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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.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mixing It Up: Vegetables, Flowers, and Herbs

So many plants in my yard are brown, drooping, and quite ugly actually. I've not seen it this bad in very, very many years. You may recall we had one night of freezing frosty temps (Jan. 21). It surely seems as if the results of that damage get uglier with each passing day.

The good news: Almost everything will likely come back after the dead is pruned away. Waiting to prune requires patience. Maybe more than I have. Our days are so mild and beautifully sunny it is hard to imagine a better time to go ahead and get rid of all that ugly brown.
So this week I concentrated all my efforts in the vegetable garden. It was time to dismantle and rebuild all at once.

The pole beans were completely ruined by the frost. Along with the green beans, they were pulled out of the bed and the stakes and trellises removed. Only the carrots, radishes, leeks, peppers, and tomatoes were left. With a shovel I tilled up the soil in one framed bed, added some mushroom compost, blood meal, and blood bone. That bed is ready to be planted out. A few herbs have been added but I will wait a week or so to plant some seeds of lettuce, radish, and more carrots.
You may remember - just before the freeze - grass was dug out with a plan to expand the vegetable garden. As a side note: some of you will be happy to know that in spite of the black withered leaves on the top 4 feet of the pink fire spike there is lots of green on the bottom 2 or so feet. Even a few blooms are peeking through from underneath. And two smaller fire spike I had started from cuttings were just fine.

Where was I? Yes, grass was dug out and 2 yards of good dirt was brought in to amend the existing lay out. When it was decided that additional wood-framed beds were not in the budget after all, I determined to section off areas and raise the soil. Each section making its own raised bed for planting. Four additional areas have been added and delineated by flagstone stepping stones. These permanent paths will serve as, well, just that... walkways between the beds. They will help me (and others hopefully) to stay off the planted out soil so as not to compact it.

I'll use wood planks on the temporary paths for harvesting in between rows.
It is my goal to mix in as many flowers and herbs as possible interspersed with the vegetables. We are off to a good start. I've bordered the entire area with variegated liriope and society garlic alternately ---all from plants divided from my existing garden. These will serve as a permanent border just like I design my landscape beds.

Behind the border I've planted ground covers and annuals/perennials where the raised beds slope down and even out to the grass edge. These will help hold the water from run off.
The main idea here is to draw in as many beneficial bugs and critters as possible to help control unwanted bugs in the garden. I've been reading Sally Jean Cunningham's Great Garden Companions for so much good information about this concept. The challenge for me is adapting her ideas to my Zone 10 garden as she gardens in New York where conditions are quite different.

Here's what I've planted so far:
Lysimachia Procumbens – Golden Globes
Ostica Blue Eye
Bell Peppers- started from seed last autumn
Cubanelle Peppers - also started from seed last autumn
Dill I meant to say Chives..., thanks, Susie I wouldn't have noticed without your question about dill.
Tomatoes - some still in the ground from autumn

Due to the peacock situation I've been forced to start seeds in small pots on the back porch of more tomatoes and some wildflowers. I'm waiting until about the fourth week of February (hoping the peacocks will be long gone by then) before I direct sow squash, zucchini, pole beans, green beans and okra. Next week I'll direct sow into the framed bed more lettuces, carrots, and radishes... they like it cool.

Sally Jean Cunningham's methodology of intensively planting each area and mixing vegetables, flowers and herbs fits so nicely with my natural tendency in the garden. One thing I've really liked is the freedom she gives to break away from planting in perfect rows.

In reading her book I've found I instinctively garden much the way she describes in her book. But the nitty-gritty facts and long time experience she freely offers has been a wealth of information I have been devouring. Incorporating her knowledge into what feels right for me has been very helpful!

I'll write more later on what I've learned and how I've incorporated it into my garden. I'm still trying to figure out crop rotation, which vegetables like which herbs, which vegetables build soil and which ones use up more nutrients and how all that works together in the garden. Very exciting stuff. All the while it is every ounce pretty!

All this gardening activity is certainly helping take away the sting of incurring so much damage that occured in just a few hours of freezing temperatures.

I hope you are all enjoying your weekend.

