and tie them up with a ribbon to gift to friends. It just smells so good!
As a family, we have grown to love cilantro because we had so much of it. This lasted a few weeks and then the plant flowered and produced less and less until it died. We got a handful of tiny strawberries, but this was in May. Cherry tomatoes grew really well and we had so many tomatoes that were all delicious. I made fresh salsa and had tomatoes for many meals. The plant that grew the best was the kale. We had 2 kale plants and no one likes kale. I did not want to waste it, so we started making kale chips and adding kale to our homemade pizza for some crunch. Now, Tess and I actually enjoy kale! We harvested 1 yellow pepper, but it had a rotten spot, so we didn’t even eat it. Typical for Florida, we had extreme heat and monsoon rain during the summer. Late July and August, almost everything died or got washed out. The oregano, basil and rosemary survived.
I replanted in October. This time I tried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, eggplant, Swiss chard, cilantro and mint. I over planted again because I didn’t realize the Swiss chard was actually individual plants. The cilantro died immediately. Everything else is doing well. We have already cut off some of the Swiss chard to use for quesadillas. This is the reason I chose to grow the Swiss chard, these quesadillas are so good for lunch! Sometimes, I add turkey bacon and it’s amazing. I know strawberry season is in the summer, so I’m not sure why I chose strawberries. We have not yet had fruit on these plants, but the plant seems happy. One tomato plant got hornworms. I used more organic soap spray and they seem to be gone. I check the leaves often for holes and there are no new ones. The tomatoes have really produced a ton of fruit all through April. The eggplant is huge and has several purple flowers, but no fruit yet.
So what has been easy to grow in Florida?
I would still consider myself a novice gardener. I love that we have been able to grow a few items in our tiny outdoor space. It has opened our eyes and enhanced our pallets. I have enjoyed having the kids help tend the garden and see for themselves how we can grow food. For that I am grateful. I would love to know what you are growing in your garden! Please find me on Instagram or comment below!
All images for this post were taken with my iphone.