Everything is Growing

Despite the August heat, our first eggplant and pepper seedlings are sprouting in the nursery (they love the heat!) together with broccoli and mini-broccoli, cauliflower–including the new varieties that everyone liked so much last year–kales, tatsoi, cabbages, and many of the others that will start off our 2021/2022 produce season. Which, unlike most of the country, starts in the Fall and runs through Spring. While some days it feels like we spend most of our summer weeding, we’ve actually had much more going on. We had a record harvest of fruits, including pineapples, bananas, mangos, sugar baby watermelons, mulberries, surinam cherries, and passionfruit. Our cover crop of cowpeas (for soil improvement) has been cut, dropped, and the fields mulched, letting the remains of the plants, the mulch, and the hot rainy weather work their magic. 

This summer we’ve planted a variety of sub-tropical and tropical fruit and spice plants, including real coffee (arabica), black pepper vine, cacao (chocolate), vanilla (an orchid), culinary luffah squash, two new varieties of carambola (starfruit), a lemon tree, and a variety of butterfly-attracting plants in our new butterfly garden area around the pergola. We thank the folks who donated cuttings from their own interesting specimens, those who donated whole plants (especially those for our butterfly garden), and the donors who provided the funds that allowed us to purchase some interesting new fruit and spice trees. Peanuts, roselle, sweet potatoes, a wide variety of herbs, and okra round out our summer plantings. 

Our GrowCity leaders—drawn from teens who completed our 12-week GrowCity Youth program over the past year or so—spent April and May with us working in the garden and advancing their management skills as paid interns. It was so fun suggesting ideas for the garden and then watching projects come to life as our teens formed teams, made their plans, and then executed them. A few of these projects: building a series of four new 10-by-4-ft. raised bed gardens along the front of the garden (and planting them), propagating and planting out lemongrass for our upcoming season, building and placing trellises for new plantings, preparing an area of the garden for our first “earthing” event at the garden, leading many, many garden tours, and (not least) working for several weeks with Chris and Sunny on pretty much all phases of building the garden’s amazing new chickee. 

The garden relies heavily on our amazing volunteers. Whether you want to come out occasionally to work with us on our monthly Volunteer Work Days (the third Saturday morning of each month), more frequently like our weekly volunteers who come out for a few hours to help, or all the way up to our adult intern program of six scheduled hours per week, we would love to see you! There are always a range of projects that may connect with your particular interests — get in touch with us and come out for a garden tour to see what we do! (Our adult interns receive a share of vegetables and greens in recognition of their critical help planting, taking care of plants, and harvesting for our CSA program and produce donations.)

Speaking of our CSA program, we will start taking reservations for our Garden Shares, Large Garden Shares, and Leafy Greens Shares over the next few weeks. Unlike many CSA and “buying club” programs, every single item in our baskets is grown at the Fruitful Field locations in Pompano – super-fresh, super-local, and super-flavorful. Our subscribers choose a pick-up day and location, then stop by our gardens to pick up a basket each week throughout our November through March/April season. If you are interested in being on our list to get more info regarding our garden shares, please e-mail tracyd@thefruitfulfield.org; we’ll send more info shortly. 

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Our New CSA Season is Growing – Reserve Your Share

Here at TFF, we can’t believe it’s already the beginning of the growing season. Even in these late-summer 90-degree days, tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings—as well as kales, cabbages, colorful swiss chards, broccolini, cauliflower, and more—are growing nicely in the nursery. And by the way, all these happy growing plant babies are housed in the new, larger, stronger, beautiful nursery we built over the summer with our stalwart (and apparently heat-proof) summer volunteers! (A large thank-you to the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation for making the new nursery possible.)

We are now in the process of building nursery tables (using a timely donation of decking boards from Home Depot). As we finish each new table, we quickly fill it with newly seeded trays. Two favorites of our CSA members—the first plantings of spicy, peppery arugula and “supreme” salad greens—went into garden rows this week for harvest in October. Chris and our volunteers prepped rows in a second field area for the first planting of TFF’s tasty green beans later this week.

We are gearing up for our best season of veggies, greens, and community yet

We hope you’ll join us this season for our CSA program. It’s a win-win for everyone. Our subscribers, who purchase a Buy/Give Share, pick up a basket of flavorful, nutritious, freshly harvested and hyper-local produce each week, at the same time supporting our produce donations to local food pantries and soup kitchens. Everything in our shares is grown right here at the Fruitful Field and in most cases is harvested just hours before our subscribers pick it up. For details and to reserve a share, click on the “Garden Shares” tab in the black navigation bar above. You can sign up and reserve your share now; share pickups start the beginning of November.

