21 September 2022

Protect Your Summer Garden with an Inexpensive DIY Sun Shade

During the heat of summer, a sun shade may protect your garden plants. Here's an inexpensive DIY version that I tried.

Living in gardening zone 9b, I've learned that July and August are not good for growing crops. Even heat loving vegetables can slow or stop producing as the sun that beats down on them daily. No amount of watering can compensate for the brutal sun. 

Shade, however, can offer some relief. Please understand that this won't let you grow crops that northern friends grow with ease during the summer. What it can do is help keep plants alive and prevent damage to produce.

My Garden Needed Relief From The Sun

The off-season for gardening in Florida is the heat of the summer. July and August are not good times to grow things. Plants that produced well during the spring may still be alive, but production is diminished.

My garden is on the patio between my house and garage. It is south facing, and enclosed with a privacy fence and the concrete walls of the garage and house. During the summer, it gets hot in that area.

This year I noticed that my bell peppers, which normally love the summer sun and heat, were getting sunscald. I needed to do something.

One solution is to put up sun shade. The idea intrigued me, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money until I could tell if it helped or not. When I found this article, I knew I had a place to start.

My Sun Shades

I purchased several yards of nylon netting, cut it to (more-or-less) fit over the raised beds, and tied the corners to bamboo sticks inserted in the beds. 

Fenced in area containing raised beds and container plants. Over the raised beds are pieces of nylon net tied to bamboo poles inserted into the raised beds.


  • It was inexpensive
  • It was easy to set up
  • It was easy to take down when summer storms blow through

Close up of the nylon net tied to a bamboo pole placed in the raised bed.


  • It didn't cover the entire bed. I will need to get longer bamboo poles and put them in the ground outside the bed for better coverage.
  • It wasn't enough to protect all my plants - my green beans shriveled and died even with the sun shade (to be fair, I planted them much too late so they probably wouldn't have made it anyway)
  • It isn't the prettiest look (although my garden is behind fencing, so only my husband and I see it.

Raised garden bed with nylon mesh over it, held up by bamboo poles.

Overall Impression of my DIY Sun Shades

For taller plants, like my everglades tomato, I need taller poles. This also means that other things may not get enough protection, but careful planning of where I plant in the raised beds could mitigate that.

For other containers, I'm going to have to come up with a way to cover them. 

Will I Use Them Again?

Absolutely! My bell peppers, while still small due to the heat, did not have any more sun scald. 

I plan to buy more nylon netting and cut it to better fit over my raised beds. What I used this year can be cut down to place on container plants. 

I was late putting it up this year - mid-July - and want to try it earlier next summer.

If you notice sun damage on plants in your garden, give this easy and inexpensive DIY sun shade a try and see how it works for you.

02 July 2022

Tour of Zone 9b Urban Garden June 2022

A garden update for June 2022. I live in Zone 9b, Florida, have an urban, container garden.

The garden is going well this year. After taking out the hot tub and putting two raised beds in the space, there is a lot more room to grow things this year.

Which is good because my husband made a trip to Home Depot in March and came back with six bell pepper plants and six tomato plants of different varieties! The peppers went in one of the beds, while I continue to put tomatoes in smaller containers so they can be moved around. They don't do well under the worst of the Florida sun and I try to find places with a bit of shade for them.

Here's what the garden looks like in June 2022.

You can see much of the garden in this photo. In the raised bed nearest the camera, the flowering plant hanging over is a penta. There were two of them and they outgrew the space, so I moved one to the other raised bed.
In the tomato cage are a couple of everglades tomatoes. You may not be familiar with that variety. They are very small - smaller than a cherry tomato - but they do well in the Florida heat and humidity. I planted the seeds last fall, but they didn't germinate until earlier this year. I often pick 6-8 a day and find them a fun snack or addition to a salad.
There is also some celery in there. I planted it last fall and it did not do much, and I am shocked it has not completely died in the heat. Hasn't gotten big enough to really do anything with other than add flavor to cooked dishes, but I still have seeds and will try again this fall.
At the far end green beans trying to grow. I've had pretty good luck growing them in containers, but the ones I planted earlier this year in the raised bed did not do well. I realized that in this size raised bed, they need more water. That has helped, but I believe I need to get some shade cloth for them as well.  