Blessings, Meems


  1. Meems,

    You are taking a creative, but logical approach to your gardening plans. I admire you for all of your research to ensure that you get it right
    -- and get what you want
    -- and it all looks beautiful
    -- and you have your flowers and eat your veggies, too.

    Kudos, girl! You go!

  2. I was especially intrigued by the edging of liriope and society garlic--great idea! You know with so much of the world's predicaments outside our control, it's gratifying to have at least a modicum of control over our gardens. Granted weather and critters have a way of jolting us off the path but by and large we can do what we want. I love your border and ideas. Hopefully no more frost for you. Keep us posted.

  3. Waiting to prune is quite painful. We have another freeze in the forecast for next week. This has been an exceptionally cold winter, I think.

    I'm so impressed with your gardening plans and skills, Meems. If you ever want to do an "extreme gardening makeover", I'm nominating Pollywog Creek!

  4. How disheartening to have so much damage in your garden this year Meems. You have had a real winter.

    I love the looks of your new planting area. The flagstone paths are a nice new element in your garden. It will be fun to see how it all grows.

  5. my dh asked the head of the garden dept at Lowe's for some advice about trimming back the freeze damaged plants. he was told to wait until at least the 3rd week of Feb, as this area has never experienced the lower freezing temps after 2/15. so be patient, you have plenty of other gardening to keep you busy!

  6. Oh my goodness, it's going to be more beautiful than before, if that's possible!!!

  7. I love the way you enlarged that bed -- I can't wait to see it planted. I also like the idea of mixing flowers, veggies and herbs - synergy at its best!

  8. Meems, I am so sorry you have such a mess. Your gardens were beautiful and it must have hurt your very soul to see all the brown.

    But your plans sound great and very interesting. I like the idea of mixing up the flowers and veggies to benefit both. It will be fun to see waht happens.

  9. The new beds are coming along nicely! Those are going to be great to work in. Sorry to hear you took quite a hit with the weather, but it sounds like things will bounce back.

  10. The mixing sounds so interesting, Meems. Would love to read about how you've incorporated ideas from that wonderful book. Teamed up with your creativity, it'll be a treat to read/view.

  11. Meems,
    Everything is coming along nicely. I wouldn't worry myself too much with the brown stuff just yet. It may bounce back.

  12. Cameron,
    Well, while I appreciate your kind compliments--- in all practicality there is more trial and error than anything going on in this vegetable garden. Can we ever be sure our plans will work in a garden? The wonderful thing about it though is that I'll give it my best shot and then I'll just keep trying... and learning. Surely I'll get a few things right along the way. Thanks.

    The society garlic is my own idea to hopefully keep out trespassers. Adapting the philosophy that regular garlic is good for the same. I have NO IDEA if it will do any such thing but I do know I'll get some pretty lavender blooms and they were free. LOL

    Thank you. I wouldn't be too impressed just yet. As far as the vegetable gadening goes it is all so new to me. This idea of mixing lots of flowers in just appeals to me for so many reasons. I have to be careful to leave room for the veggies now. HA.

    Oh my. Waiting to prune takes every amount of restraint I have and more. We are looking at low's to 32 degrees again on Thursday morning. ACK! I've really enjoyed all the unusually cold weather... now if it would just stay above freezing- I'd be a happy gardener.

    Lisa, I'm thinking I might not have made it clear I was talking about the landscape garden when I spoke of all the damage. Although the veggie garden was damaged it was just about at the end of its autumn harvest so that wasn't as painful.

    It has been a relief to concentrate my efforts there this month getting the soil ready for spring planting.

    I've used the flagstones in the back landscape but they are new to the vegetable garden. I particularly like them for their natural appeal.

    SG aka Mom,
    I am really going to make myself wait! Even though I have plenty more to keep me busy for some reason it doesn't seem to lessen the urge to prune as I walk about looking at all the drooping plant life. But I promise to wait.

