If you have been following me for awhile, you know I have recently taken up gardening and I love it! During our time in quarantine, I had some extra time on my hands and not much was open. I invested my time in a small garden. We live in the city, so our yard is not in abundance. My garden is tiny, 18" x 48". I overplanted and moved some things to large pots, but overall, the garden has done well and we have been able to eat plenty of vegetables from it. The garden has also been fun for the kids to see where our food comes from and how we are able to grow and use food.
I was not really sure what I could even grow in Florida, especially in my tiny space. I thought this may be helpful to other mommas in the South that want to start a little garden but are not sure where to even begin. I had no idea what I was doing. I actually thought the tomato plants were peppers until my son noticed the first tomato growing on it! Some things were easier to grow than others, so I will walk you through what has worked for me.
I started my growing journey in the Home Depot garden center. Really fancy, I know, but you have to
start somewhere and Home Depot was open. The lady that worked there though was super knowledgable and very helpful, so don't be afraid to ask the people that work in the garden center for their help. I decided to use small plants, rather than starting from seed. We would hopefully have tangible results a bit more quickly. I was also worried about attracting rodents to our yard so she advised me to put a cinnamon broom or cinnamon sticks in my garden and to add herbs. I bought tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sweet red and yellow peppers, strawberries, kale, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, mint and plenty of gardening soil. I found cinnamon sticks at the grocery store.
I quickly found out that is a lot of stuff for a tiny garden. Within a couple weeks, my garden looked more like a jungle! I bought 2 large pots, filled them with soil and moved the tomato plants, thyme, and basil. I also purchased large stakes for the tomato and pepper plants to grow around. Everything was flourishing for awhile. Then, the bugs arrived. Tiny white bugs were all over the mint and something was eating the leaves of the tomato plants and the pepper plants were turning black where the leaves attached. It was important to me to keep everything organic so I did not want to use chemicals on my little plants. After some research on Google, I sprinkled black pepper on the mint to get rid of the tiny white bugs. I used an organic soap spray for the leaves of the the other plants. The red pepper plant died, but everything else hung on.
The herbs were the first things that we were able to use. My sister gave me a great tip for herbs. She told me they like to be used so pick off a few leaves every day. This really worked for my herbs. They have been the most sustainable plants in our garden. I have dried the oregano, thyme and rosemary and used in pasta sauce, and any other dish I could think of. I cut sprigs of rosemary and tie them up with a ribbon to gift to friends. It just smells so good! As a family, we have grown to love cilantro because we had so much of it. This lasted a few weeks and then the plant flowered and produced less and less until it died. We got a handful of tiny strawberries, but this was in May. Cherry tomatoes grew really well and we had so many tomatoes that were all delicious. I made fresh salsa and had tomatoes for many meals. The plant that grew the best was the kale. We had 2 kale plants and no one likes kale. I did not want to waste it, so we started making kale chips and adding kale to our homemade pizza for some crunch. Now, Tess and I actually enjoy kale! We harvested 1 yellow pepper, but it had a rotten spot, so we didn't even eat it. Typical for Florida, we had extreme heat and monsoon rain during the summer. Late July and August, almost everything died or got washed out. The oregano, basil and rosemary survived.
I replanted in October. This time I tried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, eggplant, Swiss chard, cilantro and mint. I over planted again because I didn't realize the Swiss chard was actually individual plants. The cilantro died immediately. Everything else is doing well. We have already cut off some of the Swiss chard to use for quesadillas. This is the reason I chose to grow the Swiss chard, these quesadillas are so good for lunch! Sometimes, I add turkey bacon and it's amazing. I know strawberry season is in the summer, so I'm not sure why I chose strawberries. We have not yet had fruit on these plants, but the plant seems happy. One tomato plant got hornworms. I used more organic soap spray and they seem to be gone. I check the leaves often for holes and there are no new ones. The tomatoes have really produced a ton of fruit all through April. The eggplant is huge and has several purple flowers, but no fruit yet.
So what has been easy to grow in Florida?
