As I mentioned in my last post, I am pretty thrilled to officially call Orlando home again for the first time in nearly 14 years. I grew up here, only leaving to move north for college and grad school. While I’m fortunate to have some amazing experiences living the northeast, I am happy to be home at last.
In December, I purchased my first home – an 80 year old charmer in College Park – and immediately set to work on turning my dreams for the backyard into reality. Looking back, so much has happened in a short four and half months.
When I started looking for homes in downtown Orlando, I knew a big backyard with potential for installing raised beds or tilling planting space was a must. In the northeast, I was always finding a way to squeeze green out of gray – transforming tiny concrete patios with pots full of flowers and vegetables grown from seed on any sunny windowsill I could find. I’m a BIG proponent of container gardening, and I believe there’s truly endless possibilities with what you can make of a small space if you have the right mindset about it. However, after years of pushing the limits of what small space and urban gardening looked like, I knew I was ready to expand my horizons.
The woman who previously owned my home had a wonderful green thumb and eye for landscape design. I’m fortunate to enjoy the fruits of her labors now, as each flower unfurls in all its glory and the many insects and creatures that call my yard home flock to enjoy it, too. I’ve left much of the work she did intact, adding a few things here and there. There are countless butterflies, beautiful rare moths, bees large and small, and birds – blue jays, cardinals, doves, woodpeckers, hummingbirds – and after observing for weeks, I felt compelled to leave much of that ecosystem untouched.
Probably the biggest and most notable change I made to my outdoor space since moving in was to install a series of large raised beds along the eastern side of my yard. There had been a planting bed there already with eight lovely, free-form Podacarpus shrubs; however, I decided that was the best spot to maximize growing space for cut flowers and veggies (hello, full sun!). In late February, I had the shrubs removed—my childhood neighbor happily gave them a new home in her yard—and in early March, Mr. Robert Bowden, the President and Director of Orlando’s beautiful Harry P. Leu Gardens, paid me a visit to install four 4’x8’26” raised beds in the space. By mid-March, I’d filled the beds with builder’s sand and organic top soil, amended all with compost and natural fertilizer and was ready to roll.
In NJ, I grew more than 30 unique varieties of cut flowers and herbs in a 25’x2’ raised planting space in an entirely concrete backyard. This year, I’ve seeded more than 80 unique varieties, many of which I’ve wanted to grow for years but lacked the space to do so. I’m beyond excited to watch the garden grow, seemingly overnight, and share its trials and (hopefully!) many successes with you here.
Grow on, folks.