When bull dozers came in and cleared out the trees and grasses growing on county land by the canal behind my house, I planted trees and threw seeds.

At the Florida Permaculture Convergence January 2013. An early morning shot of the adjoining cow pasture.

Sun coming through a mighty slash pine tree.

Old Live Oaks with Resurrection Fern beards in Fort Pierce Burial Mound Park, Fort Pierce, Florida

Rain Lilies flower after rain. These are at my front walkway.


Garden Pests: Pests and Disease In The Permaculture Garden

In The Garden

In The Garden

I recently received a comment from a reader Marco in response to my article Garden Pests: Nematodes . In his comment he wrote:

“Great list of things to try but do any of them actually work effectively? I suspect most of it is good in theory or just plain myth and does not work in practice for the home gardener.”

I had to go back and read what I had written in that article and was relieved to see that although written in 2009 the article still accurately reflects a very basic truth about gardening. That truth is that you do not have to do battle with nature in order to grow and eat food. Furthermore, the truth is that in doing battle with nature to produce crops you put yourself on a treadmill that is expensive, toxic, time consuming, and will ultimately fail because it is unsustainable.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that there are no pests and disease in my garden, or that I do absolutely nothing to mitigate the impact of pests. I still use some of the practices I wrote about in my Garden Pests: Nematodes article, but I don’t do battle, and I don’t lose my mind, or jump into action when I see pests in the garden.

I don’t get 100% of the crops I grow, but there is plenty for my family, some surplus for friends, a little for the garden pests (the worst of which are squirrels), and plenty for the soil.  If I consider what Eden might have been, I imagine a place buzzing with life. Certainly that wouldn’t have exclude aphids any more than it excluded snakes. 

Coincidentally, on Saturday March 7th at 10 am Lucie and I will be presenting Pests and Disease In The Permaculture Garden at the Leisure Square Community Center at 3705 16th St. in Vero Beach. Attendees will learn about the strategies we use in our gardens and in our clients gardens for successful natural gardening without having to do battle with pests and disease.  At 11:30 we will be visiting a local garden where the principles and practices we will go over in the classroom are being employed to produce lots of food naturally.

Pests and Disease In The Permaculture Garden is the 5th class in A Year In The Permaculture Garden series. It is I think one of the most impactful classes we offer. For a doubtful gardener it could be the pivotal point in simplifying and improving the garden culture practiced. Please see the poster below if you are interested in registering for this class.

A Year In The Permaculture Garden

A Year In The Permaculture Garden

Education: Composting 101Friday November 14, 10am

In continuation of A Year In The Permaculture Garden series, Lucie and I will be presenting Composting 101 at Leisure Square Community Center 3705 16th St. Vero Beach Florida 32960 on Friday morning at 10am in the Tuff Room. This class is designed to enrich your understanding of composting whether you are a first time composting novice or an experienced compost concoctor. This classroom presentation is just $12.50, and there is no test at the end.

Friday’s presentation is the classroom presentation only with the workshop for Composting taking place a week and a day later on Saturday November 22nd at 10am also at Leisure Square.

A Year In The Permaculture Garden

A Year In The Permaculture Garden


About A Glitch In My Site

I posted an article about A Year In The Permaculture Garden, but the link wouldn’t open the page, so I deleted the article and remade it, did some other hocus pocus and now it works. Unfortunately everyone who is signed up for email will get one broken email link to an article that goes to an empty page and subsequent identical email that will open the published post. Please forgive the first link to emptiness, and do open the subsequent identical one that will take you to the information I posted.


Okra Flower

Okra Flower

Education: A Year In The Permaculture Garden At Leisure Square Vero Beach

Lucie and I will be presenting a series of 8 classes at Leisure Square in Vero Beach starting October 25 and running through June 2015. Each class will have two parts, classroom and practicum which can be taken separately or together though some practicum units will be less impactful without the classroom understanding.

As a gentle introduction to Permaculture we will be featuring Permaculture Ethics, and one or two permaculture principles in each class as it relates to what we will be presenting. We will also integrate The Permaculture Garden Zones into this series.

A Year In The Permaculture Garden

A Year In The Permaculture Garden

Education: Food Forest Presentation in Vero Beach, Florida

Understanding the Food Forest, and employing Forest Guilds for Florida: Find out how you can do your part to save our world.

Food Forest Presentation

Food Forest Presentation

Composting: A Composting 101 Class

Call for more information 772 240 6695.

Poster Composting 101

Poster Composting 101

Permaculture: The Peak/LOVJuice Food Forest

I have posted new pics from our food forest project at Peak/LOVJuice in Vero Beach Florida. If you are interested click on this link to see the newest blog post at FloridaRegenerativeLandscapes.com and those amazing pics from our 8 months old project.

Education: Another Layer Mound Workshop in Sebastian, Florida

Lucie and I are presenting another Layer Mound Workshop. This one will be at the Sebastian/Roseland yard of Joann McGrath. The property is on a sandridge, and this workshop will be the first bit of work we will be doing on this yard, though we expect to be helping Joann to transform her property to better meet her super lush vision for its future as an edible garden. We are excited at this beginning. Joann’s yard has mad potential. See the flyer below for details.


Education: Planting Seeds Workshop

Two weeks ago we built a layer mound in our Layer Mound Workshop at Mark Stanley’s garden in Vero. Saturday we will be having a Planting Seeds Workshop. We will spend some time learning a bit about planting seeds, about different types of companion plantings, and poly-culture, and then we will plant Mark’s seeds in his new layer mound. This workshop costs $10 or $5 for those of you who attended any of the Layer Mound workshops in 2013. See the poster below for details.

Education: Another Layer Mound Workshop in Vero Beach

Due to popular demand and because the timing is right we are presenting the Lasagna Layer Mound Workshop again. This class will take place at the garden of Mark Stanley in South Vero, on Sunday November 3, at 9am and will go to approximately noon. The cost of this workshop is $20 to help cover the cost of time and materials. Mark gets a garden, attendees get handouts and hands on experience in this method for setting up an instant fertile garden. Wear clothing and shoes appropriate for garden work, bring your gloves, and prepare to be out in the sun. Mark has very good filtered water, so you can bring your own, or bring an empty and he will fill it up for you. See the flyer below for more details. LayerMoundWorkshopFlyerMarkFlatRed

Education: Layer Mound Workshop in Vero Beach, Florida

Lucie and I will be presenting a Layer Mound Garden class and workshop Saturday August 24, at 10am at the Peak Health and Fitness project location in Vero Beach, Florida. Come take the class, have a live organic vegan juice on us, and learn hands on how to layer up a garden for an instant fertile garden. We are just weeks before planting of fall and winter annuals begins, so the timing of this workshop is perfect for South and East Central Florida gardeners who want to grow this season. See the flyer below for details.

Flyer For Workshop

Flyer For Workshop

Permaculture: Lemons To Lemonade

In April bull dozers came to the canal behind our property and pulled down all of the deep shade that had grown there. The water management district had a project to do back there, and in a few days my west side fence that had been buried in the deep shade of Brazilian pepper trees was 132 feet of bright bare soil, and from my back porch I could see the houses in the development on the other side of the canal. I know Brazilian peppers are a class one invasive, but they were a dense deeply shady class one invasive. I was pretty unhappy about what had just happened, but it wasn’t long before I saw the awesome opportunity that had been laid upon my back door step. Like most gardeners I had many plants and trees in pots that were just waiting for an opportunity to take a place in the earth. Many plants in my landscape had rooted stems in the ground, made pups, or sprouted seedlings nearby, so finding perennial plants to put back there was easy.

The day that the bulldozers finished their work some excellent friends from Sustainable Kashi in Sebastian came out to Fort Pierce to visit and to lend a hand. Our friend Lucie Burke from Florida Regenerative Landscapes showed up and after lunch 6 of us dug 132 feet of swale and planted some trees. That work was done in just 2 hours. The power of friends with shovels is not to be underestimated. When they left I went to dig up some more plants and worked another 2 hours to get more trees and plants into the ground.

I spent a couple more days installing perennial plants from the yard, and I put some old hay mulch around each one. Next I threw seeds. All kinds of seeds. I threw every seed I had around that might take some heat. I sprinkled straw after I had spread the seeds, and then it rained.

This land is not mine. The county or the water management district could doze it all down. I have done this fully aware of what may happen. So far, only a hog has been in to dig there. The whole length of the canal is now fully covered over in the natural wild plants that start the succession process. The part behind my house has some of those, but I have chosen the plants for that part of the succession, and the experience has been a blast.

