Can You Believe I Won?!

I’ve won the occasional online giveaway of a Kindle book here and there and a couple times, won an actual book, as opposed to a digital one. And truly, I love those gifts, because I love to read!

But this is the first time I’ve won a GARDEN GIVEAWAY! And I couldn’t be more thrilled!!!

Brijette over at the San Diego Seed Company‘s channel on Youtube recently celebrated her 10,000 subscriber mark by hosting a giveaway.

We’re fairly new subscribers to her Youtube channel, but we’ve been enjoying the content she puts out. It’s extremely educational and – bonus for us – it is targeted to those growing in Zones 9 and 10 of the Plant Hardiness Zones. That is perfect for us here in central Florida.

I was super ecstatic to receive the message that I won that giveaway!!! I giggled and squeeeeed and clapped and kept saying, “I won! I won!” Honest…you can ask my husband. I was *that* excited!

My box arrived yesterday. It was full of awesome goodies that I can’t wait to use.

So…first thing…this insect spray.

I’ve been so nervous to choose something to use in my garden. I don’t want to use chemicals and I don’t want lose my crops to bugs either. But I had no idea which product to use. Well, now that problem is solved. I’ll be using the Insect Killing Spray by Safer to spray on anything that’s munching on my garden babies.

These lovely plant clips were also in the package Brijette sent.

The reason they’re so cool is that they are made from corn and are biodegradable. If they accidently get caught up in any spent vegetable matter that’s headed to my compost bin, they won’t be leaching plastics into the compost.

These awesome things are called Tomahooks! They’re for growing tomatoes!

These gadgets are used to grow tomatoes in the lower and lean method. Brijette does a video to explain what that means, and I can’t wait to try these out.

Next is this awesome white shade cloth.

We used shade cloth this past summer to cover our sitting/potting area and to cover some of our veggies that were in 5-gallon pots. It does an incredible job of dropping the temp in that area by several degrees. That is a great thing during the hot spring and summer days here in Florida. The cloth Brijette sent is white, which will reflect that sun even more, and there’s a really good-sized piece of it.

And the calendar! Oh my goodness…it’s a thing of beauty!

Every month’s page is full of tips, information and helps for planting in our Zone. She lets you know which seeds should be sown each month and how to adjust for the weather as it warms up. It’s a treasure trove of info for the backyard gardener!

And lastly – these seeds!!!

Brijette was incredibly generous with this seed collection. There are veggies, flowers, fruits and gourds. I was just overwhelmed by the variety. I told Doug we might need to lay out new garden beds just to get them all in for this season.

And here’s the really cool thing about these seeds, the San Diego Seed Company has grown each and every one of these seeds. Much of their farm is designated for growth of plants to harvest the seeds. They grow heirloom, non-gmo, organic plants in a sustainable way for their area. These seeds are adapted to their growing conditions and are therefore healthier and stronger for farmers in those same zones. I’m excited to try them out!

All in all, can you believe this awesome package of goodies I received??? I am just so grateful for small business owners who reach out to help others grow and improve their skills. It’s a very generous practice and it will grow a successful, loyal customer base for their products. Pretty smart, if you ask me!

Thanks for checking out my prizes! I’ll let you know how everything goes.

In Him,

Alesha Kay

Florida Freeze 2022 Aftermath

We fared well with this past week’s cold weather. Some things did great, some did poorly and some we’ll just have to wait and see how they do. I’ll give you the rundown.

We actually had Hard Freeze Warnings for 2 nights in a row – January 29th and 30th. We hit 29* (or lower) the first night and were just at 32* the second night.

We grouped and covered and lighted various plants in the garden. My husband was very creative with his groupings.

He used sheets, tarps, buckets, cardboard boxes, milk jugs, buckets of boiling water – anything that would protect and hold in a little heat. It looked pretty when we turned the lights on at night.

Without fail, anything that was covered and had a string of lights under the cover survived. This included the following:

  • Mango tree – in-ground
  • Tomatoes – several varieties – in buckets
  • Strawberries – in pots
  • Longan tree – in pot
  • Cranberry hibiscus – in pot
  • Peppers – several varieties – in buckets
  • Oregano – in buckets
  • Carrots in buckets

The things that were covered with tarp also survived, even without lights. But to be fair – we also had several of these plants in buckets, uncovered and unprotected and they are ALL just fine. Who knew chickpeas were so hardy?!!

Some things under the 5-gallon buckets did well, especially the ones that were near the house. However, those in the farthest bed with no wind protection did not survive. These 2 tomato plants are the only things we know for sure that we lost. The peppers, however, look great.

Two of our tropical trees we wrapped with ground cover cloth around their roots and stems. We didn’t cover their tops. The banana looks completely dead and the chaya looks fine – even has its little blossoms still intact. The leaves look a bit stressed, but will probably recover just fine. Our other bananas are under the canopy of our oak tree. We mulched them heavily with leaves and they look well. We will leave this little banana tree alone and see if he can recover.

Things under cardboard boxes and plastic milk jugs were a mixed bag. The chicory did great, but the cassava didn’t fare well. Only 1 of the 3 has remaining green leaves.

Three other tropical were wrapped well, one even had boiling water added under its cover, but they are looking pretty sad. The Spanish Hog Plum will surprise me if it comes back, but I think the Jamaican Cherry juuuuuust might make it. (It’s behind the blue wagon, but you can see it’s leaves are very withered and drooping.) The Longevity Spinach is going to have to live up to its name to recover. It just looks like a pile of mushy brown leaves.

All things considered, I am super-duper pleased with our survival rate. The strings of lights definitely seem to be the secret, so we’ll probably invest in a few more of things, along with a few more extension cords.

I’m also amazed at the hardiness of many of the things we didn’t protect at all. They all survived. The list is impressive:

  • Garlic – in ground
  • Onions – in ground and in buckets
  • Sweet potatoes – in ground
  • Collards – in ground
  • Brussels sprout – in ground
  • Blueberries – Florida varieties – in pots
  • Carrots – in ground and in buckets
  • Turnips – in ground
  • Mulberry tree – in bucket
  • Fig tree – in pot
  • Loquat tree – in pot

And the surprise survivor is this:

Tiny baby lettuces that we’d planted on January 21st! They had just begun to pop up on the 27th. These hardy little babies weren’t even covered. Just took on the freeze like champs! Can’t wait to see how they do as they get bigger.

You know – God’s creation never ceases to astound me! There is such an overwhelming variety of plants and trees, veggies and fruits, but they all seem to obey His laws. Each has its own hardiness level and it will respond exactly how God intended it to. It’s a constant reminder to me to grow where God planted me, as I’m here for a purpose by His own design.

The Master Gardener may allow the harsh winter winds to blow us about, but He also gives us the Light of His Word and the Covering of His blood to protect us.

May you grow well, wherever He has you planted.

In Him,

Alesha Kay

Our Garden’s First Freeze and How We’re Handling It

You guys know I’m a newbie gardener, so this weekend will be the first time we’ve dealt with a freeze in our garden.

Here’s a list of some pointers that have been posted on the various groups I’m part of, as well as on the University of Florida’s IFAS Extension article on Cold Protection.

I thought I’d share for those who don’t have time to do the research.

My next step was to list everything in the garden that we didn’t want to lose or that was close to harvest. I made a coded list of what we planned to do with each one.

Some things are tropical. Ideally, they would be dormant right now. But, of course, it’s Florida, so things get weird. We had temps in the 80s just a couple of weeks ago so the plants that had been dormant started to bud, flower and grow. So nothing is dormant as it should be. We’ll do our best to protect each one in the best way.

Tropicals that are too big to be moved or that are in the ground will be mulched with yard clippings and leaves. Our neighbor just blessed us with 9 bags of oak leaves that will do a nice job for that. We also can use the straw that we use for mulching our garden beds.

Some of the tropicals will also be covered with sheets and we’ll add a string of Christmas lights underneath to add to the ground’s radiant heat.

