Inga Alley Cropping

inga alley cropping

I never heard of Inga alley cropping until a week ago. Now I’m somewhat obsessed with it.



One of the benefits of sharing my videos and posts publicly is the interaction I get to have with other people.

In this video I mention how I intercropped my corn and pigeon peas in imitation of the natives:

In response, a YouTuber commented:

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 8.23.49 PM

Here’s the video he mentioned on inga alley cropping:

Now I’m not ignorant of alley cropping as a useful agricultural method, particularly on slopes. I’ve done some study on Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) since moving here and realizing what a pain in the neck it is to garden on an incline and how important it is to maintain the soil and keep it from rapidly washing away downhill and into the river.

What I was ignorant about was how useful Inga species are. The only one I knew about – and which I have sadly not been able to find here – is the “ice cream bean” tree beloved of Geoff Lawton. It’s a nitrogen-fixing with edible pulp in the pods and a rapid growth that makes it excellent for establishing a food forest canopy and as a nurse tree to less vigorous species.

Chasing Down More on Inga Alley Cropping

I responded to Alex on Youtube:

“Alex – thank you for the link. I’ve used “chop-n-drop” in my previous food forest systems but hadn’t considered the possibilities for weed reduction via deliberately growing trees like that. Love the idea and will see if I can find a place to test it. The corn and pigeon peas mix is the way the natives grow them. I am learning what they do here first, then doing my own experiments on the side.”

In response he wrote:

“Well, if you love this idea I might as well point you in the right direction for further research. Mike Hands pioneered this system over 20 years ago as a way to stop the destructive pressure of slash and burn ag on tropical rain forests. He has an NGO dedicated to spreading the technique.

The best manual put out on the technique IMO is Integrated Farming Manual available for free here The manual was put out by the Ya’axché Conservation Trust and the Maya Mountain Research Farm. The Maya Mountain Research Farm in Southern Belize is a great place to visit to see the technique in action and to learn about all their successes and mistakes they have made in the last 25 years.

That might help you succeed and save you a few years of making various mistakes, well worth the trip.

That’s not too far away from me; however, it’s really hard to access… definitely would be an adventure. I would love to visit at some point. For now, I’m hunting down more on Inga alley cropping.

More Video


Here’s a fascinating video on how inga alley cropping is being put into action to save rainforests in Honduras:

I could see systems like this being put in place in sandy Florida plots in order to improve the soil rapidly and build biomass. You could cut the trees to make biochar as well. You could do this with moringa, leucana, heck, even mulberry! You won’t get the nitrogen fixation but you would get the shade and the valuable dropped mulch on the ground.

I have identified a species of Inga in the local jungle which I believe to be Inga oerstediana. It’s in bloom right now… when it sets pods, you can guess what I’ll be doing with the seeds.

So many ideas… I feel like I’m going to leave this mortal coil long before I explore all the many trails of research I wish to pursue.

Anyone else ready to go out and start planting tight rows of trees in your gardens? Anyone?

For more on Inga Alley Cropping, there’s a lot of info here:

Inga Alley Cropping

Last Chance Chickens Webinar: The Self-Sustaining Flock

Chicken_Coop_Chicksaw_Justin_RhodesJustin Rhodes let me know that’s he’s doing his last free Permaculture Chickens webcast on Sunday – this is your chance to get in on the free information before he’s done. This webinar focuses on the self-sustaining flock.

Go and sign while you can!

Justin always has great ideas and the chance to ask questions live is quite valuable.

Feeding and raising your own flock from your own land is vital if things fall apart. Counting on far away chick-raising may not always be possible, plus, having birds well-suited to your land and raised by your own hens is a very good thing.

Herrick is Giving Away My Books!

Over at his new Planet Whizbang Giveaways site, Herrick Kimball is giving away two of my books – click here to get in on the action.

Though we’ve never met in person, I have a lot of respect for Herrick, his business and his philosophy of Christian agrarianism. His main site, The Deliberate Agrarian, has inspired more than one post here.

I’m also a big fan of his Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners:


Herrick Kimball is the guy I want to be when I grow up. I just turned 37 and he’s like 100 years ahead of me already, so I have some catching up to do.