A succession begins when soil is disturbed and a place opens up for long buried and dormant annual seeds to grow. Soil was disturbed in a big way on that canal bank. Trees were ripped down and the soil was churned up and moved around. It is this affect that farmers go for when they plow a field, and the first time it is plowed, Wow! There is a huge release of nutrient as soil microbes are destroyed, and the stable nutrients they held are released into the soil. This is also a great opportunity for nutrient to wash away in the first rain event after soil disruption, and the way that wild plant seeds that were buried in the soil are brought to the surface and sprout, so getting plants and seeds into disturbed soil immediately is the way to take advantage of that huge nutrient release and to encourage re-establishment of those oh so important soil microbes.

A natural succession may result in the eventual re-establishmen of a forest, or it may remain in a meadow state if tree seeds do not succeed there. Unless the county sends dozers back to this area, and hogs willing, this soil will not be disturbed again. In that case, the perennial shrubs and trees I planted will grow to overtake the soil with shade and leaf mulch, and once again the annuals will disappear leaving their seeds behind for the day when soil is once again disturbed, and the sun comes through.

The seed list: Buckwheat, Pink eye purple hull cow peas, Pigeon peas, Seminole pumpkin, Shallu (a type of sorghum), Millet, Corn, Phasey bean, Aeschynomene, Okra, Roselle, Amaranth, Rattlesnake beans, Lima beans.

The Transplants List: Red Maple, Red Cedar, Bismarkia Palm, Sweet Acacia, Crepe Myrtle, Firecrackers, Firespikes (red and purple), Variegated Mahoe, White Duranta, Jamaican Poinsettia, Coontie, Scorpion tail, Aster, Plumbago, Everbearing Mulberry, Black Mulberry, Red Pineapple, Jamaican Curry, Fishtail Palm, Papaya, Cassava, Cranberry Hibiscus, Sweet Potato, Tithonia.

I promised my friends from Sustainable Kashi that I would photograph the project as it grew. Here are some of the pics.

Just Perennials on Day One

On Day One


Swale Visible

Fourth day straw is in

End Of Day Four

Buckwheat in May

May Buckwheat Flowering

Seminole Pumpkin

Seminole Pumpkin


Coontie Showing New Growth


Cassava, Buckwheat, and Cow Peas

Peas, Buckwheat, Hibiscus

Cow Peas, Buckwheat, Cranberry Hibiscus

Two Shots of The Same

Two Pics A Couple of Weeks Apart

The Jungle

June: The Jungle

Purple Hull Peas

Purple Hull Peas

Florida Regenerative Landscapes

Here is a link for our newest article at Florida Regenerative Landscapes. Florida Regenerative Landscapes is the name of a new partnership fellow Permaculture Designer Lucie Burke and I formed to handle Permaculture Landscaping jobs.

Friends’ & Clients’ Gardens: Mark’s Front Yard

This front yard project started in mid February. I am posting pics from before and from time to time. This is an ongoing project as gardens are constantly changing themselves, but the instant results are stunning even in pictures. Seeing the speedy evolution of this garden project is a thrill. Mark is really excited about how its going, and Mark’s neighbors have gone from speculating on Mark’s sanity (when it appeared that his front yard had been converted to a large golden pile of straw) to really enjoying their walks past his madly growing yard. Mark works 5 days a week. We did this project in just 3 half day segments. The first and most intensive attended by a great host of Mark’s friends whose many hands made light work. Throughout we have been adding in young perennial plants and trees including rose apple, cassava, carambola, miracle fruit, moringa, sweet potatoes, papaya, pineapples, tithonia and cranberry hibiscus.

I started this project before my permaculture design course, and have continued to work on it since then. Also since then I have teamed up with Permaculture Designer Lucie Burke to start the Florida Regenerative Landscapes partnership. We are currently working on a new landscape at the Peak Fitness and LOV Juice juice bar at 801 20th Place in Vero Beach Florida. We are available for hire if you would like a healthy edible landscape for your own property on the Treasure Coast.



Materials Collected At The Job Site

Materials Collected At The Job Site

Many Hands

On Blitz Day

Blitz Day

Blitz Day

In March

March: Fuzz of Young Plants Coming Up.