Join us for our Socially Distanced Open House/CSA Season Launch Sept. 12

We invite you to stop by the garden for our (socially distanced) open house/CSA season launch (Sept. 12, 9:30-11:30 a.m.) Come see what our amazing (and apparently heat-proof) volunteers have accomplished over the summer — including the incredible new mural painted by former garden intern Tina Van Zwol and family. It’s the perfect time to tour the garden, sign up for your CSA share (if you haven’t already) and meet a few of our GrowCity Youth interns.

A few notes

  • As long as COVID is an issue, we will provide CSA shares in grab-and-go bags, with contactless pickup options (placed directly in your car trunk, if you like). As always, you are welcome to walk the garden paths (in a socially-distanced sort of way), bring children and family, and so forth. The garden is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. (If you’d like to get your hands dirty, you can also volunteer—we can always find a garden task to suit your individual or family needs.)
  • We will offer a new CSA share pick-up location this season in Pompano at our second site, the Patricia Davis Community Garden near Blanche Ely High School (Wednesday afternoon/evenings).
  • If you are interested in a Hollywood pick-up option, please let us know. We have a subscriber who is willing to take shares south for pickup in East Hollywood.

We hope you’ll stop by and see how TFF is growing! We’ve missed seeing our garden family over the hot months of summer!


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A Summer of Building

Noah, one of our summer volunteers, and I plucked two ripe figs from our Brown Turkey fig tree, tore them open to see the glistening pink and white flesh, and then popped them, still warm from the sun, into our mouths. If you’ve had a fig this way, there is simply no comparison to those from the grocery store. Perhaps part of the joy is the surroundings, that indefinable “fig” smell of the fig leaves and fruits, and the satisfaction of looking around our newly cleaned-up food forest area.  

We’ve had a busy summer so far fixing things, tidying up areas of the garden that haven’t seen enough attention over the past few years, and building the infrastructure that we need for what we expect to be our busiest and most production season yet. 

Here’s a little of what we’ve been doing

Mending fences. Our executive director Chris worked with Charles from Parkway United Methodist mending fences around the property, many of which had been damaged since Hurricane Irma. This is a critical step forward in securing the property for the safety of our teens, our community gardeners, visitors, volunteers, and staff. Gates to the garden are now open only when TFF or Parkway staff are on the property. Visitors and walkers are welcome — just come during our open hours.

Tidying up the food forest. With our GrowCity Youth back in the month of June to complete their Spring session (split up over the week into groups of 4 or 5 teens each), we’ve been able to make a lot of progress. They’ve weeded, mulched, trimmed back branches that were encroaching on the fruit trees, and redefined many of the garden paths that had all but disappeared. Even in the shade, it was hot work. 

Expanding plantings

  • Growing our pineapple field from about a dozen plants to nearly 100, with Pepe’s expert assistance. (It’s been a great year for our pineapple harvest, as well!)
  • Creating another new area for bananas and renewing our existing banana circles (Pepe, again).
  • Expanding lemongrass plantings to cover a dry, weedy, hilly space where we’d not previously been successful in growing anything. The planting is thriving. 
  • Lots of propagation of existing fruits, herbs, and other plants, for planting later in the summer and fall — great lessons in starting cuttings, divisions, and air layering with our adult interns and GrowCity Youth! 
  • And this week, planting sweet potatoes for fall harvest. Our GrowCity teens took cuttings, potted them up in the nursery for a week to start roots, prepared the rows, mulched and laid drip tape, and planted the cuttings they had started.  

And then there are the big projects

Amazing volunteers (and roommates) Noah and Julian brought their power tools and devoted several days to rebuilding the community plots with new, taller, wooden raised beds with lumber donated by our local Home Depot store. It’s a sight to see, and with more of our community gardeners caring for their plots, we are also seeing more happy plants growing than usual at this point in the year. 

Our big project for the month of July is building a new seedling nursery. As many of you already know, our original hoop-house nursery no longer receives enough sunlight for efficient seed-starting due to the fast growth of the many Australian pine trees nearly. After talking to a few of our local arborists, it was determined that trying to cut down — or even cut back — these huge trees was not really an option at this time, so we made the decision to build a new, slightly larger seedling nursery closer to the community plots, where it will receive sunlight all day. (Many thanks to the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation for making the new nursery possible.)

The old hoop-house still has an important role to play. Now that we’ve cleared out the entire space we plan to use it as a nice gathering/seating space that will take advantage of its pleasant, shaded location. (At least once we are able to “gather together” again.) Chris, Noah, Julian, and Pastor Jim from Parkway United Methodist removed all of the old, rotted wood from the back of the church’s storage shed and refaced it with new lumber, painted it white, and we’re hoping to soon have a garden-oriented mural there. Our few still-usable nursery tables have been moved to a temporary summer nursery under the little hoop-house in our West Rows, where they are nearly filled with our summer’s propagation projects — pots of mint started from cuttings from many different varieties, oreganos, marjoram, rosemary, lavender, pigeon pea seedlings, luffa squash, air-layered mulberry trees, passion fruit, malabar spinach, and more. 