By the way, I’m giving away a new booklet to anyone who signs up for my newsletter. It contains two somewhat modified chapters of my popular book Compost Everything and has all you need to know in order to stretch your compost a lot further than you think.

Update on the “30 Videos in 30 Days” Challenge


It’s going great so far and I’ve been seeing a nice uptick in “likes” and subscriptions. Yesterday I created a dedicated playlist in order so you can see them all. Be sure to watch the videos to their endings, as I’m hiding bits and pieces after the credits.

It’s time to Make The Conclusion of YouTube Videos Great Again!


Later this week Rachel demonstrates how to render your own beef tallow easily and I’m going to show how to germinate peach and other stone fruit pits in the next episode of Totally Crazy Easy Gardening coming up tomorrow.

Producing all these videos and keeping the quality high has been an excellent challenge and I’m glad Justin Rhodes told me to just go for it. I don’t think I can keep it up after 30 days, but I’m definitely upping the overall quality of my channel. With so many subscribers signing up since the beginning of the year, it’s time to give my audience my best rather than mostly using the channel as a place to post quick videos of cool things I find.

Gardening Failure (And How to Beat It!)

Gardening failure happens to the best of us:

And trust me, I’m by no means “the best.” I’ve failed my way to gardening success over the years.

Gardening Failure - distorted cucumber

As I wrote in a previous post:

“Every failure is a chance for us to reassess our gardening methods, our pest control, our crop varieties and our own thinking. It’s good to fail now, before things get any uglier in our country. If you’re not actively growing and learning now, you might be in for a rocky road in the future.”

It’s good to ask questions about your mistakes. Such as:

Why Did This Failure Happen?


In the case of my beds down the hill, they have problems because they are… beds down the hill.

It’s a trek to get down there. On rainy days, the slope is slippery. On sunny days, it’s still a walk… and it’s hot.

As I note in Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening:

Grow_Or_Die_Cover_Web“If you plant your gardens near where you live, work and play, you’re going to see problems as they appear. If you make it a point to walk the rows daily and keep a half an eye on your crops, things won’t get out of control. Pest problems go from tiny to huge almost overnight – watch and you’ll be able to nail them down before you lose a harvest.

When I notice stinkbug eggs glued on the leaves of a squash plant, I crush them. When I see a tiny hornworm on a tomato, I pick it off. When the aphids are sucking the life out of the new growth on my bean vines, I blast them off with the hose.

You can also walk around with a little container of soapy water. Any insect you knock into it will drown rapidly and bother your garden no more.

If you’re not in the garden, you’re going to miss problems that could have been stopped early on. Keep your eyes open and keep your garden as close as you can.”

In the video, I state the same idea. The cucumbers are doing poorly because I got busy and didn’t pay close attention. If I had weeded, fertilized and staked them a few weeks ago, they’d be doing great now. As it is, I’ll be lucky to pay for the seeds in the cucumbers yielded.

How Can I Avoid this Problem in the Future?


Obviously, planting closer would be a good idea. But also, I should have realized that I have too little time at the moment to take care of a lot of gardens. Instead, it would have made sense to really work on some smaller areas and get their yields way up before utilizing a bunch of the space available by planting it and then getting poor yields because I didn’t give the area enough care.

Another big help is to plan your homestead in a way that keeps the high maintenance plants near at hand right from the beginning.

These cucumbers should be planted in Zone 1.

As stated succinctly in a good article at Deep Green Permaculture:

“Zone 1 is the area nearest to the house, and also includes the most frequently accessed areas , such as alongside often used paths.

Keep in mind that this zone is defined by access, so if there is an area near the house that you don’t visit, or is hard to get to, even if it sits next to the house itself, then it is not included in Zone 1.

If you leave your property daily to go go work for example, then the path from the street to your house and the immediate areas alongside it will be included in Zone  1, as you visit these areas twice daily.”

Our current homestead has an informal orchard covering most of Zone 1.

Ideally, fruit and nut trees should be in Zone 2 or Zone 3 since they require much less attention than vegetable gardens.

We’re constrained by the current design; however, I’m not going to complain about it all that much as the tree crops are still marvelously productive. It’s just not great from cucumbers.

