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The Healthy Life: Tropical Gardening in Naples, Florida

Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2014

pineapple classic drawing

I am nearing the end this season’s organic pineapples grown in our backyard garden in Naples. Just in time for the December holidays these four pound sugar filled wonders will be a great desert option for our family friends over the holidays.
In the land by the Gulf where there has never been a recorded freeze our growing season is 365 days a year – although we give our plants a break in December, January and February. Our guests are usually surprised at the organic fruit, vegetables and exotics you can grow fairly easily right here in Naples. Here is the short list of what we have growing right now: key lime, orange, mango, avocado, loquat, lychee, surinam cherry, strawberry guave, coffee, banana, rosemary, jubuticaba, grumichama, cocoa , custard apple, pineapple, and tropical peach. I have yet to plan the rest of fall herbs.

You really do not need a lot of space. I do not have a big yard, just a lot of fun plants stuffed in here and there. Most people here can plant quite a nice garden here and enjoy many years of organic fruit and veggies.

grey hummingbird

(hummingbirds migrate through our garden but do not stay long: wikipedia)
The other day our good friends were over sitting on the back Lanai and made mention of our garden and wanted the “tour.” My wife rolled her eyes because my tours can take a while as I get a little carried away with all things botanical these days. I kept the tour mercifully brief and my guests were patient enough to go along with my ramblings.

I guess I have taken for granted – again – all the fun of the garden and the unbelievable privilege it is to work outside in the dead of winter. I thought I would share some thoughts on tropical gardening here in Naples, Florida with you this morning.

hummingbird clearwing moth

(this weird creature is actually a moth and helps pollination: wikipedia)

Seven years ago when I left the world of global full-contact business consulting never would I have imagined tropical gardening would become one of my new interests. In fact, plants under my up north care frequently died, except maybe the lawn which was great looking but really did not count as a garden.

So what happened when I settled in Naples, Florida? Well I discovered again the wonder of this tropical paradise for one thing. Even in the dead of winter it sparkles with never a freeze in my bay side micro climate.  I love the outdoors and these tropical plants and trees intrigued me. They look weird to a Yankee. They produce fruit which is actually good for you (think anti-oxidants, omega-3 and vitamin sources way beyond the power of a blueberry). Some of it, much of it, is so easy to grow even I can do it.

When my wife and I changed up our diets to follow a more healthy direction I added more edible healthy things into my new garden. We ratcheted up our healthy living another couple of  notches when some of our close friends and relatives became sick – very sick.  Everything we read spoke of diet, exercise and behavior and it seemed an all organic tropical garden and yard with no chemicals like herbicides and pesticides should become a real asset to healthy living.  An organic food machine right in our back yard.


(a two pound Avocado grown this Fall – a great addition to your salad or guacamole!)

So where to start? Well I inherited a couple of trees from the past owner – a lemon tree (but the wrong kind for me) a grapefruit tree (which is supposed to help produce kidney stones so nix that) and an old orange tree – very sick but worth saving. I started out trying to save the orange tree and added a key lime tree because I thought the limes would go great with a Blue Moon beer (one of my friend’s favorite brews) and the limes make great pies the visitors seem to love.  Oops not a healthy living choice so I needed to keep thinking.  I needed to make new and different choices.
By some miracle I saved the old orange tree and it about ready to provide the January and February crop of about three dozen oranges. One a day in the morning is just right.  I added two different mango trees which seem to love it here and are easy to grow.  My first avocado tree died because I did not know what I was doing but my new avocado tree – a Guatemalan with the best oil sources – is going along great and is providing me with some remarkable healthy salads this fall and winter.


(my Springfield Mango making giant purple mangos in December for July harvest)
When my search went global for healthy fruits capable of thriving in my climate I added surinam cherries (watch it they can be invasive), strawberry guave, Natal plum, Brown Turkey fig, high-bush blueberries, two kinds of bananas for smoothies, tropical peach which struggles but boy is it worth it and four generations of pineapples.
The blueberries struggled and required some microbial anti-fungus spray every month – complete with a lot of health and use warnings. Given my goal of healthy living the blueberries eventually proved to hard to grow so I let them go.  Many plants are easy so you do not have to work that hard unless you would like to.
All of this fruit is growing in my back yard.  All organic. Not pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. All the fruit is full of anti-oxidants, vitamins. Some of these plants, particularly my Asian and South American varieties carry ancient cultural medicinal benefit claims. And there is a lot more you can do – I am just out of room in my yard.

minute pirate bug genus orius

(With an all organic yard you see a lot more bugs – mostly good ones.  This strange and friendly creature is a pirate beetle (a good guy) eating  up aphids (bad guys).  My pirate buddies are part of my insect army keeping my garden safe!  (wiki)

Tropical gardening became fun. Even me, with my train wreck of an up north gardening record could learn how to garden down here. And oh yes, I do not have acres and acres of land just a yard around my house. Sure it is a little cramped in back out of site so I don’t jazz up the street appeal but oh how this stuff is growing.

I am now becoming a plant nerd. I joined the Rare Fruit Council. I was admitted to the Naples Botanical Garden Collections Committee (they are walking botanical encyclopedias and I have a long way to go) and Board of Directors.  I have a 500+ page word doc with my notes and observations – another obsessive sign so I must be careful! My friend last night at dinner, when hearing of all of this, just smiled and thought what has my friend got into now?
Try spending the first part of you day in a garden in the dead of winter and you will thank the Good Lord for the wonder of his creation. Pick a Meyer Lemon off your tree, cut in half, squeeze it into a glass of water and add a tablespoon of baking soda. Drink up for a great detox. On a winter evening go out and pick an orange of your tree and gobble it up for desert instead of God knows what. The Blood Oranges are good now and then move to Valencias latter in the spring. And oh yeah remember the Mangos are coming in June and July.

pineapple 2010
(a young pineapple about four months away from harvest)

Tropical gardening and healthy living. Just another thing to explore the wide riches of the Naples, Florida lifestyle.  Check out some of our gardening images on Pinterest at or go to the Naples Botanical Garden website at for some more ideas.

If you would like to know more about living here in Naples, Florida please give us a call at 239.595.3921. We have toured or owned property in Naples for nearly forty years and we are truly fortunate to call this wonderful paradise our full-time home.

Please consider reading our book “Understanding Naples Real Estate” to get you started on your real estate search or just give us a call about things to do here.

We look forward to meeting and talking with you soon,
Mark Goebel PA, Nan Goebel PA and David Goebel, PA
Co-Founders of the Naples Best Addresses team
Coldwell Banker
Mark Goebel, PA and Nan Goebel, PA
REALTOR Coldwell Banker 5th Avenue South
Mobile: 239.595.3921 239.595.3920
Facebook: NaplesBestAddresses

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Mark Goebel, PA is a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker on 5th avenue in Naples, Florida with 35+ years of visiting and living in Naples. After 25 years at Accenture, Mark retired as a managing director and spends his time helping non profits and building a Naples real estate team with his wife Nan. Talk to Mark and Nan about life in Naples and why they chose this place to live full-time over all others and enjoy Naples real estate.
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