Garden Diary 2012

This page was last updated on 5-20-2012.

Year’s Goals:  1) Spend 15 minutes to 1 hour a day in the garden, usually first thing in the morning.  Set weekly goals to accomplish in that time.  2) Keep the garden looking good all the time: weeded, pruned, fed, and flowering.  3) Grow some food all year, using succession planting and perennials where possible. Expand the edibles grown and work toward being as self-sufficient in food production as possible.  4) Rejuvenate the soil in containers instead of buying all new.  5) Fill empty spots throughout garden with edibles and colorful plants, including flowers and foliage.


Goals are again the same as last year, except the garden has matured even more, there are many more edibles, the utility area is finished, and the patio has been cleared.  Yay!


January 1-4:  M came and put the rocks and stepping stones down.  After that, I took everything off the Patio and organized it in the new Utility Area and separated the pots I want to give away and put them in the holding area on the south side of the house.  A was so pleased, he immediately cleaned the Patio, even bleaching the edge to get rid of the mold.   Now all that remains is the blue bench and the Ponytail Palm in its little pot.  Everything looks so good! 


January 16-20:  Went to friend M’s to meet FJ there to help her decide what to do with her back garden.  He will be enriching it, caring for the fruit trees, and building her two large raised beds so she can work on them at hip height.  Began picking Tomatoes and Tomatillos in my garden. 


February 17-19:  Met friend A at her plot at the community garden on Swinton Avenue in Delray Beach.  Helped her a bit, expanding a bed and giving advice.  She gave me some herbs and several lettuce plants, which I planted in the grow-bag FJ gave me and set it in the north Berry Bed in a shady spot by the arch over the door.


March-April: After a break of three weeks in CA, we came home to a garden that just gets better as it matures.  We have very few annuals, and most of the perennials are long-lived types that spread moderately and are easily kept in control.  In the TVA, the Jackfruit is now producing again – loads of fruits!  They just keep coming now, and they are up in some of the higher branches, too, not just off the trunk.  The Everbearing Mulberries are fruiting a lot – I get a handful every morning. Definitely want more of these!  After they finish fruiting this time, I will prune/take cuttings with the goal of establishing a row of them along the back fence – at least five plants.  The Giant Mulberry has lots of unripe fruits on it as well.  B gave me some cuttings of a good one and I will plant whatever survives.  What a great fruit!  The self-sown Papayas are beginning to set fruit at last.  The north end of the TVA is filled with small trees!  The Atemoya looks a little bare, but there are lots of shoots beginning to come along the skinny, dead-looking branches.  The Loquat is setting a small cluster of fruit already!  It’s one of my very favorite fruits.  The Peach is looking awful, but still alive, and M’s looked awful too but got better, so I have hope.  The White Sapote has triumphed and popped up strong after the Loofa vine finally died down.  We have seven loofa sponges bleaching in the sun on the Patio – three over 1’ long, and another four around 9”.  The Grumichama is covered in fruit – once all my goal plants are in, I may get a few more of these to keep lower (in reach).  It is a great producer and the flavor is really good, but you have to catch it right away because the whole plant has about a week-long window in fruit.  Also want more Barbados Cherry, which is my other favorite cherry for here.  Mine seems a little eaten, so maybe it gets too little sun?   My Cherry of the Rio Grande has never really produced, so it may also be in too much shade in its spot at the edge of the Mound.  The Malabar Chestnut is still producing a little at a time over a long period.  All the baby trees I planted last year are growing, though still only around 1’ tall right now.  The Carambola looks very happy and lush.  The Avocado is flowering and the ‘Julie’ Mango is covered in flowers as well.  We are about to harvest a bunch of Bananas.  The Elderberry is productive and flowering right now.  The Dragon Fruit plants all look good, though still small.  Z gave me a night-blooming Cereus, which I placed by the trunk of the Moringa.  The lawn men trimmed things back, and the Moringa went from shading the entire SW corner of the TVA to being a 4’ stump, so the shade will have to wait a while now.  The Bay Rum has recovered from its hard prune last year, and is growing new leaves from its 3’ stump.  I am hoping it will bush out nicely.  The Jujube needs trimming as it has grown and is happy.  The Lychee looks lush as well.  Of all the trees I planted last year, only the Canistel did not survive.  It was planted too high with not enough covering for the root ball.  So I went to Excalibur an got another one, along with an Allspice, a Bay Laurel, a Cinnamon, a Coconut with yellow/orange stems, a Hog Plum, three Blueberry ‘Misty’ and three Blueberry ‘Snowchaser’, and two Raspberry ‘Heritage’.  The Blueberries and Raspberries went in the north Berry Bed by the Patio, the Allspice behind the Bananas, the Bay Laurel and Cinnamon near the Avocado, and the Coconut by the Elderberry.  The Coconut is the only one I am worried about – it had to be planted a little high, and it is small and was growing in quite a bit of shade at the nursery.  We will see – two weeks after planting, it has lost two of its four branches (turned brown and dry but not trimmed/fallen off).  The Hog Plum was only a stick, and it went on the back (west) side of the Mound, but the full-grown tree at the nursery was also sticks (with tons of fruit), and mine has loads of shoots starting, so it will probably be alright.  I had been wishing and looking for a continual and cheap source of organic mulch, and I have finally found it, right under my nose!  Dad and I went out the other night and I saw three big bags the lawn men left to be picked up next day.  I asked, and not only were they filled with leaves, but there is about the same amount every time they come, which is a couple of times a month in summer!  So Dad has agreed to give me his leaves, even dropping them off for me (they are heavy!) except for about three months after they weed-and-feed the lawn.  There are very few grass clippings in the bags, but some do get in.  So excited!  There was enough empty area that I used all three bags as mulch this time, but soon they will be going into the new compost bins.  These bins are not really for compost, but a corral for the prunings and other organic matter my lawn men would otherwise take out to the street for pickup.  I can take it out at my leisure to mulch the beds.


