Edible landscapes popping up in Central Florida

Fleet Farming helps residents grow fruit, vegetable gardens

ORLANDO, Fla. – Lately, it seems more and more people are getting into gardening, but they aren't just planting flowers or bushes.

It's more about growing salad greens, fruit and produce that are typically sold at the supermarket. If you've ever wanted to try it out, but don't know how to start your own vegetable garden, a Central Florida organization is here to help.

"What we try to do is teach people how to grow really easy crops. A lot of the crops are from the Caribbean islands, so yuca, chia, papayas and bananas -- those are really easy fruit trees that you can grow," Lee Perry, program director of Fleet Farming, said.

The program, Edible Landscapes, sends installers to your home or business to create a vegetable garden where all you have to do is take a few steps and pick your vegetables.

For the company, it's also a way to provide food for struggling families and creating a healthier lifestyle.

"As much as it is about the convenience of having produce in your own backyard, it's also just about trying to increase food security for the city," Fleet Farming coordinator Greg Noonan said.

Fleet Farming installer Samuel Sickles said this method is also beneficial for the environment.

"When we're growing food locally, hyperlocally -- even in our front lawns -- we can eat food that has no environmental impact, very small environmental impact," Sickles said.

Edible Landscapes can be seen outside the recovery ward at Florida Hospital in Winter Park. The produce there goes straight to the kitchen and patients and staff can take a stroll and pick a thing or two from the garden and add it to their meals.

"Besides just having a nice place to walk through, we have different greens, we have different herbs, tomatoes and basil, papayas. What's even more exciting than that is, we can actually take the produce from this garden and they can use it in their programs in different capacities," Noonan said.

Our own News 6 anchor, Lisa Bell, was interested in growing her own food, so she started her own vegetable garden, but she says it wasn't quite successful at first.

"We had a few carrots, a few green beans, a little bit of lettuce maybe one tomato, but I clearly do not have a green thumb," Bell said.

She called Fleet Farming for help.

"We have cilantro, we have peppers, we have dill, we have cucumbers," Bell said.

Anyone who thinks it's difficult to maintain a vegetable garden will be surprised at how easy it can be.

"So we design our systems to be as low maintenance as possible. So the drip line irrigation system is set up on a timer, so it runs -- you don't have to worry about it even if you leave your house for a few days," Sickles said.
"For kids knowing where their food comes from, appreciating where their food comes from, I think that's so important. It's gotten them very interested in vegetables and wanting to sample new vegetables," Bell said.

Fleet Farming offers free educational events they call "Swarm Rides" three times a month that allow community members to be engaged and support their mission. It's also a way to learn more about how to grow your own food. For more information, click here.

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