As the harvest season approaches, summer temperatures are declining. During the Florida rainy season, the need to irrigate indoor gardens continued to decrease. The annual wildflowers have already sprouted, and vegetable seedlings are sold in retail stores. In Florida, September is the perfect time to plant a spring garden.
Growing your own plants, vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes and peppers, with a little exercise in the fresh air and sunlight, is relaxing. Some people are content to grow a few tomatoes, peppers, and greens in containers and pots on the porch or porch. Others build low-rise beds or wooden boxes that are easily accessible and avoid overcrowding. Some drip, pop or overload irrigation. Others are satisfied with hand water. Add to that the need for coarse sand, well-drained soil, add organic matter, and resume to create humus-rich soil that is naturally acidic.
On Government Road 44, there is a well-maintained backyard garbage dump that is free to enrich the soil. I use the truck. It stores garden debris until the county dries and dies and allows it to rot for months in a large pile to heat and cook to unwanted seeds. After several months, a contractor will come to repair the mold and filter the mold into a fine straw. Citrus County will load trucks and trailers from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For annual vegetables, a mixture of 1/3 humus to 2/3 of garden sand is sufficient. Unfertilized, natural, decomposing acid humus releases nutrients for plants to grow well, maintains soil moisture, and contains many fungi, insects, bacteria, and soil organisms that are essential for healthy soil and vegetation.
Vegetable soil pH should be acidic between 5.8 and 6.3. Remember that Florida limestone wells are naturally alkaline, but rainwater is slightly acidic. Urban water produced by about 130 sewage treatment plants in Florida has 7 neutral pH, but can be changed for taste. There are kits for testing both soil and water. Homeowners can test extension service samples in their county for a small fee.
One tip – do not add alkaline lime or dolomite (limestone with magnesium) without testing. Vegetables and most plants do not grow well in alkaline soils. If your soil has limestone, then place vegetables in containers in artificial acidic soil.
Vegetables need about six hours of sunlight to thrive. Root crops such as carrots, onions, and potatoes can be planted, but fruits, such as peppers, pumpkins, beans, and tomatoes, take longer to grow. Grains such as beans and peas regulate nitrogen in the soil. Good soil can be replanted, tested and reused, but gardeners must rotate different varieties during the next growing season. Vegetables can be planted in ornamental gardens.
Plant seeds before pot seedlings. The UF has a “Florida Vegetable Guide” for planting suitable varieties. If the soil is rich in humus, chemical fertilizer is not needed. I have never used chemical fertilizers in my garden. Most Florida soils have enough phosphorus – the average number in a compost bag. Adding more phosphorus can lead to runoff.
Plant colorful, flower-rich flowers to attract pollen to your garden. Learn to identify beneficial insects, such as bees, all wasps, beetles, prayer mantis, spiders, and deadly bugs. Take care of your vegetarian patch and pull weeds regularly. Avoid chemical pesticides and herbal remedies. Harvest fruits and vegetables before wild animals come to help themselves.
Gardening is a fun pastime. The taste and nutrition of fresh, home-made products is unmatched. Human gardeners must learn to live and share with rabbits, squirrels, birds, and other wild animals that share the land. Grow a little more for them.
Jane Weber is a professional gardener and consultant. Partially retired, it produces thousands of local plants. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-249-6899.