Tag Archives: Florida garden blog

February To-Do List

Standard

Will spring be early this year? I sure hope so.

DSCN5806

Until then, I am enjoying delicious greens from the garden. The collards pictured above have survived our light frosts pretty well.

DSCN5805

Turnip harvest have been good, and the mustard greens and kale have kept us supplied with veggies.

DSCN5787

I have been pleased with the ‘White Egg’ turnips this year. Despite being planted too closely, they have still produced many turnips. We ate the thinnings as greens, and now they are bulbing up nicely, no succession planting needed.

DSCN5808

The shed bed has been producing mustard greens, and the garlic is progressing nicely.

DSCN5804

Broccoli has been a bust. Again. Last year I blamed myself, the weather, and the soil and decided to try it again.

This year, I blame it on the variety. I’m going to spend a little extra and get a named variety or hybrid for next time. Do you have a favorite variety that you recommend?

DSCN5803

The pac choi is bolting, and I welcome the cheery yellow flowers. I plan to let my mustard bolt too, I’m hoping for an impressive display from them.

My to-do list:

1. Start tomatoes and flowers on Valentine’s Day. Last year I had spring fever so bad…do you remember the strange place that I sprouted seeds?

2. Make marmalade!! I love it so much on homemade bread, with hot tea to accompany it. That combination makes me feel cultured and British. 🙂

3. Sketch out a garden plan. I hope to have most of my crops and seeds planted by mid-March, and then to just let them do their thing.

4. Get more green bean seeds. I’m going to buy some in bulk to save money. Maybe this year I will save some seeds from them. Saving your own seeds is a great way to save money in the garden. You can also get seeds for free; check out my popular post on How I Get Free Seeds.

5. Plant out sugar snap starts. Last year I figured out too late that the squirrels were digging up my peas. I found a few peas that I had managed to save from last year, soaked them, and planted them in flats. Hopefully it’s not too late.

DSCN5800

Are you ready for spring? I have to admit, I’m not quite as stir crazy as I was last year; maybe it’s because I have so many crops actively growing and maturing.

We are supposedly in for some cold weather this week. If you have raised bed gardens, look for a post soon on how to cover your raised bed.

Are you going to try any new techniques or varieties this year? It’s never too early to plan!

Chicken Owners, is this normal?

Standard

I don’t own chickens. Yet.

One day I hope to own some, but for now I can buy yard eggs for $2 per dozen from a neighbor.

I have the benefits of healthier and tastier eggs without the work and expense (small as that could be) of keeping them.

DSCN5793

However, I am a bit concerned by how dirty these eggs are. I realize, of course, that grocery eggs have been washed; but it was my understanding that if the laying box was kept clean, eggs this dirty would be pretty rare.

Also, eggs that I have received from kind friends have not been this dirty.

So, is this pretty normal, or should I be concerned?

Thanks for your help!

January To-Do List

Standard

Happy New Year! I hope that you had a great holiday season.

It’s time for those glossy seed catalogs to arrive. Let the dreaming begin!

Here’s what my gardens look like now.

DSCN5745turnip seedlings

The shed bed has daikon radishes, garlic, mustard greens, spinach, and a volunteer from the collards that I planted last year. A row of turnips planted right after Christmas are sprouting.

DSCN5749  Florida winter vegetable garden

The large garden is coming along nicely; it has loved the recent showers. The second picture is a closer view of the greens. They are doing so well!

I just planted some Danvers half-long carrots, red-cored Chantenay carrots, and radishes in the wide rows pictured.

I love taking a colander out there in the evening and harvesting greens for dinner. So nutritious and yummy!

growing turnips in Floridabolting pak choi

Turnips planted in the fall are growing well, and we ate our first harvest of them on Christmas Day.

The weather has been warm lately. That, combined with the showers has helped much of the garden, but the pak choi has started to bolt.

January and February seem to be the coldest months in North Florida, so maybe that will slow them down a bit. I did snip off the flowers, buds, and harvested some leaves to go with supper tonight, maybe that will help too.

My to-do list:

1. Plant sugar snap peas.

2. Sketch out plan for spring garden.

3. Organize seeds.

4. Enjoy lots of greens!!

Are you snowed in or are you gardening? Either way, it’s always a great time to peruse seed catalogs and dream. Look for a Florida raised bed garden update soon, as well as a tip for saving money and eating healthy too!

Happy gardening!

How to Freeze Peppers

Standard

Florida fall garden pepper plant During the Florida fall, pepper plants seem to really produce peppers like crazy. I had to harvest all my peppers in anticipation of that random pre-Thanksgiving freeze. I think the final count was 54?

DSCN5554

Fresh peppers can be expensive, even more so prepackaged vegetables, fresh or frozen. I usually use peppers in spaghetti sauce, chili, fajitas, stir-fries, etc., so freezing them in strips or diced was the way to go for me!

Start by washing your peppers. Even if you did not have to spray them or fertilize, they may still have dust or little bugs on them.

