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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Earth Moving Day

It's not uncommon to spend the month of January shifting the landscape around here.

As part of the preparation for spring I picked up a load of good dirt.

One wheelbarrow at a time I've spent the day emptying out the back end of the truck and transporting the new dirt. Love the smell of good dirt.

And where is all that dirt going?

It's finding a new home in the veggie garden where sod was dug out last week. In an effort to keep the budget down I've had to revise my plan to build more boxes for veggies. Sigh. Raised beds would be the best way to manage this expansion that is making room for more vegetable plants.

Instead I'm turning to plan B. I'm working on amending the existing soil and next I will build up some growing spaces using elevated areas. My goal is to experiment more with companion planting while creating a garden that flows right into the foundational and perennial landscaping.

While I had some hired help last week I marked out a couple of more places in the back garden and expanded my planting areas there as well. This will be the most sunny bed in the back garden. A rarity at Hoe and Shovel now days... sunny spots that is. My neighbor helped out with that issue by cutting down a couple of his trees last summer that previously helped shade this area.
One more fairly large area on the northeast corner of the back garden has been dug out for another planting bed.
I'll be making use mostly of what I already grow here dividing agapanthus, xanadu, gingers, bromeliads as well as using some plants I started from cuttings back in the fall in anticipation of this plan. All these budget cuts are helping me to be a more patient gardener.
It's been a cold and blustery day here in Tampa Bay. It's rare that the cold air from the north pushes this far south. We are expecting close to freezing temperatures tonight (please don't freeze) and freezing temps for certain tomorrow night. I am hoping for the best tonight but tomorrow I will busily work on covering as many of the tender plants as possible. It only takes one night of dropped temps to lose so many tender plants --- but we will stay optimistic and hope for the least amount of damage
By the weekend we'll be back to normal at close to 70 degrees and sunny. My tropicals are wishing for our usual tropical weather.


  1. Meems, such a lot of work! But oh what a wonderful way to spend the energy. Your new bed out lines look greta and will add to your already lovely beds. The veggie garden looks as if it will flow seemlessly into the rest of the garden. Just don't work too hard. S

  2. Oh I hope it doesn't freeze, Meems. At least a lot of your plants can be grown from cuttings and hopefully the rest will cope with one cold night. We have had more frosts this year than for at least ten years, probably longer and I know that I will have some fun replacing some tenderish plants. Fortunately I am at a time of my life when I can afford to, which I plan to enjoy. I have lived on a tight budget and I am sure I will again. My garden might benefit, from a smaller budget, more of the same plant rather than lots of different ones!

    Best of luck, Sylvia (England)

  3. Meems I do hope you get some help with all that work! Do you buy your dirt? It looks like a soil mix. I buy a truck load of soil mixed with manure sand and compost every quarter to pot up my plants that I sell and to rejuvenate my beds. Do you want me to send you some help? LOL

  4. Ouch. My muscles ache in sympathy for moving all that soil. If it makes you feel any better, we're back in the deepfreeze here and the only thing we can be moving outside at present is snow, of course....I love making or amending beds; it's fun to have a clean slate to work with.

  5. Meems,
    Looks like you have been busy! I'm itching to get started on some things in our own garden. During the week I haven't felt like it and the weekends have not been suitable lately. Maybe soon...:-)

  6. Jamie and Randy,
    Well, these are the kinds of things that can be done when planting time isn't here yet. One of my plans this week was to dig out the old border of that expanded bed and replant it along the new edge. When I saw how cold it was going to get I decided to hold off for another week. It is a challenge to wait when our weather feels like spring most days.

    Your garden is probably just a few weeks behind mine... your time is coming soon.

  7. Beckie, Good energy spent well for sure. I'm hoping everything in that north side of the garden doesn't freeze tonight. That would help with the seamless look I'm going for. LOL

    Me, too, Sylvia, but a freeze is imminent for tonight. It looks like we may have escaped it last night by a degree or so. When hubby sees how much ground I am taking up he only sees dollar signs these days. I'm glad you are enjoying your time with your garden and not having to think so much about budget. Budget is kind of new for me but it's helping me to be more creative. LOL

    Helen, Yes, please send help right away... I think your son and his friend would work out perfectly for about 2 weeks. HA. The dirt in the pick up is purchased from a local garden supply store. I amend the veggie beds and sometimes a new planting. I have really good soil already from years of composting but I like the fresh supply in the spring. I will also add bone meal and blood meal to the mix.

    Jodi, moving all that dirt is actually not as bad as it seems.I try to do all the manual work myself that I can handle... just to keep from getting too lazy. HA. When it comes down to it... I'm pretty certain I'd rather be moving dirt than snow. Today I'll be moving dozens of container plants under cover to save them from a few hours of freezing temps tonight. Now that is NOT FUN.

    Hope you find some cozy and warm places up there under all that snow!

  8. It looks like you're in for some fun this year!

  9. Meems,

    I think your plan sounds fabulous! I do hope your beautiful garden escapes freezes. It would be so sad to lose the lovely blooms and foliage now.