Next time I’ll plant the cukes in the small beds out back that I visit daily and leave the downhill area for the corn, pigeon peas, pumpkins and okra, all of which are much less touchy.



Your gardening failure is just a springboard to future success.

Learn from it.

Roll with the punches.

Adjust and attack again until you have abundance.

I made my video on purpose to show you that even good gardeners like myself screw things up.


Such as trying to use a pruning saw to cut through the thick plastic top of a barrel.

Don’t do that.

It doesn’t work and it just makes you look silly, particularly if you have the ill luck to attack it with optimism while on camera.

This compost will destroy your garden!

I’ve written many times on Aminopyralid contamination in compost, on herbicides in manure and on the danger of bringing amendments from outside on to your property. Unfortunately, Karen Land didn’t find out about me until it was too late. After posting a heartfelt YouTube video (subscribe to Karen’s gardening channel here) on her ruined plots of tomatoes, Karen discovered a video I’d done and contacted me personally about the issue. After hearing her terrible story of killer compost, I asked Karen if she would share her story here. This is a serious problem and I don’t want any of you to go through what she went through or what I went through a few years back.

-David The Good

Karen’s Story


Karen Land got hit by aminopyralid

Karen Land

Many of us have heard the term “herbicide drift.”  Some of us have experienced it.

Herbicide drift is when a neighbor or nearby farm sprays an herbicide like Round-Up or 2,4-D on a breezy day, and some of that herbicide gets picked up by the wind and lands on someone else’s innocent plants. The result is herbicide injury, which can cause deformed leaves and even death of the plant.

Not cool.

There’s something even less cool lurking in our midst.

Unfortunately, most people have never heard of it. This thing that’s even less cool than herbicide drift is compost contamination. Specifically, herbicide contamination of compost.

This just happened to me, and I’m not happy about it.

My main garden consists of six 4×24-foot raised beds. This year, I needed to raise the soil level about 4-5 inches, so I ordered 7 yards of compost from a local supplier and had it delivered to my house.
My awesome neighbor then spent hours moving it, tractor scoop by tractor scoop, from the front of the property to the back, and into my raised beds.  The next day, my husband tilled the new compost in with my existing soil.  It was a beautiful sight!!


A few days later, I began planting out my tomatoes (which I’d been growing from seed in my house since January).


I got about 20 plants in the ground and for the first week or so, everything was fine.

After a week or so though, I noticed some slight distortion on the new growth on the plants. I tried to ignore it and pretend I didn’t see it, but that became increasingly impossible.

Contaminated-compost-aminopyralid-effect-on-tomatoesSo I began researching and Googling every tomato virus I could think of, and comparing hundreds of images to my plants’ new “look.” I finally decided my plants had sadly suffered herbicide injury from herbicide drift. But because my knowledge of herbicide names was limited to Round-Up and 2,4-D, I spent another few days trying to decide which of the two was the culprit, and finally decided it was 2,4-D.

In this midst of my obsessive researching, I was also continuing to plant out my other tomato plants. About 50 more plants went in.

(Can I rewind my life at this point?)

Unbelievably, after about two weeks, every single plant had the same deformed new growth.  And I was pretty much freaking out.

Here are some of the possibilities I contemplated during that time:

Tomato Mosaic Virus

TMV causes new growth to come out deformed and curled up beyond recognition (that symptom, by the way, is impossible to differentiate from 2,4-D damage).  Check!  However, TMV also causes other symptoms, like, you guessed it, a mosaic pattern on the leaves.  I don’t have this on a single plant.  Moving on.

Nitrogen Toxicity

With nitrogen toxicity, while you may have some burnt leaf edges and that sort of thing, you’ll also have a massive blast of new growth.  My plants are completely stunted.  Not that.  Moving on again.

Some Other Virus Spread by Bugs

I will begrudgingly say this is “technically” possible, but with viruses that need to be spread by a bug (in other words, not a virus that can spread by contact or soil splash), it’s not very likely that all 70 of my tomato plants would simultaneously fall victim to such a disease.

