THE KEY TO BECOMING A SUCCESSFUL VEGETABLE GARDENER
A reader from Weeki Wachee, Florida (it's north of Clearwater), writes:
I have for quite some time felt the Lord Jesus telling me to plant a garden, and I have been fighting him, but today for some reason here I am. So I ask, what is the very first thing I would need to do? I have only planted flowers, and I’m not too good at that. I have my spot picked out in my backyard, however there are several trees that my husband does not want removed. Can I plant around them? I have a ton more questions but I better stick with step one. Thank you for your time. God Bless. Dina
I believe the real key to successfully growing your own vegetables is desire. After that, it comes down to timing and selection – what to plant and when.
Step 1- Determine what you want to grow. A vegetable gardening guide for your part of the state can be found here. It lists the vegetables that grow in Florida, the best varieties for our part of the world, plant and row spacing, when to plant for best results and how to prepare your garden for planting, among other things. For north Florida, readers can refer to my vegetable gardening guide on this page.
Next, prepare the soil. You will want to remove anything growing there now. If you have grass growing there, spray it with Round Up or a similar product and dig it up after it has died. Work in some organic material such as compost, dried leaves or lawn clippings. Composted cow manure, which is widely available, and a little peat moss, work as well. A general rule of them in Florida is to put down a 2 inch layer of organic material on top of the soil and then use a shovel or tiller to mix it in to a depth of about 6 to 8 inches.
Another option is to build raised beds.
You should wait 3 to 4 weeks before planting anything in your newly prepared garden, so you have to plan ahead.
You can have success growing vegetables near trees so long as you get at least half a day of sunlight on your garden and the roots of the trees do not interfere. Also, the closer you are to the trees the more they will compete with your veggies for water and nutrients, so you may need to watch for that.
If you prepare the soil as you should, choose veggies that grow where you live and plant them at the right time, you will be well on your way to success.
A great resource for Florida vegetable gardeners is Vegetable Gardening in Florida. The 135-page book includes detailed descriptions of every crop grown in Florida and plenty of good ‘how to’ information. Color photographs help the gardener in identifying vegetable disorders and pests. The cost is $16.95 and it can be ordered online at http://www.ifasbooks.com. Ask for a copy for Christmas!
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