    I know what you mean about the cost of raised beds and budgets. Our 401k plans are down 40% since a year ago and we're both retired. :-(


  10. Ah yes, the smell of rich soil and freshly mowed grass, two of my favorites! You have been a busy little thing haven't you? Those freezing temps made it here in North Florida, I too will be glad for the 70's come the end of the week. I love the expansions you are making, sun loving plants will be coming to Hoe and Shovel. In the first photo what is that beautiful plant to the left with the purple flower/spkikes?

  11. Susan, It's always lots of fun ... this year an even bigger challenge learning to grow the vegetable garden without the assistance of the raised beds. But, isn't that one of the wonderful aspects of gardening? Learning! Thanks for stopping by.

    Cameron, This budget thing is kind of interesting to get used to. Yes, things have changed... and quite quickly. I know what you mean about the 401K. Hubby is still working but is ready to retire... I quit my job almost 2 years ago. Now we're determining whether I need to get another job. In the meantime... I'm learning how to be very frugal in the garden.

    Doing without the raised beds once the $$$ were calculated seemed like an easy solution. We'll see how it goes and learn from it.

    It is definitely going to freeze tonight. I am heading outside now to get busy driving some stakes in the ground to build covers for some of my most tender plants. Yippee!

    Darla, You were in the 20's... yikes... not much could be saved from that kind of weather. We will dip just under freezing tonight ... I'm counting on the oak tree canopy and some covers to try to save some tender things. Undoubtedly we will lose some tropicals. The shame of it is it will only last a few hours and probably won't happen again ... oh well... such is life as a gardener.
    It's not like we can't recover eventually.

    The plant you are asking about is a red sister cordyline. I use them in many places for spots of color and leaf interest in the shade among all the greenery. They are all blooming beautifully right now, too. You can look here for more information on them and other varieties.

  12. Good morning Meems. I have my fingers crossed for no freezes. It's always such a shame to lose a mature plant. On the other hand, sounds like a little cooler temperatures are a good thing with all the digging and hauling you've been doing.

  13. That soil looks wonderful. I hope you don't get that frost!

  14. I'd much rather be shoveling dirt than snow! I can't wait to see your new garden expansion this summer. Your raised beds were amazing after a very short time.

  15. Wow. I'm tired just looking at your photos. I don't know how you do it, but would suggest maybe buying stock in Motrin. :o) You deserve some time off...maybe a movie night out with your daughter...maybe to see Australia???

  16. Dear Meems,

    I do hope the freeze stays away from your beautiful garden. How do you cover your beds without smashing the pretty flowers? What a dilemma! What a dance! That is a tango!

    But your new beds are very exciting! Can't wait to see what you plant. Keep warm.


  17. Meems, you are working your little hands to the bone. I can't wait to see what all happens in those new beds.

    Your poor tropical plants. I bet they are shivering just thinking about what will happen the next couple of nights. Hang in there is all I can say.

  18. What great soil - those beds are going to be fabulous. So hope you weren't smacked with a freeze. What do you cover your plants with? - we use newspaper here - although with the size of your garden, that probably isn't practical. Very weird weather here too - it looks like it will be the first time in 140 years that we won't be having a January thaw.

  19. Meems,

    Sounds like a plan to me- can't wait until we see how it all turned out. I wish my gardens were as organized as yours are! It seems to me that I grow more weeds in my beds, at times, than anything ;0

  20. Oh my, it really is pretty chilly for your area. My dad is in Sarasota, so I'm sure he's not very excited about the chilly weather. He'd much rather be bragging to me about how warm it is!

  21. Marnie, You are very right. The reason I do all my digging and hauling this time of year is that it is the ONLY time of year when it's bearable. Imagine ... it was cold yesterday when hauling that dirt that I didn't break a sweat... gross but true. We are expecting freezing temps tonight. Sigh.

    Nancy, it is great soil and it is going to get very cold tonight. Cold for us anyway. Expected to reach the upper 20's. ACK!

    Robin, I'm with you. Dirt has many more rewards than snow.

    RissaLee, Didn't even use any Motrin last night. Sounds good right now though. YES.... if said daughter lines up a babysitter... it's a DATE!

    Dear Gail, The freezing temps are impending... expecting below freezing for at least 3 hours tonight. I spent hours today covering what I could. I build a sort of frame with stakes and then drape the cloths over the stakes. That way the cloths are not bending the plants. You should see my vegetable garden. I built a fabric wall around it. Whew. I hope it works to save the tomatoes... they are almost ripe.

    Lisa, Thanks for the well wishes. The plants are shivering and some are wilting just thinking about how cold it got last night, today and tonight. This is highly unusual for us... it is the way it goes though. One can't control the weather so we make do. I will probably lose lots of stuff tonight. Which means I'll be looking forward to spring as much as you.

