48 Bananas: A Permaculture Tale

Woke up this morning to two more hands on the banana. You can see one of them poking out on the right above the bract. The top hand has opened up and I counted 12 fruits on every hand. Not sure how many will actually form, but that's a shiteload of bananas! It doesn't seem to be done yet, either, with a couple more bracts looking to open before it blooms.

This banana plant is a tribute to permaculture. When I first moved here in mid-July of 2015, it was 3 feet tall, planted in pure Florida sugar sand, and I was told I needed to really push it to get it to bear before frost. I fertilized it with Miracle Gro exactly twice and then just started piling on the leaves and tossing every kitchen scrap I had around it. Every time I found earthworms anywhere, I dug little holes around it and tossed them in. I planted a pigeon pea next to it for chop-and-drop and piled other green and brown material around it every chance I got.

By winter, it was up past the roofline. One pup came up, but it got stepped on and covered with leaves and died back down. I was told the main plant would probably die to the ground and come back, so I piled about 6 inches of pine bark and 3 feet of leaves up around it and prayed. We had a mild winter, and all it got was some burned leaves. The trampled and buried pup came shooting back up in the spring and another followed soon after, both beautiful swords suckers that took off growing like mad. It kept getting talller, topping out at about 12 feet. Hurricane Hermine tried her best to blow it down, and it was leaning perilously enough to have to be staked when it got a fruit stalk, but this is what I have now. I have no idea what kind of banana it is, and even though I'm hoping for Ice Cream, I'll be happy with anything.

As you can see, the pup on the left is already reaching the roofline, and will probably be the one to bear next year. I plan to take the pup closest to the house out and move it out beyond the courtyard. I'll keep updating here on the progress.

This is my first permaculture victory in this tiny space where everyone said I couldn't do permaculture. I hope this shows those of you with small spaces in urban areas that not much is impossible when you work with Mother Nature.

Garden Diary - September 21, 2016

Crocosmia Rescued From Trash Pile

I've been looking at my big "experiment" and thinking that much needs to change for next year. I stuck things here and there to see what they thrived, but once everything dies back, I'm going to be moving a lot of them.

Brugmansia - I don't need four pink angel trumpets, so I'll be selling or giving away three of them. I thought about planting them somewhere else on the property, but decided against it.
Amaryllis - I have so many Amaryllis, I don't know what to do with them. I have to find another place just for them. I'm thinking of digging up about 3 more feet in the outside garden and planting them there, a nice mixture of them.
Crocosmia - I didn't know what these little bulbs were when I planted them, so I just stuck a few here and there. Next year, I'll put them in one spot together, so it will be more dramatic when they bloom. I was hoping for seeds, but I guess my lack of pollinators killed that possibility.
African Iris - I grew these from seeds, and put them in a line in front of the angel trumpets, but I think I'll do the same with them as the Crocosmia - plant them in a clump, so when they bloom, they'll be more showy. I plan to get more seeds this year from the Kohl's parking lot, so I'll have plenty eventually. I want to put some inside and outside the courtyard.
Cannas - I'm going to move the cannas somewhere, probably up against my side of the privacy fence between me and the neighbor. They are simply too invasive in the garden, and take up too much space. Plus, they shade plants that need more sun.
Hardy Hibiscus  and Blue Perennial Salvia - These two were "rescue" plants from Lowe's markdown rack, and they just didn't do well where I put them. I think the lemon grass and cannas sucked nutrition away from them. I'm going to put them into one of the large terracotta pots and let them grow together in some good potting soil and see what happens.

 Tropical Red Sage - I'm very disappointed in this plant. It's been weak and spindly at best. I'll leave one or two to see if they improve with age, but most of them are coming out.
Purple Trailing Lantana - I planted this in a place where I thought it would spread outward, but instead, it's trying to climb the wall and hasn't bloomed at all this summer. I'm going to move it somewhere that it will get more sun and hopefully get it to bloom.
Ornamental Sweet Potato - This is doing well in the brugmansia bed, but not growing as fast as I'd like. The one in the front outside garden isn't growing much at all, because it's in too much shade and has too much competition. I'm not sure what to do with it, to be honest, but I'll figure it out.
Perennial Hibiscus - the only one I have growing right now is the H. radiatus, but I have seeds for the H. acetosella, H. sabdariffa and H. mechowii. I'm thinking of put them into the brugmansia bed once the three extras are gone, and surrounding them with sweet potatoes. Might not plant the H. mechowii. It's pretty, but prickly and I don't like things that hurt me.

Coleus (various) - I'm not sure I'll be growing coleus next year, other than the pretty yellow one with red striping. I'm letting the rest go to seed, and I'm going to gather the seed, but might not plant any of them. I'm not sure yet. I'm a little tired of having to take cuttings and keep them in the house for the winter, so I may just do the one and let the rest go.
Vinca - I'm going to save the white one, because I like it, but the other two I'll just leave to their own devices this winter. I'll probably put the white one in a container with the yellow coleus next year.
Caladiums - I have three kinds now, and I'm going to put all of them under the hibiscus bushes. I think a nice caladiium bed would be pretty. I'll probably buy some more bulbs too, a white and some paler pinks. I think they will be pretty growing with the peacock gingers.

O.K., enough. I'm sure you're not interested in where every single plant is going. Suffice to say, it will be a very different configuration from what it is now.

Happy Gardening!

Why I Will Likely Not Grow Vegetables Any Longer

I thought this nice, sunny courtyard would be the perfect place to grow vegetables, but unfortunately, because of trees that block the sun for a good part of the day, there isn't enough direct sun to grow what I want. I don't actually like many vegetables. My favorites are all things I can't grow here; tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers. I can grow them, but they don't do well, and the yields are not worth the trouble.

