Spring Again, March in the Backyard Garden

Planting some vegetables in the March garden in central Florida.

Here in Central Florida we are still having “cool” weather which I love. The neighbors are wearing winter clothing (seriously?) and complaining. When I say “I love this weather”, they tell me to go back to Vermont (I’m from New Hampshire).

I guess Floridians get grumpy when it’s cold.

The weather is perfect for planting the garden, and truly I should have begun sooner. Unfortunately I still have the lack-of-dirt problem. I’ve continued to add leaves, grass, and kitchen compost to the raised bed, but need to buy bags of dirt.

Now I have the money, but need the help lugging all those bags of soil and fertilizer / compost from the store and to the backyard.

For now I am using a few fabric bags where I have planted zucchini (or summer squash, I can’t remember which), lettuce and potatoes.  All are doing very well and growing fast.

Check out my other posts to see how things are going: May in the Garden.

squash plant
Zucchini or yellow squash (can’t remember which)

Tonight I will snip off the tops of this bib lettuce for supper. It will continue to grow back unless the hot weather moves in. Lettuce likes it cool.

lettuce growing in a fabric pot
The lettuce is loving the cooler weather

Yesterday I searched the Home Depot for some decent vegetable plants. I came away with a Celebrity tomato, and something called a Bonnie Original. One is a determinate and one an indetermanent, and as I stood there in the garden center I couldn’t remember what that meant. I thought one was grown within a cage and the other was sprawling. I think I was sort of right. Read more here about the difference between the two types.

tomato plants
Little tomato plants

I have tomato-stealing raccoons, so I’m not going nuts with the tomato plants. I also have a limited amount of space to grow things. The tomatoes may end up in bags with handles so I can easily move them inside at night away from tiny raccoon paws.

Potatoes growing in fabric pot
Potato vines

I planted some red potatoes, from my kitchen, with big “eyes” and that is what is growing in one of the fabric bags. I have good luck with potatoes. Although they are usually quite small, they are delicious.

I am so excited to see this little “volunteer” pepper plant! Glad I didn’t weed it out before I recognized it. My original pepper plant is still living and growing from last Spring! Even with all the cold weather over the winter, it survived (although it has a few aphids) and is flowering now. Amazing. I trimmed off the curling leaves and will see what it does. Apparently a seed was dropped, and now a new pepper plant is growing. I’d never heard of a “volunteer” plant until I lived in New Hampshire. My preferred word for them is “free”!

little pepper plant
“Volunteer” pepper plant

On my latest trip to Pell’s Nursery in Osteen I picked up this little Navel orange tree. I have left it in it’s original pot for now, but bought that ceramic one for later use. It has a few little oranges growing which I hope don’t fall off. Sometime between October and March I should be picking an orange or two from my yard.

little navel orange tree in pot
My new Navel orange tree

I’ve had good luck with growing the Persian Lime, so thought I’d add more citrus to the yard.

A Little Salad From My Backyard Winter Garden

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-3-38-01-pmJust made myself a salad with ingredients from my (very) small backyard garden. In fact it’s really just a few pots with lettuce, parsley and scallions / green onions.  I added some flaxseed meal and a side of potato salad, but the greens came from the yard!

When there is fresh food growing just outside the door, it’s hard to choose NOT to eat it.  After all, it took work to plant it and care for it, so why not enjoy it as often as possible?  Plus I am lucky enough to still have food growing in January!  I am in Florida now, and I have to constantly remind myself that it IS winter…. in other places.

Floridians believe it is winter here.  When the temps plummet to 60 degrees they put on their heavy hoodies, tied tightly around their heads as they head out to walk the dogs.  What?  I wave to them as I stand there in my capris and t-shirt and then I turn and laugh.  My blood will thin out again too, and one day I will think 60 is cold… I guess.  For now, the icy cold of a January day in New Hampshire is still fresh in my mind.

Back to garden talk.  I know that planting season is coming soon down here in Florida, and I am stressing a bit because my raised bed is not filled with dirt.  BUT, a friend made a suggestion, which I may do because it seems easier than trying to buy a load of dirt and move it into the container.  I also have a sprinkler system to worry about crushing.  If I decide to try the “new way of gardening” I’ll share it in a soon-to-come post.

For now I am enjoying my greens.  I can’t wait for the citrus (lemons and limes) to grow.  Fresh lemonade would go well with this meal!

Cold Weather Crops: Lettuce

Planting lettuce while I wait for the weather to warm up.

lettuce growing garden
Growing Lettuce
Some of the best cold weather crops include lettuce. I sprinkle the seeds into my raised bed where I don’t have to worry about disturbing the ground unintentionally. Tomorrow is Saturday and I’ll be outdoors cleaning up the yard a bit. There is a lot to do. I live downhill from the road, and my front yard is right on the road. What this means is that all the sand and salt from the winter plowing and snow-blowing is covering some of my gardens and lawn. There is always a lot of raking to do to remove the old leaves, and the sand along with them. The wheelbarrow has been buried, but I think it’s reachable by now.

I’ll check at Job Lots and see if they have seed packs. Lettuce is easiest to grow from seed. I had good luck with the mixed lettuce seeds last year. I grew some in Spring and Fall, cutting off the small leaves as they grew.

I’ve Learned How To Grow Good Lettuce

growing lettuce
Lettuce in a Pot

I have tried many times to grow my own lettuce without success. Sometimes it would grow and look nice but it was too bitter to eat. This year I scattered seeds randomly in containers and in the ground (among the strawberry plants) and I am harvesting it!

I’ve learned that lettuce can be eaten when it’s fairly small. I cut off the larger leaves, rinse them and eat. New leaves grow to take their place almost immediately.

Lettuce likes cool weather, so I’ll try to get it planted sooner next spring. I can grow it in my little greenhouse on the deck, or next to the house. In fact I plan to plant some parsley early too.

Another trick I’ve discovered is to plant it in a pot like the one here. Then the lettuce can be moved out of the full sun on hot days. I set mine between two tall Tansy plants (weeds, really) that are shading it nicely.   I also don’t have enough room to grow everything I’d like to in the ground.

I think I’ve planted buttercrunch in the strawberries (below) – I read somewhere to do that for shading. It’s growing and I am eating it! I’m so happy to finally be able to grow good, tasty, lettuce.

strawberry plants and lettuce
Little Lettuce Leaves Among Strawberries