Tag Archives: gardening in North Florida

My North Florida Gardening To-Do List for April

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My North Florida Gardening To-Do List for April

This was the hardest time of the year for me in college. Flowers were blooming, the weather was nice, and I wanted to be outside with my hands in the dirt so badly.

This should be a great month for planting, weeding, dividing, and transplanting.

My tomatoes are already in the ground, and zucchini have true leaves already.

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Greens are producing well, and some are bolting and attracting pollinators.

1. I need to get my pepper plants in the ground. I gave up on getting my bell peppers to sprout, and just spent the 3 bucks on some. You can be sure that I looked for a pack with lots of two in one plants. 🙂

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You may notice that my jalapeño and and habanero peppers germinated just fine though. Figures.

2. Plant green beans. I’m trying a new variety called ‘Tendergreen’ this spring.

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3. Save seeds from my Johhny Jump Ups. Looks like some seed has already been scattered for next season.

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I’m also excited that it seems like I will triple my blueberry production this year.

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You know, like from 5 blueberries to 15. 🙂

In other news, I have some fun stuff coming up in my compost. More on that later- for now, let’s poke some seeds in the ground!

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Four Reasons to Start a Fall Garden in North Florida

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Fall is truly here. We have been enjoying very beautiful days, crisp mornings, and cool evenings. Did you know this is also a great time to garden? There are four great reasons to get started on your garden now.

1. Cooler Weather- I think we can all agree; gardening is much more pleasant without high temps and heavy humidity.
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2. Fewer Pests- The fall garden is not plagued by hordes of caterpillars, borers, or even  powdery mildew. Even the mosquito population seems to be diminished.

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3. Less Weeding- During the summer, the weeds keep pace with the vegetables, then overtake them in a blinding fury mid-July. During the fall, usually what you plant is what you grow, with minimal weeding, especially if you mulch.

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4. Less Work!! All of these advantages add up to less work overall. If you think you don’t like gardening, give fall gardening a try. For some, this is actually their favorite gardening season.

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Scatter some turnip seeds, poke a few kale starts in the ground, and enjoy gardening this fall!

Those bags are just some of my harvest from last year’s fall garden!

How to Grow Yard Long Beans (aka Asparagus Beans) (aka Snake Beans) (aka Noodle Beans)

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How to Grow Yard Long Beans (aka Asparagus Beans) (aka Snake Beans) (aka Noodle Beans)

If you want to grow traditional green beans in North Florida, you get planting times in the spring and fall, but the summer can be a bit tricky for fresh garden produce.

Enter… yard long beans! They are related to the southern peas that do so well in the heat, only they grow longer and stay tender.

If you were not familiar with yard long beans, I could show you my incredibly long green beans, and then sell you whatever brand of fertilizer I wanted.

Speaking of fertilizer…

It was David from www.thesurvivalgardener.com who first got me started with this great crop. He has an entertaining post about these beans as well as an efficient (albeit dubious)method of fertilizing plants.

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I had a few precious seeds saved from last year, and so I rationed some out into flats to be sure of optimum survival rates. I planted them about 1/2 inch deep, gave them water, and exposed them to the blistering heat of summer.

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They twine like typical pole beans, but did not complain about my netting. I think they would grow 50 feet long if I let them.

I have to admit that they did not get much care from me. My garden is a pretty dismal sight in summer and so it kinda depresses me to go out there too much. I tend to stay inside and make yummy stuff like peach jam and sand pear butter. Gotta work on the summer gardening a bit more.

Okra grows well for me. Maybe I’ll divide the garden among these beans, sweet potatoes (grown mostly for the greens), and okra. Sounds like a good plan.

Anyway…

growing yard long beans

The vines took a while to get flowers, but then the beans started growing.

Pretty neat, huh?

yard long beans

I think I may just skip regular green beans next year and plant these starting in the spring. If I can get these vines to grow from April to October, I may not even have room for ice cubes in my freezer!

Have you ever had yard long beans? Would you grow them?

I have this really neat recipe for Yard Long Bean Knots that I’m going to share. I wanted to do something to showcase them in an interesting way, and I thought it turned out pretty well.

North Florida gardeners, it’s time to start seeds for the fall garden!

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Even now it’s still so hot outside, it is time to start thinking about the fall garden.

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Here’s some seeds I started this week: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, kohlrabi, and Swiss chard.

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Some of the seeds have already started coming up, 5 days later! Even though it’s still so hot, the seeds germinate quickly in the warm weather, and will be ready for transplant when it finally starts cooling down a bit.

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I also planted a few patty pan squash. I may also plant some zucchini and yellow squash too.

Next month I plan to direct sow my mustard greens, turnips, rutabagas, and even try some carrots again. It seems like I try carrots multiple times a year, and something always seems to destroy them. I also need to get some herbs started this week: dill and cilantro.

I also want to have plenty of fall and winter bedding plants, so I’m going to start snapdragons & pansies from seed. For the cost of a few packets of seed and my time, I hope to have plenty of color through the winter.

I am really anticipating the kale and mustard greens. The kale is so good for you and I love it sauteed with a little bit of butter and garlic as a side dish. The mustard greens are fabulous in stir fries. Oh, and I really want some turnips too. Turnips, although a root vegetable that I don’t see often used, is really good, especially roasted.

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That reminds me, I need to plant some radishes next month too. Maybe for Thanksgiving I can make some Colorful Roasted Turnips, Carrots and Radishes.

Do you live in a climate where you get to have a fall garden? What are you planting?

North Florida Gardening: July To-Do List

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It’s time to make a decision. Take the summer off or keep on gardening?

There are many crops that can still be grown during the hot, humid days of our summer. However, if you want to take the summer off, be sure to plant some cover crops to improve the soil and keep the weeds from taking over your garden.

I plan to do a little of both. Southern peas such as black-eyed peas, pink eye purple-hulled peas, and cow peas, make great cover crops. As they grow, they put nitrogen back into the soil as well as providing a tasty crop. This summer, I’m growing many different varieties of southern peas, okra, eggplant, jalapenos, peppers, and basil.

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In the shed bed, the cherry tomatoes are actually thriving over here in the partial shade, the green beans have produced a decent crop, and as you can see the flowers are doing very well.

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In the large garden, the beans are producing well the tomatoes are just about done, the cucumbers are dwindling, the Southern peas are thriving, hopefully we will be able to harvest them soon.

See that large row of weeds? Yep, sometimes that’s reality, folks. I must do a better job with my mulching, as it really makes a difference in discouraging weeds. There’s this short but pointed post on Why I Mulch; I really should follow its advice. 😉

I am planting as much of the surface with Southern peas in an effort to improve the soil.

I figure I can plant peas, let them grow until mid-August, till them in, let them rot for a few weeks, then plant the fall garden in September. Even though I lose a few weeks of productivity, I hope that a great fall garden will make up for it.

The soil is really poor over here; it’s a wonder I actually harvest anything.

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Despite the sandbox conditions, the Roma tomato plants have been the best producers this year.

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Some yard long beans are should hopefully be climbing the trellis soon. I saved a few precious seeds last year, and so planted some in flats to ensure a good stand. Ordinarily I don’t start beans in flats, but I’m not taking any chances.

I did not get to taste very many of those beans last year, because I was more concerned with saving the seeds for this year, but this year I’m hoping for many meals from them.

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This eggplant will be ready for harvest soon.

Here’s my to-do list for July.

1. Get rid of weeds, then plant more southern peas in the bare spot.

2. Tear down the cucumbers when they’re done producing and replace with yard long beans.

3. It’s peach season, so I need to make more peach jam, peach pie filling, and maybe even some spiced peach butter. I still have some blueberries so it is a good time to mix up a batch of peach – blueberry jam-so yummy!

4. When the tomatoes are done producing(they’re almost done now), replace with Jackson Wonder lima beans.

5. Figs are also in season, and I plan to experiment with fig preserves, roasted figs, gingered fig jam, and strawberry fig jam. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

Do you have any favorite fig recipes?

The Summer Garden in North Florida

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Are your squash plants struggling? Tomato plants looking raggedy and not producing any new flowers? Cucumbers starting to get covered in powdery mildew?

Time for the summer garden!

Here in North Florida, frost doesn’t signal the end of a gardening season; the intense heat and oppressive humidity kills the plants.

You don’t have to give up gardening in our “winter” season, as there are many crops that actually thrive in the heat.

1. Okra– I love this vegetable! It’s not just for gumbo; if you don’t like the slimeyness, try my no-slime okra recipe.

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2. Eggplant– The classic way to prepare it is as Eggplant Parmesan; but I like to dice it, saute it with olive oil and garlic, then use it like mushrooms in omelettes and sauces.

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3. Sweet potatoes– I bought plants once, and since then have propagated my own if I wanted more plants. You can also start your own. Of course I like to eat the potatoes, but did you know that you can also eat the leaves as a nutritious summer green?

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4. Southern peas– These peas are not to be confused with the little green peas known as English peas and garden peas; Southern peas include legumes such as black-eyed peas, pink-eyed purple-hulled peas, crowders, and lima beans. I made some amazing succotash last year with my fresh limas.

I am growing yard long beans again this year. I am really excited about them, so expect an update soon!

Jackson Wonder fresh lima beans

Even if you’d rather take the summer off from gardening, I recommend you use these as a cover crop. Since they are legumes, they will put nitrogen back in your soil. If you don’t cover your garden with either a thick layer of mulch or a cover crop, the weeds will take over.

Frugal cover crop tip: buy a bag of beans from the grocery store and plant them. They may be pole or bush, but either way you will be feeding the soil and shading out the weeds.

5. Peppers- I have had good success with jalapenos and banana peppers in the summer.

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I plant bell peppers in the spring, but they usually just limp along until the fall, and then produce like crazy. You can start some bell peppers now, but don’t expect much of a harvest until it gets a bit cooler.

These are the fuss-free crops that have done well for me in the summer. In the summer, I may pop out to water them occasionally in the morning or evening, but I really don’t want to be out for hours in the afternoon heat.

For a great chart of many other crops that can be planted, organized by month and region, click here.

Oh yes, one more summer crop.

6. Basil– This herb loves the heat and it is great for pesto!

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How about you? Do you keep gardening in the summer, or do you take some time off to rest?

Chocolate Cake with Zinnias

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chocolate cake with edible flowers

Mmmm, chocolate and flowers, what a great combination!

Even though I like to decorate cakes, I still think it’s hard to beat fresh flowers as a cake decoration.

chocolate cake with pink zinnias

I was bringing  a dessert to my sister’s house, and decided to bake a cake. Typically I like to do some type of piping or ruffles or something on cakes that I bring.

However, I didn’t really have the time to do that, so decided to go with a rough finish and to add some edible flowers just before I left.

I just love the contrast of the bright flowers against the chocolate frosting, don’t you?

easy chocolate cake decorating idea

The edible flowers used as garnish on the cake include: zinnia, Sweet William, orange daylily, and a few yellow mustard blooms as accent. The leaves are from a sweet potato plant. Did you know that they are a yummy edible green for summer?

Oh, and the spiky grass-looking greenery? Yep, just grass. 🙂

Do you use edible flowers as a garnish in your home? For a picture of a pretty flower-garnished salad, click here.

So next time you have to bring a cake, take it easy and decorate it with flowers! Edible, of course. Stay away from alstroemeria.

Like this idea? Pin it for later!

May To-Do List

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I have some before and after pictures for you this month. The dollar weed was winning, so it was time to use a tiller and reclaim the garden.

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I planted my bean seeds expecting warmth, and we were disappointed. We ended up tilling much of it and replanting. My husband made those neat arches, and hopefully we’ll have lots of tasty cucumbers from them.

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Even if they don’t produce much, they still look cool. 🙂

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The shed bed had become overgrown with bolting mustard. I had some garlic almost ready to harvest, but I decided to just pull it up and make a fresh start. One of the bulbs made it inside and was discovered in an unlikely place-more on that later.

I had 3 blueberry bushes languishing by the back fence. That’s my wonderful husband there transplanting them. Really this garden renovation would not have been possible without him.

He was so sweet to help me. When I mentioned that blueberries like acidic soil, he carefully layered pine straw and coffee grounds in their new home. Awww… what a guy!

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Here’s some veggies that I harvested before the tilling: green and wax beans, carrots, turnips, and  a forgotten radish.

My to-do list:

  1. Till gardens.
  2. Plant more green beans, basil, okra, bell peppers, and southern peas.
  3. Mulch cucumbers with compost.
  4. Transplant eggplants.

 

How’s your garden?

 

Plant Seeds Before It Rains!

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Who’s that crazy lady out there planting seeds?

Yep, that was me. It’s supposed to rain this afternoon, so I was out there trying to get them planted.

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I’d much rather have God water my garden, saves money!

It has been pretty hot recently, so these seeds should be up pretty quickly.

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I was also excited to pick the first cucumbers of the season- soon it will be time to make homemade pickles!

We’ve been working on the garden quite a bit lately; pictures and an update are coming soon!

This Is Why You Check Your Pockets

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I couldn’t figure out why my laundry room smelled like garlic.

Then I opened the dryer.image

Suddenly I realized that I must’ve stuffed a bulb of garlic in my pocket while harvesting my crop last weekend.

Some people check their pockets for errant pens or loose change; I guess I need to start checking mine for garlic.

So… you just might be a gardener if you have to check your laundry’s pockets for garlic.

What’s the strangest item to go through your laundry?