Harvesting Our Sweet Potatoes

We planted our sweet potato slips in mid-April. Since then, these beautiful leafy green plants with delicious orange tubers have made a beautiful planting bed specimen. Big, leafy and very healthy looking, our sweet potato vines were almost too pretty to harvest…almost. Although I hesitated to harvest them because they helped make our backyard look green and magical, I had to think of the actual reason I planted them in the first place…food! I’ve been dreaming of the day when I could harvest my own sweet potatoes since the day I watched a video of it being done on theartofdoingstuff.com (a very informative and entertaining website). So, perhaps a bit on the early side, I decided to harvest my 3 month old sweet potatoes.

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It was incredibly delightful to dig up the tubers. I’d pull up the vine holding the sweet potatoes and yank out 5 or 6 at a time. They were orange, covered in soil, of various shapes and sizes, and made me oh so happy to see. Then, with my hands, I’d feel around underneath the soil for more sweet potatoes and, every time I’d find a new random drifter, I’d feel the joy and surprise that made me fall in love with gardening in the first place.

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After all was said and done, we ended up with about 10 pounds of sweet potatoes!

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After we harvested, I made sure to plant some of the rooting vines as well as to sacrifice one sweet potato for creating a new set of slips. I love how gardening exposes us to the endless cycles that create and sustain life ❤

 

Garden Update – July 2018

This month the garden seems to be thriving. Our watermelon vine is beginning to produce beautifully tiny watermelon, our Japanese eggplant plant is growing about 10 luscious eggplants, and our sweet potatoes are about ready to harvest.

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The tendrils on our watermelon vine act like hands…constantly reaching for support.

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Our peppers are just beginning to grow and our radishes look ready to harvest.

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We’ve been picking the mangoes off of our mango tree and  letting them sit on the counter to ripen. We had our first home-grown mango last weekend and it was so buttery and meaty…very delicious. I picked 6 more last Saturday and left them on the counter…we’ll be enjoying lots of home-grown mango next weekend.

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Our starfruit tree has millions of pretty pink flowers. We’re hoping that soon we’ll have many delicious star fruit to eat.

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A rare finding on our star fruit tree: a spider guarding its prey.

Shaun has been working hard to prepare a new garden space: our unsightly and very narrow side yard. We brainstormed ideas for this space for months and finally decided on creating a banana patch. Our side yard only gets about an hour or two of direct sunlight a day. This space is usually shaded and a little humid. It’s actually a great place to grow bananas! Last Saturday, we headed over to Going Bananas in Homestead and purchased several different varieties of banana plants. What a lovely idea. The transformation of what once was the “junk alley” into a functional space where we can grow more food! Shaun is placing a series of stepping stones in that space currently. He has to go through the taxing process of digging each one into the ground, leveling each tile with gravel and sand, and then working soil around each stone. It’s a big undertaking…thank goodness he loves to work with his hands! Bonus: he’s a craftsman and loves to do things extremely well…my dream guy!

Here is a little look at our work in progress…

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After Shaun digs in each stone, we’ll add some whimsical ground cover (sweet potato vine and mimosa), some mint for in between the stones, some mulch, and maybe a large easel and chalkboard to inspire the children to use this space. Oh, and we’re going to add a pergola arch at the entrance of the alley along with a little “secret garden door”. I cannot wait until this little space comes to life!

 

A Very Fun Fourth…

Yesterday was a lovely day. Waking up late, preparing a delicious breakfast, and lounging around with my little family is the best. We had promised Dylan that we’d go to the clubhouse pool so, at about 12pm, we drove over. We didn’t imagine that there would be so many people there. With no parking space in sight, and what seemed like thousands of cars driving around in search of one, we decided to go back home. Dylan’s disappointment was obvious. He looked out the window and began to cry. Stella wondered why we got ready for what she likes to call “Water Day”, drove around for 5 minutes, and returned home. Shaun and I hated to break a promise but we also realized how stressful it might be to be in such a crowd with two young children on such a holiday. There had to be something else we could do that was just as fun. I suggested we have our own “Water Day” in our backyard. Dylan perked up and Stella smiled. We got home and set up for some fun.

