The Biscayne Times

Aug 03rd
Straight from the Garden PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Shimonski, BT Contributor   
March 2020

The only threat this winter is a cold spell

IPix_YourGarden_3-20t has been another pretty warm winter so far this year. All my plants are doing well. It seems most of them grow better with the cooler nights and daytime temperatures that are not so hot. I did record temperatures one morning in the high 30s, very briefly before sunrise, that caused cold damage signs on a few plants in my garden and on some palms around the city.

When I speak of cold damage, though, I’m not talking about plants that normally go dormant in the winter, either from cold or the dry season, and drop their leaves to perhaps remain without any foliage for a while, even a month or two. That is normal. Some of our tropical trees drop their leaves before hosting their blooms. I saw the bare canopy branches of a Cochlospermum vitifolium full of brightly colored yellow flowers the other day. This is a flowering tree that definitely should be found more often in our dwindling gardens and landscapes.

I’ve been enjoying a constant supply of papaya for the past six months, and my cherry tomatoes are so tasty that they never make it to the kitchen. I eat them outside right off the vine. The tomatoes are grown in a large compost-filled pot.

Well, those tasty tomato plants lost over half their foliage with the cold snap, but at least none of the little green tomatoes had fallen off. It has taken a couple of weeks for the plants to start blooming again so more tomatoes can be produced. I expect these plants to keep fruiting well into the summer months. They are slightly shaded so the intense light and heat of the summer sun will be lessened and not stress the plants so much.

The coffee plant I have been growing for the past couple of years actually had over half its foliage burned from the cold. Since last fall, when it started producing pretty white flowers that would eventually become delightfully red, plump coffee beans, it had been growing vigorously in a large pot in a shaded location. I have wanted to collect all those coffee beans to try my hand at roasting them, but the squirrels seem to be eating them.

The coffee plant has recovered, and I will leave the half-burned leaves on since about half of each leaf is still green with its functional food-making machinery still intact. No need to slow down the plant growth by removing functional leaves.

My papaya definitely took a hit from the cold. I lost my taller plants, but that’s okay since they were getting too tall for my fruit-collecting basket at the end of an extendable pole. The shorter ones are beginning to grow once again, but I think the fruit that was on the plants when the cold hit are going to be stunted. They’ll still ripen and, hopefully, be quite sweet.

One regular fruit that I enjoy out of my garden is the coconut. I have seen a number of coconut palms around the city with fronds that have yellowed from the cold. Some varieties are more vulnerable to cold than others. Mine are pretty tough and didn’t get burned.

The photo that accompanies this article is one of my harvested coconuts that I enjoyed with a recent breakfast. I let the coconuts ripen before removing one or two from the palm. I then slice off one side of the husk to expose but not crack or open the large round seed within the thick husk.

When I want to drink the milk that is within the seed, I will take a wine corkscrew and screw into the seed breaking through the hard shell and into the white “meat” attached to the “shell” and then through that too. I then pull the corkscrew out and insert a stiff stainless-steel straw into the hole. One has to be careful not to push the white meat into the straw. Usually I have to pull the straw out and blow into it to remove the meat, and then eat it, of course.

There is usually enough milk inside the seed to fill a large glass. The milk is quite sweet and delicious; perfect with breakfast or as a refreshing cool drink on a hot day, and I feel comfortable drinking the milk since I use no chemicals in my garden.

What is quite interesting is the insulation the outer husk provides to the seed and its milk. Even on a hot summer day when a coconut is opened, the milk inside will be cool and pleasant to drink.


Jeff Shimonski is an ISA-certified arborist municipal specialist, retired director of horticulture at Parrot Jungle and Jungle Island, and principal of Tropical Designs of Florida. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



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