We’ll be grouping our strawberries and blueberries together and placing a bucket of hot water underneath the covering as well. We’ll try to put that out as late as possible, and will need to replace it each night that we have the coverings in place.

We have several 5-gallon buckets with peppers, tomatoes, chick peas and Cape gooseberries. We’ll cluster these with a sheet and lights too. A couple we will bring in, especially if we only have one of those – namely, the Cape gooseberry and the Katuk.

Some of the smaller plants that are in the garden beds will get a tarp installed over a frame, as well as a little extra mulch around their stems. Finding a frame is easy enough – we have several crates we’ll use and some lawn chairs that can be turned upside down over the plants that will do the job, too. We also have a few plastic jugs that we’ll cut the bottoms out of and install on top of fragile plants.

The onions, garlic and sweet potatoes are all underground, and we’re hoping that the temps in our area won’t be cold long enough to affect them.

We also made of list of those plants that need to be harvested if at all possible:

There won’t be a lot of this stuff ready, especially after the frost on Sunday night, but we’ll check on each of them any way.

So…this is our plan. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. If you’re an experienced Florida farmer and see a flaw in my plan, please let me know! We’d like to do our best to salvage what is still growing and to save those tropicals and natives that we’ve spent money on this past year.

I’ll do my best to do a timely follow up post.

Until then, stay warm – wherever you are!

In Him,

Alesha Kay

Garden Progress

Just thought I’d share a little progress note with you.

We are starting seeds for the new fall garden. I’m excited to be able to grow things now that wouldn’t grow during the hot summer here.

Lots of sprouting going on!

And we’ve been prepping our beds for some special seedlings. These are our Seminole Pumpkins! I’m so excited to be growing this Florida native in my garden this fall! If you look closely, there are nine little seedlings in that bed. We’ll be giving it some more mulch a little later on.

And I thought I’d share some of the ways we get things accomplished here at our house. I’m not able to go outside for hours, helping with all the gardening tasks. And there are SO many, you can be sure! When it’s cooler, I can sit and help outside, but it’s still just too hot for me to sit out there now.

So, this is how I help. We cover the floor with sheets and cardboard, set up a table, bring in dirt and pots and plants and I help get things done. These were our strawberries. They’ve grown and multiplied for several months in this wagon and needed to be separated in order to bloom in the fall and winter. It felt so good when that job was done. Doug rolled them back outside and brought in our other wagon to load up all the pots.

There would be no garden if Doug didn’t help. I am so thankful for him! He says I’m the brain and he’s the brawn…LoL! Not really, but it does sort of describe our strengths. I do all the planning, plotting, choosing seed, buying supplies, laying out the garden; and he supplies the brute strength. I’m so grateful the Lord put us together on the same team.

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into our day.

In Him,

Alesha Kay

Hello August!

I’ve never really been a fan of August. As a youngster, it was always too hot to do much outside, and too boring inside. I was an only child until the age of 13, so no siblings to play with. I also had to start thinking about the upcoming school year, wardrobe, routine, pressures and supplies.

August marked the end of church Summer Camp weeks (my absolute favorite thing about summer!) and the lazy, unplanned mornings at home; and the calendar started filling up with lots of activities, some I enjoyed, but many that I didn’t.

Now, however, I’m finding the joy in August. Not only are some things started to really take off in my garden – despite the heat! – but now starts the time of planning and research and plotting out my new fall garden scheme.

I love researching what will grow here in my zone (9b) and learning which plants make good companions to others. Did you know that you should not plan onions and/or peppers near your beans? Yeah, neither did I, until I started studying.

And did you know that now is the time to start your seeds for all those things that wouldn’t grow here during our hot summer? That’s right – broccoli and carrots and lettuce will do well here during the fall when the heat diminishes and the hours get shorter.

There are also certain varieties of each veggie and fruit that do best here. We need onions and garlic that are short-hour varieties because our days are getting shorter now. We don’t have the 16-hours of sunshine a day needed for those long-day varieties.

And the Seminole Pumpkin does really well here in Florida because it’s a native variety. The Red and Yellow Roselle Hibiscus do well here too, and will soon have beautiful calyces to harvest for teas and preserves..

