The summer months in South Florida are hot and rainy, making it uncomfortable to garden. That is why many of our gardeners use this time to build up the soil in their garden beds by planting green manures or other plants that hinder the spread of weeds. The Garden Committee has some suggestions for planting in the summer months.
1 – Sunn Hemp
Sunn hemp is a tropical plant primarily grown as a cover crop or green manure. Originally from India, it’s easy to understand what makes it so popular among vegetable farmers in the United States. Sunn hemp possesses many soil-building traits, including high rates of biomass production. It is not only resistant to plant root nematodes but actively suppresses them. In as little as 60 to 90 days it can produce 120 pounds of nitrogen per acre and can suppress weeds up to 90 percent.Sunn Hemp is adapted to a wide variety of soil and environmental conditions, thriving through hot, dry summers and continuing to grow until the first frost.
2 – Black Velvet Beans
These beans are known for their nitrogen fixing properties as a benefit to the soil and also as feed for cattle. In Northwest Florida, black velvet beans are grown along with corn and allowed to grow up the cornstalks! These plants will help your soil and keep weeds out of your garden box.
3 – Buckwheat
Buckwheat is an ideal cover crop – it attracts bees and adds nitrogen and phosphorus to the soil. It grows quickly and 2 or three crops can be grown in one summer. The hollow stalks make it easy to pull up and integrate into the soil. Buckwheat adds biomass to the soil and organic matter needed for the soil web.
Some call it “Foot Chi.” Reflexology paths massage and stimulate acupressure points in the soles of the feet connected to various energy meridians of the body. Stone paths have been used for health benefits and are an important part of a healing garden. Our stone path in the Food Forest is in progress and looks great!
Flame Vine is a perennial evergreen vine found in many parts of Florida. It will grow very quickly during the summer months. It’s stunning tubular flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies and bring lots of color to the garden. This vine will grow up any sturdy fence and will spread. It does need trimming every year to remove dead woody branches. Even though it produces seed pods, it is propagated through layering suckers. Although non native, it is not considered dangerous by the Florida Dept of Agriculture.
On the western side of the garden fence the spectacular Queen’s Wreath (Petrea volubilis) is in colorful display. It blooms multiple times a year, but mostly between February and June. It is a tropical vine that resembles wisteria with its small lavender flowers. Unattended it can grow to 40 feet but is easy to maintain as as a bush. It grows from Zone 9B to parts of South America and can be found in Cuba, Puerto Rica and Hispaniola. The Community Garden is in the perfect climate for Queen’s Wreath. Visitors were seen recently taking photos – the color of the flowers stands out among the other plants. These photos were taken by Satya Rudin.
As I unlocked the garden gate and walked into the garden yesterday morning, I was delighted to see colorful butterflies flitting about looking for nectar. With flowers in full bloom, and the butterflies gliding in morning sunshine, the garden was like a small slice of paradise! Recently our gardeners planted more milkweed for monarch butterflies. In addition, we continue to monitor the health of other butterfly host plants and add nectar plants for many species of butterflies. We do this for 4 reasons:
1 – Butterflies are pollinators that are essential for the reproduction of plants, even wild plants, and these plants are nectar for other pollinating insects.
2 – Some butterfly species, like the monarch and atala, are endangered. Their survival is so important to the diversity of of plants and other species that many government agencies and other wildlife organizations are working to help them survive and thrive.
3 – Helping one butterfly species survive, helps other less known species to survive. Measures taken to protect the monarch for instance, also helps the cycnia moth which relies on milkweed, too.
4 – Beauty and Awe! Maybe this one should be first! Butterflies make the garden magical and enrapture us with their beautiful form and delicacy.
One of our gardeners, Satya, had great success growing cauliflower and shared a photo of one. It is a variety named “Freedom”. She purchased the hybrid seeds from Park Seed. They were started on July 26th under grow lights and harvested from the garden on January 22nd, so the growing time was approximately 120 days. This head of cauliflower weighed 2 pounds and 9 ounces! Soup anyone?
Incredibly beautiful weather and amazing gardeners made this a fantastic beginning to the new year! Volunteers planted Muhly grass and beauty berry in the food forest, while others tackled weeds in the garden. Rebuilding and moving the canopy was accomplished quickly with everyone’s help. They did all this while wearing masks and social distancing. We want to thank the Rotary Club members – Sal, Mickey and Scott – who came to volunteer, as well as Renata and Hilamar, Jackie (Renata’s friend), Lorin and his daughter, Viola and Mimi, Elizabeth, Janice and Kirsten! All contributed to make this a special day.
A co founder of the Rotary Coral Springs Community Garden, Judith Gulko, presented an overview of some local community gardens in Broward and Palm Beach counties during this Forum. Her presentation included information about the mission of each garden, the funding sources, and activities the gardens were involved in. Our community garden was included in her presentation. It was also pointed out during this online meeting that successful community gardens have 3 things in common:
1 – gardeners feel that that their food is valued
2- the garden donates produce to local community organizations
3 – gardeners plan celebrations to highlight special garden events
Thank you Judith Gulko for helping to make our garden a special place for all!
Many people who move from other parts of the country to Southern Florida may wonder what it is. Ackee is like the tomato, which is technically a fruit but is used like a vegetable. It is the national fruit of Jamaica, where it is cooked like a vegetable with saltfish.
There are several Ackee trees growing in the Food Forest which produce prolific amounts of the fruit. It grows on a tropical evergreen tree that’s native to West Africa, and also goes by the names achee, akee, and ackee apple.
Its fruit is fully developed, ripe, and suitable for cooking when the pods are bright red and they split open easily to expose the edible fruit inside. Jamaicans will often say that the fruit will “yawn” or “smile”—open naturally, on its own—before it’s ready to be picked from the tree. When the fruit opens, it releases a gas called hypoglycin. The pod opens to expose three or four cream-colored sections of flesh called arils underneath large, glossy black seeds. The arils are what you eat.