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

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Yule or whatever you celebrate this holiday season. No, you can't plant poinsettias in North Florida this month, but what would December be without them?

Month by Month in North Florida: What to Plant in July

July is a month of anticipation in North Florida, because most of our fall/winter crops are planted in August. There are only a few veggies you can start from seed in July, but there is still time to put larger plants in the ground. You can usually find veggies such as peppers and tomatoes in sizes from 3-inch to 1 gallon pots, or sometimes even larger at nurseries and big box stores.

Time to Start Pumpkins and Cucumbers

Early July (before the 15th) is the time to start your pumpkin. Plant them directly into the ground, because squash family plants do not like to be moved. For the smaller decorative or personal pumpkins, save space by growing them up a strong trellis. This will also keep soil-borne insects from attacking them.

Cucumbers can also be started in July, and again, I would suggest planting directly into the ground and trellising them. You can also wait and plant them in August, but it never hurts to have an early start, so if they don't grow well, you still have time to replant.

Starting Tomatoes for Fall

Tomato seeds should be started indoors now for fall planting. Keep them indoors until they are around 4 weeks old, acclimating them slowly outdoors for a few hours a day. I always start putting mine in shade first, then semi-shade, then morning sun before exposing them to the harsh summer sun. It should take about 2 weeks to acclimate them.

Southern Peas

There is still time for one more planting of Southern peas, also called cowpeas or field peas. There are many varieties of these easy-to-grow nitrogen fixing legumes, so try a few new ones if you have space. If you're growing okra, plant some of the climbing varieties underneath them for nitrogen fixing and free trellising. These are great companion plants for heavy feeders such as eggplant.

Planting from Starts 

Eggplant and peppers are best planted from starts if you want a late summer crop; however, you can now start pepper seeds indoors to plant out in the fall. I usually start my bell peppers indoors in July and move them into 3-inch pots once they have their second set of leaves. This will keep them going until you plant them out or move them up to larger pots in August.

Cherry tomatoes will also do well from starts, the bigger the better. I suggest either buying small starts and putting them into containers or buying 1-gallon or larger starts to put directly into the ground.

Watch out for Everglades tomatoes starting to fail in the heat, and be sure to gather seeds, which you can start now for a fall crop. I like to just squirt the seeds out into a 1 gallon pot, where they will come up and start growing again. You don't have to take great pains to get these plants to grow.

Ornamentals to Plant in North Florida in July

There aren't a lot of annuals that will stand being planted or transplanted during the July heat. It's best just to keep your present annuals watered well and look forward to planting more in the fall.

Bulbs of butterfly lily, gladiolus and society garlic can be planted in July.

Preparing the Garden for Fall Planting

Late July is a good time to start preparing the garden for fall planting, especially if you have solarized, planted a cover crop or left it fallow over the summer. Although the heat is oppressive, I usually work very early in the morning or later in the evening (be sure to wear mosquito repellent) to get things done, sometimes just 10 minutes at a time.

Pull weeds and turn more organic matter into the soil. Check the pH and adjust accordingly with whatever amendments are necessary. If you aren't going to plant right away, it's a good idea to place cardboard over the garden to keep weeds from growing back.

July is a tough, hot month for North Florida gardening, but there are still things to plant and things to do, so don't give up on the garden yet!

Happy Gardening!

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in May (Updated 2021)

May is when the heat usually hits North Florida, and we consider it the beginning of summer. Not much will grow from seed this time of year, in fact this year (2017) has been so hot that my pepper seeds I planted last month never sprouted.

Vegetables to Plant in North Florida in May 

Fried Okra Is an Old Southern FavoriteImage Credit Lahti 213 CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

There is still time to plant these three vegetables from seed, which have so many different varieties, if you like them, you could fill your garden with only these. If you don't plant to do any summer gardening, plant some southern peas as a cover crop. They are great nitrogen fixers, practically grow themselves, and you can harvest the dried peas and turn the plants into your fall garden soil for organic matter.

Okra Southern Peas Swiss Chard

Veggies You Can Still Grow from Starter Plants

There are a wide variety of eggplants you can grow in your summer garden.

Even though not many standard veggies will grow from seed this month, there are still plenty of opportunites to start a summer garden with starter plants from your local garden center or big box store. I have a Ichiban eggplant I planted last week in a container, and already have a frut on it.