April 14-19:  After my knowing P for more than 24 years, she is moving away!  Sad, but at least I will have some great old Florida garden-style plants to remember her by, since she had me come dig some on Saturday.  There are some Rhoeo-like ones that are green, with wavy, reddish margins, which I placed at the inner NW corner of the R/P Ct (along with some Wandering Jew, also from P), and at the NE corner of the Mound.  Some attractive, medium-sized grasses that will get to around 2’ filled part of an empty area on the east side of the R/P Ct along the sidewalk, plus a couple in an empty spot by the driveway.  Also in the driveway spot, an orange terrestrial orchid – I love these!  She had some wonderful almost yellow Bromeliads that get 1’ tall and will light up their new spots on the front and back (east and west sides) of the Mound.  Bromeliads are one of the most useful ornamentals you can have down here – they come in so many gorgeous colors and a range of sizes, plus, they multiply!  I also came away with a few duplicates, some red bell-flowered Kalanchoes (along with a great idea of a solution to a problem spot), and a baby Four o’Clock (Mirabilis jalapa) that I didn’t quite recognize when I took it.  I went straight home and planted everything in the empty spots in the front and realized she had saved me a boatload of money, since I needed very little more to get the front garden in shape!  The bed between the front windows is very difficult to keep filled because it is pure sand and bone dry, plus it never seems to get enough water.  There are two Aloysias (Sweet Almond Verbenas) here with fragrant white flowers, but the areas between and north of them always empty out.  I have put some Cast Iron Plants (Mother In Law’s Tongue) along the wall, but that still leaves a lot of space.  P reminded me that the red bell Kalanchoes do very well on dry, sandy soil, so I moved all the strays in the front there, put the ones from P, and thinned some of my patch from the back so I will soon have respectable patches of these in that trouble spot.  Yay!  Went to Home Depot and got 3 Persian Shield to go just in front of them, and planted two rooted cuttings of ‘Margarita’ Sweet Potato in an empty spot along the north edge of the bed to match a small mound of it on the south edge.  The rest of the edge is filled in nicely by pink Mimosa, which seems to do well, and there are some self-sown purple Periwinkles there, too.  Also from Home Depot, got two deep purple/red Coleus and a yellow one splashed with red, took cuttings of all of them, and planted the originals along the east side of the R/P Ct with the grasses from P.  The yellow cutting rooted in two days and was planted there as well.  Three Rhoeo-like plants from Home Depot, small, and purple with white stripes, went in another empty spot on that side.  There was still some empty space along the edge of the R/P Ct by the driveway and sidewalk, so I broke of lots of pieces of Purple Queen and slid them into the sand all through that area.  Did this several months ago by the driveway, but the lawn men pulled them all out.  Hoping this time they will figure it out!  The money I saved by using these divisions and cuttings went into sprucing up the back garden.  Got two thin-leaved magenta Coleus, one lime/red and two bright pink/red Ti Plants, a cream-variegated Alpinia, and one tallish (of the magenta striped variety) and three short dusky red Cordylines.  These last are ground level and similar to small Phormiums, but will eventually get taller as well.  Planted all of these across from the Patio so the bed is brightened up considerably.  It was all green before.  Also, I thinned out the Bromeliads in the bed behind the wall (by the front door).  They had become very thick and you can’t really tell I took any away.  Three were planted under the Bay Laurel and Avocado trees along the edge of the bed, two along the edge south of the Jackfruit, and one on the corner by the Papyrus.  Another went by the new Rhoeos in the inner NW corner of the R/P Ct, three along the east side of the R/P Ct by the sidewalk, and five along the edge of the TVA bed where the Cordylines and Alpinia are.  This bed looks great now, and will get better as the Cordylines get taller and the Bromeliads spread.  Eventually, some epiphytes on the Jackfruit’s trunk and on the fence will be the finishing touch.  It’s all coming together. P came for tea and was happy to visit her plants in their new homes.  I was glad to be able to show her that they have all survived so far, and are likely to be here for years to come. 