The Answer Appears

At this point, I’d done as many different Google searches, rearranging words and phrases as many different ways as I could think of, but I still really didn’t feel I had a definitive answer.

Leaning toward 2,4-D, I finally called on my local extension office to get their take on the situation.

I told them the whole story and sent in pictures. Within minutes, I received an email telling me it was definitely herbicide injury, but not from 2,4-D. Instead, they blamed it on a word I’d never heard before: Aminopyralid.

I wish I could go back to never having heard this word.

What is Aminopyralid?


Aminopyralid is a broad leaf herbicide. David the Good goes into this issue in multiple posts on this site.

In a nutshell, if it’s sprayed where livestock grazes, the manure from said animals is not to be used as compost.


Because the herbicide goes straight through the animal and into their poop. It doesn’t break down or deactivate at all. So it goes into the poop, and there it stays for years. Yes, even in aged, fully composted manure.

St_Petersburg_Garden_SquashSidebar: Not all plants will show signs of aminopyralid damage.

 Plants like squashes and cucumbers will likely appear just fine.

 My tomatoes and potatoes were the canaries in the coal mine. The sacrificial lambs. If I hadn’t planted them in that compost, and only planted less sensitive plants, I would be feeding all of that poisoned food to my family.

 So, in a bittersweet way, I’m grateful I put my beloved tomatoes in first.

So let’s say you’re lucky enough to be BFFs with a super cool farmer who you KNOW doesn’t spray herbicides on their pastures or fields, and he’s offering to give you composted manure for your garden.

Think you’re safe? Think again.

Unless your BFF farmer friend is BFFs with his hay supplier and knows for an absolute FACT that that hay was never treated, you’re really not safe. And, even if your BFF farmer friend is super great and never sprays herbicides, and knows for an absolute FACT that his BFF hay supplier doesn’t treat their hay, what if you super cool BFF farmer friend lets his cows graze all the way down to the ditch on his property, where herbicide has been carried down to from the not-so-cool farmer next door who sprays herbicides?

Guess what you have… herbicide laden manure.

So what’s the answer?


Compost_960I have no flipping idea.

Oh wait, yes I do. Read David’s book  Compost Everything and stop buying compost from outside sources.

One last little shove of info for those still skeptical that this was herbicide-contaminated compost.

Remember my initial theory of herbicide drift?

Well, guess what: my potatoes have the exact same deformed new growth.

Here’s the kicker . . . my potatoes are nowhere near the tomato beds. In fact, the potatoes are on our deck in pots, about 50 feet from the tomato beds, and are among a myriad of other sensitive nightshade plants (tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos), and none of those plants have any issue.

(Ed. note: look at how Karen’s potatoes exhibit the same deformed growth as the tomatoes pictured above):


Herbicide drift would not come onto my property, only land on the tomatoes, ignore the cucumbers that are four feet away, then hang a left and make a beeline for my deck, but then ONLY drop into my potato pots and spare every other plant.

How could this be, you ask?

Because the potatoes are the only thing on the deck that were planted in the same compost as the tomatoes.

So this probably isn’t the most uplifting story you’ve read today. But don’t worry.  I haven’t wasted this enormous learning opportunity. I’ve not only learned about this herbicide and how to avoid it, but I’ve also learned how to improvise and grow in containers.

On three-quarters of an acre, there aren’t many reasons to learn how to in containers, but now I am! I had a few pots of tomatoes that hadn’t yet gone into the raised beds, so I potted them up!

I’m also growing peppers, rat’s tail radishes, bush and pole beans, lettuce, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, and a few different squashes… all in containers!

It is my dearest hope that my story will help you avoid having this issue yourself, and to show you that, even when really bad things happen in the garden, you can always plant another seed somewhere.  Soldier on and keep growing.

~Karen Land of Love Your Land


Karen is an accomplished gardener and highly knowledgeable on a wide range of horticultural topics. Despite her catastrophic encounter with aminopyralid she isn’t giving up. Subscribe to Karen’s YouTube channel here and visit her Facebook group here.

Get my FREE booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost – click here to subscribe to the newsletter!

