Vegetable Gardening in the Right Season
Early spring and mid-fall are the best seasons for planting your vegetable garden. Here in South Florida we rarely have a freeze, so most vegetable gardens can thrive from October to May. Although some plants may over-summer, South Florida’s brutal sun and abundance of rainfall can be a recipe for disaster. Warm weather also encourages the development and prevalence of pests and disease. But a little bit of vigilance and effort will help manage pests and keep your garden thriving.
Vegetable Gardening in the Right Soil
Successful gardens start with fertile soil. When South Florida home building and real estate development was booming, builders used cheap fill on home sites. So if you live in an area that was developed within the last five or six years, chances are your soil will need amending. The best thing to do is take a soil sample to your local University of Florida extension, and they will test your soil’s ph and provide some recommendations. Soil testing kits are also available in local home improvement and hardware stores. Ways to improve your soil include adding bone meal, manure, compost, leaves, chemical-free grass clippings, and shredded newspaper. Or you can create an instant raised garden by laying down bags of rich topsoil, opening the bags and planting directly in the soil.
Vegetable Gardening Free From Competition and Full of Companions
Vegetables grow best when they are not competing for water and nutrients with other plants. Keep your vegetable garden far from trees, shrubs and other large plants. Plant your garden in a sunny location so that your vegetables get a minimum of 6 hours of sunshine each day. Corn, cucumbers, melons, peppers and tomatoes need lots of sun. Leafy vegetables such as cabbage, collards and broccoli can withstand more shade.
Make a Plan
A successful vegetable garden starts with a plan. Take out a sheet of graph paper and simply sketch out your garden before you stick a seed or a root in the ground. Decide what you’re going to grow and how much of it you want. Design your garden layout based on the height and expected maturation of your crops. Plant tall plants on the north side of the garden to reduce shade they create. Plant low growing vegetables on your garden’s south side. Use upright plants, like okra and corn, to support climbing plants like cucumbers and pole beans. Plan to grow vegetables that require support along the fence so they can be tied up, or use your fence as a trellis for climbers.
Follow these basic tips and you will have an abundant vegetable garden here in South Florida.