Veggies you can grow from starter plants are:

Peppers Cherry Tomatoes Eggplants

I suggest planting sweet peppers in a spot shaded from the afternoon sun, or you're likely to get sunburned fruit. Many hot peppers are also ornamental, so mix them in and amongst your ornamental plants.

I especially love cherry tomatoes, but with so little space, I only grow one variety most years: Everglades. Despite being a native tomato, Everglades fades pretty quickly once the temperatures get too high, so I always have a few clones going. This year I had one seedling live from some "fancy" salad tomatoes I bought at the store, and I'm growing it to see what it turns out to be. I think it's a grape-looking tomato that is red and black, but we'll see if it survives. 

The Cherokee Purples I plant every year actually have tomatoes on them this year -- or at least one large one does, and one clone that I haven't put into a larger pot yet. the one with the tomatoes on it has some sort of virus, so I don't think it will be growing much more. The one that is healthy was getting too tall, so I cut it back, and I don't think those flowers will get pollinated unless I do it by hand. It's still cool enough at  night right now for it to pollinate, but they usually don't past May 1.

Cloning Tomatoes

Speaking of clones, this is an excellent time to start clones of your regular tomatoes for planting in the fall. Simply snip or snap out suckers (shoots that come out from above a leaf) about 6 inches tall, stick them in a jar of water indoors, or bury them deeply in a pot in a shady space outdoors, and you will have all the tomatoes you need for fall planting. I already have my Cherokee Purple clones stuck and growing.

Annuals to plant in May in North Florida

Salvias and Sages are some of the best flowering plants for your summer garden.
There are not a lot of annuals that can take the summer heat, and this late, it is better to use starter plants. Fortunately for gardeners wanting lots of color in their summer gardens, salvias and sages are plants that come in a myriad of colors, sizes and shapes, and it loves our hot summers.

Salvia Angelonia Wax Begonia Ornamental Peppers

Bulbs to plant in May in North Florida:

This is the month to plant daylilies. These plants have come a long way since the days when they grew wild in ditches along the roadways (thus the name "ditch lily"). Did you know that the species plants, the original ditch lilies, are edible? Yes, every part of the plant is edible; buds, leaves, and roots. The hybrids are also edible, but most don't taste too good; trust me, I've tried.

Happy Gardening!

What Does Permaculture Mean to You?

Beginnings of the South Facing Garden, 2015

When I moved here, I had NO money and the soil was horrid -- pure sand.  People told me I couldn't do permaculture in this tiny space, but I didn't listen. I did what I could, using what I had, and what I had was leaves. With lots of large trees around the complex, I started raking and piling them up on the beds in the winter, nothing else, just leaves. I would literally go back to the woods behind the complex and trim the weeds and bushes for chop-and-drop in the warmer months, because there was no room for a compost pile. Earthworms came, ate the leaves and left lots of worm poop. It took awhile before I had a bed where I didn't have to fertilize anything at all, but now I have three, and I still pile leaves on them every year.

My friend came to dig some bulbs the other day, and she kept talking about how great the soil was. If she could have seen it 5 years ago, she would have said it was hopeless. 

I have one area where I tossed all my kitchen scraps all year, and leaves in the fall/winter. My banana grows there. I never fertilize it because it's literally growing in compost. Someone came to dig a pup and asked if he could take a few of the earthworms. I wasn't paying attention, but I looked down and there were literally BALLS of them around that plant. Of course, I shared.

Don't let people tell you what you can't do. Maybe you can't plant a food forest, or build large compost piles, or do Hugelkultur, but if you look at what Mother Nature does, how plants grow in the wild, how the leaves fall to cover the ground and protect the roots and how the earthworms, soil critters and mushrooms all work together to decompose the leaves and dead foliage to feed the trees and other plants, you'll see that if you are patient, you don't need loads of money. Nature provides everything you need.

Below are pictures of that same South Facing garden from 2019. I no longer have to fertilize it. The earthworms and a network of mushroom mycelium take care of that. All I do is water as needed, which isn't very often.  In the background, you can see that banana that only gets fed kitchen scraps.

This is what permaculture means to me. I just mimic nature, like my grandmother taught me, and with patience, all things come together. I think that's what most new gardeners are missing -- patience. Nature works at her own pace. You can rush her with chemicals and poisons, but you do harm that takes years to undo.

