If you enjoy juicy red home grown tomatoes and the taste of a crisp just-picked green pepper. then you need to start your own vegetable garden. And South Florida is a perfect place for gardening. However, growing produce down South is a bit different from starting a summertime backyard garden in the North. You’ll need to follow some simple guidelines so that you can produce the best produce around.
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. Place a barrier between large root plantings, or dig a deep trench around your designated vegetable garden. That being said, vegetable gardens will do best when companions are nearby. Marigolds have long been used are a pest repellant. Although there’s no documentation to prove pest management, marigolds and other annuals, like sunflowers, help attract more pollinators and increase the aesthetics of the vegetable garden.
Vegetable Gardening in the Right Site
A vegetable garden that is out of site may often be out of mind. So plant your vegetable garden near your home, preferably within view of a window or door. Protect your vegetable garden with a fence that will keep away pets, rabbits, and other critters. Make certain your garden is within reach of a source of irrigation because vegetables need plenty of water. 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. Avoid planting your vegetables over septic drain lines to avoid hazardous contamination.
Vegetable Gardening with the End in Mind
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.