The container with the blooming flowers next to the wall is Purple Opal Basil. I received the seeds free with an order from Baker Creek in 2020 and have been thrilled how well it grows here.

On the other side are containers with bell peppers I grew from seed, turmeric, amaranth with some of the tomatoes my husband bought, and a couple of the hanging baskets that were on the ground for a good watering.

Between the beds is a container with New Zealand spinach. This is not a true spinach, but a green that does grow well in my climate. I try to sow seeds every month or so to enjoy these in salads and on sandwiches. You can't tell, but there are also three loquat trees in there. I sprouted the seeds this spring, and am going to move them to larger containers.

Loquat is also known as Japanese Plum. The fruit is smaller than most plums, and has several large seeds in it. It blooms in January and the fruit is ready to pick in February and March.

I sprouted a seed about five years ago. That tree is over five feet tall and I am looking for a place to plant it in our yard.

Close up of a bell pepper on one of the plants I grew from seed.

The other raised bed is where I planted the six pepper plants my husband bought. They have done fantastic! The first peppers I harvested were from the plants I grew from seed, but these have surpassed them. We are about to the point of calling friends and asking if they want any, as well as freezing some. We made stuffed peppers last weekend using peppers we grew. Very satisfying.

I also grow purslane in that bed, another green I add to salads and put on sandwiches, as well as calendula and a few coreopsis that grew from seeds left from last year's plant.

And, I have peanuts growing in there! This wasn't what I had planned, but when neighbors put out peanuts for the squirrels, who then bury them in my garden, what can I do? If the peanut sprouts, I put it in the bed. I did this last year in a couple of small containers and actually grew peanuts. 

Wouldn't it be fun to make my own peanut butter from peanuts I grew?!?

One of the tomato plants my husband bought. It has done really well, and there are 8-10 tomatoes on there. I have already harvested a few as they have begun to turn color. As you can tell from the leaves, it is getting stressed in the Florida summer sun. Once I pick the tomatoes on there, I'll pull the plant.
NOTE: When should you harvest tomatoes? I always thought you should leave them on the vine until they are red and fully ripe. As tomatoes began turning this year, I lost a number of them to some critter or critters who would peck a hole or take a bite. This was only in the containers that had cages on them, so I think they were using the cage to get to them. 
To get more of my harvest, I began to pick them as soon as they were obviously changing color and let them ripen in front of a window.
Then I came across this Reel on Instagram on the best time to pick tomatoes. Turns out, I was doing the right thing! 
Who knew vine-ripened was just a marketing ploy? 

Along the west fence are (from the back) lemongrass, sage, moringa, and two containers with sweet potatoes.

Along this side of the fence are mainly ornamental and flowering plants - cannas, aloe vera, geraniums, and more hanging baskets of airplane plants.

Summer has definitely arrived here. In fact, it arrived in mid-May, which is early for us. So far, most things are hanging in there - the bell peppers thrive in this weather - but the next month will see the last of these tomato plants. Hopefully the green beans will come through. I'm going to buy some nylon netting to use as a shade cloth during the heat of the day. Once I set that up and see how it works, I'll have a post on that.

How is your garden growing this time of year?

Have you downloaded my free Plant Information Sheet? Print out as many copies as you need so you can record the growing, harvesting, and using information for everything you grow. Click here to learn more and get your copy.

02 June 2022

Cup Up Meat to Freeze

Buy meat on sale, cut into different pieces and freeze. An easy way to fill your freezer while learning a new skill.

This is a simple tip, but I want to share to encourage others to try it for themselves. I buy a pork roast on sale. I cut it in half. One half we cook in the crock-pot with vegetables. It gives us at least two meals.

