Starting a garden? Here’s some advice from the horticulturalists at MREC

Last Updated on April 13, 2020 by Caroline Warwick

As we are spending more time at home, many of us now have the time and opportunity to plant our home gardens. Below is advice from the professional horticulturalists and gardeners of MREC.

Advice from Annette Chandler:

A garden doesn’t have to be big. I​ just wanted a few plants of tomatoes, green beans, squash, peppers and cucumbers. I found a small area by my A/C hidden from the road. On my patio, I grow herbs year-round.

MREC’s Annette Chandler grows vegetables in a small garden near her air conditioning unit.
MREC’s Annette Chandler grows herbs year-round on her porch in this container garden.

Advice from Brandon White:

  1. Read the ‘Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide’ EDIS publication
  2. If you find you’re are asking yourself if your compost has enough bat guano in it, you’ve gone too far! Like most things, there is a ton of info out there about how to grow a garden and that can make it overwhelming if you let it. I would use the above reference as a guide to get started but remember to ‘baby step’ into it keeping in mind that at the end of the day seeds/plants do a lot on their own. You are just there to assist. Focus on the basics to get started: seeds + water + sunlight + a little added nutrients (fertilizer) = a productive plant. Good soil and proper watering go a long way. If you focus too much on the right timing, plant variety, garden location, etc. you’re likely to end up frustrated staring at a barren backyard eating a bagged salad pondering your next hobby or doomsday plan! Have fun with it!
MREC employee Brandon White poses with a harvest from his home garden.
MREC’s Brandon White shares photos of his home garden.


Advice from Terri Mellich:

  1. Location: Most vegetables require full sun and remember in the winter the sun is low in the southern sky so make sure your cool season vegetables are not shaded by trees to the south of your vegetable bed.


  1. Timing: There are cool and warm season vegetables. Plant your vegetables at the appropriate time of year


  1. Seeds vs Plants: Buy seeds so that you can choose seeds that are suitable for your area.


  1. Soil: If the soil is very sandy add some Black Cow or mushroom farm compost at a rate of 50% sand and 50% Black Cow or mushroom farm compost. You only have to till it into the top 4 inches of soil.


  1. Fertilizer: Use a slow release fertilizer like Osmocote.


  1. Irrigate: Always try to irrigate in the morning so the foliage does not stay wet too long. This helps to prevent disease.

It is not hard … just takes a little research and planning.

Advice from Carmen Nazario:

It’s been a few years for me, but I started with a plant pot to start cherry tomatoes just to see if I even had a green thumb instead of wasting funds on seeds and other materials. Once I was able to do something as simple as cherry tomatoes, I went on to a large pot of green peas, that worked nicely. I have right now am planting seeds for multi colored peppers like green, yellow and orange.


Advice from Dr. Liz Felter and Dr. Catherine Campbell:

Remember that Florida has two vegetable garden seasons, a spring (March 20 – May 20) and fall (September 20 – it’s too cold) season. Since we are halfway through the first gardening season, purchasing vegetables in a 4” pot may provide a way to still access vegetables.

Make sure to stay tuned for more home gardening resources from the Sustainable Home Food initiative.



Posted: April 13, 2020

Category: Fruits & Vegetables, Horticulture
Tags: First Time Garden, Gardening, Home Garden, Vegetable Garden


Komendy Windows
January 24, 2022

with the perfect subject. Thanks for a great valuable project. Great work! Keep up the ultra do the webjob!

Denise Lictawa
October 14, 2021

Great job cousin. Loved reading this. Yay Taylor woot woot!


September 30, 2021

Thank you for your interest. You can find all the Water Wednesday recordings on our YouTube Channel:

elizabeth major
September 30, 2021

Where can I watch The Power of Ponds?

August 25, 2021

That's superb,congratulations Yuvaraj Khamare!

Ok ok, letsgo
August 23, 2021

Looking forward to reading more. Great post.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.


August 17, 2021

Update: We will switch this class to Zoom. Sorry for the inconvenience.


August 6, 2021

Thank you for your interest. You do not need to bring water samples to the event. We will hand out testing kits at the event.

August 6, 2021

What size water sample is needed for the testing? A Pint?


August 3, 2021

Thank you for your interest. The webinars are recorded. We are building a webpage to house all the recordings. Please stay tuned!

Rodney Hyde
August 2, 2021

Hello Yilin, I work for a local jursidiction and was wondering if you would be able to offer a presentation on this subject at our conference this year.

Peter Meyer
July 30, 2021

I wish you would record the seminars so those of us who cannot attend live could see the seminar later.


July 23, 2021

Thank you for your interest. We are building a webpage to house all the recordings. Please stay tuned!


July 23, 2021

Thank you for your interest. The event will be held at the UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County. The address is 16110 Aviation Loop Dr., Brooksville, FL 34604.

