Tag Archives: Florida garden

Another Great Reason to Garden in Florida


Another Great Reason to Garden in Florida

My delicious salad had fresh, nutritious ingredients from the garden including kale and Bibb lettuce. Spring is here, and it is salad season. I added pops of flavor with chunks of feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, and dried cranberries.

Do you recognize the edible flowers?

You have probably purchased them before, but they just hadn’t bloomed yet. They’re broccoli flowers!
It is so wonderful to be able to dash out to the garden and hand-select additions to a meal.

What are you eating from your garden?

How I Get Free Seeds


If you are just starting a garden, you may have many varieties on your wish list. Seeds are pretty inexpensive, but when you want to try many new varieties it can start to get pricey. However, there are ways to get seeds for free or for the cost of a few stamps.


One way that I have gotten free seeds is through gardenhoard.com. Katie has a really neat site that sells many varieties of seeds. However, she also offers some older seeds for free. Sometimes others will donate seeds to her. I have gotten seeds from her for two years now and have had great germination results. All you need to provide is your wish list and a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). You can see the details on her site here. This year I’m really excited to try the ground cherry seeds. My ‘Black Krim’ and ‘Mortgage Lifter’ tomatoes have already sprouted.

I am grateful for the seeds that I have received from her and plan to donate some of my seeds to her this year.


Another great site that is so helpful to new gardeners is gardenweb.com. Their Seed Exchange Forum is a place to trade seeds, but sometimes generous gardeners will offer extra seeds for SASE. Those offers go quickly, so if you see something that interests you, respond right away. There is also a Newbie Project that provides many types of seeds to new gardeners.


I wanted to grow milkweed this year, and found an organization, Live Monarch, that is so concerned about the monarch butterfly’s food supply that they will send you free milkweed seeds. For a $1 donation, they will send you the equivalent of 2 packets of seeds. I donated to the organization and received my seeds and some information about the monarch butterfly. What you see in that picture is what I had left after I sowed some for this year.


Another source of free seeds is gardening friends. If you get seeds or plants from someone in your area, it is probably well-adapted to your climate and should perform well for you also. I have received seeds and plants from other gardeners who were only too happy to give away extras. In my hand you see some okra seeds that I was given this year. I feel the same way about giving away seeds. I am so happy to be able to give away seeds or plants that another gardener is interested in having in their garden.


Finally, your own garden can be a source of free seeds. If you learn how to save seeds from your flowers and vegetables, you can save yourself money on seeds next year (or have extra money to spend on new varieties 🙂 ). After all the seeds I saved last year, I may never have to buy marigold seeds again. Many of the tomatoes that I am growing this year are heirlooms, and so will grow true from their seeds. If your seeds came from a hybrid, you may or may not get the same result as the parent.

If you have a plant that has performed well for you, try to save its seeds. For example, I have been really impressed with my collards this year, so I may save their seeds to plant next fall.

Gardening can be as expensive as you want it to be. This is a way to try many seeds and save some money!

I have another post with more money-saving garden tips that can help you save even more.

Propagating cuttings from plants you already have or from cuttings given to you by friends can save you so much money and help  you get more of what you love. I have some tutorials on how to propagate Wishbone flower (great for Florida summers!), start sweet potato slips (the easy way-no toothpicks or stinky water), and how to divide oregano. My favorite plant to propagate though, is the tomato. I love to get more tomato plants for free! It is great to be able to give extra plants away to friends too.

Do you know of any other ways to get free seeds?

Resources for North Florida Gardeners


Did you know that Florida has 4 gardening zones? This climate diversity and the variable weather makes planting times incredibly important. If you plant too early, your plants will have trouble germinating. Those that do germinate will struggle along until the warmth comes. Plant too late, and your plants might be unable to handle the heat, humidity, and pests. It is important to know your gardening zone and to plan your garden accordingly. If you are used to gardening in the northern United States, you will find that many of your typical spring crops are planted in the fall here in northwest Florida.


It can be confusing to read gardening books and to follow them, only to have your crops struggle because of our climate. Vegetables can be grown all year here, but there are many differences to note about gardening in Florida. You cannot follow the planting times and guidelines from many of the excellent gardening books because of how much our climate varies. Here, if you wait until Mother’s Day to plant tomatoes, you have planted seedlings when local gardeners may be waiting for theirs to ripen.

I have spent much time searching the Internet, reading books, and talking to gardeners while trying to learn how to garden here. I have put together a list of resources that have helped me figure out how to garden in zone 8b.

First, you can find your zone on this site. Seed catalogs, books  and  websites will refer to zone numbers often, so it is helpful to know your zone.