Future plans:  I am slowly making my way to all my favorite public gardens and taking pictures for ideas to dress up the rest of the garden.  I don’t want it to look like every other landscaped garden – there should be plants you don’t see anywhere else.  We will have to visit independent nurseries for these.  The Mound has a couple of large empty spots on it, one of which would be perfect for one of those large, almost fluorescent orange Bromeliads we keep seeing everywhere now.  The other is for a Wax Jambu, which we would need to keep small, since they can get very big, but I like the fruit. 


Other edibles we plan to add are: Abiu (my Holy Grail – will go wherever there is room whenever we can get it), Black Pepper vines and Vanilla Orchids for the TVA understory, Nutmeg and Clove if they will produce here, more Figs (especially ‘Red Conandria’ if we can find it), Grape (apart from the fruit, the leaves are a vegetable in their own right), Gumi (which will replace the diseased hedge of Hibiscus in front of the front wall), a Kumquat (either ‘Nagami’ or ‘Meiwa’, wherever it will fit in the TVA), Passionfruit vines (at least two types are needed), more Pineapples for the south Berry Bed, a Prickly Pear Cactus for the southern corner of the south Berry Bed (preferably a spineless one) a Ross Sapote (again, if we can find one), Star Anise and Tea (both shrubs, probably on the south side east of the gate), three more Everbearing Mulberry (south of the one we already have), some more Canna indica (with colorful foliage, such as: ‘Intrigue’, ‘Durban’, striata ‘Stuttgart’, ‘Bengal Tiger’, or ‘Wyoming’), and a few each of Barbados Cherry, Cherry of the Rio Grande, and Grumichama (kept picking height) for sunnier spots wherever they will fit once we have most of the others above.  Also for the TVA, from ECHO and Top Tropicals: Arrowroot, Basket Vine, Chinese Spinach (green version of Okinawa Spinach - several), Galangal, Samba Lettuce, and Vetiver grass.


The area behind the front wall need some re-vamping again.  The Lea there is nice, but planted a little too forward of the back wall.  It is probably better to leave it alone and plant more behind it.  Some plants behind it, like the single magenta Ti plant, can be moved, so I may take it and put it somewhere else, like the TVA.  An Anthurium hookeri would be cool in front of the Leas.  There is a Pothos ‘Marble’ (lots of white) back there that could be left alone, but cuttings could be taken for another spot.  There are a couple of ZZ Plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), but they are too short to be seen, so they can come forward also.  Some Eucharist Lily plants come up now and again, and one is doing so now – it is also too short and needs to come forward.  The Oyster Plants (Rhoeo discolor) need to be thinned.  The Philodendron Congo Rex is hiding behind the Lea, so also needs to come forward – there is a definite pattern here, yes?  Maybe I can move the Lea after all and plant another one or two with it right at the back, then stairstep down from there, with possibly something else tall to one side, such as a Climbing Begonia, Philodendron gloriosum, or an Angelwing Begonia (preferably the black type with orange flowers).  Flamingo Road and Living Color nurseries would have lots of interesting possibilities.


There are some special plants I would like as well, such as Bat Flowers (both Tacca chantrieri ‘Black’ and the black and white T. integrifolia), Jewel Orchid (Haemaria discolor), Peacock Gingers (Kaempferia), Dancing Ladies (Globba winitii), Curcuma aromatica, Hedychium coronarium (just one, for the TVA understory), Wrightia religiosa, Rex Begonias.