I’m also trying a tomato variety that is native to Florida, the Everglade Tomato. It is sooooo tiny, and the fruit will be very small, but it’s nice to have something that actually likes to grow here. 😉 And our course, a Mulberry tree is always happy in Florida. This one is “dwarf”. Yeah…I’m thinking it doesn’t know what that word means! Ha!

So, I’m finding plenty to be excited about in August. It’s not only a time of transition, but also a time of savoring…enjoying the still moments before the rush of our autumn routine pulls us away.

Enjoy what the last few weeks of crazy Florida heat is doing for your plants and soil, instead of wishing the hot weather away. Autumn will come, just like always. Let’s enjoy each day God gives us.

In Him,

Alesha Kay

Tools that Make the Garden Happen

I’ve been so excited to share our latest venture with you:

We’ve added a double paneled arch to the garden! One end will have Top Mark Melons (cantaloupes) on it and the other end will have Sugar Baby Watermelons.

While it was a very simple project – hammer in the t-posts and tie the cattle panel to the posts – it was a big step for us.

Those cattle panels are 16 feet long! Yeah…we couldn’t exactly pop those into the back of the mini van to bring them home. We actually had to pay to have them delivered. It’s like we’re a real farm or something! Ha!

Thankfully there were multiple videos available to tell us what to buy, how to set them up and even what handy little tool to wrap the wires around the posts and panel.

I’m so impressed with how they look and couldn’t wait to show you the final project.

As with any project, there were some really important tools that we needed to get the job done. I thought I’d share those with you today. (The picture and title are clickable. Links may be affiliate links that provide us with a small commission at no extra expense to you.)

This small sledge hammer is amazing! It’s only 4 pounds, but it really packs a wallop when you’re inserting those t-posts into the ground. Doug had them all in, in no time, with this fabulous tool.

The second tool I mentioned above is the Clip Bender. It’s specifically made to help wrap the t-post clips tightly and to secure them to the panels.

Of course you need to start with the cattle panels and t-posts to accomplish this kind of project. I’d suggest checking out your local Tractor Supply Company for those.

We were able to pot up 3 of the recent purchases we made for our fruit forest. Getting trees and plants into matching pots and lined up along the walkway make me a happy, happy gardener!

This is a Cranberry Hibiscus, Longevity Spinach and a Jamaican Cherry Tree.

We hope to have our Dwarf Everbearing Mulberry and Longan Berry Trees in pots by the end of the week, and to get the seeds started for a Red and a Yellow Roselle Hibiscus. I’m very excited to have all of these growing in our garden.

What’s growing in YOUR garden this week?

In Him,

Alesha Kay

Growing Along

I know you’ve been waiting a long time for a garden update.

Here’s a picture post to hold you over until I can sit down to do a proper post.

Pickling cucumbers
Lima bean pods.
Zucchini and yellow Squash.
Orange bell pepper.
Purple Hull Pea blossom.
Cantaloupe & Watermelon seedlings.

It’s been quite an education out there in the garden. It’s so odd – the things that don’t grow & the things that do. I am constantly surprised.

We plan to harvest our first set of potatoes buckets in the next day or so. I’m hoping we won’t be disappointed. The first bucket we harvested when they should have been ready only had 2 little potatoes in it!

We’ve got cattle panels to set up for all the melon seedlings that are ready to be transplanted. We’re planning to make arches with the panels. It’s so exciting to see the back yard come together as a food forest!

We had to take Isaac for some medical tests this week in Orlando. When we told the tech we were from Haines City, his next question was “Oh, so you guys have a farm there?”

We just laughed & said no. But then we thought about it.

I told him, “Well, we do have a garden this year! It’s not quite a farm, but we are growing things.”

It was funny that he thought of our area as farm country. It is very rural, I guess. I don’t mind that at all. I’m so glad the Lord didn’t “plant” me in the big city. I’m grateful I have lots of nature & clear blue skies where I live.

That’s it for this update! I hope to be back soon!

In Him,

Alesha Kay