May 2013

May: View From The House

Corn Patch

Corn Patch In May

Corn Patch

Corn Patch Street View June

Final Section

Last Section Prepared And Seeded

Final Section

Final Section Up In June

Under Construction

Hold onto your hats, I have some work to do on my blog and there may be some disruptions and there are going to be some changes in our look here at ManureDepot.com.

Thanks for your patience.

Permaculture: My Permaculture Design Course

I have been working hard on my education over the last 5 years and now I have just completed my first Permaculture Design Course.

The Permaculture Design course was March 15 − 26, 2013 at the Sustainable Kashi Yoga Retreat in Sebastion, Florida. It was presented by Koreen Brennan of GrowPermaculture.com. With guest presenters Richard Powell of The Orlando Center for Urban Permaculture, and Permaculture Designer/ Woofer Eric Phillips.

I have taken three different introductory permaculture classes and workshops, and one of them twice. It has taken nearly half of those classes and lots of internet time for me to figure out what exactly permaculture is. The permaculture design course is best taken by a student who has been learning a bit about permaculture ahead of time. It is also useful to have spent some time gardening before undertaking a permaculture design course. It is too much to try to learn both at once.

Permaculture looks at everything we attempt to accomplish in our lives and tries to observe and copy the way in which nature would achieve such things. We do this because nature chooses the path of least resistance meaning that for us this will be the simplest way to achieve our goals.

Though permaculture is appropriately applied to education, relationships, economics, building, and many other aspects of human activities it is most simply applied to our agriculture. So while we may observe the way that the army corp of engineers redirects a river, or the way the farmer farms, or how the neighbor gardens, in order to instruct ourselves we observe nature, and then we apply what we see in nature to our design plans. A stream slowly meanders back and forth down a forested hill side soaking in as it goes;  Annuals grow in diverse masses where the soil can hold some water;  Forests grow as complementary layers of plants shrubs, vines, and trees, and are less subject to extremes of temperature, precipitation, and wind than lone standing trees;  A fallen tree creates a rich habitat for soil microbes, invertebrates and fungi as it lays rotting;  Trees’ roots hold the soil on a river bank, or on a hillside; Meadows are diversely populated with many different grasses and flowering plants that are constantly dying down and regenerating to create deep rich soil (the American plains).

What we observe about nature can instruct us in our pursuit of a good permaculture garden design. Noticing the specific ways that these basic natural rules take place on our property gives us hints about how best to proceed with new projects on the land. The main reason to mimic nature’s designs and tendencies in the garden is because nature is regenerative. The forest does not require the gardener to water, fertilize, pull weeds or battle with pests. It is not costly to us or to the environment, and it puts forth abundant yields in the most natural way.

You might ask then why we even need to learn about permaculture if nature knows how to do everything. The permaculture designer is needed because we have so thoroughly changed our home garden environment through rigorous unnatural gardening practices, that the gardens around our homes do not survive without our constant and costly intervention. Through permaculture design applied to these unnatural habitats we can recreate regenerative systems that function effortlessly so that we can actually get a minute to enjoy the garden.

I have completed the permaculture design course, and earned the certificate. What I have learned will help me to apply permaculture design principles more effectively in the garden and to more aspects of my regular pursuits. Having completed the permaculture design course I plan to actively pursue permaculture design jobs. Now I have the right to call what I have been teaching by its name, Permaculture. Boy howdy, I’m glad!


Education: Planting The Summer Garden In Florida


South Florida Summer Garden

A South Florida Summer Garden


Slow Food Gold and Treasure Coast is offering a series of garden classes. On Sunday April 28th at 1pm to 3pm I will be presenting Planting The Summer Garden In Florida. This class will be held at Heathcote Botanical Gardens in the old house at the back of the property. It is a good idea to pre-register with Slow Food Gold and Treasure Coast.

I will be discussing the summer garden choices for Florida gardeners. Whether you chose to go fallow, plant nutrient building cover and mulch crops, or plan to grow edible crops, or some of each choice we will be discussing how that is done and which crops are appropriate for the summer season in Florida growing zones 9 and 10.


In The Garden: Fall & Winter 2012 and 2013

This fall and winter there is a great deal to see and to eat in my South Florida Garden. I have gained a little extra time this year to spend at the homestead garden and I can see how that is paying off. I have been harvesting turmeric and ginger that grew all summer in my garden. I am planning to grow much more next summer.

