Check Out These Pages, Too!

"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, July 26, 2011

The Edible Garden Has Bones Too

In my ornamental garden it is the placement of trees and foundational plants that we call the 'bones' of the garden. They are those elements that remain. No matter the season or the hardships encountered it is the 'bones' of the garden that give it structure and form. If chosen correctly these fundamental players of the garden are what we work around to create places of interest with forms, textures, colors, and size variances that please our senses.

When I initially created my edible garden by removing lawn and starting with two framed boxes it felt as though it was completely "separate" from the rest of the garden. A lone corner all by itself.

As I expanded it, the next season, I purposed to carry out the same principle of good 'bones' in the edible garden. Even the thought of it just 'felt' better. Like it was a more natural way to garden.

Here's how that works for me.

This is the edible garden today taking up the entire side yard with no turf grass remaining. It is completely enclosed by a chain-linked fence. Yes, it's ugly. But it does serve to keep out some of the critters like armadillos and pea fowl roaming the neighborhood. The fence is covered entirely by confederate jasmine vine. This further serves as a wind-break on bad weather days.

Surrounding the perimeter of the garden are perennials and ornamentals. Some of them are in containers and are placed to further the draw of pollinators and to just look pretty. These are the bones ~ because they remain. Not necessarily all at the same time but no matter the season there are plants appealing to the senses.

The entire length of the exterior edging is bordered with bulbine, society garlic, or variegated aztec grass. Each of these blooms and at different times/seasons and each of them is cold hardy/drought resistant which means they are always there even when the vegetable beds are empty and resting. The edging is the bones.

Mid-late summer is when my edible garden rests. Most of it anyway. There are only herbs of oregano, parsley, fennel, chives, mint, rosemary, and basil (barely hanging on) growing. Two (indeterminate- black cherry) tomato plants are defying the odds of summer in an Earthbox (in partial shade).

Gone are the weeds. Finally. With a bit of effort.

A fresh layer of organics including mushroom compost, my compost, and new potting soil have been added to each bed. Mixed in with that is bone meal, blood meal and alfalfa pellets.

I do this in July when the spring garden is spent which gives it about 6 weeks for all this to "cook" before my fall garden is planted.

My Troy-Bilt chipper shredder comes in so handy all year long. Last week when the edible garden was all cleaned up I made some nice fine-mulch to cover all the beds while it sleeps.

Collected sticks and limbs and some bags of oak leaves all processed for use in the edible garden and elsewhere.

The two cedar framed/raised beds remain in the back corner of the garden. I've chosen to hill-up the other 4 beds into a rectangular/oval-ish shape. The center is a swale of sorts allowing for irrigation/rain to seep into the root system of the edibles.

It's a beautiful thing. The interiors (swale) of the beds are mulched with pine needles while the 'hills' are mulched with the finely shredded leaves and limbs.

No matter the season the edible garden is never "just an edible garden". The low-maintenance bones keep it alive and active.

Side notes for my Florida friends:

  • Tomato seeds have been sown this week in 4" pots and placed in a partially shaded location to germinate. They will be transplanted to the ground in September.

  • Newly planted (direct sown)okra seeds have emerged and eggplant seeds are sown but not emerged.

  • Heirloom rattlesnake pole beans are hanging on the vine to dry. This will provide next season's pole beans.

  • September will be the month I get my tomato seedlings in the ground and seeds of squash, bush beans, collards, and carrots and brassicas.

  • October follows with seeds of lettuces, spinach, radish, kale, and snap peas.

  • November is for succession planting.

The fall edible garden can be tricky ~~ according to weather. Last year October was as hot (but dry with NO rain) as August and I had to re-seed everything. Then we had early freezes in December which made the whole schedule upside down. You never know. But the point is to keep trying. We keep learning from our successes and our failures.

What are you growing?


  1. You are AMAZING! You share so much knowledge with your blog readers. And I really like your bright red shredder. Ah, to make your own mulch!

    I have never seen a bag of mushroom compost. When we get heavy rains mushrooms pop up in the lawn (that green stuff that I woud like to remove. I pick them and add the to my compost pile.

    Have a great day Meems!

  2. Oh Meems, what a great inspiring post. In among your wonderful gardens you have an edible garden, and you make your own mulch too. Thanks for the tips as to what you'll be doing in your edible garden for the next few months.

    Have a great week ~ FlowerLady

  3. it truly is a beautiful thing...the edible garden. i love the bones of it too. the whole thing gives me food for thought on what i might want to think about for next year in my front victory garden. gardening is such an evolutionary is ever changing as we do. as you know we are right in the middle of our summer edibles but really need some rain.
    do you have japanese beetles? they are so bad here. dave actually hand picks them off.
    hugs sis.

  4. Siesta Sister,
    The thing is I hope what I've learned might help other gardeners. Most of my knowledge comes from 'doing'/trial and error. Lowe's and Home Depot now sell mushroom compost.

    Found this on the Internet to describe mushroom compost: Mushroom Compost is the growing medium that results from the mushroom growing process. Mushroom Compost is made from agricultural materials, such as hay, straw, straw horse bedding, poultry litter, cottonseed meal, cocoa shells and gypsum. Sphagnum peat moss adds to the organic nature of the substrate, providing a consistent, formulated and homogeneous product.

