Karin Fields, better known as The Edible Garden Gal, is a well established and accomplished tropical gardener who has been successfully harvesting in South Florida for over 20 years. While she technically resides in Ft. Lauderdale, she is very active at UFI, Urban Farming Institute, here in Oakland Park. She also consults and manages local urban clients such as the Wilton Metropolitan community garden.
Karin Fields: The Edible Garden Gal
South Florida presents gardeners who harvest food with a unique set of obstacles. From a narrow growing season (Don’t bother planting most food in the summer) to battling multiple pests, Karin has found successful ways to grow in our temperamental climate.
“I used to be all about organic. I’ve since changed my mind. I strongly recommend starting with conventional methods.” Karin’s first published book, Growing Organic in the Tropics, was chock-full of organic methods. She now urges newbies to use Scott’s Soil and not focus too much on organic when starting out. Karin helps local residents begin and tend to their very own gardens. Along with celebrity clients such as Tori Spelling.
Now more than ever, people are taking on backyard gardening, spending more time at home, and realizing that growing their own food is just downright safer and healthier. “People hear the word organic, but the word you should be looking for is local,” Karin says. Science seems to back her up. A University of California study has shown that vegetables can lose 15 to 55 percent of vitamin C within a week. Some spinach can lose 90 percent within the first 24 hours of harvest. So what are really consuming?
Homegrown Fruits at the Table
We sit at her table over two iced cups of moringa tea, homegrown. Moringa leaves boast many nutritional properties. “I go out and harvest the moringa from my backyard, I know that I’m doing something good and healthy for myself.” Anyone can do this, they just need to know how to start; keep it simple”
Karin then asks me if I’ve ever tried miracle fruit. I haven’t, so she brings me two small miracle fruits and two slices of lemon. I pop the small, tart fruit in my mouth. It’s a bit tart, but pleasant. Karin watches my face with amusement. “Now”, she says, “take a bite of the lemon.” To my surprise, the lemon is not the least bit sour. In fact, it tastes sweet.
The miracle fruit changes your sense of taste. Making almost anything sweeter to the palette for at least an hour. She goes on to tell me that the miracle fruit is used to help cancer patients who may have suppressed appetites. Who knew such fruit could be grown right here in South Florida? That is what Karin sets out to do. Make gardening fun.
It’s no surprise Karin is also active in installing and assisting schools such as Dillard High School and Little Flower Montessori School. “Seeing children pull a carrot from the ground for the first time is priceless.” She adds, “Do it for your family, for your community. People now more than ever need to be self-sustaining.”
Best Practices for Beginners
To summarize, Karin’s best practices include:
- Keep it simple;
- Don’t start in the summer;
- Don’t focus on organic in the beginning. Learn the basics and set yourself up for success first. After some time, you can begin organic practices should you wish;
- Compost. Create your own compost, Karin does not use any fertilizers because she’s created a healthy compost for her soil.
For those interested in Karin’s services, her website is The Edible Gardening Gal. Her newest book, Edible Gardening in the Tropics, is available at the Miami-Dade Library, as well as for sale on her website.
Now is the time to start planning your Fall/Winter Florida garden. Don’t know where to start? Karin would like to recommend the following resources to the community: