OUR SUMMER GARDEN

In the last few months, I’ve come to see that gardening is becoming more important than ever. There has been a rise in people wanting to learn how to garden and grow their own food in ways that are more sustainable for the Earth. And because of the current issues in the world, being able to procure your own food is important, and it does bring you a sense of being secure in these times.

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I still feel like a beginner in the realm of gardening, but this year I felt I had to give it my best. So here are some photos of our home garden, taken by all three of us.

This year was the first time that I really focused on being able to grow plants from seed. It turned out to be a fun activity that I really enjoy! Now I will be honest and tell you I had several attempts of seedlings that died off in the beginning, before I knew what I was doing. It took a couple tries before I got the knack for it, and even so, every plant is going to be a little different. Just know that you may lose plants, but don’t get discouraged and assume you don’t have a green thumb!

Some of the first seeds I started were Giant Coral and Giant Purple Zinnias. Here they are a couple months old. I was so excited when they bloomed!

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Because of our interest in permaculture gardening, a lot of the plants we have grown and bought are perennials. We focus on finding hardy, suitable plants for our area, that produce edible parts and serve other functions in the garden, helping the whole unit. Even though the perennials are our main focus, I have found it enjoyable to grow annuals as well (like the zinnias I showed you). Basil is one of my favorites, I love its taste and smell, and so far it has been pretty easy to grow! So far I’ve done 3 varieties, Genovese, Thai and Rosie basil. I have used them in some homemade pesto.

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From seed I have also grown marigolds, parsley, camomile, calendula, Egyptian Spinach, Lagos Spinach, Roselle, Kenaf, and Moringa. Kai has grown several citrus trees with seed from organic fruit we bought from the store! Here we have two lovely tangerine trees, which are about two years old. There are also a couple grapefruit and blood orange saplings that have been started.

We have four plant beds, filled with an assortment of plants. Longevity spinach, Star of Bethlehem, Kenaf, Roselle, taro, mint, yarrow, pineapple, LOTS of sweet potato, more basil, nasturtium, horseradish, ginger, sunflowers, Acorn Squash and probably things I’m forgetting! The white flowers in this bed are Biden’s Alba, a native plant we like to leave for the birds and butterflies.

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Throughout the yard we have some things that were already here when we bought the house, like elephant ears, bamboo, camellias, a Jane Magnolia, a gardenia bush, tallow tree, an unknown citrus tree, and a fig tree. The fig has given us lots of figs, but the wild birds get their share as well.

Another interesting plant we had already growing on the property is the Autumn Olive. We noticed it grew berries that the mockingbirds enjoyed eating, but we assumed it was an ornamental shrub. But lo and behold, after some research, we discovered it was edible. You certainly need to let them ripen for them to at all sweet, but at their peak, they are delicious! This year Kai and I picked a huge bunch, so many that we had to puree and freeze them. Since then I’ve used that to make pie. We have also attempted to take cuttings from the shrubs, which hopefully will be successful.

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We also have three banana trees: an Orinoco, and 2 unknown species. They share the side of the house with a hibiscus, gingers, an oregano, turmeric, Egyptian spinach, Elderberry and a Dragonfruit.

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There is also a Calamondin citrus, which shares its pot with 2 types of Sedum, a couple hibiscus (some of which were cuttings that Kai propogated), a Moringa tree, and a potted Okinawan Spinach. We also have a Passionflower, pear tree cuttings and 3 Chickasaw Plum seedlings that were kindly given to us by our friend Sherry from the Wakulla County Extension Center. And because we also like to do cuttings of plants to share with friends and fellow plant lovers, so we have quite a few longevity spinach, oregano, and yarrow about. The longevity spinach is very easy to take cuttings from, and is also a prolific grower.

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For my birthday this year, I decided to purchase permaculture plants from GreenDreams Nursery, and here are the Turk’s Cap, Surinam Cherry, Callaloo, Jacon, and Rue. We also purchased some from a local business, East Hill Edible Gardening: 2 Edible Leaf Mulberry, Sissoo spinach (such a beautiful plant), Malabar spinach, Paracress, Winged Bean, Rattlesnake Pole Bean, Kajari Melon and White Mango Turmeric. We’re very lucky to have sources for these lovely, unusual permaculture plants.

So that’s a rundown of our first garden, we have a second house with an acre that is being turned into a “food forest”. I will do another post all about that one eventually!

I hope this gives you some inspiration and ideas for growing food in your own garden.

-Arianna

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