This year, I'm taking out most of the south-facing bed because it has gotten out of control, but I won't have to amend the soil for the new seeds and plants I'll grow there. My earthworms have been chomping on leaves all winter and they are ready to go to work.



Konmari-ing the Garden

The garden is out of control.

For the next two weeks, I will be getting rid of probably 75% of the containerized plants in the courtyard and digging out a lot of ornamentals in the outside gardens. The hurricane scare (which was a non-event here in Gainesville) made me realize that these plants do not bring me joy anymore. I'd be much more joyful in nice, open courtyard with a few pretty plants that don't grow so large that they take over the space.

I planned to so this in the spring, and I did end up giving away dozens of plants and cuttings, but then COVID struck, and I didn't feel safe continuing. I made a friend during that who has a large yard and is young and healthy, so I've given her a lot of stuff. I gave away a good 3/4 of my seeds to a lady who is thrilled with them, and has planted enough veggies to feed her family from them, which does bring me joy.

I came here with about 30 plants, most of which were just small cuttings. For years, gardening brought me joy, because it had been so long since I had a garden I could call my own and grow whatever I wanted. So I went a little crazy. Lovely people sent me plants, cuttings and seeds, and I had so much fun growing them. Now it's not fun anymore, it's work, and as we all know, once a hobby becomes work, it loses it's joy.

I'll keep you up to date with before and after pics. I think you'll like the results. Many of you have been so kind with your gifts to me, and I wouldn't have this garden at all if it weren't for the kindness of garden friends. Now I will pass that joy on to other garden friends, so the circle can continue.

Edibles Planted In The Garden, May 2020

Doesn't look like an edible? Keep reading to find out what it is.

I decided last year I was going to transition over from ornamentals to edibles in my gardens. Having very little gardening space, and even less full sun, it's been a challenge for sure. I've tried a few experiments over the years, some have succeeded and some have failed. Some did o.k., but needed more sun, so turned out to be gangly and not produce well. This year, I'm being a little bit smarter about it. I'm getting rid of a lot of the ornamentals and replacing them with edibles, opening up a whole new area that has the most afternoon sun, and trying new crops I've never tried before with any seriousness.

These are the edibles in my garden this year. Some are only tiny baby seedlings so far, but they'll start growing well soon, hopefully. Some are just grown from store-bought plants. Some may never do a thing, but some are already bearing, so that's something to celebrate.


I forget it it was 3 or 4 years ago, a friend sent me three each of three varieties of fig tree cuttings.  I killed all but two of them, probably by over-watering, but two survived and are growing and bearing. They bore a little last year, but this year, they're doing much better. The varieties are Settler's Fig (Celeste, probably) and Marseilles VS (black - very sweet). The Celeste is in a ten-gallon pot, and the Marseilles VS is in a 7 gallon pot, but they still seem to be doing well, so I may put off moving the Marseilles into a larger pot until fall.


I planned to grow a lot more herbs this year, but got lazy. I'll try again in the fall. The ones I have going now are:
  • Rosemary - 11 rooted cuttings - trade
  • Basil - Mildew Resistant - trade
  • Peppermint - trade
  • Chocolate mint - trade
  • Turmeric - gift from a friend
  • Lemon grass
  • Shiso - can be used dried as an herb or fresh in salads.

Peppers - all grown from seed

  • Sweet banana (2)
  • Cubanelle (2)
  • Poblano (Ancho) (3)
  • Red, orange and yellow bell peppers - just planted a few seeds from store bought. Not sure they'll even come up.
  • various ornamental peppers for bonchi


  • Cherokee Purple (1)
  • Homestead (3)
  • Gardener's Delight (2)
  • Everglades (1)
  • NOID plum tomato & small orange cherry - experiments from a pack of specialty salad tomatoes


  • Banana - Orinoco - I'm torn as to whether to keep this banana or take it out. I really don't like the bananas it bears, and it takes up too much space. There is a variety that is more dwarf and bears regular size bananas that I may try to trade for.
  • Papayas (3) hoping for fruit this year. The large one has a fruit, but I think it already has worms. Originally grew them for shade in that area, but some more seedlings came up last year and made it through the winter, so I'll see what they do.
  • Strawberry - this has been a disappointment year after year. I don't know why I keep it.
  • Lemon tree - seed grown 4 years ago, I'm making it into a bonsai just to see what will happen. I never expect to get fruit from it 
  • Elderberry - first year bearing any appreciable amount. Hoping squirrels don't get them.
  • Loquat - just a seedling, but it's 3 years old now. May turn out to be barren or sour. I thought about taking it completely out, but if I stay here long enough, I'd like to see how it does.
  • Avocado (noid) - volunteer from a discarded seed. This is its third year, and it's still going, so we'll see.
  • Dragon fruit - I have one small one grown from seed (white inside) and one grown from a cutting I got in a trade that is supposed to be red inside. Not sure I'm going to keep either of them, because of lack of space, and it will take them years to bear.

