Edible Gardening 101: A beginner's guide

  • May 5, 2013 · 3:00 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

Group member Cindy Brown has been experimenting to learn which fruits, vegetables, nuts, and edible plants grow well in southwest Florida's semi-tropical environment. She's succeeded in producing lots of delicious and nourishing foods in the various gardens she created on her two-acre property in Naples. At our meeting there on Sunday, May 5, we'll all learn how easily we can be just as successful in our own gardens.

The lists of edibles we'll see growing there is impressive. Cindy has from one to six specimens of each of these fruit trees and shrubs: apple, avocado, banana (shown above), blackberry, black sapote, blueberry, carambola (star fruit), cherry, dragon fruit, fig, grape, grapefruit, guava, kumquat, lemon, lime, mango, miracle fruit, monstera deliciosa, mulberry, nectarine, olive, orange, papaya, passion fruit, peach, pear, persimmon, pineapple, plum, pomegranate, raspberry, and white sapote. The photo below shows a young peach developing.

In the vegetable garden we'll see asparagus, broccoli, peppers, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Sugar cane is growing among the vegetables. Chestnut and macadamia trees produce abundant crops of nuts. Many of Cindy's garden plants are also edible, including allspice, aloe, bay leaf, chaya, cranberry hibiscus, ginger, and moringa. Members curious about their flavors will be invited to taste some of them.

We'll learn how to produce all this food using sustainable gardening techniques to protect the natural environment. Cindy collects rainwater from the roof in rain barrels to water the garden. She utilizes lots of mulch (20 truckloads last year) to eliminate weeds and minimize the need for watering. Much of the garden is efficiently watered by drip irrigation pipes. Everything for the garden was purchased locally.

As a nature lover, Cindy also planted the shrubs and vines preferred by native Florida butterflies and their caterpillars. We'll see black-eyed Susan, blanket flower, blue porter weed, butterfly bush, fire bush, lantana, Mexican petunia (ruellia), purple passionflower, shrimp plant, sunshine mimosa, and tropical sage, all of which provide abundant nectar for the butterflies. Food plants for the various species of caterpillars include cassias for cloudless sulfurs, Dutchman's pipe for polydamas, fennel for black swallowtails, milkweed for monarchs and queens, and passionvines for gulf fritillaries and zebra longwings. The photo above shows three black swallowtail caterpillars feeding on fennel.

We'll be meeting in the cool shade of this magnificent banyan tree as Cindy answers questions about growing fruits and vegetables. Members will discuss their own experiences with edible gardening, and everything else under the sun. Snacks and drinks will be provided, but you can also contribute your favorite refreshments for everyone to share. As usual, members will bring their excess plants for others to take home for their own gardens.

Meeting hosts should know whom to expect, so let Cindy know if you can or can't attend by submitting your RSVP in the upper right corner of the screen. Visitors are always welcome at these free events. If you're inviting friends, please indicate the number when you reply. We hope to see many new gardeners at this interesting and informative meeting.

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  • Fred R.

    I haven't really done much with veggies in FL. That was for another time, back up north. We are thinking of removing some of our fruit trees as they simply fall and rot. I have no idea what Cindy does with all her bounty. I went more into the landscaping scene with my garden but after I spent lots of time, effort and money sodding a huge lawn area with zoysia, I'm now removing some of that for more plants. I do want to know where Cindy got 20 truck loads of mulch or clippings. I can't seem to find any. I called a number of tree service companies without results. They have me on their list but nobody has yet shown up.

    April 30, 2013

    • Robert

      You can get free mulch from Yahl Mulching,[masked], they also deliver 110yards/semi-truck for $150; 2250 Washburn Ave, next to the Collier County landfill which also had free mulch but they ran out now.
      If the semi is too bid of a load or can't access your place, I can help you out with my pickup + 12' trailer!

      May 12, 2013

    • Fred R.

      For now I'm good Robert but thanks for the information. 110 yard is one hell of a load. I though a 40 yd dump truck was big.

      May 13, 2013

  • william

    Thanks Fred.

    May 8, 2013

  • Fred R.

    Earlier in this thread I mentioned trying to find free hardwood mulch for the garden walkways. Peter suggested I contact Green Club Recycling which I did. I then wrote about the expense of mulch from this company but ordered a load anyway. I was curious as to what $270 would bring. I now wish to correct any notion that this was not a good deal. I got my mulch and am totally satisfied with the amount and quality of this company's mulch. I posted some pictures in the photo section of their mulch and the stuff I had both of which were results of shredded palm fronds. It requires special machinery to get these fronds ground down to a fine stringy mixture. An ordinary shredder can't do that. Anyway, take a look under Fred Rump's garden.

    May 8, 2013

    • Suzanne and P.

      A reminder to members: Green Club Recycling is one of the eight organizations listed in the "Perks" column on the left side of the screen. When you specify you're a member of our group, you'll get the member discount. Let Green Club Recycling know you learned about the firm via Gardeners of Southwest Florida. Thank you.

      May 8, 2013

  • Dawn Z.

    A great group!

    May 8, 2013

  • Cindy B.