In the Utility Area, the clumps of Spiral Ginger could be underplanted with Red Flame Ivy (Hemigraphis alternata), other small shade-lovers like Peacock Gingers, and maybe even a Stromanthe tricolor.

April 20-30:  I have been watching some YouTube videos on Forest Gardening, and realized I have missed a very important step when setting up and maintaining mine: There aren’t nearly enough nitrogen fixers!  There should have been tons of them put in right at the start, and now parts of the garden are too shady to really grow them.  How can this be solved?  First off, we now have loads of Bean and Pigeon Pea seeds that we will be planting throughout the garden.  We will limb up some things that would shade them out so they can get a good start.  I planted several pots of Pigeon Peas and will plant lots more that will get well started before they go in the shadier spots – that way they can compete for the sun that’s there.  In addition, Velvet Beans will be planted straight in the ground.  These are not edible, but are strong summer growers that will help enrich the soil.  In the sunnier areas, we will direct-seed Yard-Long Beans and Cowpeas, supporting them where possible, and letting them run along the ground otherwise.  We hope to raise lots of leguminous biomass that we can throw into the beds as mulch to increase nitrogen.  Also planted this week were Okra ‘Philippine Lady Finger’ and Yard Long Beans (on the teepee) in the west Potager bed, and Okra ‘Harlow’s Homestead’ and Cucuzzi Gourd (on the teepee) in the east Potager bed.  There was a layer of mulch, and instead of pulling it back (it would have fallen back in), I made little mounds of soil to plant clusters of seeds in right on top of the mulch, then covered the seeds with soil and patted the mounds down a bit to make sure contact was made with the mulch.  This should work fine now that the weather is warm and the rains are starting.  I will hand-water for a few weeks when it doesn’t rain, until everything is up and established.  Planted seeds in 4” pots as well: 1 flat of 10 each of Amaranth ‘Tiger Eye’, Amaranth ‘Vietnamese Red’, New Zealand Spinach, and Quailgrass (Lagos Spinach, a Celosia), plus 2 pots of Sapodilla from a fruit someone gave us, 4 of Tamarind from gifted pods, 3 of Barbados Cherry from a fruit I ate, 3 of Clitorea terneata saved from a vine we grew last year, and 8 of Pigeon Peas from B’s garden.  The flats were set out in the sunniest part of the north Berry Bed.  Now to wait…

May 1-10:  Beans and Okra are coming up in the Potager, Beans in the Tropical Vegetable Area, and Pigeon Peas and Amaranths in the pots.  Also started fresh seeds of Malabar Chestnuts in two pots for my friend P, who is moving away, and they are coming up, too.  No Clitoria or fruit tree seeds have germinated yet.  Have ordered more Clitoria seeds, since maybe my saved seed was too old or got moist and ruined at some point. No Tamarind yet, either, but I have faith.  Some of these things just take time.  Meanwhile, I have been reading Global Gardening by Hank Bruce, which is very exciting, as most of the plants I had never heard of before, and many are for tropical and subtropical areas. It took a while, but I have located most of those suitable for our climate at various seed companies and created detailed wishlists, from which I will be ordering over the next year.  This week, we received a six-pack of plugs of Vetiver Grass, and a package of several pads (cuttings) of Spineless Prickly Pear Cactus, as well as lots of seeds from ECHO, Solana Seeds, and Tradewinds Fruit. Again, most of these seeds are for unusual tropical varieties, many for the warm season, and lots are Solanums, which will be started in early Fall.  The Vetiver Grass was planted in six 1-gallon pots, one plug per pot, as we will be giving some of them away, and I want them better established before doing that or planting them in our garden.  Also, three pads of the Spineless Prickly Pear were planted at the south end of the south Berry Bed, and three more in one-gallon pots to be given away.

