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Have you ever visited a community garden?  


I had the opportunity to help create a community garden with some very special friends in Miami, Florida.

Me (Noelle Johnson), Matt Mattus, Helen Yoest, Amy Andrychowicz, Steve Asbell and Dave Townsend – the ‘Saturday6’
 
So, who are these special friends? 
 
They are garden bloggers, like me and we’ve been brought together through our partnership with the folks at Troy-Bilt. We came from all over the United States and came together to work with the folks at a service project in Miami.
 
 
As part of our partnership, we share our gardening knowledge via Troybilt’s gardening newsletter – ‘The Dirt’, Facebook and Twitter.  We also create how-to videos and test Troybilt equipment and offer our honest opinions. 
This year, we were invited by Troybilt to help create a community garden as part of their continuing efforts to give back to the community.  



The day we all arrived in Miami, we had the opportunity to tour the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, which you can read about here.  


The next morning, we all gathered on a vacant lot in the Perrine Neighborhood in Miami.

 
 
The local dry cleaner allowed the property adjacent to their store to be used for this inner-city community garden.
 
 
We were excited to be creating an edible garden for the surrounding neighborhood.
 
Imagine six gardeners together, trying to plan out a community garden.  Believe it or not, it all went smoothly and we all agreed on a plan as to where to put the raised beds and what size they should be.
 
 
We measured out the placement for the beds with assistance from the folks at Troybilt and the Miami chapter of “Keep America Beautiful“.
 

 

 
The surrounding community was very excited about the garden.  We were happy to meet the Perrine neighborhood community activist, Ms. Townsend who would help to distribute the produce from the garden.
 
Steve Asbell (The Rainforest Gardener), took time to talk with her about the different vegetables and flowers that we would be planting in the garden.
 
 
Ms. Townsend, was very interested in learning about the plants and seeds we would be planting.  She listened carefully when Matt Mattus (Growing With Plantsexplained to her how the seeds would grow.
 
*This special lady takes care of those in her neighborhood, including picking up day-old bread from the local supermarket, putting it in her car trunk and then delivers it to those in need.
 
 
Once the outlines were painted, we used cement block to create the sides of the of the beds.
 
You may wonder why we put cardboard on the bottom of the garden beds.  Well, the cardboard will form a nice barrier to keep the grass from growing through and will also serve to ‘smother’ the grass.
 
Initially, we had discussed planting some fruit trees alongside the raised vegetable beds, but we ran into a little problem with that plan…
 
Limestone rock lay right underneath the grass, making digging all but impossible.
 
 
We filled the beds with topsoil and aged steer manure in alternating layers.
 
 
Troybilt supplied us with the necessary garden equipment including a cultivator, which we used to help mix the layers of topsoil and manure together.
 
 
I have a smaller cultivator that attaches to my Troybilt string trimmer that I like to use in my vegetable gardens.  
 
You can read more about my gardening adventures with my Troybilt cultivator, here.
 
 
Amy Andrychowicz (Get Busy Gardening) and Dave Townsend (Growing the Home Garden) raked the soil smooth while Helen Yoest (Gardening With Confidence) filled the holes of the cement block with soil for planting.
 
Community members posing for a picture with a Troybilt representative.
 
Members of the community came out to watch our progress, including the neighborhood police officer.
 
 
We took a quick break for lunch then took a picture with people from the neighborhood, Troybilt, Keep America Beautiful and officials from the Human Services Department who were on hand.
 
Local Master Gardener, Sheila Martinez, assists Dave Townsend with planting.
 
After lunch it was time for my favorite part – planting!
 
Sheila Martinez, a local Master Gardener, assisted us throughout the day and will be in charge of caring for the garden.
 
 
I had fun planting the first bed with tomatoes and herbs including flat-leaf parsley, purple basil and rosemary.
 
Other beds included strawberries, peppers, leaf lettuce, collard greens and onions.  Beans were planted from seed.
 
 
The holes in the cement block was filled with soil so that we could add companion plants, which help to attract pollinators as well as repel bad bugs from damaging the vegetables.
 
To that end, we planted sage, basil, green onions and marigolds in the holes, which will not only help to protect the edible plants but also add beauty to each garden.
 

 

After a productive day in the garden, we were tired but happy with all we had accomplished.
 
This is the second year that we have all been part of the Saturday6.  Imagine how much fun six garden bloggers have when they get together!
 
Last year we all met in Arizona and enjoyed a great time, which you can read about here.
 
I am so grateful to be a part of this group of great people and the opportunity to work with Troybilt again.  I will be reviewing another piece of Troybilt equipment this year and giving one away, so stay tuned!
 
 
 

 

Welcome to the second edition of “AZ Plant Lady  House Calls.  


Earlier this month, I shared with you a landscape dilemma that a homeowner needed help with.  I was able to help her find a solution that would introduce color and herbs to a sunny corner of her garden. 


Well, this same homeowner had another problem area.



This shady area lies next to her sliding glass door and she has had a tough time getting anything to grow in this area.  

You can see some straggly Vinca minor and a raised container growing a few weeds. 
I have rarely seen nice-looking Vinca minor growing in our area – so it is not a plant I recommend.

The homeowner wanted a plant for her container that would flourish along with a flowering groundcover.

What would you do in this area?

Believe it or not, it can be hard to find a plant that can handle our hot, dry temperatures that can also do well in shady areas.  But, there are a few.


