CONVERTING YOUR FLORIDA YARD INTO AN EDIBLE LANDSCAPE OR ECOLOGICAL FOREST GARDEN:
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE
Built In Pest Control & Fertilization Methods
That Happen To… ADD BEAUTY INSTEAD OF TOXINS!
Create a Garden that needs… LITTLE TO NO WATER!
You can click on each of the steps below to learn more:
1. Start with an understanding of healthy soil. The single most important detail of successful organic gardening here in Florida is to understand the conditions our soil & what we can do about it. Mulch is everything & we cannot overstate that enough. We are not talking about ordinary garden mulch, though – bagged mulch from the garden store isn’t going to give us what we need. We are after the biologically diverse, partially decomposed mulch that comes from tree trimmings; it contains billions of organisms in one square inch & builds soils.
2. Get acquainted with the fungi & good bugs; they are your allies.
We constantly get questions & comments about the subject of fungi & bugs in the garden. This introduction will help you better understand the balance of bugs & the important role of mycellium (enter the realm of mushroom networks).
Many of our common garden nectar drinkers also feed on a wide array of garden pests including ants, aphids, mites, mosquitos, and caterpillars. Lady beetles, lacewings, parasitic wasps, syrphid flies, paper wasps. This caterpillar will serve as the host/food source, as the eggs hatch. To learn more about the benefits of fungi & good bugs in the garden, click here.
3. Discover the relationships of plants & their garden visitors.
Planning & planting the right mix for optimum symbiosis. Nature survives with or without us. What can we learn from that? When we carefully observe & replicate the same processes we see in nature, we create the same ecosystem that can thrive, even if we walk away. There are layers of botanical species in each section of the forest. We want to model those same layers in our own designs. Low input farming & gardening? We're sold!
Click here to read more about building ecosystems in the gardenspace. (link is currently under construction)
4.If your plan includes growing annual vegetables & herbs, it is really important to get to know your Florida seasons.
We have had a good deal of experience with growing any & every annual edible that Florida can grow. If you are a beginner, knowing your growing seasons is the most important part. We are so lucky to be able to grow year round, but don't count on the seasonal planting instructions on your pack of seeds. Chances are that the seed company isn't located in Florida. We have to play by our own set of rules around here. Here's a gallery with some of our prized garden pictures from a few years back:
5. Get to know your perennial/tropical vegetables, if you are looking for alternatives to leafy greens & carbohydrate/starch crops, especially during the hot months of the year.
Take a virtual trip around the globe & discover all the terrains that similar to our own growing challenges. In the summertime, grocery store leafy greens might do great in all of the states north of here, but are out of the question in our own Florida garden beds. Instead, we should be looking to eat like the rest of the world does; perennial greens from the tropics, from Asian terrain, from the tropical forests of Central & South America & even some of the staples from the African continent. We are looking for edible leaves & tuber crops that thrive in the heat & humidity, thereby offering pest & disease resistence.
6. Start thinking about your favorite fruits that you would like to grow & learn about all the fruits that grow here that you may not have heard of yet.
The possibilities of growing fruit here in the state are endless. It might be one of our favorite reasons to be Floridians. We are fruit geeks, or fruit hunters, as we like to be called. Collecting all the different varieties of the species that grow here is our favorite past time & it's what we are known best for here on our farm. We are able to grow quite the array of tropical & subtropical treasures. Many of these fruits aren't sold in markets, so the only way to taste them is to grow them yourself.
7. Learn about growing herbs & spices in your Florida garden.
8. Get to know the supportive species; plants that provide resources for your fruit & vegetable producing species. This includes nitrogen fixation & distribution of other key elements, as well as beautiful flowering plants that attracts predatory insects into your garden (ecosystem balance instead of applying toxic pesticides). Planting pollinator & nectar species to keep the bad bugs in check makes a lot more sense that spraying chemicals.
9. Get to know your living ground covers & understand their importance.
10. Discover the plants that provide easy mulch: the “chop & drop” technique
11. Know how to properly plant your choices. Full soil contact & slight elevation are key.
12. Learn how to propagate; Start from seed, Learn about which plants do best from seeds & cuttings. Where to buy seeds, how to obtain plants (plant swaps, community, etc.)
13. Learn about proper watering times. Whether you are hand-watering or using an irrigation system, the morning is always the best, especially before the sun is directly on the plants. Watering during the hottest parts of the day can actually be destructive to some of the more sensitive plants, except for when it is coming through a drip irrigation system. If you missed your time to water in the morning or are still finding that your beds are too dry, it is okay to water after the sun is far west (after 6pm during the summer months, a bit earlier in the cooler season.)
14. Learn about harvest practices.
15. Assess your site:
Water Access : Will your beds have or need access to a hose?Will your project have irrigation needs?
Microclimate: Is the area you are planting extremely dry?Does it hold water after heavy rain? Are there significant changes in elevation on the site?
Sunlight: Where does the sunlight fall in each season?Knowing where morning/afternoon light is becomes very helpful to make sure your garden is the right amount of sun. Morning light is best in most cases.
*Will there be a need for windbreaks? Or needs for noise control?
16.a. If Your Plan is to Plant A Food Forest:
Bring in mulch – Heavy amounts (12 inch minimum depth is ideal.) When working on a large project, work in zones – planting to capacity as soon as the mulch is applied (consider how large plants will become/how much they will spread).The idea is that when the plants are semi-mature, the mulch will be nearly covered with living plants.This is imperative to success with weeds in your beds.Wherever there is open space, it’s an invitation for them to come fill in.
Water features & Hideout spots to attract beneficial species for pest control: bird baths, ponds, bug hotels, rocks, etc.
It is better to overplant than to underplant.If spaces become too crowded, plants can always be relocated down the road.
16.b. If working with raised beds:
Bring in organic compost.Our suggestion would be a combination of compost mix with the addition of our bagged biochar soil blend (50% biochar, 50% organic compost).After all selections have been planted, the surface can be top-dressed with a thin layer of mulch to keep the soil shaded & moist. Assess if irrigation will be needed.
17. Enjoy Your Abundance! (& Share the Excess!)