Hold peppers upright, and slice off the wall of the peppers all the way around, leaving the seeds and core.

Cut into strips and/or dice the peppers.

No need to blanch, simply spread them out on a cookie sheet and freeze. If you happen to think of it, stir them after about an hour so that they are separated.

DSCN5440

Do not skip the freezing-on-cookie-sheet step unless you have a recipe that calls for a one quart block of frozen peppers. 🙂

Put the peppers in freezer bags, label, and place in freezer.

I love having pepper strips ready to go into a stir-fry. It is so convenient to be able to take a small handful of diced peppers and to toss them into an omelette or spaghetti sauce.

Although I love to can my easy two ingredient blueberry jam, apple butter, and quick peach jam; I have to admit that quickly freezing a crop is the simplest way to preserve it for later.

Have you ever frozen a crop? How did it turn out?

 

November To-Do List

Standard

Yes, it’s November already. I finally got my collards and kale into the ground.

DSCN5505   DSCN5506

It was nice to have seeds still from last year. Germination rates were great.

Poor little root-bound souls. All the waiting was stressing them out. 🙂

DSCN5508

Triple row of daikon radishes doing well. I have an easy daikon recipe that I posted earlier this year that featured this root vegetable.

DSCN5509   DSCN5510

So far the shed bed has the triple row of daikons, 2 wide rows of mustard, and a few straggling basil plants.

The large garden has been planted with onions, kale, collards, turnips, lettuce, and has a few summer crops remaining such as peppers, sweet potatoes, and zucchini.

DSCN5511

This is what happens when you neglect a zucchini. Ordinarily, I harvest mine when they are much smaller, but I’m glad I have a good chocolate zucchini bread recipe to use!

Here’s my list:

1. Plant garlic in shed bed.

2. Harvest and cure sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. Replace sweet potatoes with carrots, who should hopefully appreciate the loose soil.

3. Plant out broccoli, cauliflower, pak choi, and Swiss chard transplants.

5. Resow Brussels sprouts and spinach.

6. Sow in empty spots: beets, carrots, mustard, and radish.

7. Start putting flowers and more vegetables in flowerbed. It is part of my plan to mix flowers and vegetables for winter color.

8. Make pear butter. I plan to use a method similar to my easy Crock-pot apple butter recipe.

DSCN5477

It’s nice to enjoy local produce, isn’t it?

With just a little work at the beginning, my winter garden should be a “set it and forget it” type of garden. How does your garden grow? Are you clearing it in preparation for the first snowfall? Are you sowing seeds for spring? I’d love to know!

Mixing Vegetables and Flowers for Winter Color

Standard

My poor flowerbed looks pretty bleak in the winter. After our first frost, not much is green except the day lilies.

So, this fall, I am planning to plant snapdragons in that flowerbed, along with some herbs and leafy vegetables.

DSCN4165

I saw this display of snapdragons and pansies last spring and it sparked a determination to have some of my own. Seeing something like this from my kitchen window would certainly make doing the dishes much more pleasant!

So, right now I’m considering snapdragons and Swiss chard for color, curly kale for green, and potted herbs for structure. Maybe some lime green Bibb lettuce too?

Keeping the herbs in pots also gives me the option of tucking them indoors in case of a nasty freeze.

What do you think? Can you think of any other vegetables or flowers that I should add? What survives the cold for you? I’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas!

October To-Do List

Standard

I think fall is really here! The temperature is cool and refreshing in the morning, and seems to be lasting for a while. I have been starting seeds for the fall garden: collards, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Bibb lettuce, and Swiss chard. I planted 27 cells of each. If they all survive, that’s a ton of collards!!

DSCN5406   DSCN5405

At the same time, I am harvesting peppers: banana, jalepeno, and bell.

Southern peas are still growing from the summer garden, but I also harvested my first zucchini from the fall garden.

DSCN5410

The large garden has been planted with beets, rutabagas, and some direct-sown cauliflower. The direct-sown cauliflower is a bit of an experiment; if it doesn’t work I have some seedlings started. The sweet potatoes will hopefully be bigger than last year’s potatoes.

DSCN5409

The shed bed gets more sun in the winter months and greens did well here for me. I am considering just tossing some mustard and turnip seeds over this plot rather than organizing it into rows. I’d probably get a pretty good yield, but I’m not sure that I could endure the aesthetics of that.

I did notice quite a few bugs enjoying the mulch and thought how much my friend’s chickens would enjoy them. Then I realized that this garden would be a great spot for a couple of chickens in the summer! It is typically shaded by noon, so would be semi-cool during the summer.

DSCN5173

They could work the ground for me, then move to a sunnier spot in September. I could let the ground set for about a month (mainly because of the chicken manure) then plant in October or November. Hmmm…something to think about for sure!

Here’s my list for this month:

1. Plant carrots, mustard, spinach, and pak choi, radishes, and maybe more turnips.

2. Freeze some of the bell peppers for winter stir-fries and spaghetti sauce.

3. Save seeds from four o’clocks and cleome to donate to gardenhoard.com’s free seed program. I have benefited from it, and want to give back. If you have a surplus of seeds, consider donating to them. What you may consider a rampant self-seeder may be #1 on somebody’s wish list.

