Tag Archives: North Florida gardening

Sneaking out to the Garden

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Let’s look at something besides my face, shall we?

It still hurts pretty bad from the Fluorouricil cream and its effects, but I can’t complain. I have a friend currently having treatment for melanoma.

There’s a difference between a face that hurts when it smiles and a smile that is hurting.

I have had a great year with my zucchini already. Usually I get about 4 squash, then the squash vine borers arrive to kill the plants. I planted black zucchini (I still think they look green) and they have done so well.

The cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen, and I have been pleased with the ‘Tendergreen’ beans. They’re one of my new favorites.

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In  North Florida, the blackberries are ripe! I been foraging twice and have made some jam. You should go look for some too. I saw a 12 oz package of blackberries for $5.99 yesterday!!

Granted, the ones I found are much smaller, but you can’t beat the price!

I’ve had to do my picking and gardening in the shade because of the treatment for my pre-skin cancer spots, but I feel so much better some time in the garden.

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I think today might be a good day to make some chocolate zucchini bread.

I have some more gardening tips and ideas for you, especially if your daikon radishes are still bolting. If the seedpods have already dried, you can save the seeds like a ninja! I have harvested my potatoes, so also look for a post on how to harvest a small crop of potatoes.

Congratulations to all the graduates out there- I made a homemade chocolate cake with mocha frosting and coral peonies- pictures of that coming soon too.

I hope you get to go outside and do some gardening, but please wear a hat and sunscreen!

 

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Eatin’ Local

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Concerned about food miles? I still get excited about serving my family veggies that were harvested from our backyard.

Sometimes we sit down to eat greens that were harvested, washed, prepared, then served. Food miles:0

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Zero food miles and incredible freshness.

I love farmer’s markets, but it’s also fun to shop in my backyard.

Our first two cucumbers didn’t even make it to the table. 🙂

Have you been considering starting a garden? Love the idea of growing vegetables in your backyard but think you have a black thumb?

Maybe your previous attempts failed.

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Try again.

Find out what other gardeners are planting in your area. Find out where they’re planting them-sun or shade? Copy them shamelessly; they won’t mind.

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Once you pop that first sprig of fresh mint into your tea, eat that first real tomato, find out what cucumbers are supposed to taste like; you’ll be ruined.

Eat local. It’s so wonderful.

 

May Gardening To-Do List

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It’s a great time to get those summer gardens started!

Here’s what I’m planning to do this month.

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  1. Get basil in the ground. It’s not too late to start some, and it makes wonderful homemade pesto!
  2. Plant eggplant.
  3. Plant okra.
  4. Set up and plant a pole bean teepee.
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  6. Start yard long beans.
  7. Hopefully I will get lots of cucumbers to make refrigerator pickles!

What’s on your agenda for this month?

Florida Raised Bed Gardening- Spring Planting!

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Sometimes it’s fun to try something new.
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This year, in addition to having two raised beds, this gardener is growing tomatoes in a circle.
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In the center is a partially buried five gallon bucket with compost in it and holes drilled in the bottom. As water is added to the top, it filters down though the compost, watering and feeding simultaneously. Compost is so good for the plants and is so easy to make!
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The beds are getting fresh soil, and one if them is gridded in classic square foot gardening style.

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The grid is new this spring, and it really looks organized and neat.

The pepper plants you see in two of the squares were overwintered and are already producing peppers! It really is worthwhile to try to keep pepper plants alive over our mild North Florida winters, as they will produce in early spring that way.

Pepper plants started from seed in the spring typically struggle along through the summer, then produce lots of peppers in the fall. I picked bagfuls last year and froze peppers for later.

Raised beds produce quite well and require little space. If you’re interested in gardening in Florida, you can start anytime!

Summer is coming and it is a good time to plant some of the heat lovers like basil, okra, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and black-eyed peas.

If you’re interested in starting your own sweet potato slips for growing, I have a tutorial here.

Also, did you know that sweet potato leaves are edible? More on that in this post.

I’ll post more on what you can be doing now in the North Florida garden in my upcoming June To-Do List. Enjoy those fresh veggies! Hopefully it will be BLT season soon for you!

North Florida Gardening April To-Do List

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I hope you had a happy Easter! Seeds are sprouting and tomato plants are being set out into the warming soil.

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Daikons are bolting, garlic is growing, mustard greens are providing final harvests, and a random volunteer collard plant is sending out pretty yellow blossoms.

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The large garden has yellow, purple, and green beans sprouting. Kale still producing; it hasn’t started to bolt like the mustard on the other side and the collards in the back corner.

Corn and okra in center box have sprouted.

Not much to see this month- but what a difference a month can make! I’m excited to see the difference between the young seedlings of this month and the progress they’ll make in a month.

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Look at all the greens I harvested! Their quality tends to decline with the warmer weather, so I wanted to get most of them harvested. I’m going to eat, freeze, and gift them away. I got a bag of collards, two bags of mustard greens, and two bags of kale.

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My largest head of broccoli is underwhelming. I’ve determined to try again next year.

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Tomatoes started on Valentine’s Day are doing well.

My to-do list:

1. Finish planting tomatoes.

2. Replace few straggling turnips with rows of bush beans.

3. Put up trellis for pickling cucumbers– they’ll be needing it soon.

4. Trellis tomatoes.

Pretty short list this month- mostly just let the seeds and plants grow. I made some strawberry-lemon marmalade that turned out really good. I’ll share that soon. 🙂

How is your garden? Thriving? Or are you waiting for the snow to thaw?

I’m ready for a juicy BLT! How about you?

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!

Florida Raised Bed Gardening Update

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Florida Raised Bed Gardening Update

Gardening is addictive. Last spring, this retired couple started out with a single raised bed. They harvested squash, tomatoes, peppers, and green beans.

The bed was planted for the fall with collards, kale, carrots, turnips, and radishes.

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The North Florida raised bed now has a neighbor.

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See? Once you get started gardening, it’s hard to stop with just one bed.

The gardener used my cheap DIY plant label idea, and planted another garden.

The raised bed idea is great for planting carrots, who need soft soil in order to grow straight roots.

We have gotten some frosts recently here in North Florida, but they have a neat way to cover their beds for the night. I’ll have to show you some pictures of that soon.

I hope your gardens are growing well. You can start planning for the spring and getting your seeds together. I have a post on how to get free seeds and  how to make your own compost. Gardening can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you want.

Winter is a time for yummy greens (especially in my favorite kale recipe!) and fresh hot biscuits. I have a super easy way to make biscuits that I will share with you later this week.

Fresh, hot, homemade biscuits with some easy peach jam? Yes, please!!!

 

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!

October To-Do List

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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!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?