Old Floridian Knowledge about the Natural World
by Jennifer Yarbrough - Minorcan Mama
Happy Spring, y’all! I’m a Southern Mama who loves being in the garden with my kiddos! I learned about plants, gardening, and life, from my Southern Grammy while helping her in her garden, sitting on her porch, and talking over a glass of sweet tea. I am inviting you to pull up a rocker, grab yourself some iced tea and read on as I share some of her gardening tips.
Location! Location! Location!
Look at the sun/shade requirements before planting and plan accordingly. Then if a plant doesn’t do well one year, move it to another spot for goodness sake.
Know your dirt!
Grammy always said good gardeners know all the dirt and that was for two reasons: 1. They’re always outside, quietly minding their own business tending their flowers, but observing all the comings-and-goings in the neighborhood better than the FBI itself! Did y’all hear about Mr. Smith on the corner? Grammy did! 2. They always use good quality composted soil when making new beds or planting new plants. Use your own or buy it up at the local hardware store, but use the good stuff!
Shake things up!
When weeding around bushes or larger plants, make sure you take a rake and lightly hit the bushes a few times as to scare any snakes or critters away. Grammy always told the story of a nephew that was bitten by a rattlesnake because he stuck his hand in the brush without checking, he was hospitalized and recovered after a few days, but what a scare! Florida is full of all sorts of wild critters, so beware.
Plant food for the Butterflies!
There were always beautiful butterflies swarming my Grammy’s garden and that was because she made sure to plant Nectar and Host plants for them. Some of the nectar plants she planted were lantana, milkweed, zinnias, salvia, and cosmos. Host plants that were a favorite of hers were milkweed, Mexican petunia, and cleome. I remember one year she had a bush full of at least 50 chrysalises beside her driveway! If you plant it, they will come!
Plant food for your family!
Whether you have acres or a small back porch, you can grow food! My Grammy always had a “Kitchen Garden,” that she planted in 5-gallon utility buckets. She grew a ton of tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Her buckets had holes drilled in the bottom for drainage, were filled with pinecones and leaves in the bottom to take up space and provide nutrients, and were topped with the best dirt you could find, of course. Whether you choose buckets, decorative containers, raised beds, or a patch of dirt, in your yard, start small and get your kids involved! Grammy would always say, if you want kids to eat their veggies, let them grow their own! I have found this so true with my kiddos! One of our big crops is tomatoes…and my three and seven year old can’t get enough! Cherry and grape tomatoes are the best. Don’t be surprised if they disappear off the vine, kids like them that much!
Plant for your area!
Grammy was a practical lady, but she liked a big garden. It takes a lot of time to water and nurture plants in a big garden, so the best thing to do is plant natives. Look for plants that are native to your area and they will typically be easier to grow in your soil, be sun tolerant, and drought resistant. Be like Grammy and plant these plants, bushes, and trees in areas of your garden that you may not get a chance to water often. A great resource for finding native plants for your particular site is the Florida Native Plant Society, online at www.fnps.org/plants.
Plant for beauty and sharing!
Grammy always planted flower beds close to the street and filled them with Cosmos and Zinnias. These flowers loved this sunny spot in her yard and sometimes grew to be taller than her! She was always quick to share these (and other flowers) with neighbors who stopped in to visit. I love the idea of planting flowers for neighbors to enjoy as they drive, bike, or stroll by my yard. I also love having a “Sharing Garden,” like Grammy’s. Stash a pair of scissors close by and be ready to cut a bouquet for a passer-by, sharing a conversation, some flowers and a smile.
There are so many benefits to gardening, so take Grammy’s advice and get out there and plant something today!
Minorcan Mama is a 30-something, St. Augustine Native Minorcan, trying her hardest to raise her modern kids with an appreciation of their roots, their history and a love of the great out-of-doors. Send her your questions about family, parenting, relationships and whatever else you can think of to firstname.lastname@example.org She loves being “social,” at www.facebook.com/minorcanmama and www.twitter.com/minorcanmama Also, stay tuned for her new Website and Blog coming this month!