Turmeric Harvest

Three Turmeric Plants

Turmeric Drying

Turmeric, washed and drying.

My pigeon pea plants are full of flowers and peas, and the black seed variety that I got from my Melbourne forest farmer buddy John Rogers is huge and loaded, and it barely quit fruiting from the summer before it began again in the fall. It is a more cold tolerant variety of pigeon pea than the beige seed variety, so I don’t worry about it a bit when the temperatures drop. It has been warm enough this winter that I have also been getting a decent harvest from the beige seeded variety of pigeon pea, and that is my favorite type to eat.

Pigeon Pea Plant

Flowering Fruiting Pigeon Pea Plant

I had a strange winter pineapple, full sized and still green, hidden in the back of a mass of pineapple plants, all of which fruited properly in the summer except that one. The last three pineapples I harvested from a different area were quite late and though they had excellent pineapple flavor they were not very sweet. I didn’t get to taste this late fruit as it disappeared before it began to ripen. I am guessing one of the creatures of the woods got it. It is March now and I have many pineapples that have begun flowering as well as an early bloomer that is nearly full sized already.

When Hurricane Sandy sent tropical storm force winds ashore while passing by Florida, the shady hedge plants on the south side of my property came down. We cut it all up, putting the logs aside, moved a compost heap that was suddenly in full sun, and made a new garden with the logs and a pile of broke down manure. That garden is soaking up the best sun on the property,and producing well.

The New Garden

This garden went in when a 15 foot tall hedge came down.

One of my annual garden areas is succumbing to a managed succession to perennial food crops. That is, it is getting less sun than the winter before, so the annuals there are having a slow start this season and will be producing later than other areas of the property. In that garden I had a good seminole pumpkin crop over the summer culminating in a hidden pumpkin suddenly becoming visible hanging in the loquat tree. It weighed in at seventeen and a half pounds. The first one I plucked from that tree was big at eleven and a half pounds. The vines from that pumpkin plant are still alive and traveling around the garden. If the winter weather remains mild I expect that same plant will continue its roam around the garden next summer too. If not, I have more seeds.

Cecil, Renee, and Seminole Pumpkin

Cecil and Renee and Seminole Pumpkin

I really enjoy the hidden fruits and the surprise fallen fruits that suddenly become visible. It is interesting to discover that the fallen pumpkins I have found on the ground so far even though they have shown signs of having been on the ground for long enough to have rotted were not decomposing. I have even picked up pumpkins that were a quarter buried in the ground where they fell and earthworms were busy in the soil beneath, but the skin of the pumpkin remained intact.

The banana plants that are growing in the chicken litter are humongous. The flowers I have been waiting for have emerged, and I can count 6 hands so far. This year I won’t be climbing for bananas, they have grown too tall. I will have to pull the plant down to get the fruit. Passion vines are still producing in that area, but as I have done all summer long, I am sharing with squirrels. The carambola tree is loaded with fruit and we have had the pleasure of eating star fruit every day. The papaya has lots of fruit on and I am hoping for ripe fruit, squirrels willing.

17 and a half pound Seminole Pumpkin

Seminole Pumpkin

The loquat tree had lots of fruit, but it wasn’t very good this year. Below it a new rose apple is growing well. Below the rose apple I have collard greens, lambs ear and vanilla grass and now summer crisp lettuce seedlings. My other new fruit trees white sapote, olive, almond, and lychee are doing well so far. If they are as well in the spring it will be a great summer for them.

The mango tree, and the Choquette avocado tree (It makes football sized avocados.) are in full bloom madness.

At the shed area I am still battling with running bamboo. Some friends helped me dismantle a hugel mound and we began to dig out the bamboo that had invaded it. I reassembled the hugel mound and planted fingerling potatoes in it. Nearby, where Rattlesnake beans grew this summer I have sugar snap peas up and running, with stinging nettles and some kale, lettuce, broccoli and parsley transplants there as well. A volunteer rattlesnake bean has joined the climbing mass of peas and I am harvesting those sweet purple spotted green beans along with the peas.

Near the pea garden I planted a mound in clover and tomatoes. Papaya volunteers came up there too. Now I have papaya plants with tomato plants and a clover understory that is keeping the soil covered below. It is such a cool garden, and even though it is mounded nearly two feet up from ground level it rarely needs water.

