Log in Subscribe

Garden Guru

Still recovering

Jim Boxberger
Posted 1/20/23

In case you missed last week’s column, so did I. I was traveling to visit my mom in Southwest Florida and completely forgot to get my column in early. That being said, the plant I was going to …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Garden Guru

Still recovering


In case you missed last week’s column, so did I. I was traveling to visit my mom in Southwest Florida and completely forgot to get my column in early. That being said, the plant I was going to write about will have to wait until next week. 

You may remember that Southwest Florida took a direct hit from hurricane Ian back in October 2022. On the news Friday the thirteenth of January, over 100 days after the hurricane, the body of the last missing person was found on his sunken boat by recovery divers. Boats are still left strewn around in the water and on land. One marina we drove by still had almost fifty yachts still sitting in their parking lot. Huge cranes have been brought in to remove the boats, but at best they can only move two boats per day. That was the devastation that this storm left in its wake. It is a tale of two populations down here this winter as fifty percent of the population is just going about their business, while the other fifty percent are still trying to recover. 

Homes are torn apart to dry out from the flooding, roofs are a sea of blue tarps and the side of the roads are still littered with debris. Contractors from all around the country are down here trying to help with the rebuilding effort and tourist season is in full swing as well.

Housing in southwest Florida right now is at a premium with some two bedroom apartments going for $4,500 a month. That sounds more like an apartment in midtown Manhattan than Fort Myers, Florida. Many of the camp-grounds and trailer parks that were wiped out from the storm surge are fully occupied again as most of the contractors from up north, just loaded up their trailers and came south for an extended period of time. 

One contractor we met at a local restaurant said he expects to be here for about two years. He has a buddy that has a contracting company down here and will be working with him for the foreseeable future. 

The rebuilding will easily take a few years because there are only so many people to work. Carpentry is a trade that you don't just pick up over night, but because the demand is so high right now, many of the landscapers in the area have given up the lawn mower and hedge shears for a tool belt and nail gun. 

Because of hurricanes and other natural disasters, Florida has special building regulations that contractors have to adhere to. For this reason, contractors have to have a special license to operate in the state, which is why every contractor across the country just doesn't come to Florida right now. 

What is even tougher for the residents trying to put their lives back together right now is the fact that most municipalities have reinstated the need for building permits that had been waved just after the storm. So now that your house is ripped apart, you have to wait for a building permit to go back in and replace your walls, windows, shingles, etc. One woman said on the evening news, “We are not putting in a new pool or adding a garage, we are just trying to put our house back together.” 

Over three thousand fines have been given out in Lee County Florida since the reinstatement of the need for permits in just the first ten days. Talk about adding insult to injury. As if that isn't enough, now Florida is dealing with some of the coldest weather it has seen in years. First they had that cold snap in December like we did up north, but now round two has come through with frost and freeze warnings throughout most of central and southern Florida. Last Sunday morning it was thirty-nine degrees in Cape Coral near the coast, yet just ten miles inland temps were as low as thirty-one. 

The tomato crops down here are not happy at all with many having to be picked before they are fully ripe. Of course this means that in the next two weeks you may see some good deals on tomatos in the grocery store only to find that those tomatos that looked beautiful and red just don't have the flavor that you would expect. That is what happens when fruits and vegetables get picked before their time, they look much better than they taste. 

Next week I'll get back to gardening, but I thought it just a little more important to let people in the north know what it is still like down here in the south.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here