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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

Garden Diary Feb. 1, 2019: Drastic Pruning Has Begun

I couldn't wait any more, so I went and whacked  back the Christmas cassia (Cassia bicapsularis) and the Cranberry hibiscus (H. acetosella). I was going to do the confederate rose too, but I want to root some of those cuttings to sell, so I need to wait a bit for those.

Maintaining Your Childlike Sense of Wonder

I frequent one particular gardening forum, and I hesitate to post at times, because I realize some of my posts are sort of silly to serious gardeners. I post about getting excited over cuttings rooting or seeds shooting up, but I am so in awe of nature that I just get excited about the tiniest things.

My grandmother was my gardening guru, and she taught me to never take anything for granted, and always be thankful for what nature gave

Garden Diary: January 21, 2019 Impatiently Waiting for Last Chance of Frost

I don't really like very cold, freezing weather, which is why I moved to Florida. I moved from SW Florida to North Florida because I missed the seasons. I wanted a short winter where things actually died back and went dormant, but it seems I may have to go a bit further north for that.

It's hard to tell what's going to happen to the weather nowadays. Last year, we had two hard freezes in January that killed back a lot of plants. I was  hoping for one this year,

Garden Diary: January 1, 2019: Drastic Changes in the Gardens in the New Year

2019 is a year of out with the old, in with the new for me. I started this garden with the hopes of growing food, but that didn't work out well at all. There is absolutely no full sun, so most of what I tried to grow either did nothing or very little. Plus, there is a distinct lack of pollinators, so even the things I managed to get to grow didn't produce anything. So I've had to rethink what I have and what I want.

Giving Up On Growing Most Veggies

My sweet potato patch produced only one twisted little potato that looks like a turnip, and two babies that grew from the vines growing into the

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

January is one of the coldest months in North Florida, but it's a great month for starting veggies for your spring garden. Put your potatoes in the ground this month, and start some tomatoes from seed or clone some from your existing plants for spring planting. You can also brighten up your landscape with the cute smiling faces of pansies or add a graceful camellia to your flowering shrubs. As the days get longer and winter is upon us, gardening is still going strong in our part of the state.

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?

Garden Diary - November 18, 2018: Starting Over From Scratch

Cranberry Hibiscus in Bloom
As those of you who have been reading this blog since I moved to this apartment know, my gardens here are an ongoing experiment. At first, I planted anything I could get cheap or free or grow from seed, but as seems to

Garden Diary: September 30, 2018 - A Garden Out of Control and How to Tame It

Peacock Gingers and Wandering Jew under the Hibiscus
This was the first year I used fertilizer on my gardens, and I wish I hadn't. I was committed to growing organically, but things didn't seem to be growing quickly enough, so I said "why not?" and applied some mild, timed-release bloom

Garden Diary: September 24, 2018 - Yard Crew Weed Killer Disaster, and a Sign of Hope

My beautiful hibiscus, which was killed back to the ground by the freeze this past January, has finally put out its first bloom. What a beautiful site after the disaster I have been faced with since last Wednesday.

The yard crew for my apartment complex, which is an outside contractor, has not been doing its job this summer. I was patient, because of all the rain, but

Garden Diary - September 2, 2018 - Potting, Repotting and Cleaning

The sun comes up later now , but the mornings are staying cooler longer,
which allows me to get much more done. Yesterday, I had an orgy of transplanting rooted cuttings and repotting potbound plants.

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 can be 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. This is also your first month to plant lettuces.

Mid-September is the time to start planting strawberries, in fact,