Beans and Peas

  • Yard-long  - 7 plants, maybe more. Things that look like them are coming up in various places from last year.
  • Scarlett Runner - I planted six seeds, and interspersed them with more long beans, but I don't know what is actually coming up, so I'll see what happens. I'm told scarlet runners don't do well in the summer here, so may end up replanting something else.
  • Kentucky Wonder (7) - doing extremely well.
  • Pigeon Pea - several small trees planted. Using the largest as chop and drop now due to squirrels stripping the peas off. Planted a couple over by the fence where they run just for them so maybe they'll leave mine alone.

Other Veggies

  • Okra - had to plant these twice, but about 10 have come up.
  • Sweet potatoes - I can't ever get potatoes because of roots and lack of sun, so I just use them as ground cover and eat the leaves
  • Jerusalem artichoke - found a few tiny tuber bits when digging up the bed where they used to grow, so I planted them. So far, only one has come up.
  • Eggplant - just planted seeds from store-bought plant.

Tropical veggies

  • Potato mint - thought it had all died last year, but started coming up all over the yard, so hoping for a good crop this year.
  • Malabar spinach (6) - might be too many, but I love it and could eat it every day.
  • Taro (eddoe) - I don't usually get a lot out of these, but they're just grown for fun and because the leaves are pretty. If I tried hard enough, I could get a lot of food out of them.
  • Cranberry hibiscus - leaves make good tea and are great in salads
  • Hibiscus sabdariffa (Florida cranberry) - found some old seeds and planted them. I have about 5 that came up and survived, so I'll find a place for them.
  • Winged yam - Dioscorea alata. This will be the first year I'll dig the roots. Will be interesting to see how big they are. 
  • Molokhia (Egyptian Spinach) - actually haven't planted this yet, but will be this week. I don't know where I'll put it, because it grows into a shrub. I just wanted another summer green.
  • Chaya - I have four plants now of various sizes. I had to cut the huge one back, and may have to take it out. I love this for pot greens in the summer.

Weird Stuff

Now to the strange plant in the picture up top. I got a Bromelia pinguin in a trade. It's a form of bromeliad that grows wild around Florida, get very large and has dangerous long, spiky leaves. It supposedly has an edible fruit. I have no idea where I'm going to put it where it won't hurt anyone. I may take it down and plant it in the woods behind the community garden, where everyone else tosses their bromeliads.

So that's it. I know it doesn't sound like a very productive or even sensible garden, but you have to start somewhere and see what does well. In the fall, I'll try different things, but starting this late, this was about all I could come up with.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Diary: February 16, 2020

Giant Peace Lily in from the cold

NOTE: This is a post I put into draft back in February and never finished, so here it is, as far as I got with it.

This is the most frustrating time of year for me. I want to get out and clean and trim, but the possibility that we'll have another freeze before the month is out keeps me from doing it. My garden just looks awful! But because of the mild winter so far, things that should have died back never did, like my Confederate Rose and Brugmansias. I almost hope we have a freeze to knock them back. I wanted them dormant so I could dig them up and move them.

After my neighbors tried to destroy my velvet bean vine, I decided to just take it out. I planted one of my Cherokee Purple plants in that pot, so I hope it does well. It gets afternoon sun, boosted by the reflection against the light-colored wall, and my very first Cherokee Purple did pretty well there when I first moved here. Of course, without full sun, I didn't get as many tomatoes, but I'm only one person, so it didn't matter. I have one other that I'll plant in a spot that gets the most sun in the yard. I have no full sun.

All the tropical milkweed and red shrimp plant are coming out this year. I'll probably pot up a few to sell, and give the rest away as "you dig." That area gets morning and a bit of midday sun, and I'll probably plant bush beans there.

I cut back the red hibiscus that never blooms, and also cut back the elderberry.

