Autumn garden update 2020: Potatoes, peppers and tree pruning

Here’s the end of the year update from our garden. In 2020, we harvested potatoes, planted bell peppers, and did some major fig tree pruning. Also, we’re growing mango trees!

We are very lucky in the Darwinian household to have a generously sized backyard. We’ve filled it with a play structure for the kids, a sandbox, and various areas dedicated to gardening.

When it comes to fruit trees, we have a lime tree, a lemon tree, an avocado tree, and about a dozen fig trees in various states of growth.

We also have a raised garden bed that has seen a couple different plants in its relatively short lifetime.

Raised garden bed
Garden bed being prepared with free kid labor

With the recurrent lockdowns and increased time at home, we’ve had the chance to do some great gardening with the kids this year.

Bell peppers

In the late spring, I planted some orange bell pepper seeds in the raised garden bed. I didn’t expect much, but we got a messy explosion of bell pepper plants. It took months and months, but in the autumn they actually started producing bell peppers!

They were all smaller than the ones you might encounter in the store, but they were delicious, crisp, and surprisingly sweet. In all, I think we got a good two or three dozen bell peppers from the planter.

Potato harvest

About a year ago, we cut up an old potato that rooted in our fridge and planted the pieces around the perimeter of our yard. I noticed that they eventually produced stems and leaves, but we mostly just forgot about them.

A couple of months ago before our weekly family dinner, I poked around the dirt and was astonished to find that the potato pieces had grown into real whole potatoes! I armed the kids with trowels, and we had a great time digging up the potatoes.

The Dr-ess prepped and roasted them, and we enjoyed them that evening as a delicious side dish. The only potato that escaped consumption was a curious potato that looked like a duck. We kept it on the window sill for a few weeks.

Haircuts for my fig trees

In real estate investing, my Semi-Retired MD mentors Leti and Kenji recommend that you always ask for a “haircut” after the inspection to get a discount on the purchase price. I’ve used this with great effect while growing our rental portfolio this year.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to also give our two main fig trees haircuts as well. Pruning fruit trees is an essential part of promoting growth in the next season, as figs apparently only emerge from newly grown branches.

I started with the elephant ear fig tree.

Next, I moved my clippers to the jelly fig tree.

A few of the branches of the elephant ear fig tree looked too good to just discard, so I ended up planting a couple of the cuttings.

Fig cuttings
Ready to grow!

I hope that the spring growing season will bring a ton of new growth and an explosion of figs in 2021.

Bonus: Mangos!

Because I know how much you all love my garden updates, I’m throwing in a special bonus section.

I used to love mangos. I famously loved them so much that once during high school I ate 13 ripe mangos in one sitting. We had one of those enormous trays of them from Costco, and they all ripened at the same time. It was glorious.

The next day, my face blew up like a hot air balloon and my pediatrician diagnosed me with an acquired mango allergy. From that day on, I haven’t been able to consume mangos anymore without my lips swelling up in alarming fashion.

Although I can’t enjoy them anymore, the Dr-ess and my three year old son really love mangos. One of our nurses at work brought a bag of mangos into clinic from her backyard mango tree and I took some home.

My family loved them so much that I decided to grow some mango seedlings.

Strangely enough, mango seeds can be “polyembryonic,” which means that one seed can produce multiple plants. I now have three mango seedlings growing in water.

Mango seedlings

I just stopped by Lowe’s today to buy some more soil and pots, so I’ll be planting these guys into soil sometime soon. Then it’ll probably be a year or two before we have mangos of our own!


I find gardening to be a great family hobby and excellent stress reliever. My boys love helping me, and I love that just a little investment of time every now and then can yield such effortless rewards.

This year alone, we’ve enjoyed three varieties of figs, lemons, limes, avocados, and bell peppers from our garden and backyard. The beautiful Southern California climate makes it easy.

After the pandemic and when our dozen fig saplings are all producing fruit, we have grand plans for a fig and lemonade stand. I hope our boys will enjoy the experience as an early introduction to the world of entrepreneurship.

What are your plans for gardening this spring? Comment below and subscribe for more!

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