Mon Petit Jardin Vert! (and the joys of multi-climate gardening!)

Darlings!  Welcome to La Diva's little green garden!  My small plot is part of a community victory garden on South Beach that I was lucky to be assigned last May.  After a brutally hot, steamy and rainy summer, along with the negligence resulting from my leg injury, La Diva wasn't feeling too hopeful about achieving any success with my dismally overgrown  plot from summer.

But after enriching the soil twice with organic compost, time, love, water and a nice dash of fish fertilizer, my garden is really coming along nicely!

My herb and salad garden:  bottom left corner clockwise chives, lemon thyme, thyme, marjoram, jalapeno peppers, cayenne peppers, heritage kung pao chilies, baby tomatoes, basil, Thai basil, spinach, assorted lettuces, sage, peppermint and spearmint and Italian parsley.  The middle from the bottom has komatsuna, escarole, mini bell peppers and assorted leaf lettuces!

Besides the rainy, humid summers, Southern Florida gardeners have to contend with harsh winds from tropical storms and hurricanes, poor soil quality and salt from the ocean, my garden is only one block away from the sea!

Because of the sub-tropical climate of Southern Florida, vegetable gardeners find a lot of success growing Asian varieties like komatsuna, mizuna,  and yukina savoy.  Also popular are Caribbean vegetables like amaranth (known as callaloo) calabaza (a pumpkin variety) and red sorrel.

A tiny anole scampers about my garden!  They are pretty fast critters, I was lucky this one stayed still long enough for a photo!

You see, I'm from Michigan and the growing season there is very short.  This does not stop, however, farmers around the state having huge success in their harvests and I've eaten many an ear of Michigan sweet corn, beets and tomatoes from road side stands by my dad's house over the years. 

Muy caliente! Cayenne pepper

When I lived in Chicago, I had a beautiful garden out back on one side of the yard I shared with my neighbors.   Obviously, I was already well versed on what would grow as its the same climate and zone as Michigan. One year, I grew giant sunflowers that a cheeky little squirrel would sit atop, stuffing his mouth with the seeds in late August.

These little tomatoes are tiny and super sweet.  I have a number of flowers and clusters, I'm just waiting for them to ripen now.

Then I moved to Sydney, Australia and got the shock of my life.  I saw vine-like geraniums so big that they were growing up the side of telephone poles!  I marveled at HUGE rhododendron and azalea bushes as high as a house!  I had NO IDEA that those plants could actually get so large, but having a longer growing season, mild winters and not a lot of frost or snow all contributed to this.

My little pepper bush is laden with jalapenos.

It was quite the change to move from the climate of  the northern midwest of the United States to downunder Australia that boasted a temperate climate! I had to relearn plant varieties, when to plant and how to maintain a garden. Also, the sun is extra harsh there, so native drought resistant plants, like kangaroo paws were quite successful.

Southeastern Australian gardeners have to contend with harsh sun, drought-like conditions or an over abundance of rains, bushfires and strong winds.  Some Australian flora have adapted to the harsh conditions by actually being germinated when heated by bushfire, like the flannel flower or banksia bush. Fire is also a key component to germinating some California native plants.

Hello my little ladybugs.  Thanks for stopping by and keeping nasties away from my garden!

Back in the midwest, I was used to early spring flowers of crocuses, forsythia and narcissus.  But Spring in Michigan and Illinois is in April, and now I was living in Sydney where Fall is in April!  Everything was confusingly back to front!  If I wanted to enjoy bulb flowers or lilacs, I had to go up to the Blue Mountains where they enjoyed a higher elevation  and cooler climate blooming in September!  

Just below my tomatoes is a clump of organic baby lettuce I bought at the farmers market a few weeks back.  Small spinach sprouts are on the bottom right and left of it is chervil, a lovely fern-like herb with a subtle licorice taste.  The lettuces are Red Cherokee, Black Seeded Simpson, Arugula and escarole (at top left.)

At my last house in Sydney, I had a large yard and planted a wonderful herb garden and a cutting flower garden.  I was lucky the yard was already adorned with a large mulberry tree.  Just when I thought I had a handle on gardening in Sydney's climate, we moved to Los Angeles, and I was going to be gardening in another climate altogether!

In the middle is komatsuna, a Japanese green that is slightly bitter and great in stir fries.

I found gardening in Southern California to be the easiest yet.  I remember enjoying loooong sunny days, not a lot of humidity, cooler nights and dry summers, wet winters.  As I lived in apartments without a yard, container gardening was the way to go.

The escarole did very well here in Southern Florida!

I had bought a dwarf Eureka lemon tree for a container and actually saw fruit!  My window boxes were so bountiful, colourful and beautiful that I actually sold them when I moved to Florida.  Each one had coleus, fragrant alyssum and the exotically gorgeous fuchsia, which attracted hummingbirds and one giant, black carpenter bee that I donned "Blackie."  Blackie would come by daily and would buzz about the yard haphazardly, like a drunken sailor.   I can actually say that I miss my Blackie here in Miami!

Just picked from my garden, this escarole was so crisp, fresh and sweet!

Southern California gardeners deal with the unforgiving Santa Ana winds, fire and lack of rain to an over abundance of rain at certain times of the year.  Still, it was my favorite place to garden and I used to love driving through Malibu to see the sides of the cliffs covered with nasturtium or vibrant pink or orange ice flowers.  And each Spring, The DJ and I would travel to Antelope Valley to see the wonderfully vast displays of bright orange poppies blanketing mile after mile of rolling hills!  It was truly a breath taking sight!

Peppermint and spearmint are contained in a pot in the ground to prevent from spreading.

I grew my garden here in Miami Beach with these considerations mind:  

It has to be something not easily attainable (like chervil, when's the last time you saw that in the store?) 

It has to be something that I use a lot but never that much of at the same time (like mint, it's expensive at $2.99 a bunch and I throw half of it away!) 

Or it has to be something that I could enjoy eating all of the time (fresh baby salad greens and tomatoes.)

An Italian classic:   white bean soup with escarole.  I like to add sliced, browned, spicy Italian sausage with mine.  Some say escarole is too bitter but straight from the garden, it's much more subtle in flavor.  Also, the escarole leaves stand up to cooking much better than spinach or even arugula.

Darlings, do YOU garden?  What grows best in your area?  And what challenges do you face?  Tell La Diva all about it!  Ciao for now!


Maggie Alvarez said...

Very similar to the Spanish "Caldo Gallego soup, I make. But, I use kale instead of escarole. And lots of sausage and potatoes. Made it yesterday. Your garden looks divine. Must see it. xox

Intuitive Eggplant said...

Your garden is looking amazing! When you mentioned the seasons in Australia are "front to back," for a minute I thought you were talking about FL. I am always amazed that while we are in the grips of winter up north here in Ohio, you FL gardeners are experiencing your peak season. And the, just as our produce is beginning to hit its stride in early summer, your growing season is over. Great post!

Buzz Kill said...

I've been thinking about our community garden this year. I don't know if we'll have time for it. The Mrs and I need to discuss it.

Your garden looks great. Can you bring some of the potted herbs up to the balcony? I do that in the summertime so I don't have to run to the garden in the middle of cooking (its about a 4 mile ride).

mrpeenee said...

I live in a canyon in San Francisco so my garden is a steep-ass rocky patch that I've been fighting with for decades. Plenty of things that like Australia do well here (tea trees and eucalyptus) and Chile also. Besides thyme and rosemary, I only grow flowers. I tried tomatoes and basil but it's just too consistently chilly for them. My best luck is hydrangeas, datura, buddlea, and, oddly, a huge varigated ginger.

LaDivaCucina said...

Maggie that sounds like a delicious, hearty soup! What does Gallego mean? I usually eat the soup with pasta or bread, this time we ate it over polenta. Next time you are on the beach, meet me at the garden!

Eggy it DID take me a while to realize that come summer, the tomato and strawberry season is well and truly over with, I had no idea. I guess to me its not nearly as confusing because even though we garden in the wintertime, spring is still in April and May. It was hard to get used to Easter being in the Fall, living in Sydney! Christmas in summertime and feasting at the beach while sailing!

Buzz, the garden is a big time commitment, I must admit. I have to ride my bike too....if I have ride is just under 3 miles. As for the herbs on the balcony....I tried it and as the sun went further south for the winter, so did my balcony's sun! It's pretty shady all day and I think come summer, it will be sunny again. We bought the place in August and I remember it being sunny, so will have to see. It is annoying not having the herbs right there when I need them, takes a bit more planning but I'm usually at the garden each day anyway.

PEENEE! Yes, I noticed that the climate and plants are very similar in Cali to where I lived in Australia. I remember knicking hydrangea from our neighbors, they were so prevalent. I wasn't familiar with the latin name of datura but they grow down here too. Also the buddlea I know as "butterfly bush" not sure if that's here but I remember that in Australia too, along with the ginger, which grew wild everywhere. Also I remember wild call lilies growing in water ditches by the side of the road! One thing all this moving about has taught me a lot about so many plant varieties! Thanks for coming by and leaving your gardening comments, I could talk about it all day (such a little Eyetalian I am! haha!)

Boxer said...

*sigh* I want a garden but I can barely keep my flowers alive in the summer and in the last few years I've limited the number of flowers I do buy because you know, I kill them.

