During the summers in Florida, many house owners are looking for more ways to get outdoors. Vegetable gardening is a wonderful pass time; however, here in the sunshine state the high temperatures make it difficult to grow all year round. Sometimes instead of trying to upkeep vegetables, summers provide a perfect time to ready your garden for the next season. In Florida, fall is an optimum time to grow so why not use the opportunity of summer to prepare your soil. There are two main ways you can go about this task. The first would be solarizing your soil and if you have the time to put in a little extra work, you also have the option of planting cover crops.
Solarization of your soil has many benefits including reducing pest, weed and disease from soils to prepare a garden for new crops. The first step of this process is to clear your garden of any lingering weeds or remains. After you would use a clear plastic to cover the soil and anchoring the edges of the tarp around the garden. It is important to use clear plastic because this allows the sun to penetrate and in turn solarize the soil beneath. Have the plastic fully secured around the edges allows minimum heat loss.
The heat that is then trapped under the tarp provides the radiation to kill your unwanted garden pests. The more sun your garden gets the better! The plastic should be left in place for at least 6 weeks in order to be affective. For optimum success the soil can be tilled prior to laying out the plastic and for best results wait until the day after rainfall. Rainfall can also be simulated through irrigation.
Soil solarization is perfect for those who might not have extra time on their hands. One downside; however, is the lack of visual appeal. If you are someone that finds extra time during the summer and doesn’t want an eyesore where your beautiful vegetable garden once was then another option is to plant cover crops.
Cover crops are plants that you grow without the intention to harvest. They provide the soil with protection and compost as they cycle through their life, as well as runoff prevention. If grown correctly, these cover crops will not allow room for weed growth. This saves you the time and pain of weeding. Other benefits include an increase in nitrogen and soil fertility, pest reduction, as well as providing a way to combat certain nematodes. Plants in the pea family can also fix nitrogen levels in soil. Some other examples of good cover crops are; vetch, cowpea, lablab, hairy indigo, sunn hemp, and velvetbeans.
If these two strategies still don’t satisfy your need to garden, then know that there are still other options. The hot and humid summer months of Florida make it difficult but definitely not impossible to grow vegetables. If your someone that wants to grow all year long, there are ways to surpass the obstacles of summer.
For example, to decrease temperature in a garden, use shade cloth to reduce heat and the impacts of heavy rain. Raised garden beds can also be a good way to keep roots elevated and soil draining. Heavy rain can cause valuable nutrients to drain out of soil. To solve this obstacle add mulch to keep top soil in place. Once you are ready to start planting some options are; Adzuki beans, amaranth, basil, Chinese cabbage, collards, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, and many more.
If you are ready to start your garden here are further resources to point you on your way.
- Introduction to Soil Solarization
- Solarization for Pest Management in Florida
- Cover Crops
- Benefits of Cover Crops for Soil Health
- Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide