I live on the central east coast of Florida. As a gardener, who knows quite a bit about gardening – in New England – this area has been a challenge. In fact, I have given up trying to grow my old favorites. Squash and zucchini turns moldy right away and even tomatoes seem to struggle in the heat. All I have had luck with are peppers and eggplant.
Time to change my outlook and ways, and adhere to a new way of growing things in this subtropical climate.
Over the past couple of years I have invested in a few grow boxes. My son made a few raised beds last year. We’ve been growing (or trying to) in these beds somewhat successfully.
This Spring I purchased a Tiller. It was not cheap but it did the work of creating a fairly small garden out back.
I have removed a lot of the roots, vines and horrible grass that grows in tendrils. Next I mixed in three bags of compost.
The “dirt” in the ground here is sand. I never saw a single worm, which is typical. I think it will take a lot more compost over the months to create a decent place to grow things. For now, this will have to do. I can amend later with compost from the Hot Frog.
First I found some boards to set down the center. I remember from my northern gardening that mashing down the earth is not a good thing. If I can remember to stay on the boards, the remainder of the dirt should stay loose for growing.
Next it was time to plan the layout for planting. I had to think about which things would be long vines (watermelon and sweet potato) and those would be in a place where the vines could go out into the grass.
Okra gets tall, I guess… have never eaten it or grown it … so I planted those seeds along the edge. I only planted it because it’s a southern thing and should grow well.
I saved a spot for the sweet potatoes yet to come, and will fill in the rest with some pepper plants and more eggplant.
My basic sketch for planting is subject to change.
I managed to get some watermelon seeds and okra seeds planted. Then an eggplant, which I covered with a piece of rug to give it shade.
It was so hot by then, that I took a break inside and waited for the clouds. The forecast called for rain later, but all I got was tons of hot sun!
Some dill plants went in the corners, along with a parsley plant. Last of all, I threw in some saved Marigold seeds.
As soon as I took the rug covering off the eggplant, it began to wilt. They really cannot take the midday sun. I quickly watered the whole garden (each plant got it’s own soaking as I planted it) and put the rug back.
Already I am thinking of moving the okra to in front of the eggplant to give it some shade. I can’t run outside every day to cover it because of the sun. (Side note here – the okra was popping up out of the dirt on day 4!). The seed packet says this okra will be 4 -5 feet tall!
Although my summer garden may not do well due to the heat, this section of yard will remain a garden bed. When winter comes I can plant lettuce and kale. Also, I will continue to look for hardy, Florida crops to plant.
Bought My Seeds From Urban Harvest
I found this wonderful gardener online who has a YouTube channel called: The Urban Harvest – Homegrown Education. She lives on the west coast of central Florida and has lots of videos about growing things that actually will grow here in Florida! Immediately, I bought some of her seed packets.
I bought some organic Coconut Coir blocks and have added seeds and other things to the pots. I’ve never used the stuff before and I will compare to planting in dirt.
I’m getting ready to post this on April 15th and noticed this AM that one of my pumpkin seeds has sprouted! More about this unusual, southern Seminole pumpkin to come.
2 thoughts on “Digging, Planning and Planting a Backyard Food Garden in Florida”
I have been moving my own compost and purchased vege mix – which is ok
when mixed with my own compost. As I carefully dug up my not completely
composted compost, I made sure that the worms went too. I find that
under a pile of household vege matter and other garden weeds and some
soil, the worms are very happy so I make sure that I transfer them to
the new beds. I put that compost in first, then the vege mix.
You could also use trench composting and dig trenches, fill with your
daily vege scraps (no meat or bread or citrus), put the soil back, and
move on, and the worms will probably find the compost. If you then put
your walking boards on top of the trench the wood will keep the worms
cooler. I found lots of worms hanging out (breeding!) under bits of flat
wood – and we have just come to the end of our summer. Then next year
you plant into the trenches and start again.
You could try growing cucumbers (mini ones) and lift them off the ground
a bit – I grow telegraph ones up a frame, and Lebanese (mini) cucumbers
along the ground. Runner beans are also good as they happily grow up
anything. And so long as they get water they are happy.
Egg plants – wow! We have discovered some yummy vegan recipes for those,
and capsicums/peppers grow so easily from the seed inside a purchased
one. I slice them finely (no need to skin) and roast in the oven and
then freeze them for eating in the winter. Have discovered red pepper
and tomato soup is delicious (canned tomatoes).
Have fun! I have purchased raised gardens – about 18 inches high – to
save my back!
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