Another Garden Down: Aminopyralid Strikes Again


A week ago I was saddened to see this video on Aminopyralid contaminated compost posted by gardener and YouTube personality Karen Land on her channel Love Your Land:

After posting that video, she found one of mine and dropped me a line. We corresponded back and forth about the danger of Aminopyralid and I asked her to write up her complete tale of herbicidal woe.

Tomorrow she shares her story here in an in-depth post you won’t want to miss.

On Saturday I got a comment from another gardener on my post More Victims of the Satanic Grazon Herbicide asking about a garden he mulched with hay he knew to contain the toxin:

“I have mulched and composted with hay that I absolutely knew was sprayed with Grazon and it didn’t affect anything so far as I could tell (I was ignorant and didn’t know any better). How did you trace the root cause problem to Grazon and not some other issue?”


My answer:

The characteristic twisting of the new growth makes it obvious once you’ve seen it once. Aminopyralid inhibits the cell stacking function of the plant, causing fractal-like distortion. Some plants, like melons and greens, are a lot less susceptible. Others, like beans, tomatoes and eggplant are very sensitive. Grasses, such as corn, won’t show any problems at all.

I posted a video earlier this year showing a garden that had been partially wrecked by Aminopyralid-laced horse manure:

The terrifying thing about Aminopyralid – and its trademarked product Grazon – is that it’s now everywhere.

Get my FREE booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost – click here to subscribe to the newsletter!

This is why I dedicate a decent portion of my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting warning gardeners of the danger and sharing the many ways in which this toxin can get into your garden and render the ground poisonous for years.

I sent a copy to Karen last week and she’s been enjoying the read thus far:


In a way, Aminopyralid launched my garden writing career. I couldn’t believe what had happened to my garden. I gave it what I thought was a great, organic amendment… and lost $1000 worth of plants and poisoned multiple beds. The story needed to be shared, so I did so in Natural Awakenings Magazine and at Mother Earth News and I have continued to cover it here and in my books.

Don’t let this happen to you.

And come back tomorrow – you need to read Karen’s article.

Growing Fruit Trees from Seed: Video

Here’s my latest – I think you’ll enjoy it.

A Permaculture Land Opportunity

Permaculture land opportunityI was recently contacted by a friend who has an incredible offer he wanted me to share here.

I know some of you have talked with me in the past about your hunt for land… this may be just what you need. -DTG

The Deal

What is being offered is a huge plot of land, rent-free, for an individual or family to farm, garden, raise livestock and live off the soil.

You also receive the chance to work with a talented mentor – Dennis – who is a personal friend of Joel Salatin and a very successful livestock farmer.

The property is North of Gainesville in the midst of thousands of undeveloped acres.

(Note: I’ve been camping there and it’s marvelous. There are also deer, rabbits and hogs for the taking – not to mention lots and lots of wild blueberries.)

permaculture land opportunity

Dennis lives in Live Oak and keeps various livestock grazing on portions of the land.

If you decide to move here, there is a well, pump, and power on site with a little open shelter; however, you will have to build a tiny house, park an RV, bring a yurt or do something for accommodation.

It’s in a place where you can live life without pressure and spend your days homesteading, free from prying neighbors and most bureaucrats.


Dennis is looking for help with high-intensive management of the property, including strip grazing different livestock. He will be providing goats, hogs, cattle, etc. and managing from afar in Live Oak and mentoring your growth in permaculture land management and animal husbandry.

This is a long-term opportunity to learn and live without pouring out financial resources and see your skills and income grow over time.

Occupants are free to garden, raise chickens – and there’s a crazy amount of space in which you can do so.

The property, though rural, is also within a short drive of I-75, meaning you’re not really all that far from “civilization.”

Dennis writes:


“We need someone with a good strong back and lots of vision or ability to see what can be after some elbow grease… we can oversee and take it from there. We do not want to pay salary but are also not used to not making money in ag in reasonable time frame and we will share those profits with our partners. Partners can work and see fruits of their labor in time.

