7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Growing Tropical Plants

I have to admit, I have a bit of a problem when it comes to growing tropical fruit trees at home. I just love growing rare and exotic fruit that is either impossible to find fresh at a local store (or that doesn't cost an arm and a leg in the process).

But as I live in a cooler climate, one most certainly not suited for tropical fruit trees (zone 6b/7), growing these trees is also a bit of a challenge that only the most determined gardeners with ideal growing environments should consider.

In this one, we want to go beyond the basics- checking to see if a plant will do well in your growing zone and if it could thrive in a container or not based on your indoor lighting conditions. We hope (and assume) that you have already checked these things. Here, we want to dive into some considerations to think about once you are committed!

These are truly some of the finer points I wish I knew before getting into growing tropical plants at home.

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5 Things to Know Before Bringing Plants Inside for Winter

If you live in a cooler climate, as we do in zone 6b/7, odds are good you'll have to bring some container plants inside for winter.

We love growing tropical fruit trees, and, as you can expect, they do not do very well outside when temperatures drop close to freezing (let alone as low as 0 °F that we sometimes see in extreme cases). As such, we bring our plants inside for the winter to help give them an environment that they can tolerate until the following spring when temperatures rise once again. 

But there are some things you will likely experience when doing this, and after several seasons with our own citrus trees, we have some thoughts that you should know before heading into winter!

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How We Saved a Dying Passionfruit Vine – Container Gardening

I always knew that it'd be a bit of a risk trying to grow a passionfruit vine in a container, but due to our location in the north this tropical plant simply would not have done well in the ground during winter.

The vine was growing quite fine for many months until it started losing leaves at the bottom. The problem got worse and worse and we knew we had to figure out a solution right away. The problem was that any solution we read about could also have been the problem!

So, after testing, we came to a conclusion- we were underwatering. Read more about how we figured this out below.

Note: Please keep in mind that my passionfruit vine is potted and trellised. I bring it inside in the winter as we live in Zone 6b with cold enough winters that would kill the plant. This more than likely influenced the issue that will be described below and may not have the same solution for those growing a plant in the ground.

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How Long Does Gardening Take to Pay Itself Off? It Varies

We love to garden.

Nothing is more rewarding than going out into your own vegetable patch, picking something ripe, and then immediately cooking with it. From the flavors to the satisfaction that you did it yourself, it really can't be beaten.

But is gardening better than buying produce at the store? Particularly over buying produce from local farmer's markets where the quality would be comparable?

We thought we'd take a look at a cost-benefit analysis for all things gardening to see what the math says. But in this one, we have to look at two kinds of gardening outright- container gardening and in-ground gardening. The math for each is quite different!

Note: This evaluation considers gardening to be for more conventional items like tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, beans, and more. Perennial plants, like berry bushes and citrus trees, are not included in this discussion as, assuming they survive to production age, their payback period typically is the first year or two of a full harvest (generally 3-8 years) as maintenance costs can be quite low. As such, they are excluded from this evaluation. 

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How Long Until a Rain Barrel Pays Itself Off?

As part of our project here at Hipster Homesteaders, we wanted to help make our home as sustainable as possible. This includes making changes like expanding our garden to grow more of our own food, getting beehives, installing a composter, eventually buying solar panels, and of course, helping our water consumption by installing a rain barrel!

While we knew that having a rain barrel would generally be a good thing, as our water consumption often spikes considerably in the summer months when our garden is incredibly active, we didn't quite know just how much our savings would be.

So after installing our rain barrel, we tracked our consumption and had some rather interesting figures. So in this one, we thought we'd share what we found plus ways to calculate if a rain barrel is a good economic decision for your own home!

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4 Fig Propagation Techniques – A Test to Find What Works

One of the goals we have here at Hipster Homesteaders is to work on building a garden on our 3,000 square foot, south-facing hillside.

While we have many challenges associated with this, one of the biggest is that we've found buying young fruit bushes and trees for planting can be quite expensive. With the going rate and how much we want to plant on our hillside, buying all the plants, even from local sources, would cost thousands of dollars as most cuttings range from $10-$25 a pop.

Thankfully, plants are incredibly versatile. Many fruit plants can be grown from saved seeds from the previous season and others can be propagated via cuttings outright. Over the years, we've found that there is no shortage of cuttings available from neighbors in Buy Not a Thing social media groups, and as we learned more about plants, we've found many wild berry patches to cultivate from as well.

One of our first attempts at this process was with fig trees as they're known to be quite easy to propagate via cutting. We purchased a couple of trees at our local farmer's markets and received cuttings of white figs from a friend as well. When we wanted to propagate our two trees into a small orchard (along with the gifted cuttings), we thought it'd be fun to put together a fig propagation test to see what technique works the best!

In this one, we wanted to share our process and our findings.

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