Garden Diary May 16, 2020 - Big Garden Changes in the Age of Coronavirus

I'm sorry I haven't posted in awhile, and I don't have time right now to post pictures, but here's a bit of what's been happening lately in the gardens.

I've been trying to get rid of a lot of my excess plants. Since I can't have my yearly plant sale due to the coronavirus, I've been giving away a lot of my plants. I won't give away the nicest or most valuable of them, so I'm looking at ways to have a safe sale with social distancing.

I'm trying to plant more edibles, so I've taken out some of the ornamentals to that effect. I still have a lot of ornamentals, don't get me wrong, but I'm planting edibles in and amongst them, and making special areas just for more edible plants.

In that vein, I'm completely redoing the courtyard. The figs are getting rather large now, and I need to give them more space to grow. I was going to repot the Marseilles VS, but with it being hard for me to get potting soil right now, I decided to use what I have left to plant another tomato and some peppers.

I had bought some seed starter mix from Dollar Tree -- won't ever do that again! Most of the seeds either didn't come up or came up and quickly died. I think it's contaminated with herbicide. I did manage to get a few of my pepper seeds to live, and one or two each of Homestead tomato and a variety of cherry I've never heard of before called Gardener's Delight. It seems to be a very popular variety, so funny I've never heard of it. Anyway, it was the last pack of cherry tomato left at Dollar General, so I'm going to try it. I'm also going to try to plant some seeds from some store-bought "gourmet" cherries. There are some tiny golds, a large red, and some tear drop shaped bi-colored that is very tasty. We'll see what happens with those.

Yesterday, I ripped out my Christmas Cassia (Cassia bicapsularis), which was way too gangly and ugly. I've been getting rid of butterfly larval plants and trying to plant more nectar plants, but this one was replaced with a firespike for the hummingbirds. I took out all the Asclepias and red shrimp plants from the butterfly garden earlier this year, with the intention of growing herbs, but so far, I haven't gotten around to that.

I added an elderberry for the bees and butterflies last year, and this year, it's blooming like crazy. Sadly, I had to cut back my large pigeon pea because it was being stripped bare by a rampaging squirrel. I don't know what to do about the squirrel. He's the first destructive squirrel I've had around here. I think the neighbor feeds him, which makes him think my yard is also free rein. I may eventually have to capture him and relocate him.

I cut back my largest Chaya yesterday also. I want to take out the banana that is behind it, and it was in the way. Hopefully, I will be able to get the banana out without doing much damage to the garden. It will be a big chore, and I'll have to bring my tender shade-loving tropicals inside until I can create more shade for them, but the banana has been "walking" for years -- getting closer and closer to the shade table, so it really has to go. Once it's gone, I'll put more chaya and pigeon peas in a more convenient place to create quick shade.

Enough for now. I'm just trying to keep a record. I don't really expect anyone to read this entire thing. I'll try to make some more interesting posts in the future.

Happy Gardening!

Hurricanes, Aging and Learning to Face Your Limitations

I've been happily propagating and adding to my plant collection over 40 years and here for the past 4 years. I came here with 10 plants and now, due to the kindness of friends, mostly, have literally hundreds of plants to care for during hurricanes and freezes.

One of the drawbacks to living in an apartment complex is that they dictate what you do during bad weather. Now, with Hurricane Dorian bearing down on us, they've decreed that everything "loose" must be secured by Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, they're all off on their Labor Day holiday, pretty much saying we're on our own until Tuesday.

So I've been hauling plants into the courtyard, trying to put them as close to the concrete walls surrounding it as I can. I'm doing all this with a torn muscle in my shoulder and a bad back. Bette Davis was right when she said "Aging ain't for sissies!"

This has led me to the belief that in order to survive without injuring myself further, they'll pretty much stay this way until hurricane season is over, or the likelihood of a major storm has passed. In the meantime, I'll be trying to sell or give away as many as possible to make my chore less onerous during future storms and freezes.

I'm not really going to try to save many plants this winter. Only my most precious will come inside, or those that I know I can sell when spring comes. The rest that are planted in the ground or too heavy to haul inside will be on their own. If they die, they die. There is only so much I can do.

A friend pointed out that none of us is getting any younger, and said that she didn't replace plants killed during the last storms/freezes and she won't replace any that are lost in the future. I have pretty much the same attitude.

