Fresh for Florida Kids Food Garden

My largest and most exciting project this spring has been the Fresh for Florida Kids Food Garden at the Holland Building, downtown on Calhoun Street.

Here are a couple pictures:

The garden has received a lot of press:
Florida Helps Mom with Age Old Message (Tampa Bay ch 10)
 Commissioner Putnam Opens Fresh for Florida Kids Food Garden (Capital Soup)
Adam Putnam Plants Healthy Eating Gardens in Tallahassee (Sunshine State News)
     Adam Putnam on YouTube
Florida School Garden Program (WCTV)
Learning We've Got to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden (Tallahassee Democrat)

Amy Campbell-Smith at the FL Dept of Ag and Consumer Services (Food, Nutrition, and Wellness) has been doing a superb job of overseeing and writing about the garden.  Here's a sample of one of her fun updates written to her fellow gardeners:

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Kathy Sanders and I were just outside gathering good things from our garden!  There are strawberries, blueberries and a couple peppers on the filing cabinet outside my cubicle, rinsed and ready to eat. Some of the strawberries have been munched on by ants BUT—they are still good to eat. Just cut away the bad parts!

We also noticed the first tomato starting to ripen. It is a pretty yellow and may ripen to red or a beautiful school bus orange. We shall see!

There was a GIANT zucchini that Kathy is taking home. With its size, she may have enough to make 10 loaves of zucchini bread!  Haha!

The elongated eggplants are growing every day. They are not quite big enough to pick yet, but I’ll keep my eye on them for you, Jackie!!!

There are hot and mild peppers galore, so please help yourselves. Monday night, I made stuffed peppers with two green bells from the plant in the mosaic bed (the high bed over towards the picnic tables) and they were delicious. Nothing beats ultra fresh produce in taste or health!

Here's a picture of today’s bounty!  Gorgeous!

We will soon be having a bounty of yellow squash. There are more zucchini forming. I hope they all become the size of Kathy’s prize!

There are tons of cucumber blooms, which means that the cukes themselves aren’t far behind.

The corn in the bed in front has completely tasseled and we saw bumblebees all over the blooms, pollinating the heck out of it. You’ll start to notice tiny ears growing along the sides of the corn stalks before you know it. Then we’ll have to be extra vigilant and keep the squirrels and birds away! The other beds of corn aren’t far behind—everyday they seem to grow another inch or two.

We also picked a family-sizes serving of tender green beans. Once you pick green beans, more and more grow so keep an eye on them. They’re best picked when the beans are about 4 to 5 inches long.

The zipper peas and black-eyes peas are blooming and starting to form pea pods. The soy beans are coming along nicely and a couple of the plants already have tiny flower buds. The potatoes are flowering and working hard to produce their tuberous roots. I noticed a couple okra pods also.

If you poke around in the beds, you’ll notice quite a few ants. What they are doing is “farming” colonies of aphids. The aphids produce what is termed honeydew (no, not melons!), which is the aphids’ waste from munching on the plants. The ants then take the honeydew back to their nests to feed their queens, so that she will perpetuate their colony. It’s very interesting to watch them for a while. The ants were especially prevalent in the lettuces we had planted (which have been removed to make room for more okra plants and herbs).

I’ve seen many ladybugs munching on aphids. Ladybugs are “beneficial” insects in that they consume nothing but naughty aphids. Here’s a picture that my husband took while we were weeding one weekend. 

Here’s also another picture of our resident mockingbird. 

Be careful—Abbey was closely swooped earlier this week when she was enjoying some warm strawberries. I think the bird is getting ready to roost in the trees above the outdoor classroom!

Have a great rest of the week!  Enjoy the garden!


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If you're searching for the movers and shakers behind the scenes who navigated Florida state bureaucracy and had the vision for such a cool garden, you're looking for Robin Safely and Katrice Howell.  Kudos to them.

I'll be in the Fresh for Florida Kids Food Garden every Friday, 4-5pm tending and teaching.  Stop by, lend a hand, ask questions. See you in the garden.  -- Nathan, the Man in Overalls