    Barbara, I don't think newspaper would work here. I drive 4-6 foot stakes in the ground around the plants and then drape with every imaginable old cloth... tablecloths, sheets, towels, blankets... I even use canvas drop cloths... basically whatever is made of fabric that I don't mind ruining. I keep 3 big boxes in my garage full of useable cloths for the garden. My yard looks like a field of ghosts tonight.

    Tessa, I know the feeling. Weeds seem to grow better sometimes than the plants. LOL

    Robin, Depending on where your Dad is it could freeze there tonight as well. Now THAT is really unusual. It is likely to freeze tonight all the way down to Ft. Myers!

    He will be able to brag about the nice weather again after tonight... it will be back to 70's this weekend. That's normal. This is highly abnormal.But just one night of this is all I need to wipe out many of my tropicals. Sigh.

  22. Although it does look like a lot of work, Meems - and you'll be feeling the effects of moving that soil - there's something so satisfying about thinking large and taking big bites, isn't there?

    Best of luck with the new garden and hope your covers are working tonight!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  23. wow all the empty dirt means you still have a lot of work to do. you are certainly ambitious. i really hope you don't have a freeze tonight especially since warmer weather is on it's way. i really admire all your hard work. i am not sure i would want to garden year round any more.

  24. Hi.
    What a lovely blog. I have just returned from your area where I spent a week with my daughters on a great road trip. Yes we had some of those colder temperatures you referred to. We felt we brought the cold down with us.

    You've done a wonderful job with your photos and writing. Although we had such a whirlwind visit I recognize in your work here what I found so attractive in the countryside down your way. Great job.

  25. Annie, It's one of those things you just gear up for and say to yourself "just do it". Dreams are one thing... getting out there and doing it quite another. Very satisfying indeed... although this morning all that dirt has a layer of icy frost on it. I've just come inside after a general assessment. Covers didn't help like I'd hoped. Sigh.

    Marmee, you made me chuckle with that last sentence. I don't say this arrogantly but honestly gardening all year long is not for everyone... it is really this constant. You have to LOVE it to do it in Florida ... at least on this scale. We weren't so fortunate last night. Things are not looking good out there. I've just come inside after taking a walk through. My covers only protected a smattering of plants even though it took me hours to cover what I did. It's mostly recoverable but it surely won't be pretty when you get here. Sigh.

    Hi Ann, So glad you stopped by and happy to hear to enjoyed your trip to Florida. This is such a perfect time to visit. Even with our cold temps it isn't anything like what's going on in the north. The thing I like about our winter days is that for the biggest percentage of time they are full of sunshine even when we are at our coldest.

  26. How exciting to be able to make a new garden area! It is so true that gardening helps us become more patient...something I can personally always work on. I hope your tropicals are all hanging in there ...I'm thinking warm thoughts for them,

  27. My plants took a nose dive last night (I am just a few miles from you). When do you recommend cutting back the impatiens, ixora and kalanchoe? I am haven't uncovered the crotons or birds in fear of what I might find, so they will stay ghostly for another night!

  28. Leslie, Hi. Yes, patience in gardening has not always been my best virtue. Learning how to propogate my own plants has been fun and it is helping me with patience. I am chomping at the bit to get started planting... that takes patience since it 'feels like' spring here most days... it only seems like planting would be a good thing... but with the frost we had last night I'm glad I had waited.

    Gardenerwannabe: I chuckle everytime I read that BTW. My stuff is not looking good either. I got hit hard in pockets and in other places things look okay. ALL the impatiens are gone. I will probably cut them back pretty soon. They grow like weeds here and I won't be that concerned if we get another frost. For the rest... I will grit my teeth and wait until at least the second week of February... maybe the third. ARRRRGGGGHHHH! It's always a guess but if we did cut back and we had another bad night like last night we'd be sorry. So it's a gamble anytime really unless you wait until March 15 (the official last threat of frost). I've never waited that long and I won't this year. I hope you didn't lose too much. None of mine is damaged to the roots so it will all come back... it will just take a while. Good luck with your garden. I left mine covered for tonight as well... no use taking that risk now that the covering up is already done.

  29. You've been in my thoughts throughout the day today. We woke up to a 23 (the water in the birdbath was frozen) and according to FAWN, we were below freezing from 11pm on. The damage down here is serious and widespread. I'm worried about our friends who farm vegetables, and grateful, for once, that we are no longer in the citrus industry. It will be quite some time before anything colorful appears on Pollywog Creek. *sigh*

  30. Patricia, How is it that all that cold reached so far south? And you dropped lower than us? We are closer to the coast up here I think which saves us a few degrees. The farther inland we go,even by a few miles, dropped pretty low. I couldn't help but think of all the growers, too. What a nightmare for them.

  31. Yes. When you look at the cold-hardiness zone map, you can see that dip down the middle of the state. I think it is a combination of being away from the water and cities. There is nothing around this part of the state to generate and hold heat. Louis surveyed the area from the air yesterday and he said that the vegetable fields look pretty bad.


Have a blessed day,

September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway