Does your Florida landscape provide you with sustenance? If not, here is a little article about what you can grow right in your landscape without an actual “plot” for your vegetables.
If you are like us, every trip to the grocery store comes with sticker shock. Why not relieve some of that by growing some of the things that you eat the most?
We’ve been growing edibles in our landscape for years and thought we’d share our top five favorite vegetable easy growers. Our edibles are scattered around the yard in various micro-climates and sunny spots we’ve both created and discovered. Most of our vegetables we plant from seeds. We don’t buy starter plants because seeds are very easy. Just follow the directions on the package and go for it.
Number 1: Green Beans
You cannot beat green beans for an easy crop. The bush style germinate quickly and easily from seed, they don’t need poles, and they like poor soil! They’ll grow in full sun or part shade. I usually start mine in somewhat amended soil, in other words, I don’t plant them in pure Florida sand, but honestly, with a little fertilizer they’d probably grow in that. Plant the seeds according the directions on the pouch. You don’t really need a “hill” just an area. Put three or four seeds in each hole. Then cluster a few holes about an inch apart to make a clump. Then separate your clumps of holes by at least a foot. You can separate your plants by more if you like, for instance, plant a clump on each side of your sidewalk at the entry way. You can easily use beans almost as you would a border plant. They are bright green and very full as they mature. Of course you will be replanting them around 4 times a year. Your clumps will grow to about 2 feet tall and 2 foot wide. You’ll get a couple harvests off each plant. If you plant a whole seed packet, you might want to follow up this article with a canning article. I try to time mine a bit. I plant around 6 clumps at a time separated by 2 to 3 weeks. That way you have beans to eat when you want them but your family is not sick of green beans.
If you happen to have a fenceline or trellis, try the pole varieties. The beans will grow right up your structure and make harvest easy too.
Number 2: Lettuce
Lettuce is amazingly easy to grow from seed. It grows like a weed. It comes in so many different colors and textures too. I love using the mesclun mix packages. They have a variety of lettuce species and it’s fun because you never know what is going to come up. It’s so colorful it could almost take the place of an annual bed when it’s growing. The easiest way to plant these packs is just rough up your soil in either a row or a circle with a metal rake, rip the corner off the package and sprinkle it around. Lettuce seeds are TINY you can cover lightly but you can also just water in. In a just a few days you’ll start seeing your baby lettuces starting. Make sure they get regular water if it’s dry and you’ll have edible baby lettuce in less than a month. Leave some to mature and you’ll have mature heads of romaine, leaf, arugula and more in a short time. Harvest leaves or full heads as you need them. If you let some of your favorite varieties go to seed, you’ll have volunteers all the time. Want to save the seeds? Cut off the bloomed heads and put in a paper bag in a cool dry place. Ready to plant? just pull the heads out and shake em over your planting area.
Number 3: Kale
Kale is a beautiful plant and can definitely qualify as a landscape specimen. The last one i grew got to be 4 foot high and at least 4 foot in diameter. It was silvery green, robust and beautiful. We ate kale anytime we wanted just by harvesting the HUGE leaves it produced. That plant just seemed bullet proof for so long! Eventually i removed it as it became leggy and spindly but we certainly enjoyed it often.
Number 4 Squash
Another stunning landscape vegetable is yellow squash. It puts out huge tubular yellow flowers that attract pollinators and then set fruit. Three yellow squash plants in a group will give you plenty to eat and will be much prettier in your landscape than another viburnum! Squash like full sun so if you have a summertime brutal southern exposure, summer squash will be right at home.
Number 5: Tomatoes
You are probably wondering why it took me so long to get to tomatoes? Expand your options and don’t just think “beefsteak” Consider planting indeterminate vining types in your landscape and allow the tomato plant to vine along your existing landscape, a fence. or a trellis. Many of the small grape or cherry style tomatoes have indeterminate habits and will grow and grow and grow, creating instant snacks, and salad opportunities! Grow your seedlings out in a dixie cup or even a toilet paper roll. When they have their first real leaves, plant them deep. Seeds allow you to sprinkle a little here or there too. You can even combine tomato types in your landscape. Romas for sauces, cherry types for salads and snacks.
Bonus Vegetable: Scallions and chives
Seeds are easy! Sprinkle around in clumps and be amazed!
A word about seasons. This Florida region of 9B is a great area for almost year round vegetables. Certain vegetables will be happier in summer and certain crops happier in winter. Beans are good year round as is lettuce. Lettuce will appreciate part shade during summer. Tomatoes can be temperamental in the throes of heat. A little shade won’t hurt them in the heat of summer. Winter is a good time for broccoli, or brussel sprouts. Stagger the crop planting times otherwise you can end up with 20 heads of broccoli and everyone’s sick of it. I plant a crop of 3 or 4 every 2 weeks or so Then there is a nice steady supply.
Love to hear about your landscape edibles. What do you plant? How do you do it? Send Pictures!