Past Meetup

Edible Gardening 101: A beginner's guide

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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.