by Leslie Munroe & Yvonne Florian
Right Here, Right Now
Fall 2021 growing season is here. Have you started your vegetable garden yet? If your answer is, “no”, here are a few tips to help you on your way.
Invest in your soil
Your soil is the foundation of your garden. In Florida, that means knowing what your soil may need in order to support a vegetable garden. Start with a soil pH test. Most University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) County Extension Offices can do this test for you for free. Almost everywhere in Florida you will need to add soil amendments such as topsoil, compost, and organic matter to help hold moisture and nutrients.
Use raised beds or containers
Growing in raised beds or containers can help you control the growing media (soil) for each plant’s specific needs. And it will keep all that good compost in the spot you where it is needed. When using containers, try to find the largest pot with which you can work. Anything smaller than twelve inches is made to kill most plants.
Grow what you like
If you don’t like peas, don’t grow them. But do experiment. Often, homegrown vegetables are way better tasting than store bought produce. You just may surprise yourself and find you do like fresh peas. I like to plant one experimental vegetable each season to try it out. There is a huge variety of vegetables available for the home gardener which may be unknown to the average grocery-store vegetable consumer.
Scout your plants
This is Florida. Though it is fall and insect and disease pressure is at its lowest point, these never completely take a break here. Daily scouting is a good idea.
Scouting is a time to look for ripe fruits, interesting finds, dry soil, and any problems. Insects as well as rabbits and deer may nibble on your vegetable plants. Try applying “biological control” whenever possible. Sometimes just a strong spray from the garden hose may get rid of the insects.
If this is your first garden, try to grow one to four of your favorite things. Do not exhaust yourself trying to grow all your food on the first try. A garden is a lot of work. Gardeners are generally out in the garden every day.
The Indian River County Master Gardener Volunteers are here to assist you with their vast knowledge, experiences, and University of Florida research based educational materials. We can also identify insects, diagnose problems with plants, and do Free Soil pH Testing. Our plant clinic is open most weekdays during business hours (9:00am till 4:00pm). Please call first to be sure someone will be able to assist you, (772) 226-4324, or email anytime- firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about seasonal vegetable gardening in Florida, including when to plant each vegetable, the UF/IFAS Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) has two extensive publications which you may wish to keep on hand:
“The Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide” “The Central Florida Gardening Calendar”