In this time of social distancing, we are all spending more time at home. This ‘extra’ time has encouraged many folks to re-evaluate the current state of their home garden. Whether you are an avid gardener that got too busy with work, or a first-time gardener, we have the resources you need. This series of blogs contains resources for planning, starting and maintaining a backyard (or front yard, if HOA rules allow) vegetable garden. The series will be broken into the following:
- Getting Started
- Gardening with Kids
- Maintaining a Successful Garden
- Edible Landscaping
- Using What You Grow
- Recycling What You Can’t Use
- Community Connection
It took about ten years for it to finally sink in, I can’t have large ripe tomatoes plucked from the plant in the middle of July in Florida. Heirloom tomatoes dripping with juice, thick sliced and eaten between two slices of bread with a generous helping of mayonnaise. That was my Florida gardening dream. Then I tried to garden. And I tried again, and again. I concluded years ago that my expectations of gardening had to be shifted to realign with Florida gardening realities. After a few years of bumbling, I discovered cherry tomatoes and haven’t turned back. Florida pests, rain, heat and sandy soils all create challenges for seasoned and new gardeners alike.
These tips will help you maintain a successful garden year-round:
- Support the Soil
- Know what you have by getting a soil test: local extension offices will usually do a simple pH and soluble salts test for minimal cost
- Add compost: Compost provides organic matter, aeration, microbes and helps to regulate moisture and temperature
- Mulch: Use straw, hay, compost or recycled organic materials to moderate temperature and prevent weeds.
- Avoid over-fertilization: Knowing you soil will help you make important decisions about your fertilization needs, don’t think that all plants need additional fertilizer, especially if you amend your soil with organic material that can break down.
- Scout for Pests
- Spend a few minutes each day checking your plants: you don’t have to be an entomologist to learn basic insect ID. Know the good versus the bad (ladybug=good).
- Look on the tops and bottoms of leaves: watch for insect frass (poop), signs of chewing or discoloration.
- Squeeze stems: in most cases they should feel firm, not spongy or mushy.
- Watch for leaf curl, blossom drop, fruit drop.
- Send your insects for identification: If you can’t find out what you are looking at, you can collect a specimen and send it for ID or send us a picture: email@example.com and let us take a stab at it.
- Water Appropriately
- It’s easy to over irrigate in the summer rainy season: Plants will let you know when they need water by showing signs of drooping, curling or browning. If you over-water, you may encourage weeds, pests or disease.
- Don’t use reclaimed water in your vegetable garden: Reclaimed water is generally great for landscapes, but isn’t recommended for edible gardens. Watch out for additional nutrients that may build up in soils with reclaimed water use.
- Minimize Expectations
- Better to under promise and over deliver: Don’t expect foxglove and lavender to love your Florida meadow garden, get familiar with native species and species that are adapted to our climate. Remember that planning is great, but don’t let your garden become a point of stress if some plants fail. Learn from your failures!
- Check out alternative varieties
- Select varieties for success: IFAS gardening calendar
Your local extension office is here to help, if you have questions related to vegetable gardens, landscaping, lawns etc. we will be direct your inquiry to the right person. Try our Master Gardeners first at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask for Help
The more success you have with your garden, the more likely you are to continue gardening and receiving the many physical and emotional benefits. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help, that’s what we are here for!