Friday, July 31, 2015

Conquering Mulch Mountain

Mulch pile right after delivery
This is the yard before we started planting

In May I had a load of mulch delivered for free from a tree service for use under our trees and in the yard.  We have been slowly, but surely using this pile and have almost made it all the way through the pile.  Once I have used this I'll call around and see about getting another load as it's worked so well in helping our new plants and trees to really get established even with the heat we've had lately.

The girls helping as we first started to work on the pile

Me loading one of MANY wheelbarrow loads of mulch - got my workout daily here

Here are some photos of our first plantings on May 17th, then the progress on June 22, and finally how things have grown and been added to as of today.  In my next post I'll show some of the produce we've already harvested to date.
May 17th my first two banana circles are planted

June 8th and more planting beds are in and the squash has begun to grow from the compost piles in the center of the banana circles along with the sweet potatoes and bananas

June 22cd our mulch pile is dwindling.  The bamboo along with spider lily, cape plumbago and iris are in a new planting bed in the front.

The front of the house and what's left of the pile today

Going, going- almost gone.  The bamboo has really grown and I've added to this planting bed

The banana circles and other beds today

Yard from the back side looking towards the house.  The tall plants on the right are my giant golden amaranth. They are just beginning to flower and I'm looking forward to collecting the seed to use in a larger planting bed later.
That's it for now, as I said I'll show pictures in my next post of our produce and the progress of our garden.  I'm hoping as my fruit trees and berries grow I'll be able to look forward to year round enjoyment from something always in season.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Banana Circles

Typical banana circle image with compost area in the center and some suggestions for companion planting

Wanting to add bananas to my list of foods to grow I did some research on their growth needs and behavior so I could get an idea of where and how to plant them to give them the optimum chance of surviving and producing the fruit I'd so like to have here in my zone 9b area.  I saw a lot of information on planting banana circles to accommodate the heavy feeding needs of bananas and the fact that they die after producing fruit, so having a continuous set of new plants moving in a circular growth area provides for continuous fruiting once the plants are established.

To get these started I chose to cover the grass with layers of newspaper and cardboard and build up with the nutrients that would be needed.  I already had some mushroom compost, peat moss and a few bags of Miracle grow potting soil, but when they only provided a few inches of cover to my newspaper base, I went to a local supplier to purchase a truckload of mushroom compost to add to this and prepare for planting the bananas I had ordered online and the couple of cavendish I bought at Lowes.

Choosing my spot and laying down newspaper and cardboard

Spraying with water to hold it in place until I can cover with dirt

I put a couple of logs in the center for air flow and added compost from my pile
With this in place it's time to start building my planting soil

What I had on hand didn't cover much, so it's off to the local dirt and mulch supplier

With a layer of dirt in a circle we filled the area between the center compost pile and outer edge with mulch from my large wood chip pile I had delivered for free from a tree service. Once this was down we added a bit more dirt to the planting part and then began to plant some of the bananas I bought, some pineapples I'd started, lemon grass divisions from my large plant and then sweet potato slips.
I set the first circle just below my apple and orange trees in the front yard.  This area gets runoff being at a lower elevation than the surrounding yard and gets some protection from wind and intense sun because of the established trees on two sides.  I've documented some of my progress, and then after putting in this first circle I quickly added a second and then began adding other raised beds in the yard to get a start on the food forest I'd like to create on my property.

My banana order along with a dragon fruit plant

First bananas in place

First banana circle with bananas and pineapples planted
Hannah and Lauren adding mulch to my second banana circle
First 2 circles done

I've been amazed and pleased at how well things are taking off.  We're now in Florida's rainy season which is a real benefit to the growth of all the plants and trees I currently have in the ground.  I'll keep updating as I make progress.  I'm also making plans on having materials on hand to protect these during the colder months, until I can create enough of a microclimate through my planting area to give them year round protection as they mature.

Circle 1 with more mulch and a squash that seeded itself from my mulch pile in the center and I let grow
2cd banana circle with a couple small trees added and a cranberry hibiscus. A squash also self seeded in the center here too.
I then began adding other planting beds

Here's an update after a couple months growth
My "nursery" area for plants and trees that still need to find a place around the yard

I'm still in a learning process for growing here in Central Florida, so for any who have experience comments or suggestions all are welcome, and I'll post my results to benefit others who may need the information as things continue to grow, mature and hopefully produce the results I'm seeking.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Yard Long Beans

Yard Long Bean Seeds

It's that time of year again, when the yard long beans begin to produce in abundance in the garden.  We built two new planting beds at the end of March and the girls helped with the seeds and covering our newly planted beds with leaves.

We laid sticks out to separate our planting areas

The girls gathered leaves to cover the seeds after they planted each section

Hannah and Lauren planting their seeds

We watched as things sprouted and have been watching as our crops come up and then began our initial harvest of salad greens, lemon balm, cilantro, radishes and now as the heat turns up it's time for the yard long beans to be picked and enjoyed.

Kevin added a trellis for the beans to grow up, we were a bit overwhelmed last year with the vigorous growth of this type of bean, so we decided to be prepared this year. He used our old shade covers from the towers that had shaded them last year, but with the hoop house this year (I'll show this in the next post), we don't need these pieces of pvc pipe.  He made sure he pounded old stakes in the ground first and slipped the pvc over the top of these to be sure they stay put when the wind kicks in.  This has already been tested in a couple of good storms and they held up fine.

First bed this year planted, marked and covered with leaves

My little helpers in front of one of last years garden beds that still has papayas, nasturtium, lemon grass, a volunteer tomato and a jalapeno pepper that all survived from last years plantings - even with the freeze.

Positioning the second new bed

Laying out several layers of newspaper before adding dirt

Kevin putting together the trellis

Second new bed planted

Newest beds with trellis

Garden area in March
Four beds now, two from last year and two new ones - this is from the end of March

The beans have done beautifully growing up and are beginning to grow over the top of the trellis.  The air flow and accessibility has been helpful in controlling fungal issues, aphids and has eased harvesting the beans.

The girls with today's bean harvest

Yard Long Beans on trellis now in June

Pretty bean flower

Trellis still has a lot more beans that need to get a bit bigger to pick

Beans and flower

We still find the size and abundance of these amazing!!!