My qualifications: 400 k gross sales, 30 years experience in farming, love teaching and mentoring and partnering. We are doing dairy, beef production, pastured poultry, forest fed pork, food forest, swales on 10 acres, 3000 trees on our farm from lumber production to food, lamb and goat production. We sell everything we produce to the end consumer, ALL production is direct marketed. Plus we market other farms products in a collaborative/cooperative way. Joel Salatin is our mentor and friend and had been to the farm twice and his son Daniel once.”


Sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime. The land is sandy scrub with swampy areas and lots of pastureland. Not ideal for agriculture without some work, but a great chance to test permaculture principles and learn in the field – particularly in the realm of managing grazing animals.

If anyone is interested, you can reach Dennis here.

Update on Growing Cherries and Almonds in Florida

Carrie writes:

What ever happened with your cherry and almond trees? I haven’t seen
any posts on them since 2014.”


I sold the farm and don’t know.




Just kidding.

I do know how they were doing when I left and I can share that.

Here’s the report



Minnie Royal

Of the cherries and almonds I planted, all the ones from Willis Orchards, with the exception of the Coral Champagne (which is still sickly), kicked off.

The two trees I got from Grow Organic, however: “Minnie Royal” and “Royal Lee,” were doing fine. The Minnie Royal was twice the size of the Royal Lee for some reason, at about 10′ tall when we moved.

No blooms or fruit on either tree this spring. I hope to get a field report from our old homestead/food forest soon along with some photos.

Good nursery stock makes a big difference in how things grow. I won’t buy from Willis Orchards again but my respect for Grow Organic keeps increasing. They have great seeds, tools and trees. I’ve been more than happy with every purchase and recommend them without reserve. Their bareroot trees have all lived and thrived.

Good stock.

I tried intergrafting sweet cherries with wild black cherry and didn’t have any luck. The grafts looked like they were taking, then all died, so it appears the reports on incompatibility are true.

I may have a sweet cherry that took on a wild plum stock, though, but I can’t check on it now.

Unfortunately for science, my days of experimenting with cherries and almonds in Florida have come to a close, as has my apple experiment.


We’ll see if the new owner has any success. I hope so!

For now, I’m germinating apple seeds here and hope to start growing them in the full tropics. That will be fun.



Sometimes I really miss my gardens and food forest… like today, as I’m thinking on the many experiments and trees I planted.


I would really love it if a good photographer could go over there and film some videos and take lots of photos so I can see how everything is going.

It was truly turning into a garden of Eden. So much life – and knowing that it started as a weedy, sandy yard baked by the hot Florida sun… and was then transformed into a model food forest for Florida… and that I left it behind… well, sometimes it gets to me a bit.


But only for a few minutes. I’m looking out my office window at a big jackfruit hanging on the limb of the jackfruit tree. Next to it is a towering banana tree and behind that is a view of the mountains draped in misty clouds.

I miss my food forest but I’m also quite content here. There’s just a bit of nostalgia and a feeling that there were so many threads left untied back in Florida. Watching the video tour of my yard now seems like a different life.

And I know, this sounds like a stupid complaint, but…

Gardening is too easy here!


I’m used to a bazillion bugs and nasty freezes. Here I haven’t seen a single pest on my tomato plants… or a stink bug on my beans… or the remnants of a racoon-ravaged pineapple in the yard.

Too. Easy.

You just plant things and they grow. Heck, I stuck twigs from a katuk tree in the ground along the fence line and they all rooted. That’s ridiculous. I used to have to care for them like babies in Florida. The hot sun and the dry sand did in a lot of my cuttings… and the winter will happily take the rest of them if you don’t keep them in a very sheltered location.

Okay, I’m done.

Pardon my stupid complaints. I am a foolish and fallen creature. I need to get outside and work in the gardens. There are weeds taking over the cucumber beds and the field corn right now, so all isn’t truly perfect in paradise.

Have a great Thursday… until tomorrow, enjoy the video on super easy composting I posted yesterday – and remember, the new episode of Totally Crazy Easy Gardening comes out this afternoon at 2:30PM.


UPDATE @10:45AM: I bumped the next episode of Totally Crazy Easy Gardening to tomorrow afternoon in favor of another video featuring Rachel picking wild greens and weeds for dinner. You’re going to like it.