The shed garden vege patch is doing real well. I have had to disassemble it every summer to remove the bamboo that runs into it. This summer was no exception, and I have already clipped bamboo shoots this fall, so I know what I will be doing again next summer.

East of the shed garden vege patch I put in wheat and a good bit of sweet white clover. A gopher tortoise ate down my entire first and second wheat crops. I have since covered that area over and planted corn and more clover, and yeah I will go ahead and fence in the corn against the tortoise. I was surprised to discover that the tortoise does not seem to be the least bit interested in the clover.

I ran out of space for the transplants I was thinning from the gardens I seeded. In desperation I moved cabbages and broccoli to the mulch around young fruit trees. I have found that a handful of rotting manure encourages their development in the fruit tree mulch. It is a good practice for me to move annuals out into beds with perennials. I often miss obvious spaces for transplants because I was, until recently, unaccustomed to mixing annuals with perennials.



I have been harvesting salad greens and radishes for months now. I have just begun to harvest cooking greens and now the broccoli is flowering.  A broccoli plant that limped through the summer when all the others were dead became vibrant in October and was providing me with lovely side shoots before the new broccoli crop had gotten up six inches. I am allowing it to go to flower now and have been collecting mature seed pods from it for next fall’s planting season. While the broccoli plants have been large and vigorous this year the florets even the first center florets have been small. Since this is happening in all of my gardens, and I have heard the same from some of my friends, I wonder if it is because of the record warm temperatures we have experienced this winter. I am making an effort to harvest carrots following our cold snaps. I think that gives the best chance for sweet carrots in a rather warm growing season. They taste good so far, but not as delicious as the nearly translucent super sweet carrots I harvested after 2 straight weeks of mostly freezing night time temperatures we experienced a few years ago.

We have been eating lots of Lima beans and there are still lots of beans on the vines. I am surprised to see that the lima plants do not seem to mind the few cold nights that we have had so far.

King Of The Garden Lima Beans

Lima Beans

Certified Tree Service came out during the summer and thinned the vines in the woods on the east and south of the circle garden. It was amazing how the air came through after they were done. The garden is getting better sun too and is growing very well.  There is some of everything in the circle garden including a non-native chickweed that I am hoping will become native to my garden. It is very delicious, and grows just as vigorously as the native chick weed does.

The Circle Garden

Our Oldest Garden Turned 20 This Fall

Circle Garden

Circle Garden

This is how it goes in the natural garden where most of my time is spent planting and harvesting and none of my time is spent battling with insects, or throwing fertilizers.
You can do this too.

In The Garden: More About Sweet Potatoes

I believe this the the third article I have written about sweet potatoes. It may seem ill timed as sweet potatoes are summer crops, but I hope readers will find value in this post at this time. Click the links below to read the sweet potato articles written here in the past. In The Garden: Growing Sweet Potatoes
In The Garden: Revisiting Sweet Potatoes

Most of us have been harvesting our summer sweet potatoes since November. Here in South Florida sweet potatoes function like perennial plants. While a frost and freeze will damage sweet potato vines our soil doesn’t freeze. The parts below ground do fine all winter long so that once you have sweet potatoes you will always have them. It is only necessary to create your slips once. After that there should always be sweet potato vines somewhere in the garden from which to take new cuttings. I have even discovered that discarded vines can not be trusted to die and decompose, rather, they grow where ever they are thrown down.

If  you are a no till gardener like I am you understand when I say it gives me pain to dig up sweet potatoes, so when I harvest them from my winter garden I take the vines out as well as potatoes that are obvious from the surface. I don’t turn up all of the soil where the potatoes grew, and that has worked well for me. Then in the spring, as my winter crops are finishing, the parts that were left below sprout again just in time to cover the soil for the summer.

This year I have kale and cabbage transplants growing in the bed from which I took the sweet potatoes. While we had some very cold weather in October, we have otherwise had a mild/warm winter (It is the beginning of January now, so we may yet have cold weather.). Usually sweet potatoes will lie dormant below my winter garden only surging in the spring as the temperatures rise. Not so this year, even as the cabbages and kale are taking hold I am finding sweet potato sprouts coming up through the mulch between them.