Diane Kirby
July 15, 2021

Would like to attend but where is this event located?

Carolyn Mudgette
July 15, 2021

How do we access webinars that we missed? Thanks!


June 26, 2021

Thank you for your interest. Recordings will be available after the webinar is conducted.

David Dame
June 25, 2021

Please make the webinars available for those who cannot attend sessions.

David Dame
June 25, 2021

Very timely topic.

June 17, 2021

This article is excellent. Thank you for sharing this wonderful article regarding your ideas about septic systems. The Tulsa Septic Service website is an excellent resource. You can learn more at

April 30, 2021

Such an amazing content about AI. Way to go!


April 22, 2021

Thank you for your interest. I am sorry you have time conflict. Please register the topics that you are interested. We will share the recordings with the registrants including those who are unable to attend.

Jill Hendrickson
April 21, 2021

I am interested in this series. I am in clinic seeing patients every Thursday and am wondering if there will be an opportunity to see this series online/evenings.


March 1, 2021

Thank you!

February 27, 2021

Ai is the new thing. It has so much potential. Nice article by the way

Caroline Warwick

February 22, 2021

Nancy, what are you treating specifically?

Nancy Hodgkins
February 13, 2021

Do you have any organic herbicides to recommend?

Avatar photo
Donna Torrey

January 27, 2021

Great to hear about the Tree-cycling and Chop and Drop as ways to compost! I have been landscaping like this for over 15 years and the results are remarkable. I use no fertilizer (except on veggies) and my additional water use is minimal. My trees and shrubs never need pesticides or interventions and are beautiful. It works and keeps all that bio-mass out of the landfills! Thank you for spreading the word.

Mark Taylor
January 22, 2021

Thank you for sharing this beautiful information with us about the Health of Septic Tank System. if you are looking for < Septic tank installations in Colchester Essex Try Ashwaste Environmental, they provide this type of services in Colchester, Chelmsford, Epping, Essex, and nearby areas.

Rachel Frampton
January 12, 2021

My dad noticed that his septic tank is producing an awful smell, which is why he's thinking of having it pumped. Well, it never occurred to me that smaller tanks will need more pumping. I'll also keep in mind to tell him that he must not flush wipes or tissues in his toilet since this may cause a blockage.

Ryan Gregory
December 29, 2020

Hello Dr. Warwick. Is it possible for me to register to view a recrording of this webinar? Thank you!


December 14, 2020

Thank you for your comments. Florida's springs are facing various complex threats, including decreasing spring flows and excessive nutrients. Spring flows decrease because of declining water levels in the groundwater aquifer that sustains them. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Water Withdrawals, Uses, and Trends in Florida, 2015 report indicated that 5,720.82 million gallons of water were withdrawn every day. Commercial-industrial-institutional-mining (CIIM) freshwater withdrawals are reported at 408.99 million gallons per day (MGD). Bottled water companies are one industry included in CIIM category. On Page 21 of the report ( “Food production (including water-bottling) accounted for about 20 MGD of the freshwater withdrawals in this category in 2015, of which about one-quarter (5 MGD) was withdrawn specifically for water-bottling.” As a Floridan, we are all responsible to reduce the plastic use and protect our water resources.

Jayant Kowe
November 28, 2020

Work done by Mr Yuvraj is quite remarkable and may prove very beneficial for farming sectors around the globe especially for country like India where 70% of population is dependent on agriculture directly or indirectly. We also work with farming equipment provider giant in India Mahindra & Mahindra. We manufacture components for there tractor and are manufacturing partner. You can get details in our website , company name is Disha Engineering, Nagpur. Best wishes to Mr Yuvraj for his work.

Nick Dennis
November 18, 2020 you people are either 2 faced or have your heads in the sand, companies are destroying our springs

David Dale
November 18, 2020

If the springs are so valuable (which I agree with BTW) then why are applications from companies like Nestle even considered? They drain the aquifer, generate single use plastic, and don't provide any real financial benefit.

July 31, 2020

Hello Angela, Your blog seems a great help for students. I want to introduce our George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program Deadline: 29th Sept 2020 Apply Now


July 21, 2020

yes, I dry the young leaves and flowers to use it along with green tea.

July 15, 2020

Is this garden project still active? Would Robby Pletcher reach out to me, please?

Benjamin Markus
July 9, 2020

Spanish Needles (Bidens alba) is edible! Try a flower.

moura justin
June 17, 2020

I really enjoyed over there.I have also attended this event.

suba suba
June 11, 2020

Really enjoyed this article post.Really thank you! Great.

suba suba
June 11, 2020

Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic article post. Much obliged.

suba suba
June 11, 2020

I think this is a real great article post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

suba suba
June 11, 2020

Looking forward to reading more. Great article.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.

June 10, 2020

Having a no or low tolerance for a landscape would be the ideal way to enhance and get rid of my grass! Enjoyed your post.