DSCN5411

It’s beautiful weather to be outside with your hands in the soil! If you have been considering starting a garden, why not start small and simple? Grab a 9 pack of some type of greens (kale, collards, lettuce, mustard) and find a sunny spot for them. You may just be pleasantly surprised!

How is your garden? Are you hoping that your tomatoes will ripen before frost or are you ripping up old tomato plants to make room for your collards?

Northern Gardeners Are Going to be Jealous

Standard

If you are already breaking out the jeans and sweaters and thinking about the condition of your snow shovel, you may not want to read this post. One of the many perks of gardening in Florida(and what can create so much envy) is that we can garden all year long. The fall garden is really just as big as the spring garden.

DSCN5386

I have started seeds for collards, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, Bibb lettuce, and cauliflower. Soon I will be planting seeds of turnips, beets, rutabagas, and carrots.

DSCN5389        DSCN5388

At the same time, I have a zucchini that will be ready to harvest in just a few days. Isn’t that crazy?

DSCN5390

My green bean plants are doing well in the mild temperatures and I hope to enjoy fresh green beans soon too.

DSCN5387

This is the crop that I am actually the most eager to harvest- yard long beans, a.k.a. snake beans, a.k.a. asparagus beans. They have finally started to bloom and set pods. I am going to try to restrain myself and not eat the first few pods, as I want to save seed for next year. According to David over at Florida Survival Gardening, they are not only delicious, but they also grow well in the summer garden. His post on snake beans makes you want to skip traditional pole beans in favor of them.

Fall gardening is so fun! There is a lull in the heat and humidity, making it great weather for starting seeds and pulling summer’s weeds.The warm temperatures mean that your seeds will germinate quickly. The bugs will be scarce in the cooler months, so there will be less bother from mosquitoes and chewing caterpillars.

Let’s get growing! If you invest just a little effort now, your garden will reward you with nutritious and delicious vegetables this fall and into the winter.

If your sweet potato vines are overtaking your garden, don’t look at them as a nuisance, look at them as food! Post on that coming soon!

September To-Do List

Standard
September To-Do List

My garden is going through an ugly time.

Right now, only the most stalwart crops are surviving the heat.

This banana plant is a notable exception; it’s mocking its more homely neighbors.

DSCN5234

As you can tell, in the shed bed not much is going on except for the basil. I plan to put some fall crops over here again this fall and winter. This garden gets more sunlight in the winter and my collards and kale did well over here last year.

I can make some pesto from the basil and freeze it. A little pesto adds a nice summery shot of flavor to winter sauces.

DSCN5235

Despite the heat and lack of rainwater, I am still able to harvest okra, bell peppers, Southern peas, and some ground cherries. The sweet potato vines are running, and I should saute some of the greens. We really enjoyed them last year. Even if my sweet potato crop is poor this year, the greens would still make it worthwhile to grow.

DSCN5237

This banana pepper plant really is my pride and joy at this time. I hate to pick the peck of peppers and pickle them; the plant looks fabulous!

DSCN5236

I started my fall planting in August. My green beans are doing well and I have 2 zucchini plants.

Here’s my plan for September:

1. Start collards and kale in flats. In this heat, the seeds will germinate rapidly and get off to a good start.

2. Clear old plants from shed bed.

3. Find a yummy recipe for those banana peppers.

4. Pickle some of the okra. I’ve never had pickled okra-I hope I like it!

5. Transplant some of the tomato plants that I propagated from my spring planting.

 

The list is pretty easy for this month. I love gardening in Florida, there is always something new that you can grow!

Any ideas for the banana peppers? I’m thinking of stuffing them with cream cheese, cheddar, bacon, and sauteed onions and then baking them. Does that sound good?

How is your garden this month?

Time to Plant the Fall Garden!

Standard

For us in North Florida, spring is here again! Many of the spring crops can be planted again, and many of the fall crops can be started this month.

DSCN5207

I really want some green beans, so I am planting some of them, and a few zucchini plants. I saved seeds from my prolific ‘National Pickling’ cucumbers, and I hope to make some more homemade pickles.

I am only going to plant a few tomato plants. I have some cuttings rooted in water on my windowsill. I just clipped some cuttings off the plants before I pulled them. For more tips, read this post.

Many leafy vegetables can be started next month. Collards and kale did well for me last year, so I plan to grow them again.

For now, my garden has quite a few plants that will keep producing for a while: peppers, okra, sweet potatoes, and pink-eyed purple-hulled peas.

For a spectacular Florida Vegetable Planting Guide, visit the University of Florida site. If one of your spring crops failed, chances are that you can try again!

Gardening in Florida is awesome!

What are you doing in your garden now? Are you relaxing in the air conditioning or sweating in the summer sun? I confess, most of my gardening is done before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. Florida sun can be brutal!