I have been able to push my fingers into the soil around the potato sprouts, and slide long slim potatoes out of the ground without disturbing the young transplants on the surface. I have, so far in this way, harvested many lovely sweet potatoes from the garden this winter. In one case, as I began to push my fingers in to grasp the potato below, a very large earthworm ejected itself from the soil. I have to admit I was startled. It was a very big earthworm, night crawler size, and it actually launched itself out of the ground, and then quickly found its way back down into the soil where it landed, which brings me to another point about sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are good for the soil. All summer long their vines and heart shaped leaves keep the soil covered. The mulch below the vines breaks down in cool comfort. The swelling potatoes gently move the soil repairing any compaction issues that existed before them. I find the soil below the potato vines to be black, well aggregated (lumpy) and loaded with worm castings. The weeds that are coming up around my transplants are easy to slip out of the soil where the potatoes were. The new crops are growing as if all of their soil needs are being met, and the soil is holding moisture much longer than the native soil.

Knowing what I know now about sweet potatoes preference for sandy drier soils I have often said I would not again put sweet potatoes in my better soils, but every spring like clock work the sweet potatoes re-sprout in this garden section where I originally put them, and I find that I like the effect they have there as much as I enjoy the food they produce.

Finally, South Floridians, put your sweet potatoes in the refrigerator. The cool temperatures increase the sweetness of your crops, and will inhibit sprouting.

In The Garden: Growing Lima Beans

A few years ago I began growing Lima Beans (Phaseolus lunatus) in the garden when I scored some Violet’s Multicolored lima beans at a seed swap. Lima beans will grow well in the hottest weather we have here in South Florida, and when they begin to yield, they will supply lots of very nice buttery lima beans, and they will thrive until the weather turns cold. The variety I most enjoy eating is the King of The Garden. It is a pole bean variety. It is an open pollinated heirloom so I can save seeds for my next crop, and the white beans are huge. I am careful not to grow any other Lima bean varieties at the same time so that when I save the seeds I am not accidentally making hybrid varieties.

There are bush and pole varieties of lima beans. The pole varieties will go as high as there is support for them, and then they will lean over to whatever is nearby and grow to that. Be aware that however tall the support structure is for the pole bean, that is how high you will be reaching for your harvest. Also the plant will grow back and forth along the top of your support creating lots of weight up there. That can be disastrous for beans growing on a weak support on a windy day. I use bamboo poles and I have had to tie the bamboo to a support post to keep it upright.

I really like lima beans because they are very hardy plants, and the beans are cased in a very thick walled pod that protects the beans from everything. The pod will develop into a large size before the bean puts on any size, so it is a good idea to feel the bean before pulling it from the plant. If you are not certain, you can see through the pod by holding it up to the light until you become accustomed to the feel of a full size lima bean.

I have discovered that lima beans are day length sensitive, so the plants I started in June, and the plants I started in August are both producing pods at the same time, so while Lima bean plants are glad to survive through the long summer days, they won’t feed you until the days are shorter. It is October, still hot and the lima pods are filling up quickly now.

Lima beans can be cooked and eaten while they are fresh, or they can be dried for later use. They are not meant to be eaten raw however as they contain linamarin, a cyanogenic glycoside which when mixed with digestive enzymes creates hydrogen cyanide. Even a few lima beans eaten raw can cause some serious gastric distress. Cook fresh Limas in water to deactivate the toxins, and discard the cooking water. Dried lima beans should be soaked for at least 8 hours and then thoroughly rinsed, and then cooked in fresh water. Some varieties of Lima beans have lower linamarin levels than others.

Lima beans like other legumes have excellent beneficial effects on health and metabolism. They are fat free, rich in soluble fiber, and the carbohydrates digest slowly so they do not create spikes in blood sugar. They have positive effects on vascular and heart health, improving circulation, and lowering cholesterol, they help prevent heart attack and stroke. The amino acids and minerals in Lima beans have other beneficial health effects as well.

As I learn more about the foods I grow and eat I am frequently stunned to find that these crops when properly grown (and properly prepared), are full of nutrients that have multiple beneficial effects on our health. It causes me to reflect on the true meaning of the Hypocrites quote “Let food by thy medicine.”. This above all else helps me to realize that I was made from this planet, and it is not only possible for us to be in sink with our beautiful blue/green earth, it is natural.

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