This week I had the opportunity to visit the Exploration Gardens at the IFAS in Orange County and was inspired by what I saw. Located behind their offices in South Orlando, these gardens are used as a teaching tool for anyone interested in learning about the natural world around them. As an organic vegetable gardener, I gravitated toward the food section first.
From the huge stone-like planters to the rows of hydroponic towers and trellised beans, my mind began to spin with ways I might incorporate some of their ideas into my own garden.
I’ve dabbled in container gardening on my patio, but these are over-the-top-awesome! And while I have a herb garden, I must confess it’s nowhere near as organized as this container of herbs.
At home, my in-ground tomatoes seem happy enough to cling to the strands of twine I’ve stretched out for them. However, the IFAS tomatoes below appear content in their wire frames and trellis netting.
I don’t grow too many green beans, anymore. The family won’t eat them as fast as I can grow them. I do enjoy my sugar snap peas. Of course, they seldom make it out of the garden, because I tend to consume them as “garden snacks.” And since they grow wild and full, they could definitely benefit from this trellis approach to support.
More than fruits and vegetables, the IFAS Exploration Gardens feature formal gardens, flowers of all sorts and sizes, even a variety of trees native to our area. These are learning gardens, and given the right Master Gardener by your side, you could learn what to plant around your home, what goes with ease and what requires an extra effort.
And this contraption. What the heck? Located in the pollinator garden, it’s actually an insect house built to encourage pollinators to fly in, lay their eggs, and hover a while. Ha! Apparently lizards like visiting, too. Probably a host of critters have passed through these nook and crannies. Click on the image below to get a closer look. It’s intricate and very interesting.
The IFAS wetlands garden display is filled with the natural landscape of Florida. Cypress trees thrive in water or soggy soil, as does this grass and variety of plant life.
As you can see, there is much to see, so the next time you’re in Orlando, add this to your “must-do” list of activities. Not only will you delight in the flowers and foliage, you’ll learn something new about the world around you. Win-win!
And I would be remiss if I neglected to include the “hops” garden. Hops, as in, the healthy foundation of beer. The IFAS Exploration Gardens even offer hop harvesting events where you can imbibe some locally brewed beer made from these very crops. How cool is that?
For more information, the next event will be held this Wednesday, November 15, 2017. Check out the IFAS Facebook page for more details!