LOVE lady bugs. They are beautiful little things. Do you have to water your plants or is it done by community? There's a p-patch just down the hill from where I live.... but guess what's next door to it? (I kid you not) WHOLE FOODS.

great post. Anytime I get a view into LaDiva-Land, it's a happy day.

(and pffffft to blogger who ate my previous comment.) xoxox

Dani said...

You Grow Girl!

moi said...

Lovely little plot you've got there, and I'm glad you're making a "grow" of it :o) I wondered how food gardens fared out there, so close to the ocean.

Mint! What an ironic little herb. It's expensive in the stores, yet, out here at least, it grows like a weed. Most gardeners won't get anywhere near it because it's impossible to control. And yet, when we need it, we need it! But only a little bit.

I have to grow in containers due to a very rocky soil. I'm talking boulders bowling ball sized on up . . . but I have great success with chives, basil (last year it was Pesto Central around here), parsley, and all kinds of lettuces and greens. Have yet to master tomatoes. That will be this year.

LaDivaCucina said...

Bwaahahaha to Boxer killing the flowers! I wonder if you have to grow special ones that can take so much rain? What is the zone there called? Temperate rainforest, I think....Hoping one day you'll come over for a real visit instead of just a virtual one!

Yay, Dani! I LOVE that! Thank you!

Moi, no tomatoes huh? It's hard to grow them here as well. It's so interesting for me to hear about the challenges everyone in other zones go through. You wouldn't think anything about salt but it's a huge issue here, especially with my plants on the balcony (along with wind!) I do seem to remember a lot of pesto dishes coming from you last year.....

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts and garden info with me. Have a lovely weekend, y'all! xoxoxo

Thombeau said...

Once again, I am just a tad envious...

Aunty Belle said...

well, gracious, I came over from Eggy's to ask whar' to git me a copy of Lucky Peach, an' heah I find a World Tour of Gardenin'!! woo hoo!!

Yore garden looks mahvelous, dahlink.
The LAdy Bugs--a garden treasure--did ya have them jes' fly by or wuz they bought?

Gallego is from Galicia, a province in NW Spain. I make Caldo Gallego too--wif' collard greens. When on my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, we walkd by many many many yards, modest an' grand that had collards or kale growin' in their gardens--because the soups is a very popular staple.

As fer yore mint/ Moi's mint--me too. I grow plenty of mint since Iced Tea wif' mint is a porch specialty. But mint soothes the tummy too. T'other day I met a friend at a coffee shop mid-afternoon. I asked did they have mint tea? Why no, but....they had fresh mint they put in smoothies, so how about they steep fresh mint leaves in hot water? it was perfect! Never again will I buy mint tea bags--what a dummie I'se been.

Lovely garden La Diva.

Roses said...

Oh darling. Your garden looks amazing. All your work paid off in spades!


My gardening with food did not quite happen last year. I planted stuff and what didn't die through neglect, was eaten by the slugs and snails. I'm considering my energy levels this year and trying to decide what I *would like* to do, as opposed to what I will *actually* do.

Velva said...

I loved reading about your current and past gardens. I can visualize how close to the sea your community garden is- I always felt that south Florida had really nice soil. Maybe not so close to the ocean.

I was looking at your escarole. I am growing it too and it looks completely different. I like the way yours looks. Mine is tall with thinner leaves.

Here in North Florida...We definitely have crappy soil. Lots of clay and rocks (ugh).

As always, great post.


LaDivaCucina said...

Thom, I thought you had a fabu garden last season? It's a whole lotta work!

Aunty, I am laughing over your mint tea discovery. I must admit, the same thing happened to me a number of years ago...always bought the tea and had the stuff growing in the yard! duh! I love the additional info about the gallego soup....the things you learn from people! The lady bugs came by on their own...they must like my plot! I see them there often. And you can get a Lucky Peach from McSweeneys in San Francisco, I believe that is the publisher.

Roses, "in spades!" Bwahaha! Funny girl, it sure is paying off, do you know how many rotted half bags of lettuce I toss? The garden can either be a relaxing hobby or a time consuming chore...sometimes it's both! BUt luckily I have The DJ to help me out when I can't make it. Gardening with a partner really helps out, think about getting someone keen to help you out, Roses!

Thanks for the kind comments, Velva. I have sure learned a lot, gardening in so many different climate zones! I still find it the most challenging here...and must admit, I do miss my cold weather plants like peonies and lilacs! When do we see piccies of your garden?

Thanks for stopping by and for all the kind comments, kiddos! Next post up soon! xoxo

Lazaro Cooks said...

Look at you with the green thumb. Good job.

I do no gardening. My brother does so I mooch off his stuff. Gotta have connections, right?!

LaDivaCucina said...

Thanks, Laz! It's nice to have the fresh veggies and herbs...even nicer if you can mooch them off your brother! haha! Well done!

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