May 11-20:  Pigeon Peas all had roots beginning to peek out of the bottoms of their pots, so they got planted, two in the north Berry Bed, two in each Potager Bed, and two under the Jackfruit tree.  One double-flowered Butterfly Pea (Clitorea terneata) was up, so it went in the east Potager Bed.  Received and planted rhizomes of Shampoo Ginger (Zingiber zerumbet – in a self-watering container on the back north side, among Malabar Spinach) and Butterfly Ginger (Hedychium coronarium – near the fence between the northernmost Chaya and the Atemoya) from Banana Tree.  Also got some seeds from them – the packets are seriously small, often 7-10 seeds only, but they have things hard to find anywhere else.  Planted the ten Pigeon Pea (Cajanus cajan) seeds in the same 4” pots with the tiny Amaranth ‘Vietnamese Red’ seedlings, one to a pot.  Direct-seeded the seven purple-flowered Hyacinth or Lablab Beans (Dolichos lablab) in the south Berry Bed, and the seven Jackbeans (Canavalia ensiformus) in the Tropical Vegetable Area at the south end, near the Jujube and Moringa trees.  Also, two Tamarind sprouts have finally popped up!  Tamarind seeds have a low germination rate, around 50%,  and take about three weeks to sprout, so these are actually a little early, but I won’t give up yet on getting at least one more out of the four seeds planted.  We also have more seeds, which I will plant in pots to give away, now that I know there should be a good result.  The Vetiver grass plugs are all getting new growth and one of the Mulberry cuttings from B is leafing out – not giving up on the others of those either.  He gave me five.  With that success, I have decided to root my own Everbearing Mulberry cuttings to plant (need 3 or 4) next to the one that is fruiting now.  Will wait until the fruiting cycle is over, though.

Planted two flats of bedding Begonias (12 per flat) in the shadier north half of the Tropical Vegetable Area, one all red with deep burgundy leaves, and the other a mixture of white with burgundy leaves, pink with burgundy leaves, and deep pink with fresh green leaves.  Now the ground is colorful under the fruit trees, and the beans are getting a little larger there, slowly.  I need to feed the garden something, and a big bag of organic fertilizer with mycorrhizae in the garage is probably the best bet at the moment, so that should happen in the next week or so.  Planted nine tubers of three kinds of Malanga in the south Berry Bed, along with two Pineapple tops.  Something uprooted two of them that night and left them exposed, so I replanted them next morning and so far it hasn’t happened again. I think the raccoons check out any disturbed ground looking for worms.  The roots were not of interest or they would have been gone.  Planted one Yam (Dioscorea alata) and two sprouting Chayotes by the back fence between the Jujube and the Coconut tree.  The Yams in self-watering containers in the Herb Circle have also resprouted.  I left the Yams and Malangas to grow and spread this past year instead of harvesting them, because I am hoping to establish them well so we will always have them on hand.  This year, we will harvest some and see how it goes, always leaving some in each area.  Also planted one Chayote in a self-watering container in the Herb Circle (not sharing space with Yams).  Got a bag of baby Shallots, and riding on the success of the Garlic in the Herb Circle (in a self-watering container that is well-shaded), planted them in two of the self-watering containers by the back north fence which already have Malabar Spinach growing in them.  Speaking of that area, there are six self-watering containers there, just left of the compost bins- three contain Malabar Spinach, one has several red-stemmed “Dandelions” (probably a Chicory – these are left over from the winter, when I planted a few in a bunch from Whole Foods that had roots on them), one is unoccupied, and one has Turmeric, Ginger, and velvet-leaved Costus (Spiral Ginger). Also got some containerized plants that would be better left in them, so a large sweet yellow bell Pepper plant in a 3-gallon pot was placed between the self-watering containers of Tomatoes (yes, they are still producing a little) in the north Berry Bed, and a Thyme, culinary Sage, and purple Basil, all in 5-gallon pots, were placed in the Herb Circle.  To finish filling out the beds for summer, another couple of flats of Begonias and one of Marigolds would do nicely.

A wild Yam has sprung up by the Jujube, as has another in the Banana patch.  This is thrilling, as they both have winged vines and are therefore the good kind, Dioscorea alata.  I was also excited a few weeks ago to find another one near the Mulberry tree, which I thought had spread from the others I had planted south of it (stock from a grocery store).  As it turns out, this one has round vines, but the leaves are in pairs and the vine is wiry and climbs in a “Z” at eye level, making it most likely a Cinnamon or Chinese Yam (D. polystachya).  Maybe I even planted it myself and forgot about it.  Either way, it’s a good find.  On the subject of Yams, Green Deane has profiles on these and at least one more type on his website, Eat the Weeds.

And speaking of Green Deane, B. and I recently went to Dreher Park to attend one of his foraging classes.  Let me tell you, these are not to be missed!  We walked for four hours, which were filled with constant instruction, and then stood under a Banyan Tree for another hour for a further Q&A session.  Well worth the money!  I took extensive notes, which show me that he pointed out around fifty wild and semi-cultivated edibles, some also being medicinal, plus three very common and very poisonous ones that everyone who lives in this area really should know.  I knew nearly all the plants we saw as “weeds”, and that maybe ten of them were edible, but that was nothing close to the scope of what’s out there.  If you get a chance to go to one of his classes, take it!


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