It is cold right now…at least it is this week. Even though the winters in northwest Florida do not have consistent cold temperatures, it is not warm enough to grow warm season vegetables all year around. The cold spells come and go but will soon be gone and spring will have sprung. With spring comes birds chirping, flowers blooming, and spring vegetable gardening. Now is the time to begin to prepare for what is ahead. Here are a few things to begin to think about before the work begins:
- Variety Study – This is a great time of year to sink into a seed catalog and pick out the different vegetables and fruits to try this year. Make sure to explore University of Florida/IFAS recommended varieties before making final selections. Think of problems that have occurred in past years and search for varieties that tolerate these conditions. Look through the Florida Vegetable Guide to see recommended varieties.
- Seed Searching – Recommended varieties are not always available at the local seed and feed store and sometimes take a little bit of searching. Of course, the internet can assist greatly in finding desired varieties. A simple search engine inquiry could help in locating and purchasing desirable selections.
- Soil testing – Soil testing is the cornerstone of having a healthy garden that has been fertilized correctly. Although it would not be appropriate to put out fertilizer this early before the crop, the pH should be adjusted through liming if there is an indicated need on the soil test. This will give time for the pH to begin to adjust before the crops are planted.
- Starting transplants – Another activity that can begin before the actual planting in the garden takes place is seeding inside. Transplants are vegetable and fruit seedlings that begin in potting soil in small containers. This can happen in make shift containers made out of Styrofoam coffee cup with drainage holes or multi celled commercial plastic trays. Seeds can be started in the house and moved inside and out of the climate control depending on the weather or in a greenhouse. Wherever they are, they need to be in high light conditions to prevent plants from becoming stretched and weak. Learn more about Starting the Garden with Transplants.
Now It’s time to start thinking of consistent warm days. The vegetable garden tasks will be overwhelming soon enough. Go ahead and get an early start with some of the winter tasks of spring vegetable gardening.