LCEC sponsors Cape Garden Club landscaping of Habitat’s Women Build home – Deborah Haggett

LCEC sponsors Cape Garden Club landscaping of Habitat’s Women Build home

April 15, 2021
By Deborah Haggett - Garden Club of Cape Coral (Special to The Breeze)Cape Coral Breeze

Click Here for full article in the Cape Coral Breeze

The Lee County Electric Cooperative will sponsor the Garden Club of Cape Coral landscaping project for the 2021 Habitat for Humanity Cape Coral Women Build home. For the past 10 years, the Garden Club of Cape Coral has been invited by Habitat for Humanity to install the landscaping for its Cape Coral Women Build project. It has been a very successful collaboration over the years.

This year, the collaboration is expanding to include Lee County Master Gardener Volunteers, who will work with Garden Club members to design and construct a Florida Friendly landscape to compliment the home. The landscape will incorporate all nine principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping and will be documented in a video to be included in the 2021-2022 Landscaping classes held by the Lee County Master Gardeners.

LCEC is particularly interested in the first principle of the Florida Friendly Landscaping program, Right Plant Right Place. There are many factors to consider when choosing the best site for a plant. Two critically important considerations are where to dig for planting and the estimated size of the plants at maturity. Both are especially crucial when installing trees near below and above-ground utilities.

LCEC joins Garden Club members and Master Gardeners in reminding homeowners of the law to Call Before You Dig! Homeowners can avoid striking underground utilities by calling 811 or visiting the Florida website to access a free utility locating service. It is best to call at least two days before you plan to dig. Electric, water, gas and cable companies will be notified of your plans and will come to your property to locate and mark the lines.

“This service is free for your safety … your family’s safety … your neighborhood’s safety.” For more information, please see the 2-minute video at the sunshine811 website.

When planting trees, it is also imperative to look up! Overhead electric wires tend to be approximately 18 feet above the ground. Many trees far exceed this height as they reach maturity. To avoid safety hazards later, take the time at planting to learn the growth patterns of your planting, including the estimated height at maturity.

Should you have a tree that encroaches on overhead utility line, please remember these safety precautions recommended by LCEC:

Touching or contacting power lines with tools may cause a powerful or fatal electric shock.

When pruning trees, all tools and trimmings must remain a minimum of 10 feet away from energized lines.

Only qualified line clearance arborists may work within 10 feet of energized lines.

Always contact LCEC before performing or contracting tree work near electric lines. LCEC can schedule safe clearing in advance of your tree care or de-energize the lines

“Tree care near power lines is dangerous and may cause serious injury or death.” Proper tree care saves lives!

The Garden Club of Cape Coral, Lee County Master Gardener Volunteers and Habitat for Humanity thank LCEC for its commitment to sponsor and promote safe gardening practices and Florida Friendly Landscaping. Together, a family in need will achieve its goal of homeownership with a low-maintenance, attractive, Florida Friendly yard while providing a demonstration landscape that will serve as a model for other residents.

Deborah Haggett is a Lee County Master Gardener Volunteer and a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral. Visit us at

Foodscaping with Summer Greens – Deborah Haggett

Foodscaping with Summer Greens

March 25, 2021
By Deborah Haggett - Garden Club of Cape Coral (Special to The Breeze)Cape Coral Breeze
Click Here for full article in the Cape Coral Breeze

Spinach lovers, now is the time to transition from growing our favorite cool weather common spinach to the more heat tolerant tropical spinaches that will provide leafy greens through the summer and into the fall season. Several easy-to-grow, spinach-like greens are available to stimulate our palates, nourish our bodies, and bring aesthetic beauty to our gardens. Consider growing Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, Longevity spinach and Okinawa spinach, to name a few.

Malabar spinach, also known as climbing spinach, has dark green to reddish, oval leaves with white or pink flowers on green or purple vines. These features make it attractive enough to be considered an ornamental. However, more notable features are its dietary and health benefits. Malabar spinach is high in vitamins A and C, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. It is commonly found in Asian markets and used in stir-fries, soups, stews or enjoyed raw in salads for its mild lemon-pepper flavor.

New Zealand spinach, with a milder but similar flavor to common spinach, grows from 1 to 2 feet tall. Once it spreads to about a foot wide, harvest the top 2 to 3 inches of the tender, triangular young leaves. Harvesting in this way allows the plant to continue its growth long into the summer. For this reason, it’s also known as Everlasting or Perpetual spinach. It, too, is rich in vitamins A and C as well as calcium and phosphorus. In its native New Zealand, this spinach is found in salads, soups, stews, herb stuffing and lasagna.

Two local favorites, Longevity spinach and Okinawa spinach are poetically known as the “leaves of the gods.” Longevity spinach is the green leaf variety of the Okinawa spinach which has green and purple leaves. They grow from 1 to 2 feet tall and spread to make a lush ground cover. Longevity spinach has a stronger flavor and texture than Okinawa spinach, but both can be used in smoothies, salads or only lightly steamed. Overcooking can change the color and result in a gelatinous texture.

Longevity and Okinawa spinach are abundant in vitamin A and nutrients, including proteins, iron, potassium and calcium. In fact, the name “Longevity” spinach is said to have come from its many health benefits.

As if the nutritional and health benefits weren’t enough, planting these summer greens couldn’t be easier. They are prolific growers in a container or in the ground in any well-draining soil; preferably in a mix of rich, organic soil. They are sun-loving plants, but will also thrive with afternoon shade. Average watering is required during dry spells.

Harvesting often and pinching off the flowers will keep the greens producing throughout the growing season. Most can be propagated through cuttings, although Malabar spinach will go to seed as cooler weather approaches and days get shorter. Collect these seeds for use in the spring or allow the seeds to reseed naturally.

Foodscaping with these tropical greens adds color to your garden and nutrition to your table. It is a healthy, low maintenance choice for gardening in the heat of the summer.

Happy gardening & bon appétit!

Deborah Haggett is a Lee County Master Gardener Volunteer and a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral. Visit us at

Heat Tolerant Vegetables – Gardening Solutions – University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (2019, June 12). Gardening Solutions
Heat Tolerant Vegetables

Liu, G., & Qiu, Y. (2020, September). Florida Cultivation Guide for Malabar Spinach. Edis.Ifas.Ufl.Edu. Malabar Spinach

New Zealand Spinach. (2021). New Zealand Spinach

Vu, A. (2018, March 20). Summer Greens. UF/IFAS Extension Orange County. Summer Greens

Cultivate abundance: advancing food security through a local alliance — Deborah Haggett

Cultivate abundance: advancing food security through a local alliance

Mar 4, 2021
DEBORAH HAGGETT - Garden Club of Cape Coral (Special to The BreezeCape Coral Breeze
Click Here for full article in the Cape Coral Breeze
Lack of access to affordable, healthy food or food insecurity has exploded due to the multiple consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. David Outerbridge, director of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension, Lee County noted: with “Covid-19, school closings, and unemployment, we have seen a 500% increase in demand from food banks.”

In addition, 79% of Florida families report they supplement their food budgets by purchasing inexpensive, un-healthy food while 51% say they eat food beyond the expiration date ( Eating Well Magazine (March, 2021) reports that nutritious, healthy food can cost “six times more” than inexpensive, less nutritious alternatives.

At a time when food nutrition is critical for good health and disease resistance, those struggling financially are being forced to make difficult choices among nutrition, transportation to school and work, medical care and housing.

One innovative non-profit organization, Cultivate Abundance, is making a difference. Under the direction of Ellen and Rick Burnette and along with Immokalee residents and coworkers Lupita Vazquez and Helen Midney, Cultivate Abundance partners with the Immokalee farm worker community to “eliminate hunger and enable small-scale food production in vulnerable households and communities.”

As Rick Burnette recalls, “We were already aware of the ironic existence of the Immokalee food desert in a booming farm town. And as many Southwest Florida gardeners grow an abundance of fruit and other produce appreciated by the local farm worker community, we decided to find a way for an alliance of local gardeners, including churches and nonprofits, to channel their surplus food to Immokalee.”

After launching in 2017, the Burnettes began collaborating with Misión Peniel, an Immokalee-based nonprofit that operates a food pantry and provides social services for the local farm worker community. They cultivated other relationships with stakeholders focusing on food production. With assistance from the UF/IFAS Extension Collier County and the UF/IFAS Family Nutrition Program, Cultivate Abundance manages a donation garden on Misión Peniel property and grows additional food on the nearby Florida State University Health Education Site. In addition, Cultivate Abundance consults with another Immokalee community garden located on a farm worker residential housing facility.

This effort is a mutual alliance. Cultivate Abundance honors the “food knowledge and heritage of the local Haitian, Guatemalan,and Mexican communities by exchanging information and resources, such as seeds.” Many individuals and families supplement their own food needs and share surplus food with neighbors.

Rick noted, “By the end of 2020, collectively, we have grown and shared almost 19 tons of produce amounting to over 102,000 food servings among approximately 400 clients who visit Misión Peniel each week. This includes 93 crop varieties, as well as, fresh eggs. Thus far, over 32 sites including community gardens, church gardens, small farms and home gardens have grown and shared their food.”

Rick and Ellen have been moved by the community’s openness to collaboration, the mutual concern for others and the generosity of sharing knowledge and resources. They sincerely appreciate “the availability of all those involved and the shared humility towards learning and relearning.”

When asked about their wishes for the future health and vitality of this venture, Rick and Ellen stated, “First, we hope to see food insecurity eradicated in the Immokalee farm worker community through an array of solutions that include improved worker compensation, other economic opportunities and highly functional social services, so that no one is left behind. Related to social services, our second wish is for increased local food donations and productivity from Cultivate Abundance partners in Lee and Collier Counties, and elsewhere, to help meet local nutritional needs. Our third wish is that the diverse food cultures of Immokalee are highlighted and honored through the availability of traditional types of fruit and vegetables; some grown by Immokalee households and others produced and shared by their advocates.”

With these wishes in mind, we invite anyone who has an abundance of garden produce to share, to please consider donating to Cultivate Abundance. Additionally, if you would like to volunteer, please contact Rick at

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” — Mother Teresa

Wishing you happy and abundant gardening!

Deborah Haggett is a Lee County Master Gardener Volunteer and a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral. Visit us at

Black, J. (2021, March). The real cost of healthy food. Eating Well Magazine, 77-83.

Cultivate Abundance

Hunger and Nutrition: Healthy Communities Need Healthy Foods. (2021). FeedingFlorida.Org.

Savelle, R. & O’Neal, L.J. (2017, February). Food Insecurity and Obesity. University of Florida IFAS Extension.