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Edible Gardening Series: Question of the Week – getting started

By Mindy Hanak, Sarah Bostick and Carol Wyatt-Evens

Gardening in Florida can be incredibly rewarding and incredibly frustrating, at the same time. If you are new to the region, you soon learn that gardening in the Sunshine State can quickly become a full-time job. While our subtropical climate is perfect for growing an abundance of different vegetables, fruits, and herbs, it also can present some overwhelming challenges.

We can help! UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County agents and staff have created an online edible gardening resource center. The website features short videos from our 25-episode “Edible Gardening Series” webinars, along with blog posts and resources lists for episodes. Get help on an array of topics that befuddle many gardeners.

 

This week’s Question of the Week:
I’m new to edible gardening in Florida – what do I need to know to be successful?

This week’s blog post is a little bit different! Rather than a deep dive into a single topic, we are sharing many types of resources for all of you who are just getting started or are struggling to garden in Florida.  There are so many categories we could have included in today’s blog, but had to limit ourselves to just three: learning the Florida growing seasons, understanding sandy soil, and attitude.

Learn the Florida growing season

If you keep a northern planting calendar while living in Florida you will struggle much more than necessary. Many a transplanted Northern gardener gives up their garden trowel because of unnecessary frustration. Don’t let it happen to you. Checkout these resources to help you acclimate to our Florida seasons:

  • Interactive website:
    • If you are looking for a straight answer on what you can plant right now, try this website. You simply enter your zip code and it provides you with images of crops you can plant now in your area. Click on an image and it provides you with planting information like depth, spacing, days to harvest, and varieties to consider. Click on the ‘detailed information’ button and it takes you right to related information in UF’s database.table layout of what edibles to plant, by Florida region, in January
  • Visual references:
    • The University of Florida has a series of excellent infographics that show you what you can plant each month in the north, central and south regions of Florida. Sarasota County sits on the line between central and south Florida. Many gardeners in our area follow the central Florida recommendations for cold tolerance and the south Florida recommendations for heat tolerance.
  • Florida Gardening Guides:
    • The Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide is an extremely useful guide about growing Vegetables in FL. Near the end of the guide you will find very useful charts that show the planting seasons for each vegetable. Take the time to read this free 11-page guide and you will be well on your way to becoming a successful Florida veggie gardener.
    • Vegetable Gardening in Florida by James M. Stephens is a full-length book complete with color photos and Florida-specific growing advice.
  • Videos about gardening seasons in Florida:
    • Watch Sarah Bostick’s first two sessions in the Edible Gardening Series: “Florida Growing Seasons” and “Plan an Abundant Garden”. Short videos on many topics in our Edible Gardening Webinar Series can be found here.

 

Learn about Florida’s sandy soil

  • Take time to learn about soil from Sarah Bostick, our Sustainable Agriculture Agent, by watching Sarah’s recorded webinar about soil. It is not a short video and there are parts you will want to go back to for reference. Bring a veggie and dip – it’s not a short dive, it’s a deep dive – but it’s well worth the swim if you want to gain a better understanding of how sandy soil works.
  • You can also attend Sarah’s next virtual “Understanding Your Soil” webinar, which is coming up in January. Click here to register.
  • Continue learning about how you can improve the organic matter in your soil by composting. This short video about composting was filmed for our younger audiences but it’s a great start to learning about your options.
  • This link has lots of resources to get you started in your journey to create compost for your garden.

 

Attitude

The last component is more personal. Some of the most important personal characteristics for a successful Florida gardener are adaptability, resilience, and curiosity. For some of us the effort to adapt or try again is not an easy thing.

There is undeniably a learning curve when it comes to gardening in Florida. Your first year of growing veggies in Florida may not result in the bounty of food you had hoped for – but remember all the other benefits we get from gardening: the joy, challenge, experimentation, discovery, play, exercise, and replenishment of it.

Plus, it’s a neat way to mark time in a climate without snow!

As you explore gardening in Florida remember to take the time to reflect on what gardening means to you and how you can keep that greater meaning in perspective as you adapt. This practice can help keep you going while your green thumb catches up to you in FL.


The Edible Gardening Series and blog series is a partnership between the following UF/IFAS agents and Sarasota County staff:

  • Sarah Bostick, Sustainable Agriculture Agent
  • Carol Wyatt-Evens, Chemicals in the Environment Agent
  • Mindy Hanak, Community & School Gardens Educator
  • Kevin O’Horan, Communications Associate

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