It turned out to be a very exciting time, I’m sure more fun than we would have had crowded like sardines in our clubhouse pool. Shaun and I forgot ourselves and became immersed in the moment with our kids. We blasted summer time music, set up our funny little octopus, and filled about 80 water balloons. The water balloons were my favorite. I purchased those easy to fill water balloon sets from Costco and they were so worth it. In 2 minutes we had 40 water balloons. We found fun ways to pop them and then we made more. Shaun especially loved throwing them up in the air and getting them to land on his head. Dylan and Stella thought that was the funniest thing ever.

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Later in the evening, we took our little $10 pack of fireworks outside and lit them up. We didn’t realize that each firework does essentially the same thing. Nonetheless, Dylan and Stella loved them. During this time, our neighbors, who must have spent hundreds on their fireworks, began to light up the sky with a beautiful display of colorful explosions. We ran to the field in front of our house to watch. It sounded like cannons being shot into the sky. It was exhilarating to watch.

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What a fun fourth of July ❤

Starting a Tiny Food Forest in South Florida

It’s been a while since my last post. When I started blogging again, I intended on creating one post a week as a way to document my life, growth, and creativity. It seemed easy enough but, as I dug deeper into the world of gardening, as each weekend became consumed by this ever-growing and exciting interest, I felt myself falling deeper into this beautiful rabbit hole. Every free moment was a chance to research, to better understand the heart of gardening in South Florida. I felt captivated by the idea of creating more than just a vegetable garden…I wanted to create an edible yard.

Food forest was a term I first heard of when my boss excitedly mentioned it to me. She dreams of transforming the wilderness that envelops our school into a forest filled with delicious food. What a beautiful concept. I loved the idea from the start but, like most people, I was unsure of what, exactly constituted a food forest. At first, I thought a food forest meant growing fruits and vegetables neatly arranged in earth boxes and adding some fruit trees nearby but that’s not it at all. A food forest is, as it’s name implies, a lush, wild forest where nearly everything is edible. The aim of a food forest is to imitate what goes on in a natural forest but to revolve those principles around food bearing plants. So, there are several plants of varying heights (mostly fruit trees, perennial shrubs, herbs, and ground covers like sweet potato) that are planted in such a way that they create layers like you find in a forest.

So, with a better understanding of what constitutes a food forest and a growing love for this beautiful, natural philosophy, I endeavored to create my own tiny food forest in the corner of our small backyard. When researching tiny food forests in South Florida, I couldn’t really find many videos showcasing a food forest as small as ours. So, with no clear model to emulate, I researched food forests in South Florida, learned about growing foods better adapted to our South Florida climate, purchased many plants from special nurseries, and then began to arrange my new plants and trees in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing but also fulfills the components of a food forest. No easy task but fun and exciting nonetheless.

After many hours of research, endless visits to local nurseries, and hours and hours of hard labor and with no clear end in sight, I wanted to capture our progress as a way to look back as well as a way to share our experience with others. I plan on documenting the progress of our food forest on the blog as it continues to change and grow so that we can track our progress and look back on all the work and dedication it took to create.

Here’s a look at our little work in progress…

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We still have to mulch it and set up a clear path but everything seems to be neatly placed and growing well. I long to see this space in a few months when everything has grown to fill the empty spaces…I love nothing more than a lush, green space.

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Our tiny food forest consists of a mango tree, a lychee tree, cranberry hibiscus plants,  many hardy herbs, Okinowa spinach, Brazilian spinach, a mulberry tree, a jaboticaba tree,  mimosa & comfrey (as nitrogen fixers), a canistel tree, lemongrass, a few banana plants, winged beans, a fig tree, and more. I think I counted about 45 plants in that tiny space. I’m sure it seems like we are growing too many plants but you’d be surprised how much can grow in a small space. Think of a forest and how everything grows on top on each other, now imagine if everything was edible. That’s what we’re doing.

Near our forest, we have earth boxes growing eggplant, watermelon, cucumber, sweet potato, leeks, peppers, malabar spinach, herbs, and radishes.

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We have two more fig trees, calamondin, and carrots all growing happily in pots.

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And we have a starfruit tree, a lemon guava tree, the praying hands banana plant, an avocado tree, a Jamaican cherry tree, and a persimmon tree growing in other areas in our backyard.

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Yes, we are obsessed with our garden at the moment. Gardening in this way, where you are growing your own food and watching the lives of amazing plants, is very fulfilling. We feel a profound sense of excitement and joy every morning when we wake up and check on our garden as well as every evening when we all gather in our garden, water the plants, and anticipate the bountiful harvests that we will soon have ❤