This week at the Seminole County Plant Clinic we heard from a resident interested in starting a Vegetable Garden.
Vegetable Gardening in Florida can be very different from gardening in other states.
When to Plant
Our season starts in August and continues with different crops until the summer gets too hot for our vegetable plants to grow. For most plants the end of the growing season is sometime between May and June. There are tropical greens, okra, and cow peas that can be grown very successfully through the summer months. You can start seedlings indoors to plant out as temperatures begin to cool at the end of summer or beginning of fall. Table 1 of the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide provides the months to start planting outdoors for many different crops. [LINK]
Make a Plan
Make a plan before you start on where, what, and how you are going to grow your vegetable garden. Most vegetables grow best in at least six hours of sunlight, though some of our leafy greens and herbs can grow even in four hours of sun or less. Less sunlight often means less to harvest, however, and can also promote both pest and disease issues. Consider how your garden will be watered, a garden far from a hose is more difficult to water. An automatic irrigation system could make watering quite easy. There are many options for micro-irrigation on the market now.
It is a good idea to consider what you want to plant based on what you like to eat. Will the plants require support or a trellis? If so, or if you will have plants that grow taller than others, plant the taller plants on the north side of your bed to maximize sun to the rest of your vegetables. In Florida it is usually easier to get started with a raised bed, since our soils are often almost pure sand. With a raised bed you can bring in soil with a higher organic content. Raised beds also improve drainage if the area you plan to use does stay wetter. In a raised bed garden with good soil you can also engage in more intensive gardening techniques – like square foot gardening. You can read more about how to make a raised bed at this [LINK].
Maintain Your Garden
Once the seedlings are planted and the garden is growing, your vegetable garden needs regular upkeep and care. Weed at least every two weeks to keep your beds from becoming weed seed havens, water regularly when we aren’t getting rains, and scout for pests on a daily basis. If you do find pests or diseases in your garden, the Seminole County Plant Clinic is here to help! When caught early, many pests and diseases are easily treated. Harvest your vegetables as you need them for your table and enjoy fresh produce all through our growing season. Once summer rolls around again, if you do not plan to grow our few limited summer crops, consider solarization, or growing a covercrop to keep down weeds in your vegetable beds. You can read more about solarization at this [LINK], and covercrops at this [LINK].
Contact the Plant Clinic
The Seminole County Master Gardener Plant Clinic is open Monday – Friday from 9am-Noon and 1pm-4pm. For more information on how to contact a Master Gardener about your gardening questions, visit our website at this [LINK]. We also regularly offer classes on Vegetable Gardening, which can be found on our Eventbrite page at this [LINK].