I can't take plants or seeds to Mexico, and why would I want to? I'm going to be living in an apartment there, and most apartments don't have courtyards or large balconies, so I'm going to go back to raising African Violets under lights, or maybe a few house plants. It's time to put the major outdoor gardening aside and bow to my aging body's screams.

It's sad when you have to come to the realization that you simply cannot do what you used to do. I used to haul hundreds of plants in and out of the house, porch and garage for every storm or freeze, but I simply can't do that anymore. I have pictures from all my gardens, and I'll have to be happy with those in the future, celebrating all I've done and changing my lifestyle to do what I can now.

All in all, it's been a wonderful gardening life, and even when I can only have a few plants, it will be worth the loss for a great, new life.

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in August (UPDATED in 2019)

Uh-Oh! Just realized that August is nearly over and I forgot to post this. Hope you found it from the link in the sidebar, but you have plenty of time to get things in the ground this month, plus, most of what can be planted in August can also be planted in September, so you're probably good.

The main garden season has finally arrived in Florida, and here in the northern part of the state, we are already planting our winter crops. Since we have a shorter growing season than Central or South Florida, we plant a lot of our cole crops and leafy greens in August. Yes, I know, it seems it would be too hot, but somehow they survive until it starts cooling a bit in September.

Month to Month in North Florida: What to Plant in June

NOTE: I forgot all about this post. I'm publishing it without many pictures for now because June is half over and I want to get it up. Sorry about that. It's been a busy month.

June is a harsh month in Florida, and most gardeners use it as a time to rest and plan for their August plantings, but there are still food crops that can be planted and grown, though many you may never have heard of.

Annuals to Plant in June in North Florida

During the heat of June, most annuals and perennials are added to the garden as established or starter plants,  not grown from seed. Look at your local garden center to see which plants are available this month.

There are very few annuals that can take full sun during the steamy Florida summers. Celosia, portulaca, vinca and sun-loving coleus will add color and blooms to your garden when other plants are taking a rest until cooler weather. Gaillardia blooms all summer and are excellent cut flowers.

Perennials & Bulbs to Plant in June in North Florida 

Heat-loving perennials and bulbs can also add texture and color to your garden. Add established plants to your garden and they will return year after year.

  • Pentas
  • Salvia
  • Lantana
  • Melampodium
  • Bulbine
  • Ornamental sweet potato
  • Canna
  • Crinum

Vegetables to Plant in June in North Florida

The common crops that can be planted in June are:

  • Sweet potatoes - These wonderful tubers aren't harvested until fall, but you can harvest the leaves to cook or use in salads as a leafy green. Just be sure not to take too many from one vine, or to remove the growing tip, of you won't get any tubers in the fall. I like to grow a separate crop, sometimes up a trellis, just for the leaves. 
  • Southern peas - You can eat southern peas green, or let them dry on the vine for storing. Black-eyed peas are probably the most well-known, but there are so many types & varieties of southern peas that you can plant an entire garden just of these. 
  • Okra - A cousin of the hibiscus, you either love or hate this easy-to-grow southern staple. I personally like boiled okra, but I mostly eat it fried or add it to soups and stews. Okra and tomatoes cooked with onions, flavored with bacon and served over rice is one of the south's most beloved comfort foods.
  • Eggplant - Although eggplant should be started from seed no later than March, you can still plant starter plants in June and then plant seeds for a later crop in early August for a crop before winter. There are dozens of varieties and sizes of eggplant that you can try if you don't like the large, grocery store varieties.
  • Hot Peppers - Like eggplant, these need to be planted as starter plants, but they can be both ornamental and edible. 

Tropical Vegetables

If none of the above four crops suit your fancy, tropical vegetables are a great alternative crop during the hot summer months.

Missing spinach? Leafy tropical spinach substitutes include

  • Chaya - CAUTION: While most of these can be eaten raw, Chaya leaves must be boiled for at least 10 minutes before eating to destroy the cyanic acids in the leaves.
  • Ceylon Spinach (Talinum fruticosum)
  • New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonoides)
  • Albemoschus manihot  (aka Hibiscus manihot)
  • Malabar spinach

Edible Hibiscus and More

Cranberry hibiscus (H. acetosella) - the leaves are a beautiful dark burgundy with a tart taste similar to sorrel, and can be eaten raw in salads or used to make a delicious tea. CAUTION: The leaves contain oxalic acid crystals,so only eat them raw in small quantities.

Albemoschus manihot - a mild, leafy green, which can be eaten raw, but is usually cooked due to its mucilaginous property.

