One of our favorite consulting jobs was Tori’s family food forest. They had just purchased their first home and dreamed of butterflies frolicking through gardens bursting with fresh food. There were a few mismatched shrubs in the backyard, but it was otherwise a blank canvas.
When people tell you “nothing grows in Florida summers” don’t listen! There are so many delicious and easy-to-grow crops that you can enjoy this time of year, and it’s the perfect time to begin planning and planting for your fall Florida garden.
Let’s face it – gardening in Florida can be tough. With our heat, humidity, rains, and poor soil, it seems like the deck is stacked against us. However, much of the Earth enjoys a tropical climate, even warmer than Florida. Yet native people have been living off the land and growing food in abundance for generations. Rain forests thrive too. There must be a way to garden despite all of these hurdles. Choosing the right type of plant for the growing season is so important to your garden’s success.
Growing food doesn’t need to be hard or expensive. You don’t need a bunch of raised beds or expensive planter boxes. If you have an area in your yard about 30 feet long and 10 feet wide give or take, you can grow a pretty good amount of food for very little money and take care of it in an hour or two a week.
Most people start a garden with this vision of saving quite a lot of money at the grocery store. “Yes, the garden is an expense, but think of all the money we’ll save later,” I hear folks say all the time. As a farm girl from up north, I’ve been there. Here’s my advice for beginners.
One of my favorite and easiest plants to grow is longevity spinach (Gynura procumbens). It is a perennial in the Tampa Bay area unless there is a freeze, then it may die back to the roots and return in the spring. In areas with colder temperatures, it can be grown as an annual or brought inside during the winter. It does grow year round, but growth will slow during the cooler months.
Convincing butterflies to visit your yard and stay a while can be a challenge. You might see them flitting through the trees, soaring up and down, occasionally stopping for a bit of nectar before cruising on to…? Where are they going? They have to hang out somewhere, right?
To understand how to make a haven for butterflies in your yard, you first have to understand what they are looking for.
Have you ever considered where the food you buy at the store comes from? My lunch today had more stamps on it’s passport than I do! Chile, Mexico, Australia, California, Columbia… Guess what? We live in a climate similar to these areas and can grow many of the same crops right here in Pinellas County. What…? You’re not a farmer? You don’t have massive acreage or tractors? You don’t need them.