  5. FlowerLady,
    I am always amazed at how long I gardened before I started my edible garden. I was so scared to get started because it seemed SO foreign and I had no clue what to do. If my steps help anyone get inspired to start their own I'd be happy as a clam.

    You've seen the progression in my garden first hand. You know how it felt so much more natural once I blended the edibles into the rest of the garden. In my mind I needed it to be just as much a part of the garden as the other parts. It flows from the front gardens right into the back gardens and it happens to be the traffic route to get to the back gardens. Mixing up the ornamentals and edibles makes it much more pleasant to work in, too.

    No. Janpanese beetles is one critter we have escaped. Hand picking is a good method I hear.
    :-) ((((hugs))))

  6. Great post and a timely reminder for the fall garden, thanks!

  7. You've done so much over the years to improve your edible garden area. So impressed Meems! It's interesting that the stuff I'm growing now is what you will be harvesting this winter. I love that shredder, got to get one of those. I know I said that last time too, lol. Very nice job of incorporating your edibles in with the ornamentals. It blends beautifully. :)

  8. That is just great! Vegetable gardens can be beautiful! Well done and well explained, Meems!

  9. You put so much thought into the various components of your landscape! I love the idea of edibles but have so little room and so much shade I've confined mine to just two earthboxes and my bathtub herb garden. But this winter I am going to take a cue from you and plant lettuce in container pots, along with ornamentals.

  10. That wheelbarrow full of mulch is fabulous!
    You have such vision in the garden. It's something to be admired, as I don't posess the same gift.

    Thanks for the nudge to start tomato seedlings. I started too late with my edibles in spring and ended up without much. Can't wait for lettuce time!!!

  11. Yet another entertaining and informative post, Meems! I would love to have one of those shredders... When I have my own garde someday that's definitely one of the first things I'll buy!

  12. Looks great. My garden buddy also uses and loves her chipper/shredder. How nice it must be to have all of that available organic matter. No wonder your garden looks so fabulous.

  13. Darla,
    It's hard to get started when it's so hot but for you it should cool down sooner than us.

    Thank you. What you are harvesting now we harvested in the spring. We start and end a lot sooner than you. Since we stay warm into December we can have a good second season as long as the weather doesn't get too weird.LOL

    My feeling is that if an area is appealing it is more fun to work with.

    You are using the space you have and that's what matters! I just bought another Earthbox yesterday. I think I'm turning to them for growing tomatoes. I'll still keep some in the ground but I'm comparing results. Container gardening is an excellent way to add a few edibles and herbs.

    I will crank that chipper shredder just to get to feel and smell that beautiful mulch! Lettuce is something I always look forward to... only wish we could grow it yearround.

    The mulch the chipper shredder makes is divine. It fine-shreds it perfectly which makes it very convenient to spread as it distributes so evenly.

    Organics in the form of oak leaves and grass clippings have been the base of my planting beds from the beginning... before I knew how much good they were doing. :-) The shredder definitely helps me return the fallen/broken sticks and limbs back to the garden, too. Very handy.

  14. Your garden is beautiful. I have that potted plant on the first photo at home. I also like to see that green area. Good for my eye.

    Lisa from Country Guitar Lessons

  15. Hi Meems, i can't cope with that wide garden with the man-hours to spend on it, and maintain its beauty all year round! You are amazing, very diligent i suppose. Many in your climate types will benefit from this post. In our case during dry season everything except the trees seem to die or become dormant like the bulbs. Perennials have to be pruned and it takes a lot of time. So i really envy your efforts.

  16. You have a fantastic edible garden, Meems! My edible "garden" is mostly just herbs and my first batch of onions which appear to be a failure. I have some grape vines growing but I am not sure if and when they will bear fruit. I'll definitely keep some of your very helpful tips in mind. Surely some will apply even to my container garden.

  17. You have answered some of my most pressing questions regarding when to plant various veggie seeds. Thanks!

    Your vegetable gardens are wonderful looking any time of year - and that compost, WOW!

  18. Lisa,
    That is Raspberry Moon caladium... it is so bright and cheery.

    I suppose it does take more time than most want to give but I love it so it isn't work... most of the time. :-)

    I admire all your efforts in containers. The upside is you can control the soil and location. It is amazing how many edibles will grow in small spaces.

    I never feel like I get it "just right" because the weather is so unpredictable. Last year I had reseed so many things. This year I want to get a jump on the brassicas and the tomatoes. We'll see how it goes and hopefully learn from it. :-)

  19. I'd give anything for a chipper / shredder--I mean, looking at your end results actually excites me. So nerdy. This spring I hadn cut 1500 feet of herbaceous pernnials and used that as garden mulch (insects should love the hollow stems). Though relaxing, it took a week!

  20. I've been admiring your garden for a while. Great Job!! One question, when you say "Hill Up" when building your garden beds, exactly how do you do that?

  21. Hello FSUbunnee,
    Are you as excited as we are about football season starting back up? First home game Sept 1!

    Hilling-up is building the soil into a mound above the normal level of the ground.Each mound is approx. 10" deep and about 12-15" wide. It is how my grandfather used to plant all his edibles. I remember as a young child watching him precisely measure every row to exactness. I'm not so particular with them. The second photo from the bottom sort of shows the shape of the beds I plant my edibles in.I hope that helps. Go FSU!


Have a blessed day,

September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway