Tag Archives: Florida vegetable garden

Fresh Salad from the Backyard Garden

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Some are concerned with food miles. Not me. This salad was harvested mere yards from my kitchen.

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Crunchy Bibb lettuce, colorful Swiss chard, sweet pac choi, and crisp radishes were fresh additions to a winter salad.

It is great fun to wander through the gardens, picking and pulling food from the ground, then enjoying its intense flavors soon afterward.

Have you started dreaming about your spring garden yet? If you are in North Florida, check out my February To-Do List for some ideas to get you started.

If your view of the garden is obscured by snow drifts, check out my post on how to get free seeds and start your collection.

If you are new to gardening, you can get some ideas from my posts on the basics of starting seeds, how to start composting, and why I mulch.

Gardening is soooo much fun!

February To-Do List

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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?

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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.

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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!

November To-Do List

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

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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. 🙂

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

Are Sweet Potato Leaves Edible?

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If you grew sweet potatoes this year, you probably have a massive tangle of vines overtaking your garden. Those sweet potato vines, in addition to being one of the crops that thrive in Florida summers, can be a tasty addition to the dinner table.

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If  you grow greens like kale and collards, you probably know that they are cool weather crops that tend to bolt as temperatures rise. Not to worry, sweet potato greens can take their place!

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I like to snip some leaves and saute with olive oil and garlic, much like I do with kale. It is delicious served as a side dish, much like spinach.

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Try not to harvest ALL your leaves, though, be sure to leave some to produce food to be stored in the sweet potatoes!

I think that I will have to try some in an omelet soon; starting kale seeds for my fall garden is reminding me of how much I miss kale with my eggs!

Have you ever eaten sweet potato leaves? If so, how do you prepare them? If not, would you be brave enough to try them? Let me know what you think!

Sweet potato vines aren’t the only green in my garden, the basil is still growing. Time to preserve some basil!

Northern Gardeners Are Going to be Jealous

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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!

August To-Do List

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August To-Do List

Did you know that in North Florida, fall planting is as busy as spring? In fact, many of the spring crops (beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers) can be planted again!

Here’s how my garden is doing and my plans for this month.

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The summer showers and sweltering heat have finally taken their toll on many of my spring plants. However, the herbs, green beans, and ‘Marketmore’ cucumbers are doing well by the shed.

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I have moved many of my herbs from my pallet potting bench to the shadier garden, as the summer’s heat was drying them out too quickly.

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I ripped up the tomato jungle, but took some cuttings from the ‘Roma’,’Super Sweet 100′, and ‘Brandywine Pink” tomato plants for propagating. I am rooting them in water, as the heat seems to be a bit oppressive now for rooting them outside. I have a post about how to root tomatoes in this post.

The cucumbers are done. They exceeded my expectations, while the tomatoes in general underperformed.

The sweet potatoes are running, the new row of okra has buds, and I have a cantaloupe and watermelon ripening,

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It is a little strange to be preparing in the heat for fall/winter crops when sweater weather is a distant memory, but I will sweat while starting seeds for crops that will likely taste the best after a light frost. The best source that I have found for vegetable planting times in Florida is here.

So what is on my to-do list?

  1. Plant more green beans.
  2. Start broccoli, cauliflower,collards, and cucumbers. More fall crops can be started next month too.
  3. Make pesto. I transplanted the basil cuttings that I rooted, so hopefully I will be able to make some to freeze. It is a vibrant addition to winter spaghetti sauce.
  4. Stuff and roast banana peppers. Anyone have a favorite recipe?

Not too busy, the heat of summer is when I tend to let what I have done in spring do its thing. I haven’t had to do much weeding, even after pulling up the tomato plants. Less weeding is the main reason why I mulch.

Oops, almost forgot. I hope to try my first ground cherry this month too. The plant is from some seeds that I got for free, and I am so excited to try them! One of my big goals for this year was to grow fruit, and I really hope this plant succeeds.

How is your garden? Did you have a crop that exceeded your expectations?

Bacon-Wrapped BBQ Drumsticks with Cheddar

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So what happens when you add bacon to BBQ? Happiness on a drumstick.

This is an easy and impressive way to make chicken.

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         6 chicken drumsticks, 6 slices of bacon, 3/4 cup BBQ sauce (my friend Teresa on acupofdiy.com has a homemade BBQ recipe on her blog), and 6 slices of Cheddar cheese

Warning: Don’t use your nice baking pans for this recipe.

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Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Wrap each drumstick in bacon and bake for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and bacon is crispy.

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Brush drumsticks with BBQ sauce (this is why you don’t use your nice pan) and lay the cheese on top.

Bake an additional 5 minutes more or until the cheese is gooey and melty.

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Bacon-Wrapped BBQ Drumsticks with Cheddar

Summer on a plate! Serve with some No-Slime Okra and some sweet tea, mint-infused if you want to be fancy.

Probably won’t be much conversation for a while after you bring these out-people will be too busy eating to talk.

So many fresh and delicious meals to be enjoyed in the summer. I am enjoying the fresh fruit so much. I’ll have to tell you about my Peach-Blueberry Jam next!

What is your favorite summer food?

How to Start Your Own Sweet Potato Slips

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Sweet potatoes love to grow in the heat of Florida summers. At a time when many other crops are struggling, the sweet potato vines spread vigorously.

You can buy sweet potato slips, or you can grow them yourself from a sweet potato.  Maybe you did a project in elementary school where you stuck toothpicks in a sweet potato, then set it in a glass of water to grow leaves and roots. You had to make sure you changed the water or it would get stinky.

I rooted mine differently.

I used the ” Stick it in a Pot and Forget about It” method.

All I did was to take a sweet potato and bury it about halfway in some of my compost. I put the pointy end down and the end that had the little scar above the ground.

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Depending on your sweet potato’s mood and the heat of your climate, you should begin to see green leaves within a few weeks, earlier if your potato was showing signs of sprouting anyway.

If you have never rooted anything in your life, start with sweet potatoes-they are so easy. Tomatoes are pretty easy to root too, and I have gotten many free tomato plants that way.DSCN4432

To get your plants, snip off sections of the vine, being sure that you have at least 1 node(intersection of leaf and stem) that you can bury, preferably 2.DSCN4435

Tear the leaf off of the node and bury the section as deeply as possible. I am sticking my shoots into flats filled with my homemade compost.DSCN4438If some of the shoots are short, just rip them off of the potato and poke them in the compost or potting soil. You may think that some of the little sections of stem will not be able to root, but they will surprise you.

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Within a week, roots will begin developing and soon you will be able to see them poking out from the bottom of the flat. The sweet potato slips are ready to be planted in your garden and soon the vines will be everywhere!

Just let them grow for at least 120 days, then start digging!

Have you ever rooted your own sweet potato slips? What method did you use?

Florida Raised Bed Gardening: Harvest!

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If you have followed the progress of this raised bed, you may have been wondering about the growth.

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The above pictures were taken 2 weeks ago.

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Florida raised bed garden

Look at it now! The first green beans were harvested this last week and the gardeners were so excited!

 

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They planted ‘Kentucky Wonder’ bush beans and some yellow wax beans. They were able to eat green beans for lunch that they grew in their backyard.

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yellow squash plant

They have signs of little yellow squash growing too. They should be able to harvest squash in just a few days.

If you have been thinking about gardening, you can start small with a raised bed. The husband in this gardening duo had never planted a seed before, but he is now able to harvest vegetables from his backyard.

Please don’t think of gardening as expensive, complicated, or difficult. Start small, and enjoy the process. Gardeners are always learning, so don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know.

You can read about how they started their garden in this post, and follow their progress.

Backyard Garden Harvest!

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In the Florida panhandle, we can garden all year long. I really enjoyed the kale(did you try my favorite kale recipe?) and collards from my winter garden, but I have really missed fresh green beans.

This last week was the start of the harvests from my spring garden.

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I love fresh green beans! They are nothing like their commercially canned, mushy counterparts or the watery, commercially frozen beans.

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I love fresh yellow squash too. So far I have harvested 6. If you are having trouble with your baby squash or cucumbers shriveling and dying, be sure to read my post on how to prevent wrinkly baby squash syndrome.

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My cucumber plants are beginning to sprawl so I must put up a trellis for them ASAP. They are near a large privacy fence and I have a neat idea for a support. I plan to post pictures of this DIY cucumber trellis-the trellis will be quick to assemble and inexpensive to make!

I have many tiny green tomatoes and am looking forward to juicy BLTs and fresh salsa!

What are you harvesting?