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Young Umatilla Permaculturist Showing The Way

Young Umatilla Permaculturist Showing The Way

    Imagine going out your home's door to pick a fresh bag of fruit and vegetables to eat daily. Now imagine those items are packed with nutrition, vitamins, minerals, and natural immune system boosting elements that no store offers. Sound pretty good?
    We visited such a garden in a most unexpected place this week. Nestled 1,000 yards or less from the shores of Lake Umatilla, in a shady oak hammock, we stepped into a lush food forest brimming with tropical and sub-tropical plants. This is no everyday garden, in fact, upon first glance, it looked more like a jungle than something being cultivated on purpose. This amazing garden is the ongoing project of Umatilla native, Eli Reed.
    Four years ago, this exotic project was all started with a family favorite, scorpion peppers. Eli inherited a green thumb and love of horticulture from his grandfather, who also liked to grow tomatoes and peppers.
    One thing led to another and after many views of a wide range of Youtube channels & gardeners that liked to post about sustainable gardening, agroforestry, permaculture, and non-traditional growing styles, Eli's garden started to take shape, and what a shape!
    This morning we took a tour for 2 1/2 hours, it is a bit of a teaching garden these days where he shows people hands-on results of his unique approach to gardening. While talking about cover crops, he can dig down in the soil and show visitors the rich black soil that is constantly perking in his garden, despite droughts and sugar sand. The moisture in the soil and biodiversity present in his garden speaks for itself. While explaining how you can grow pineapples in partial shade, he reaches down and picks a five-pound, sweet juicy pineapple from seemly out of the weeds.
    Everything in the yard has a purpose and is either fixing nitrogen, being used to provide shade for tender plants, blocking weeds, is being grown to chop and drop for fertilizer and mulch for other plants, or is producing vegetation or fruit. Even the flowers in his garden are workhorses, like the passion flowers vines that have attracted tons of zebra longings to his yard or the milkweed that is serving as a host plant for the monarchs that are fluttering around. Pollinators such as hummingbirds are also frequent flyers in his forest and can be seen buzzing from tree to tree doing their pollination chores.
    What does it all add up to? Tons of produce, herbs, fruit trees and bushes, and medicinal plants are all growing on a normal size city lot. The soil and yard space are nothing special, originally sugar sand in an oak-shaded lane, but today they are a truly unique ecosystem producing a bounty of good things for his family and friends.
    While visiting the garden, we took 10 pages of notes, we couldn’t write fast enough, but that is an overwhelming amount of information to share here, so we will just highlight some of what he is able to grow in his family’s yard. Currently growing are 35 species of bananas from praying hands to blue bananas, sapodilla fruit trees, mangos, papaya fruit trees, Mexican sunflower, Seminole Indian pumpkins, black pepper, Red Himilayan mulberries, sweet potatoes, pineapples, Thai basil, Katuk sweet leaf peas, guava, allspice, starfruit, Everglades tomatoes, edible hibiscus, Miracle Fruit Berries (Synsepalum dulcificum), Sugar apples, Strawberry Tree (Muntingia calabria), Tabasco peppers, Brazilian spinach,  Moringa Oleifera trees (you eat the leaves and seeds) and on and on.
    We could never explain the layered approach of planting here adequately, but it suffices to say from the canopy to the ground cover, this garden is the real deal. Per square foot, it is power-packed and very efficient. We were sent home with miracle berries from his garden to try. We first had to try a sour-root orange and then chewed a miracle berry. The berry makes everything you eat for the next 2 hours taste super sweet, even an old sour root orange.  Who would’ve believed that?
    In his free time, Eli also rescues bees that are unwanted and makes hives to share with farmers and to cultivate for honey production, it is all connected in a circle of self-reliance that gives his garden its growing powers. He recommends checking out videos by Paul Gautschi: Back to Eden Gardening Documentary, Florida Foraging with expert Matthew Reece on Youtube, Lonnie Reid Agroforestry: The Reid Farm Foods and others on edibles in your yard. Search central and north central Florida edibles.
    To learn more, contact Eli for a private consultation session at (352) 445-2761 or find him on Facebook at Reedsbeesandtrees or on Instagram @Reedsbeesandtrees. He has a wealth of knowledge and information.
    Remember, grow what you can, and share with friends who are getting started. Once again, my thanks for the beautiful garden pictures you all share; keep them coming. Please send us pictures of your blooming plants and garden projects to hollynewby1@aol.com or mail them to P.O. Box 1099, Umatilla, FL 32784. We love to share the fun in the garden with others. Keep growing…