June 8, 2020

Thank you for your kind words. We always appreciate the education too.


June 8, 2020

Hi there. We don't generally recommend septic system additives. Studies found septic system additives are not significantly effective to increase the bacteria or the sludge level in the tank.

May 31, 2020

Hi Yilin, thanks for sharing these. Do you recommend septic treatment chemicals?


May 26, 2020

Thanks for you interest. This is the map of the 2014 Florida Department of Environmental Protection verified list of impaired waters, which contained 2575 entries. Here you can find an updated list:

Anh Volmer
May 25, 2020

What year was the map of 2,600 bodies of water impaired? was that map from 2018?

May 16, 2020

Hi, I would appreciate Non-chemical recommendation To control Corinespora Leaf spot Infestation on a young Papaya tree. I’m trying to do my small in-house papaya garden but I’ve notice these leaf lesions which I think is this fungal infection based on my own research. I’m using natural home made compost and even small trees are budding nicely but this new infection might ruin my papayas. I don't want artificial chemicals. Any suggestion will be greatly appreciated. This is a new hobby for me. Thanks

April 17, 2020

This is pretty cool! Makes me want to go out and try gardening veggies after several tries years ago. Thanks for the information!

Sanjeet Singh
April 16, 2020

Information given is very useful for us in India Weed management is very difficult here in India

April 3, 2020

I might wanna do this soon. Own weather station, plus web scraping of hourly data for comparison. Got my spidey senses riled up by something a few days ago.

April 1, 2020

What would we do without all these adorable pets? Thank you Caroline

March 31, 2020

Something positive, what a fun post!

March 31, 2020

LOL So funny to see all the critters.

Nancy McD
March 31, 2020

Really fun and well done. Keep up the good work and thanks for making the day a little better.

March 31, 2020

Nice fun post Caroline Roper Warwick.

March 31, 2020

These were so cool! I had to laugh at some of these. So cute! Just what we need right now.

G. Skinner
March 26, 2020

Thank you for making this clear. The packages should have clear printing so you know without searching for these warnings. We do not need clogged pipes added on to what we are facing now. Appreciate the education.

Angela Colonna

November 15, 2019

We had a great time on our tour and learned a lot! It's great work, we agree.

April M.
November 15, 2019

Awesome work!!!

Amber Shahzadi
July 8, 2019

its really beautiful very nice

Amber Shahzadi
July 6, 2019

thanks for sharing its really amazing

Daniel F. McDade
March 6, 2019

Nice to see that the "advanced scaffolding and lift system" that I designed and fabricated in 2004 is still being used today. Simple and basic in design it rolls along the overhead heating pipes giving access to the plants from one end of the facility to the other across the full width.

Angela Colonna
February 22, 2019

Thanks for reaching out! For more information about plants in the Tampa area check with the Hillsborough County Extension office: To find plant suppliers, go here: Click on 'plants' and search for the plant by name.

Steve Welborn
February 15, 2019

Your picture of maiden hair fern is not the Pedatum species ( or five finger fern) I would like to know if the Pedatum species can be grown in shady,sandy soil Tampa gardens. And, if so where can I buy sevreal? Thanks.

Mack patel
February 11, 2019

Nice post!

Angela Colonna

February 4, 2019

Joe's Nursery is located in Florida but the nursery ships items to South Carolina for clients. So unfortunately you would not be able to visit the business for future travels.

Renee Enlund
September 19, 2018

I just traveled thru SC. Where is Joe's Nursery located? I'd love to visit on my next trip. Renee Enlund, Master Gardener Bay Co. Fl.

August 19, 2018

That's a very motivated brilliant young lady.She is an asset to any lucky company.

August 19, 2018

That's a very motivated brilliant young lady.She is an asset to a very lucky company.

July 8, 2018

thank u for your site..very useful..Zahid

Native Plant Consulting
June 26, 2018

I recently met Dottie on the Native Landscape Tour at The Villages, sponsored by the Florida Assn. of Native Nurseries. A couple of weeks later, she visited St. Augustine to learn more about how I do business. She is passionate about her business and most of all - about the sustainability of our wildlife and food production through the utilization of native plants in our landscapes. Dottie and Kevin rock. Check out their website and visit their beautiful nursery.

Mariano curiel
June 6, 2018

Good work,very interesting,this can grow Texas climate conditions?

June 6, 2018

I loved this article It made me want to get my own fairy garden

Carolyn Kieler
June 2, 2018

I love what Dottie and Kevin are doing with their property and their lives. And they keep honeybees too!!!

May 28, 2018

Whoa this is awesome!

Tammy Stockdill
May 24, 2018

Impressive to hear about and see.

Cathy Lowenstein
May 23, 2018

What a great example of a nursery enterprise working with natural processes and promoting environmentally friendly gardening! The demonstration garden looks intriguing.

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