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November 9, 2018
As a Michigan native and the daughter of a master gardener, my options were almost endless in the beautiful springs and summers of gardening in the north. When I found out we were relocating to Tampa, I couldn’t contain my excitement! Birds of Paradise, bougainvillea, and year-round gardening weather were calling my name! But… oh, my gosh, it’s hot. It’s so humid. There are insects and diseases I didn’t even know existed. After 17 years of gardening and four sons later, I’d love to share what I have learned and how to make the most of gardening with your kiddos.
Know Your Zone
Most of you are in zone 9. This is very important in knowing which plants to plant. It comes down to how much cold or heat a plant can tolerate. You have a little wiggle room. I have several tropical trees that are better in zone 10. It just meant I had to cover them from frost, especially when they were babies. Keep in mind many nurseries sell plants that do not survive in our zone. However, the back of each tag on your plant will give you the information.
Water is a MUST
Every time someone tells me they “kill everything” they plant, I already know the problem. Daily watering is necessary. And, in small pots, you might need twice a day watering. It’s a commitment! During the rainy season, we get a little help from Mother Nature. But as we enter fall, you have to be diligent. This is a great task for kids. It’s hard to overwater. Pots have a hole for drainage, and the earth will know what to do with the excess water if ground planting. If you know you can’t commit that much, succulents are very trendy right now! And they can go weeks without water.
Choose Fresh Herbs and Fruit Trees
Not only will you find the pleasure in using those fresh herbs in your cooking, but they’re easy to grow and kids will love picking them right off the plant to taste. Fresh mint, basil, thyme, parsley, and cilantro are inexpensive and fun options. If you see insects starting to munch on them, simply mix soapy water in a spray bottle and spray the plants. Fruit trees like lemon, peach, (just make sure it is a “low chill” variety of peach) and avocado are easy to plant and can even live for years in a large pot. You won’t believe how much pleasure you’ll find in watching the blooms turn into fruit! I’m looking forward to these upcoming cooler months in which so many veggies thrive. Choose beans, broccoli, carrots, leeks, onions, and spinach. Start small! And enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your labor.
Carrie Mobley is a wife, mother of four boys, gardening expert on HSN, television personality, professional singer and a lover of butterflies, vodka and music. Find her on Facebook at Carrie Mobley and Instagram at carriemob