Greens, on the other hand, will probably do well here, but I'm not a big fan of greens. Collards are the only green I really like. I hate salads, so lettuce is not something I'm enthused about growing. Spinach and kale I can definitely do without. I've had some tropical greens growing all summer, and have not made one salad or cooked any of them. I just don't like greens.

I like potatoes and carrots, but they are so cheap, why take up space growing them? The sweet potatoes seem to be doing well, and I do like those, plus the vines make a good ground cover. I tried eating the leaves, but that didn't really appeal to me. Too bland.

I believe this is my last crop of tomatoes and peppers. Well, I really only have one cayenne pepper left, and it's not looking too healthy. I got exactly one squash from the yellow squash I grew last year in a container. The Seminole pumpkin vines are doing o.k., so I'll keep letting those grow and see what happens.

On the bright side, my banana is blooming, although sort of late, so probably won't bear in time not to get frozen. Just my luck. The one thing I could get to bear, and it's probably going to freeze.

All in all, I'm extremely discouraged by this space and will probably give up on all veggies but sweet potatoes next year. The pigeon peas did well, but I really don't like the taste that much, although they do make good chop-and-drop material. I may try to plant some blackberries against the wall, just to see what they'll do. Other than that, I'm thinking my veggie gardening days are over unless I can somehow, some day get a place with a sunny yard, and that isn't likely to happen.

Flowers are nice. I love flowers, and would rather grow thtem anyway, so no great loss. Growing veggies is just not my thing.

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in September

Beautiful calla lilies are wonderful container plants for spring blooms.

September is the main planting month for fall/winter crops in North Florida, so get out your shovels and get to work! All the cole crops are planted this month, and you still have time to plant bush/pole beans and winter/summer squash although this is the last month to do so. Mid-September is also the time to start planting strawberries

Vegetables to Plant in September

*last month to plant these crops

Arugula Beans: bush
& pole*
Beets Broccoli Brussels
Cabbage Carrots Cauliflower Celery Chinese
Collards Endive/
KaleKohlrabi Lettuce
Mustard Onions,
Radish Spinach
Strawberry Swiss

Ornamentals to Plant in September

Most of your summer ornamentals that survived the summer will resume blooming when the weather cools in September, and you'll start to see a better selection of plants in garden centers. If you need to refresh or replace some of your summer annuals, try these.

AgeratumCelosiaZinniaWax Begonia

Bulbs to Plant in September

This is the time to plant your elephant ears. Alocasia, Colocasia and Xanthasoma can be successfully planted this month, along with a few other spring-blooming bulbs.

Elephant's EarCalla LilyNarcissusZephyr Lily

Mexican Tarragon puts on quite a show in the fall garden

Herbs to Plant in September

There is still time to plant a few of your favorite warm-weather herbs, such as


September brings cooler weather and more pleasurable temperatures to work in the garden. If you have any questions about gardening here in Gainesville or the surrounding area, post them in the comments.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Diary - September 10, 2016

As you can see from the picture, my giant carrion plant, or starfish flower, is blooming. The flies are loving it, as it smells like rotting meat. This was one of my mother's favorite plants, and we traded cuttings back and forth for years until both of ours died. I got a cutting from a friend and regrew mine in her memory.

I was offered an apartment with a large yard -- about 1,000 sf outside of the courtyard -- and I turned it down because I didn't really have the money or the time to move right now. It would have been lovely to have the space for a real garden, but I would only have had 3 weeks to move, and that's not even enough tiime to pack. People leave around here all the time, so it will likely come to be available again in a year or two when I'm more able to take it. In the meantime, I'm going to be reconfiguring the space I have.

A few days ago, I took down the potting table and laid it on the ground. I didn't really need it for potting anymore, and I didn't want to dig up that section until I can put more organic matter in there. This is yet another experiment to try to see if I can reflect sunlight to get things to grow better. I will eventually paint that concrete wall white and repaint the old table white to see if the reflected sunlight helps with plant growth and production.

I planted a few seeds in containers. Not much. A few collards, kohlrabi (never grown before), bunching onions, radishes, and some lettuce for cut-and-come-again greens. When they get large enough, I'll transplant a few of the lettuces and greens into the ground or their own containers. I sat the larger pots up on the table to get better drainage, because I had found them not draining well sitting on the ground. I need to get some pavers to set pots on to allow them to drain better. I've also been putting holes into the sides of the pots to facilitate drainage.

Signs of fall are everywhere. The leaves on some plants are yellowing and falling, like the Caesalpinia mexicana (yellow dwarf poinciana) I planted this summer. It did o.k., I guess. Grew about a foot, then stopped in the heat, then grew a bit more when the rains started. I knew it wouldn't grow much this year, but next year should be better. I'm going to move it this winter, because I want to eliminate anything that throws shade on the garden from the South. I'll probably put it further down at the end, where I'll have to dig another small section out for it. I'd like to move the pigeon pea, but it's too large and they don't like transplanting, so I'll just plant a new one in a new place and take that one down completely.

The desert rose is also doing its fall thing by putting out a last gasp of flowers while it's dropping leaves. I don't know how people get theirs to bloom all summer. Mine puts on a grand show in the spring, then pretty much goes dormant in hot weather. Maybe I'll try some bloom fertilizer on it next year.

The brugmansias put on quite a show right before Hurricane Hermine stripped all their blooms off. I'm still having problems with army worms, but I am diligentlly picking and killing them every morning. I'm only going to keep one plant, because I need that sunny space for veggies, so I'll be giving away lots of cuttings and some whole plants this fall.

That's it, I guess for now. Could write more, but this is long enough.

Happy Gardening!