GREEN LIVING with Shirley Gun

November is the beginning of Keys growing season

November 8, 2013 

Exotic fruits and vegetables adorn a table during the recent Growfest in the Redland. (Photo by Shirley Gun)

It’s November and time to flex those green fingers once more. In the Keys, planting can start in October, so I finally got my seedlings into my vegetable garden this month.

For the past five years I have had varying degrees of success. I’ve tried a raised bed in three different locations, a grow box and assorted containers on the porch that catch all day sun and prevailing winds, and a discarded wooden box positioned on the sheltered, south side of the house. When the trees and shrubs in my yard were still young, my first year’s raised bed did really well. The surrounding foliage didn’t shade it too much.

When the trees grew, it was time to move the bed, twice. This year, much to my husband’s relief, I decided to abandon the raised vegetable bed and concentrate on container gardening.

So I was delighted when he offered to build me a three-tier stand for the containers. It’s looks like a mini version of stadium seating so that each row of containers can catch the sun without being shaded by the plants in the row in front. He used stair risers purchased from Home Depot, secured them with horizontal supports along the back and legs to allow it to be free standing. Then, he secured 8-foot long boards along each step to make three rows that are 8 feet long and 10 inches deep. I can place several containers along the boards. And, being moveable, I can position the structure wherever it makes sense.

Mid October I drove up to the Miami Fruit & Spice Park to get my seedlings at the second annual GrowFest. Vendors from around the Redlands and Homestead area were selling organic produce, seedlings and offering advice on plants and growing your own. Three Sisters Farm sold excellent yucca bread as well as seedlings. I had a really interesting, but delicious jackfruit curry from Hani’s Mediterranean for lunch and picked up some Tupelo honey from Miguel Bode.

I got my broccoli, gold beets, kale, bell pepper, arugula and tomato seedlings from different vendors, including Bee Heaven Farms. Last weekend I planted them in a mixture of organic potting soil, cow manure and homemade compost in different sized containers on my plant stand and positioned it along the sheltered, south side of the house. Now the waiting and nurturing begins.

November is also the second annual Key West Film Festival, Nov. 13-17. This is especially exciting for me as the festival has partnered with GLEE (Green Living & Energy Education) to screen a showing of “Bag It, Is your Life too Plastic?” on Sunday Nov. 17 at 11 a.m. at the Tropic Cinema in Key West. It is a comedy as well as a documentary and admission is free.

The GLEE Got Your Bags? Florida Keys group will be in the lobby collecting pledges from folks to skip the plastic bag when shopping and use reusable bags as much as possible. In return, festival goers will receive a bag donated by the Key West Film Festival. As a big supporter of reducing waste and litter, I will be there to help spread the message and of course, watch the movie. I’m looking forward to seeing it and learning a thing or two.

Shirley Gun is a member of the Keyswide nonprofit Green Living & Energy Education. She writes about green living and the four Rs — reducing, reusing, recycling and rot (composting). She can be reached at

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