Two pieces of uncooked port roast on a blue tray.

The other half, I cut into pork chops. 

Half of a pork roast left whole with other half cut into pork chops, all sitting on a blue tray.

Put in freezer bags and store in the freezer. I use vacuum bags so all the air is removed, helping prevent freezer burn. I haven't kept a record, but we usually eat things within a couple of months of freezing, and so far, have not had an issue with freezer burn.

Yes, we could buy pork chops on sale and freeze them. In fact, we did that for several years. But cutting our own lets us choose the thickness we prefer. 

This also works with other meat. Buy a whole chicken and cut it apart. Buy large cuts of pork or beef and divide up as you need them. This teaches you how to cut the meat apart, making your more self-reliant.

Don't wait until you are out to buy more. When you have some left, or the meat goes on sale again, repeat the process. This lets you gradually fill your freezer without a big hit to the budget.

08 October 2021

Vegetable Broth - Cooking With Scraps

Instead of throwing out vegetable scraps, leftover vegetables, and other bits and pieces, turn them into a broth to use in your cooking. 

This practice has several benefits. You save money. You produce less that needs to be thrown out. And you know where your food has come from.

Vegetable Broth from Scraps

Watch the video then scroll down for more detailed instructions.

Please note - this article may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small compensation at no additional cost to you.

What to Save

Whenever you peel a potato or carrot, when you cut the ends off celery or squash or snap the ends off beans or peas, you probably throw that away. I did for years. Somewhere in my mind, however, I thought there must be a way to use these cast-off bits.

Saving Vegetable Scraps

Image of smiling woman holding a clear plastic bag filled with vegetable scraps.

One way is to save them in the freezer. When you fill a bag or two, you have enough to make the broth. How much you need depends on what size pot you have and how much space you have to store the broth.

Making the Broth

Stockpot with frozen vegetables in it sits on a stovetop.

Dump saved vegetable scraps into a pot large enough to hold the vegetables and water. Cover and turn to low-to-medium heat. As vegetables begin to thaw, use a spoon to break them apart. Once they are broken apart, add water until about halfway up the side of the pot. 

Silver metal stockpot with lid sits on a stovetop.

Cover and let simmer about 45 minutes. 

Vegetable scraps simmering in a large metal stockpot.

It will look something like this when it is done.

Strain the Broth

Woman holds a metal strainer over a pot as the broth drains into it.

Now it is time to strain the broth. I begin with a large strainer to get the pieces of vegetables and peels. Then I pour it through a finer strainer to catch more bits and pieces.  

The broth in a white bowl with handle.

The broth is now ready to use just as you would any broth you bought. I like to use it to season rice and to make mushroom gravy to serve with pork chops.

Saving the Broth

If you save a bag or two of vegetable scraps, you will get a lot of broth when you make it. To save it, you could can it or you can freeze it, which I prefer.  It is easy to pull out and thaw whenever I need some.

Woman pours broth into a blue freezer tray.

I like to freeze mine in an ice cube tray. When frozen, pop it out and put in a freezer storage bag.

I originally used an ice cube tray, each section holding about 1/3 cup of liquid. I recently purchased a freezer tray from Souper Cubes. I got the 1-cup size, which is the amount I often find I need. I love them, and realize I need a second tray!

Use whatever size container you have available. Be sure to fill it with water to know how much it will hold so you know how many of them you will need when cooking.

That's all there is to it! You can add seasonings when you cook the broth, but I prefer not to so I can season whatever I use it with.


I have also found that when you use a lot of celery scraps, it smells overwhelmingly of celery while it is cooking. The taste, however, is not of celery. 

I've read where others suggest NOT using asparagus or tomatoes in a vegetable broth. I've never tried either, so I can't comment. 

When you strain out the vegetables, compost them if you can. They are cooked and should break down fast. 

If you have any questions, leave a comment. If you try it, let me know!