  13. Meems i have been also toying with the idea of planting veggies in my flower beds. I would like to but the insects down here just love the veggies I like and am afraid that they may like my plants too. I am now thinking of setting up a hydroponic garden for my veggies and am researching if I can make it organic. Your garden has gone through a severe chill like some of us who have been ill with the flu. It will look like feel as we do after (like hell). Then it will look better when we clip and prune like we do to ourselves after an illness. It will begin to feed itself and get better like us after a good meal and some vitamins.

  14. Darla,
    Thank you. This is a fairly small section (about 45 x 40) of the north side of the house. It is fenced off because we used to have a dog. The fence (that I hate) has come in handy to section the vegetable garden off. But my desire now is to blend it right into the rest of the landscape... so it doesn't appear to be so "separate."

    Thank you.
    Mixing it up is nothing new for sure... but it is new to me and I really like the ideas I'm learning.

    You are so sweet to care so much how it makes me feel to see my garden in this shape. I determined before the damage not to let it alter my mood. I reminded myself it is all dispensable anyway and I am thankful for so many things... THAT is what I'm concentrating on (while whining just a tad). You are right... it will be fun to see what happens. There's really no wrong way to garden. We just learn from our mistakes don't we?

    We just can't help ourselves can we? Always making more space to plant. The landscape will come back ... it will take a while for all the lush tropical stuff to get as big and bushy as it was but all the more fun right? ... waiting for things to grow.

    It is my best intention to grasp the concepts of the book and tweak them to fit my garden. Her New York garden has an entirely different season and variety to grow than my Florida garden. But the basic information is invaluable. If I can put it in writing I will. Right now I am soaking up her knowledge and doing my best to work it out practically.

    Jamie and Randy,
    I am fairly certain we will be just fine by the time summer rolls around. I might be wishing for everything to slow down by then. LOL

    Everything in life has cycles for sure. Yes, my plants are not feeling well but with a little extra care they will be nourished again and get well. I sure hope you are feeling okay.

    Bugs are a severe problem in hot zones... I'm surely hoping some of this type of gardening takes care of more of them. Have you thought about vertical gardening?

  15. We are brown here to Meems. It's funny (funny is not quite the right word) how it takes a few days to see the total freeze damage. This weekend I saw citrus trees covered in brown leaves. Now, that is cold, too cold!

    Your veggie garden is expanding by leaps and bounds. It won't be long before you're enjoying those tasty homegrown vegetables.

    That book sounds very interesting. I'll have to check it out. For now, stay warm - more cold weather on the way.

  16. it is all looking so good. i love the idea of companion planting, it just makes sense to me. i really love the layout of your new beds. i am so glad spring is in sight too. i can almost taste it.

  17. I had a book some years ago about potager. It was full of lovely photos. I can't remember the author but I enjoyed it. I'm sure yours will turn out beautifully.

  18. As much as I was saddened to see the damage the cold did to your garden, I've been fascinated to watch the changes and what you're doing to cope with the sort of stuff we more northerly types have to deal with every gardening year. I'm really glad to hear there's little/no permanent damage, and of course with the weather going back to normal plants will spring ahead with enthusiasm.

  19. This is looking good. I like your stone path!

  20. Dear meems,

    I read this post last night and was so distracted by Sally Cunningham (I googled her name) that I completely forgot to comment! Your approach~~ to "do what feels right to you" makes so much sense for all of us. We can read the experts, but it has to feel right and make sense for our gardens and us. I can see that it already looks well thought out and is going to be beautiful and productive.

    I hope today is lovely and you have time in the garden.


  21. Boy Meems have you been working hard. So what is the secret to growing dill? I planted some last year and it died within two weeks. I'm thinking the soil was probably too wet.

  22. Meems, I'm glad you have such an exciting project in the works to keep you upbeat despite the nasty freeze. That veggie garden sounds lovely and tasty. I look forward to watching its progress as I'm leaning towards a mix-it-up approach for my fruits and veggies among the flowers instead of a big, rectangular veggie plot. Regards, VW

  23. No surprise you'd be planning this thing as thoroughly as possible. I'm impressed. I didn't know you had to amend your soil to such an extent. I guess your sand would leach out all the good stuff rather quickly.

    I am learning what you can't plant with vegetables. Some combinations can be toxic.