Second, I use the University of Florida’s planting calendar. If you stray too far from their planting times, you do so at great risk. Use common sense when determining when to plant, too. For example, according to their calendar, I can start planting beans in March. Because I know that beans need warmth to germinate, and that our winter has been quite cold, I am waiting until the end of March to  plant them. Their website is also an incredible resource, full of information about all kinds of agriculture: lawns, flowers, square foot gardens, and fruit trees.

Also, check with your local Extension Office. They may provide soil testing and other services.

I have found the forums on gardenweb.com to be so helpful. They have a Florida gardening forum that is quite active (remember, we can garden year-round here), a seed-starting forum, and forums for many specific flowers and vegetables.

There are also some sites and blogs that I have enjoyed reading. For us in north Florida, I have found a really good blog, The Front Yard Farmer, who grows vegetables in Niceville, Florida. He has information archived by month, so it is a good practice to check his site to see what he has done in past years. I have learned so much from reading his blog.

There are two blogs based out of central Florida that are also neat to read. Gardening in Central Florida is a blog that chronicles a garden’s progress. He is a month or so ahead of us because of his location, but whatever he is doing in the garden is typically something that we can be preparing to do in our gardens.

Another good resource from central Florida is Central Florida Gardener. She has an interesting post on how to attract butterflies to your garden and other neat posts. Her pictures are beautiful too!

There are some books that I have found very helpful for gardening in Florida. My favorite is  Month-by-Month Gardening in Florida (Tom MacCubbin), which details what to do month-by-month for all types of plants. Some of the topics covered are citrus, perennials, vegetables, bulbs, annuals, and palms. Second, I like Florida Gardener’s Resource ( Tom MacCubbin and Georgia B. Tasker). This book gives planting information about many of the plants that grow well in Florida, as well as brief month-by-month instructions. Vegetable Gardening in Florida (James M. Stephens) is another great book.  I recently discovered Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida (Ginny Stibolt and Melissa Contreras). Even if you are not an organic gardener, this book covers many basic gardening principles that anyone can use. Check your local library to see if they have them available or buy a copy to keep for personal reference.

My favorite gardening resource is my gardening friends. The love of gardening crosses generation gaps and social classes. Once you start talking about gardening, you will be surprised at how many people are like you and love to grow plants. Some exert great effort to grow the first tomato of the season, others concentrate on growing vibrant herbs, and many grow flowers for the butterflies. We all can learn from each other.


I have found gardeners to be among the most generous people I know; they are always ready to share tips, seeds, and even the harvest. Seeds and plants given to me by my garden friends seem to do so well and I have found many new favorites because of their recommendations and gifts. When I see the plant thriving in my backyard garden, it brings special memories of the giver.

I hope also that you will find this site to be a valuable resource as you garden in this wonderful state. It is my goal with coffeetocompost.com to teach you what I have learned and to show you what I am growing at a given time.

If you know of any other great resources, feel free to mention them in the comments.


Why Another Garden Blog?



My Florida backyard garden is a source of so much happiness and so many wonderful vegetables. Here in the Florida panhandle (zone 8b), we can grow something fresh and healthy all year long. Vegetable gardening in northwest Florida is sometimes challenging, but it is very rewarding to grow plants that are both beautiful and productive. In this blog, you are invited to peek over my fence and watch my garden grow.

There are already many sites and blogs dedicated to the outdoors; why did I decide to add yet another gardening blog?

It started when I began vegetable gardening in the Florida panhandle. I found myself (as many of you are) searching for resources that would first tell me what should be planted and then show me what they were growing. Growing vegetables here is completely different than what is portrayed in many gardening books.

Usually my dear research assistant, Mr. Google, provided me with zillions of sites and I found what I needed on the first page. However, I found it hard to find many people sharing their gardens in my area. What I did find I read voraciously and studied intently. I love gardening and have learned so much; both by research, and by hard-won experience.

Some tell me that I have the coveted green thumb, but I say with H. Fred Ale, “My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.” I hope that I can create a resource to make gardening a bit easier for you. I also plan to share resources that I found helpful.

I am so grateful that I have my little garden journal to refer to as I start seeds(see my seed-starting tutorial here, plant my okra, and harvest tomatoes; but now I plan to have an illustrated journal here, on coffeetocompost.com. I find that few things are more cheerful in the damp cold days of February than looking back to pictures of the enthusiastic garden in June.

I love to have my hands in the soil, feed the compost, watch little sproutlings grow, and feel the hope that a packet of seeds brings.  If you eagerly await the seed catalogs each year, obsessively monitor your seedlings’ progress, frantically try new ways to outwit frost,or just want to figure out how to have fresh basil this year; let’s garden together.