I would still consider myself a novice gardener. I love that we have been able to grow a few items in our tiny outdoor space. It has opened our eyes and enhanced our pallets. I have enjoyed having the kids help tend the garden and see for themselves how we can grow food. For that I am grateful. I would love to know what you are growing in your garden! Please find me on Instagram or comment below!
All images for this post were taken with my iphone.
For those that asked about this cane webbing IKEA Hack I posted about the other day...
After searching all the local stores and hours on the internet to find a boho cabinet with cane webbing, I found they were all very expensive. I was looking for a cabinet for Tess's room to hide all of the books that were overflowing the baskets they were in. It didn't make sense to spend that much money on something that would be in a 4 year old's bedroom, as it would likely become broken or covered in marker at some point. I basically gave up on the idea of something cute and functional and bought a wood cabinet Facebook Marketplace. I was not excited about my purchase, but for $100, it would do the job. Once I got it home, I realized it was IKEA. I had seen some IKEA hacks online, but all required some DIY. After a little research, I decided to try one of the hacks I saw. This hack involved changing out the doors to the cabinet and glueing in cane webbing.
The cabinet I purchased secondhand was the IKEA BESTA cabinet in the wood finish. It came with flat panel Lappviken doors, also in the wood finish. I ordered 3 white Hanviken framed doors because they have the middle portion cut out. This is where the cane webbing will go. The hinges were able to be transferred from the Lappviken doors onto the Hanviken doors. If you do not have the IKEA doors with hinges already on your cabinet, you will want to purchase the hinges for each cabinet door from IKEA too.
There are many options for cane webbing. The hacks I saw purchased theirs from Amazon but it was sold out when I was looking. I ended up ordering this cane webbing from The Online Fabric Store. For my 3 cabinets, I ordered the 24" wide Open Box Weave cane webbing in a quantity of 6. After I placed my order, I found out the product was on backorder. It arrived after several weeks.
The blog posts and YouTube videos I had planned to follow cut the cane webbing with scissors. They measured and fit each piece precisely to the opening in cabinet door and used glue to adhere it. I was extremely nervous about messing this part up. I am so happy I waited for my parents to come to Orlando and help me. My dad is a contractor and suggested using spray contact adhesive instead of the Gorilla Glue and foam paint brushes I had purchased. We would spray the opening in the cabinet and the back of the cane webbing and stick them together. Then, use a utility knife to cut around the edge so the webbing would lay flat.
I jokingly told my dad that I was going to document this brilliant idea in case other people wanted to try it. I should have taken a video or actually used my camera but I didn't really think anyone would care. But here we are with the low quality iphone photos because several people actually reached out for a tutorial!
We cut (with scissors) the cane webbing into 3 large pieces that we knew would be more than enough to fit each opening. The cane webbing is pretty stiff and mine was rounded from being rolled up. We rolled each piece up backwards and secured it with rubber bands and let the rolled up webbing sit for a couple hours. We ran to Home Depot to get the spray adhesive, yellow tape and a utility knife. We taped the raised portion and sides of the white cabinet doors with yellow tape. We made sure the hinges were flipped downward so they wouldn't get spray adhesive on them.
My dad sprayed the opening of the front of each door. The spray came out with much more texture than expected so he gently wiped it with a paper towel. Do this very gently or the paper towel will get stuck! He then sprayed in inside edges with another coat of adhesive and wiped again. There is a 10 minute window for the adhesive. If it dries for too long, it will loose the ability to bond. We learned this from experience!!
We taped again (over the tape that was still attached) so the cane webbing would not stick to the adhesive that got on the first layer of tape. Then, sprayed the back of each piece of cane webbing.
We gently laid the cane webbing on the cabinet to make sure it was straight and started pressing from the middle out to the edges and corners to make sure it would stick everywhere and there were no bubbles. My dad then took a utility knife and cut around each edge as I pressed the edges down while he cut. We did not have to wait for anything to dry. He attached the cabinet doors and it was done!
I really cannot claim that I was very much help in this project but hopefully this post is helpful to anyone looking to do something similar!