Elephant Ears - The young, unfurled leaves of taro (Alocasia esculenta) and some Xanthasoma spp. can be cooked and eaten, and are sometimes used in the Caribbean dish Callaloo. The older leaves can be eaten, but are best chopped and cooked for longer periods to make them more tender.

Amaranth - All Amaranthus spp. plants have edible leaves, although some are tastier than others. A. palmerii, a common weed in Florida, should only be harvested in safe areas where there is no contamination from cars or pesticides. It is easily grown in the garden with little to no care. Red amaranth and Amaranthus cruentus (Callaloo) are two popular garden varieties, but even the very ornamental leaves of Joseph's Coat are edible.

Lambsquarters- (Chenopodium giganteum aka Mexican tree spinach) is another weedy plant that can be used as a spinach substitute. It can grow to 6 feet tall in fertile soil, and can be pruned as needed to prevent reseeding.

Purslane - grows wild in Florida, but seeds of hybrid varieties with larger leaves can be purchased. Do not eat purslane purchased as an ornamental, because it may contain systemic poisons.

So June is not really a barren month devoid of flower and food crops to consider planting. Try a few of these in your summer garden to keep it going during the hot and humid months.

If you've already grown some of these summer veggies, let us know in the comments.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Diary April 11, 2019 - Turning the Courtyard Into a Food Forest

I have had so much trouble with a lack of sun in my gardens. My courtyard gets some afternoon sun, but not enough to plant full-sun vegetables. Still, the bananas seem to grow tall enough to reach the sun, and do very well, so I figure what I need is fruit trees that can grow taller than the garden wall.

The courtyard isn't that big -- 11 x 14 feet -- so I can't grow a lot of trees. Also, there is about 1/4 of it where nothing can be planted due to gravel in the ground or my new small seating area. Still, I think I can get at least 3 fruit trees in there, maybe four.

Which Fruits to Grow?

A friend gave me three varieties of mulberry, and one is a bush type that can be kept small. I have two fig trees I had decided to put into large containers, but putting one in the ground may be a possibility. I'd also like to get a satsuma mandarin orange plant. I'm not too crazy about the banana variety I have, so those will probably go.

Understory Edible Plants

There are quite a few edible plants that I can grow underneath the trees. I've never been able to get any potatoes off my my sweet potato vines, but they keep coming up, so I figure I can just grow them as ground cover and eat the leaves, like I've been doing. It will be awhile before the trees completely shade the area, so I can also grow beans and some root crops in raised beds for quite a while. Of course, lettuce and greens will grow in shade, so that's a possibility. I can also grow things like malabar spinach and runner beans up trellises on the walls.

Maintaining Some Afternoon Sun, While Creating Shade

The trees will have to be planted so that they don't block the afternoon sun that hits the south wall of the apartment. I have a few plants there that need to stay dry and need sun to bloom, so right there under the front windows under the overhang is a great place for them.

My seating area needs some afternoon shade, so planting at least one fast-growing plant where it can provide shade there is a consideration. I was thinking seriously of putting up a cattle panel trellis and growing beans or maybe luffa on it.

Lots of Plants Will Have to Go

If I undertake this plan, I'll have to get rid of everything that is in the courtyard now, or find another place for it. I think maybe a plant sale is in order.

This will be a big project and a lot of work, but I believe that I've enriched the soil enough over the past four years that I could make this work. There seem to be earthworms everywhere.

If you have any tips or ideas, please leave me a comment.

Happy Gardening!

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in April (Updated 2019)

April is the last planting month for many vegetables in North Florida before the heat of summer comes. There are actually very few vegetables you can still start from seed, but you can still use starter plants for some, and there are oh so many

Garden Diary - March 16, 2019 - My Nearly Free Front Yard Bed

It's a nice, cool, cloudy day here in Gainesville, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to work on the newer front bed up by the fence. I'd stuck a few things up there, but it really was just trashy looking, no form, rhyme or reason.

Garden Diary: Feb. 23, 2019 OVERWHELMED!

The warm weather has come too soon, and I lost out on the cool weather I needed to get the beds ready for planting. I don't know if I'll be able to accomplish all that I had planned, because I simply can't work in the heat. Once it gets past 75 F, I have to go inside. 

So many "have to do this before I can do that" things are holding me back. I wanted to do the courtyard first, but I need to sell or give away