As we head into July, we’ve got a lot yet to do, but we’ve made a lot of progress. It doesn’t seem possible, but in not much more than a month we’ll be starting seeds for a new CSA season of veggies, greens, and herbs. We hope you’ll join us in whatever fashion suits you best — as a CSA subscriber, volunteer, intern, community gardener, GrowCity teen, or garden supporter/donor. 

If you haven’t been out to see the garden for a while, come visit and see what we’ve been doing! (Summer open hours: 9 a.m. to noon every day except Thursday and Sunday.) 

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Bug Hunt

This gallery contains 14 photos.

Insects are everywhere in the garden, but, as our GrowCity Youth discovered on Saturday morning’s Bug Hunt, that’s not all bad news. Some are beneficial, acting as natural predators to our less-favored garden pests (like that very pretty cabbage looper that wants to eat all of the broccoli). Others help with pollination. We are especially fond of our garden spiders, which set up webs in among the tomato plants and catch stinkbugs. As it turns out, our GrowCity Youth are pretty good bug hunters, too! Continue reading

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A big Thank You to our Volunteers!

While summer is officially over and school has begun here in South Florida, here at the garden the early September subtropical heat is still brutal. Our nursery is filling up with seedlings; we’re preparing our fields for new plants, and the new season is beginning! We’d like to take a few minutes, though, to thank all the hard work by our GrowCity Youth, our adult interns, and our garden volunteers throughout the spring and summer.

Even throughout much of the summer heat, our adult interns came out to keep our garden growing. Alta weeded the mint patch and prepared the herb garden for its summer covering of mulch. Dom trimmed back the tall grasses and weeds to make our garden paths visible and helped Pepe clear and plant a new banana circle. Wis divided and relocated clumps of lemongrass. Pepe and Pilar watered our fruit trees and our few summer crops — eggplants, okra, a few habaneros, sweet potatoes, seminole pumpkins, and our herbs.  

Our Volunteers are Amazing 
The garden would not exist without our amazing volunteers. Our 2018-2019 season adult interns (Alta, Dom, Kyshali, Will, Wis, and Sunny) spent six hours each week with us throughout the season, providing much of the labor needed to plant, grow, and harvest the garden, while learning about growing veggies, greens, and herbs in the challenging conditions of South Florida. We also thank those who came out to weed with us, water seedlings and baby transplants, move mulch, engineer and troubleshoot our aquaponics area, and those who spread the word about the garden within our community. (If you’d like to join us as a volunteer or adult intern, please contact Tracy or Chris.)

We’d especially like to thank five groups who came out for Saturday summer work days over the past few months, making a huge difference:

• Adults, children, and CSA folks joined our GrowCity Youth for a morning of lopper, bow saw, and machete work eliminating exotic invasive on the garden property — and discovering all kinds of interesting insects along the way.

• Florida House alumni (pictured above) brought a large group out to the garden to cut down brush and pull invasive vines out of the trees along the edge of the garden.

• Volunteers from Christ Church in Pompano’s On Mission Together program weeded and cleared the GrowCity Youth field, pulling spent crops, weeds, and expanding the garden area to add more space for growing greens and veggies next season. 

• Our May Saturday workday group prepared a field, added drip-tape irrigation, moved many, many wheelbarrows of mulch, and planted a field of seminole pumpkins. 

• Our June Saturday workday volunteers made amazing progress in the start of an entirely new field area. They pulled and dug weeds taller than they were, trimmed back brush and invasive vines, and created a beautiful new space for our fall planting of tomatoes. We celebrated by enjoying TFF summer fruits together — bananas, mangos, figs, june plums, and the very first fruits from our cashews!

Come out and join us Saturday, September 21, for our first Volunteer Workday of the new 2019-2020 season at the Fruitful Field (9 a.m. to noon).

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Spring Thing — Come Out This Saturday, March 16, to Celebrate Spring

Our vegetable season may be nearing an end, but we have many reasons to celebrate. We’re holding an open house at the Garden, 9:30-noon Saturday, March 16. Come see how the garden greets spring and meet our GrowCity Youth, beekeepers, adult interns, garden volunteers, and more. GrowCity Youth interns will be providing tours of the garden and demonstrating their public speaking skills at different points throughout the morning. We are planning a bug hunt for kids around 9:45 and a bee demonstration around 10:45. Enjoy coffee, garden lemongrass tea, learn to make “mock-tails” featuring garden ingredients, and enjoy hammer dulcimer music. Our own honey, greens, and maybe some other local treats will be available for purchase. You can also plan to stay for lunch — members of Parkway United Methodist Church will be cooking a fresh fish lunch incorporating some our garden produce, available for purchase immediately following the garden event. We look forward to seeing you! 

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