Recommendation: Purchase an orange-colored container to add some color to this area and plant a Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sanseveria trifasciata) in the container.  

For an extra decorative touch, you can add black pebbles on the top of the planting soil.

This tropical plant will add height and texture and is very easy to grow.  *Protect from freezing temperatures by bringing them indoors.

Years ago, I worked for a golf course community that had large containers in full shade by the front doors of the clubhouse.  After trying many different kinds of plants – this was the one that did the best.


Around the base of the raised container, I recommended planting 5 Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia).

These do great in light shade and bloom off and on all year.  They grow well in zones 9 – 11.


The leaves are small and so are the flowers on this groundcover that grows approximately 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide.

The purple flowers will provide great contrast to the new orange container.

Both the Mother-in-law’s Tongue and Mexican Heather are low-maintenance and will flourish in this shady spot.

So, what do you think of this solution? Do you have a shady area where you have a hard time growing anything?

I hope you enjoyed the latest edition of “AZ Plant Lady Virtual House Call”.  I will be posting more in the future in the hopes that I can help you with an issue you may be facing in your own garden.

Oftentimes when I am called to help a homeowner with their landscape, they pose a problem and/or a question about a certain area in their landscape.


I will share a few with, you now and then, in the hopes that I can help those of you who may have a similar situation.


Okay, let’s first look at this resident’s sunny area…



As you can see, there is a young citrus tree growing in this corner bed.  

The resident, who was from Europe, wanted to create a Southern European garden theme in her backyard.  However, in this area, she disliked the appearance of the bare wall around her citrus tree.  She wanted to have a retaining wall installed and raise the level of the bed and plant an assortment of herbs, which would cover part of the bare expanse of the wall.

The problem, is that you cannot raise the level of soil or you will suffocate the roots of the citrus tree.  Plants need the oxygen that is present in the soil.  Most of the oxygen is found in the upper levels of soil.  Adding more soil would decrease the amount of oxygen where the plant roots currently are located.

Taking out the citrus tree and replanting it into a raised bed was not an option in this case.

 So, what would you do in this area? 

Recommendation: Add three tall (3 feet or higher), colorful, glazed pots and place them up against the wall – one in the corner and the other two on either side.  Select pots in bright colors such as blue or orange, which will add a punch of color to the landscape AND plant an assortment of herbs in the pots.

Herbs are quite tough and can handle being in containers better then other flowering plants during the summer months and on through winter.

As the citrus tree grows and shades this spot more, the resident can switch out the sun-loving herbs for container plants that enjoy shady conditions.

 So, what do you think of this solution? Do you have an area like this where you want to add color up against a bare wall?

I hope you enjoyed my first “AZ Plant Lady House Call”.  I will be posting more in the future in the hopes that I can help you with an issue you may be facing in your own garden.

The past couple of days on the road have been both eventful AND uneventful.


Yesterday morning found us in Columbia, SC.  We set on our way to find a folk art festival that was scheduled near the campus of University of South Carolina (USC), but couldn’t find it.


What we did find, driving through the campus, was a community garden, a rose garden and beautiful perennial beds along the roadside.


We parked near the university book store in the only spot we could find – we had only 30 minutes to explore or else we could get a ticket.



These perennial beds were filled with vegetables like artichoke and swiss chard, which look great as ornamentals alongside the pansies, dianthus and lamb’s ears.

Pink and coral poppies were in full bloom.  
The red poppies in my garden at home were just beginning to fade before I left.  


The campus of USC also has historical significance during the Civil War, where the parade grounds and barracks were located.

As we continued our walk, I kept seeing more things that got me excited.


As we turned the corner, we found ourselves in a small rose garden.


Isn’t this Peace rose, pretty?  It was raining lightly as you can see.


This climbing rose used a nearby tree as a support.


I have grown many different kinds of roses, but never climbing roses.  Maybe I should try?

Being from a dry climate, I am fascinated in observing the differences in gardens of wetter climates.


Okay, I know that those of you who live in more humid climates may be rolling your eyes at this point when you look at the photo, above.  

But, I thought these ferns looked just beautiful growing out from the brick wall.

I am also always interested in seeing familiar plants, adapted to dry climates, being represented in other areas, like the Yucca, below.


We came upon the largest agave that I have seen, which is saying something because I see a LOT of agave.


I was having a great time and looking at my watch, realized that we had to start heading back to our car so we wouldn’t get a ticket.


But then, we came upon this community garden.

I was in heaven!

These raised beds were filled with delicious vegetables.


Next to the raised beds, was a garden with herbs, including these flowering broccoli.


The separate beds were divided, not with boxwood hedges, but rosemary.  I really liked how it looked.

At the back wall of the herb garden, stood a ‘tipsy-topsy’ planter.

There was a different herb in each pot – chives, cilantro, basil, oregano and rosemary.  
As the clock was ticking and we didn’t have any time to spare, we walked by this beautiful bed of flowers, containing one of my favorite plants – Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).



USC has a beautiful campus and I was so happy to have to found such an unexpected garden ‘jewel’.

After leaving USC, we decided to visit the Confederate Museum in Columbia.  
You see, my mother and I love to learn about history and that entails visiting museums and historical sights.  
I am both a product of both the North and the South in regards to my ancestry.

It was time to leave Columbia for our next destination.  

*The community garden was so wonderful that I will need to feature it in an upcoming post.

**Tipsy-topsy pots are very popular right now and aren’t hard to make.  I found a tutorial that you can click on here.