  24. Everything is shaping up nicely - I'm proud of how you handled the destruction caused by cold and peacocks. You planted new life! And I like the stepping stone paths too - e will enjoy stomping on them as he helps you in your garden!

  25. Susan,
    Each day the brown gets deader and well, you know the way it goes. We were looking for damaged citrus trees when in Myakka a couple of Saturday's ago... no damage that we could see. It is so interesting how the water on each side of our state affects pockets throughout. We are expecting even colder temps Wednesday night. 30 is the predicted low for us that means YOU will be even colder. ACK!

    You have a positive outlook with all this cold weather in the Southeast. But it is true spring will be here soon. If we can get past this next freeze tomorrow night we should be well on our way.It's sunshine and beautiful today.

    Thanks. That sounds like a good book, too. These ideas are age-old... fascinating and natural. I will be happy to get a grasp on even a tiny part of it.

    It is kind of hard to whine when all gardens north of me are dead and deal with this kind of thing all the time. We are expecting another freeze tomorrow night. I will do my best covering what I saved last time... then hopefully it will be smooth sailing after that with our early spring right around the corner.

    Thank you. There are certainly many choices for pathways aren't there? The flagstone is kind of pricey here but it gives a nice natural appeal when the plants fill in around them.

    Doing what feels right is so important as we learn how to garden in our own neck of the woods. I learned to garden this way and now that I'm reading books on gardening it can sometimes get confusing. I'm living by the principle of adapting anything (much of the printed materials out there really don't apply to Zone 10) I read to "my space" for what works for me. It's a given, I don't always know what that is, but it's fun trying to learn.

    It's good to get all this foundational work done in January and February while it's cool outside. It has been perfect for shoveling dirt and digging up grass. No secret. I meant to say chives I don't even have any dill... sorry for the mistake.I always get those two mixed up for some unknown reason.

    I knew last year when I started with the rectangular veggie garden that it wasn't exactly what I wanted. I started immediately digging out beds in front of it and planting perennials close by. Turns out that is one of the concepts in the book I mentioned. But this year I'm hoping the regtangular boxes just becomeo part of the entire planting. I'm considering planting some veggies in other parts of my landscape as well. I just have to be sure I can get a hose to them easily... we are on tight watering restrictions for our automated irrigation.

    I've planned the best I know. Then you know how it goes... you learn as you go. My soil was actually really fine there --- it's just that I needed more of it in order to build the beds higher than the flat ground. I've raised the areas you can see in the photo (that aren't planted out yet) by about 5-6 inches. They are kind of liked raised beds only without the frame.

    It happens to be a favorite thing of mine to do. Plant new life that is. It's really easy to go to the local nursery and get over zealous with all the pretty colors and plants they are selling right now. I'll be covering them up tomorrow night. Yikes! Now all of a sudden they are tender when I think about the freezing temps on the way... should have waited another 2 weeks.
    E LOVED the stone path. He already discovered the ways around the garden and he is very good to know he isn't to step on the soil... so it doesn't get crushed. He's my cutest little helper!

  26. I love the way you garden. It is as pretty as it is functional. It is also a way to get over our awful freeze damages here in Florida----and here comes another one. Ouch. Thanks for sharing your hard work in words and pictures. It keeps us going.

  27. Hi Meems,
    I truly enjoyed this post and learned much from it. You work so very hard. I like your approach, and it's good for your budget but also allows you to do basically the same thing you wanted, just without all the wood or whatever you would have used for the beds. I like the idea of just bringing in soil and putting it right over what's there. I am going to try to do something similar. All these years I've been digging down into rocky hard clay and now I know what I could have been doing...and will, now.

    Hope your weather will hold up for you with no more coldspells. I love the design of the new expansion. It's kind of like my back garden area, curvy and fun looking.

  28. You really did get some damage. Before you know it, things will be green and lush again. I love growing herbs for cooking, and also plant ornamental herbs in my flower beds.

    Have fun with your sister!

  29. What a beautiful garden. I have found that the proper garden hoe makes gardening much easier.

  30. enjoyed the pictures


Have a blessed day,

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