    Thank you to:
    Peter for his organizational talents,
    Thnak you to the lady who brought muffins to share,
    Thank you to the gentleman who brought me a hosting gift,
    Thank you to all who brought bearings from your yard to share and thank you to all who participated and made it a very enjoyable afternoon. Every meeting I attend, every class that I take, I learn something that I can apply in my own garden.

    May 7, 2013

    • Mary W.

      Thank you so much to you. Best ever, really made us realize ... Just plant it and keep it going. Many thanks for a great afternoon.

      May 7, 2013

  • Leah R.

    Loved walking around your yard, Cindy. You work very hard to keep that place looking so nice. You will be able to feed an army with all the fruit that will be coming in! I was the one that put the pile of cuittings on the ground. If anyone needs more info, feel free to ask.

    May 6, 2013

    • Fred R.

      Leah, I got two of the Jatropa multifada plants and potted them. They still look pretty sad. I hope they'll perk up after the transfer. Some of the other plants I didn't get names for but as soon as they root and show new life, I'll be back for ID info. :-)

      May 6, 2013

  • Lisa O.

    Cindy's property was amazing. We are at the beginning stages of creating a food forest and Cindy's property was so inspiring. I loved the huge Banyan Tree. The bubblegum cherries were delicious as well as all of the wonderful snacks. Thank you again Cindy for sharing your beautiful garden and all of the contacts you gave us. I also would like to extend a special thank you to the woman that brought in all of the cuttings. My husband and I potted them all last night.

    May 6, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Thank you Cindy for opening your garden to us. it was a spectacular sight to see!

    May 6, 2013

  • Debbie L.

    Cindy has a beautiful and edible garden. The tour was very informative and fun. I would like to see if there is any way we can post when there are going to be fruit tree sales in the collier/lee county area. The rain barrels and poop tea was very interesting also.
    Great meeting today.
    Thank You Cindy

    May 5, 2013

  • Fred R.

    Totally impressive. I still don't know how Cindy does it by herself.

    May 5, 2013

  • Fred R.

    On the Mulch scene. I got a reply from green recycling place. $270 a load of 40 yards. Not cheap but I'm going to try a shipment to see what I get for that kind of money. If Cindy got 20 loads of this, that's over $5000. Not what I expected.

    May 1, 2013

  • Mary N.

    I can't wait to see Cindy's garden. I am looking for a gardener to help me in my garden??? So much to do and so little time.
    Does anyone have a remedy for nosee-ums?

    April 30, 2013

    • Fred R.

      Missi, I get big boils from mosquito bites and very itchy legs from the noseeums. I quick spray of Outdoor Neet keeps them away though. The thing is, the bugs are not nearly as bad here in the Estates as when we lived closer to the marshes, ie the gulf, where going outside in the evening was dangerous to your health. One simply couldn't enjoy the outside world when we lived at Pelican Lake RV Resort on 41 across from the marshes. I bought machines and tried everything but they still came. It was the same in Lely.

      May 1, 2013

    • Fred R.

      What bothers me here are the ants. :-)

      May 1, 2013

  • Erica B.

    I have horses and tons of poop to share. My greatest experience in gardening was growing a 145lb pumpkin. Very cool. I am excited to learn how to be better at something I love doing and that is gardening. I am glad to be a part of this group.

    1 · April 25, 2013

    • Suzanne and P.

      Only in a garden club, Erica, can horse manure guarantee that you'll be making many new friends. We sense you're going to be a very popular member. You just joined the group, but we love you already.

      April 26, 2013

    • Lisa O.

      We are gathering poop Erica so if you have extra we would take it.

      May 1, 2013

  • Mary N.

    By the way, I am addicted to Bromeliads...

    April 30, 2013

    • Missi

      I am addicted to broms, too but I have bad luck with them! The rare ones I have had get rot & the ones with beautiful inflorescences never get their flower spikes for me! Any tips?

      May 1, 2013

    • Missi

      I've been to Fred's place a few times. He has exceptional plants! A tour of his gardens will be fabulous!

      May 1, 2013

  • Debbie L.

    Cant wait to see the Cindy's garden!

    April 28, 2013

  • aleesha m.

    Sounds very ambitious. Anxious to see Cindy's gardens and meet everyone!

    April 27, 2013

  • Missi

    I'm not a big edible gardener but I love to learn all I can about any type of gardening & socialize with fellow gardening geeks! ^_^

    If you'd like to learn all about the many Florida weeds, we can tour my garden next LOL

    April 18, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Between my patio blocks there is quite a collection as well. :-)

      1 · April 22, 2013

    • Missi

      I just cannot seem to find the time to do the weeding!

      April 23, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry everyone, I would have loved to attend. I'm back in Michigan for the summer season. Cindy, it looks like you've got some great plants growing there. Hopefully, when I come back down this winter, we'll get a chance to meet again. Enjoy everyone.

    April 23, 2013

  • Lisa O.

    Joe and I will be attending. we are just beginning our edible garden.

    April 18, 2013

  • Suzanne and P.

    We also raise butterflies in our garden's 36'x60' screened enclosure. We're attending this meeting to learn more from Cindy about growing fruits and vegetables.

    March 31, 2013

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