Just Get Started! (Inspiration from a new gardener)

Today’s post is quite special since it comes from my younger sister. She’s a hard-working mother, wife, and now gardener. I recently saw some of her beautiful gardening pictures and said, “hey Steph – why don’t you share your story?” She graciously agreed to do so and I know her story will inspire those of you who are just jumping in to your own gardening projects. If she can do it with her busy life, you can too!

Delaware garden

Stephanie’s beautiful garden in Delaware

Stephanie’s Story


The fact that I am writing my gardening story, is well… comical.

I hardly consider myself a ‘gardener.”

But before I get into all of that…


My name is Stephanie Brock, I was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, FL. I relocated to Southern Delaware after getting married in 2012.

I have this pretty cool older brother who has always been into gardening. He planted a desire in my heart to get into it myself when I had a little property of my own.


I had never experienced winter before moving up here, call me crazy but I love it.

Something about it makes spring so sweet and the gardening even more special.

Nearly two years ago we bought our current home that has enough space in the back for a little garden. I plunged into research on how to garden, I instantly became overwhelmed and almost talked myself out of it.

I can’t do this!

I’m exhausted!

I have two babies under two!

Blah, blah, blah.

Instead of continuing to research, I decided to do what I do best. Learn hands on and by just getting started. I went to Lowes, bought some dirt and plants and stuck them in the ground – EASY!

Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cilantro, watermelon, and corn (which failed… miserably).

I tried strawberries two years in a row with no real luck. We have broken up and I’ve moved on from them.

On the other hand, my tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers did so well that I ended up giving away a lot of them because we couldn’t eat them all!

13599938_10153759039266586_8975881873685395093_n 13592605_10153759038681586_5253357431730876952_n

Shortly after the garden took off (well most of it) I found out I was pregnant with number three… which meant sickness for the next nine months. The garden got neglected, and eventually turned into compost for this year!

Now I have three babies under three and a beautiful little garden that is full of what I love.

13567423_10153759037521586_7657396521418946616_n 13607037_10153759037441586_6759978044847816887_n

This year it’s greens beans, two types of tomatoes, sunflowers, peppers, and cucumbers. I also have two self-seeded cucumber plants, two self-seeded tomato plants and a watermelon plant that just popped up! 13590428_10153759037316586_1397072093814260133_n

My next step is to learn how to compost, I heard there is a great book out that teaches you how to “Compost Everything.” After that I will add some fruit trees.

But any garden is better than no garden. The more I learn, the more the more addicted I get. It’s like a drug… that makes me money! Ha!

Get outside, and start planting!


*            *             *

My Thoughts

Stephanie’s story mirrors a lot of our gardening experiences. Despite setbacks, she stuck with it and is now reaping the benefits. Her children are learning to grow and eat their own backyard vegetables and despite the challenges of children and pregnancy, she didn’t give up.

Failed strawberries and missing corn are a part of life. You plant what works and you move on. At some point in the future you can always revisit a crop that failed to bear for you and maybe you’ll have better luck… or maybe you won’t.


What you should never do is give up. If you had any idea how many plants I killed during the research for Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, you’d be amazed. We tried a bunch of different tomatoes, we had pathetic failed flint corn, we had fire-ant-ravaged white potatoes… but at the other end of our years of gardening in both beach-sandy South Florida and the brutal heat and nasty freezes of North Florida, we knew exactly what worked and how we could literally haul in piles of food, as the subtitle states. Reviewers have caught onto that as well:

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The same work went into Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening. I tried tools, created habitat for beneficial insects, tried randomly seeding areas with edibles, guerilla grafted fruit scions onto wild trees by the roadside, grew corn without irrigation, bought a wheel hoe, double-dug beds, made deep mulch beds, researched the Back to Eden gardening method, testing Square Foot gardening, planted seeds from the pantry to see what would grow and… eventually… felt pretty darn secure in the knowledge that if a crash occurred and people read my book, they would have a chance to feed themselves.


5 bazillion calories worth of yams

You CAN grow a garden.

If Stephanie can make it happen despite living in a new climate with little children to care for, you can too. (And, by the way, aren’t my niece and nephew the darn cutest kids?)

Finally, I echo her closing statement – get outside and start planting!

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