Today we are going to tour my subtropical urban homestead garden. It is located in Orlando, Florida in plant hardiness zone 9b. We have winter frosts and freezing conditions with 25–30°F minimum winter temperatures. It is a humid subtropical climate zone and has a unique set of gardening parameters. I’ve been gardening this plot of land for close to 10 years now.
It is currently mid-August at the time of this tour, which means it is generally hot, humid, and there are thunderstorms every afternoon. The hot afternoon sun scorches delicate plants and I find myself watering just about every morning to keep the plants healthy. There are not many flowers this time of the year but everything is VERY green.
When my partner and I first moved into this home, the garden was mostly overgrown ornamentals and native plants. Think azaleas, lady palms, saw palmettos, and lots of ferns. An older couple lived in the home before us and had meticulously cared for the property, until their health started to decline and they gradually stopped maintaining the grounds over the years. The forest was reclaiming the property and our first job was cleaning it up and getting everything under control.
Over the years I have been adding fruit trees and a vegetable garden. The food garden continues to improve each season and my gardening confidence is improving as well. It’s my goal to become more self-sufficient and eco-friendly and use this property as an urban homestead to live off the land with a modern twist.
The front yard is under a canopy of Live Oaks, and tough to grow vegetables out there due to the full shade situation. I have discovered that bromeliads and air plants do REALLY well in this portion of my yard. I like to plant the pretty tropicals in the front yard to take advantage of the shade from these beautiful trees.
Backyard screen enclosures are common in this area. They are generally built around a pool or patio to keep the mosquitos and other flying insects out of the area. This screen enclosure helps to protect my plants from common pests and garden enemies.
My backyard food garden consists of the following areas:
Culinary Herb Garden
The garden pictured below is right outside my kitchen door. It’s half-sun and half-shade so I am able to grow a variety of different herbs here. This rosemary bush has been going strong for years now and provides way more than I could ever use myself. It is so lovely to pick fresh herbs from the garden while you are cooking to boost the flavor and nutritional content of the meal.
GreenStalk Vertical Garden Planter
This is the newest addition to my garden and has really increased my food output within the last year. The 5 tier GreenStalk Vertical Planter comes with a total of 30 planting pockets that you can plant with a variety of small and large vegetables, herbs, flowers, root crops and strawberries. Simply fill each tier to the top with 1 cubic foot of high quality potting mix and plant using starter plants or seeds.
The key to increasing your food production is to always be planting new seeds or seedlings as soon as you harvest a plant. This way you always have plants coming and going and a steady supply of food to harvest. I use this tower for greens, tomatoes, peppers, green onions, and more culinary herbs. I’m considering adding a second garden planter once I’ve really mastered caring for one.
This garden area is my laboratory where I start seeds, propagate plants, and grow some fun things. There are a bunch of mature pineapple plants that all produce a pineapple each year. Keeping the pineapples inside the screen enclosure protects them from being thieved by raccoons as they ripen.
This year I have been experimenting with a bamboo teepee covered with ash gourd (winter melon) plants (left side of the photo below). None of the flowers have pollinated yet, but I am hopeful.
Currently, I have several baby Meyer lemon trees, jalapeño plants, and papaya trees growing from seeds collected from fruit purchased in the grocery store. It’s easy to collect the seeds, dry them out, and plant them in some potting soil. As the plant grows, I will continue to repot in larger pots or plant it directly in the ground somewhere on the property.
The back corner of my property is where I have been planting fruit trees. This area gets full sun most of the day and is out of the way from the main daily activities. The crown jewel of my orchard is a 25 foot Haas avocado tree that I grew from the pit of an avocado (that I ate!). This is the 8th year since I started the plant and there are currently at least 20 avocados that are nearly ripe. I’m ridiculously excited to eat these avocados as it has been an eight year long commitment. There are also more papaya and Meyer lemon trees, a Persian lime tree, and a green olive tree (which has not produced fruit yet).
I hope you enjoyed this subtropical homestead garden tour! What was your favorite part of this garden, and why?