Tag Archives: Panhandle gardening

September To-Do List

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

Top 5 Flowers for North Florida

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Top 5 Flowers for North Florida

My vegetable garden makes for a happy tummy, but flowers are happiness for the eyes.

If I could only have five types of flowrs in my yard, I’d pick these.

It’s hard for me to pick a #1 favorite, though. I love the cheery exuberance of my zinnias, but would I pick them over the beneficial marigolds? Fortunately, I don’t have to choose, and I wedge them into my vegetable and flower gardens alike.

Here are my favorite 5. If I had to start over with a new yard, I’d start with these.

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1. Zinnia

They come  in a bazillion colors and  sizes and grow well from seed. They keep well in a vase and attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Annual.

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2. Marigold

Reputed to repel nematode and other pests, marigold are a pretty and useful addition to a vegetable garden. Last year I grew some from some cheapo seeds, then saved so many seeds that I stored them in a spice container with large holes. This spring, I pretty much just sprinkled them where I wanted them to grow. Annual.

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3. Vinca

Gotta have vinca. They are a common landscaping plant for a good reason. These hardly flowers boom their little hearts out all summer. They reseed themselves quite well, and come in varying shades of white, pink, and lavender. I was so excited to find a blue vinca earlier this year too.They need no special watering or fertilizing and flourish even when neglected. I have a patch of them growing in front of my house. They are surrounded by a concrete porch and brick walkway and grow in poor, sandy soil. I planted a landscaper’s flat of 18 about 5 years ago, and thry have reseeded themselves in that spot ever since and have provided extra plants and seeds for other spots as well. Annual.

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4. Daylily

This is one of the earliest bloomers for me in the spring. The green and cheerful yellow are such mood-boosters after a chilly February. Supposedly the flowers are edible, but so far I have valued their happy colors more than their value as a food source. Perennial.

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5. Knockout Rose

My list would not be complete without this landscaping rose. No, its flowers are less than impressive, and scent is lacking, but it adds a welcome splash of color for very little effort. It blooms until the frosts come. One year, I had Christmas lights on the bushes. The white lights looked so lovely with the hot pink blooms. Perennial.

There are other honorable mentions: lantana, yarrow, crocosmia, Shasta daisies, tornia and mums. What do you think of my top 5? Did I include any of your favorites?

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?

Propagating Torenia (Wishbone Flower) from Cuttings – More Free Plants!

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Torenia

Florida summers can be so hard on flowering plants. By mid-July, my tomato and cucumber plants are declining rapidly, succumbing to old age and oppressive humidity. Torenia continues to bloom heartily, even in North Florida’s hot and humid summers. It is easy to propagate too.

I am going to use the same technique that I have used on mint, basil, and tomato cuttings: rooting in water.

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Cleanly remove some cuttings, them remove the leaves that will be below the water or soil line. Leaves submerged in the water will decompose. Yuck.

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Soon you will see white roots begin to grow. Most likely the roots will first appear at the nodes, or places where the leaves or branches grew from the main stalk.
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Once they have a good start on a root system, they can be planted in a pot of homemade compost or potting soil. There you are-new plant for free!

Baby the new plant for a few days, then you can put it in your garden.

For more tutorials on how to get free plants, you can read my Buy 2, Get 3 Free Tomato Plants post, or Have a Mint? Make Another Mint! You can also read about plant division in my post about sharing oregano with my brother.

Of course, a favorite money-saving post is How I Get Free Seeds.

Gardening is as expensive or as inexpensive as you make it.

What about you? Have you ever divided or rooted a plant before? Be careful, it can be addictive!

Be watching for an update on the monster tomato plant from the Florida raised bed garden and for pictures of some deadly pearly studs. Yes, some accessories can kill you! Any guesses about what the deadly pearly studs can be? Some of you may have seen them in your garden. Do you need another hint or can some of you gardeners already guess what they are?

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.

Florida Raised Bed Gardening (Part 2)

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If you are going to plant spring vegetables in Florida, the time to do so is now. Did you read about starting a raised bed in my earlier post? If not, go ahead and read Part 1 and then come back. 🙂

Look at this beautiful compost that they had for their raised bed! They employed the easy method of making compost. Over about 10 years, they kept adding kitchen scraps and yard waste to a pile and let the worms do the work. 🙂

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After the raised bed is assembled and filled with compost, it is time to plan and plant.

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I just took a trowel and sketched out the spacing before we planted to be sure that everything would fit and that the spacing would work.

This couple wanted vegetables, herbs, and flowers. We planned out the placement of the vegetables, putting the tall tomatoes in the back (north) of the bed. Peppers and basil went in front of the tomatoes. Yellow squash and bush beans were in front.

Some take string and carefully measure out their square feet and plant according to this guide, but we treated the square as a whole unit, not as individual squares.

 

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In the picture above, the couple is planting their bush bean seeds in rows. They have such great compost to plant in and I am sure their plants will just love their home.

Cilantro, basil, and yellow squash were also planted from seeds. They planted tomatoes and pepper plants as young transplants rather than seeds.

With all the warm weather and spring showers that we have been getting, the seeds should be coming up soon.

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A few marigold plants were placed in the raised bed. These will attract pollinators and look pretty.

It is really amazing how much can be crammed into a small but carefully maintained space. In a month, this Florida raised bed will be full of young plants. Little fertilizer will be needed because of the great compost. What a great use of space!

If you want to learn more about making your own compost, you should read my post about how to make compost.

Hopefully soon I will posting about little sproutlings in this garden!

How is your garden doing? Have you planted yet or are you expecting snow in your area?

Resources for North Florida Gardeners

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

February Garden To-Do List

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Short answer: Getting ready for spring! If I can get the right plants started now, I’ll have a great start on the season. We have just a few month of moderate warm before the blasting heat kills the tomatoes in June. If I plant too early, or if it gets cold unexpectedly, the poor little plants may suffer and I may have to start all over again. It’s a risk I’m willing to take as I try to avoid succumbing to cabin fever.

I’ve started tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants from seed this year. I start mine in empty plastic cell packs that I salvaged from my local Lowe’s. When the plant starts are beyond clearance, they end up in trash bins or recycle racks. My cashier asked me to dump the dying plants out with their soil first, then let me take as many as I wanted.
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Dill seedlings- hoping for great pickles this year!
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Little tomato seedlings. BLTs seem so far away…
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Baby cilantro. Nothing like homemade salsa!

It’s also a great time to weed and mulch. The weeds are small, so I’m getting them under control now and then will cover the bare areas with mulch. I use leaves as mulch in my vegetable gardens. They’re a great addition to the soil as they decompose and they are free, too! Start looking around, some of your neighbors may have been so kind as to bag some up for you.
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See how the kale doesn’t have many weeds? I also like how it helps to keep the vegetables cleaner. Dirt and sand are less likely to splash on them during a hard rainstorm.
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The Swiss chard likes the mulch too. I hate weeding, so I try to be proactive and smother the ground around my plants.

In my flowerbed, though, I plan to have so many flowers growing and acting as “living mulch” to shade out the weeds. I’d much rather spend my gardening moolah on seeds or pretty flowerpots than bark chips.

Some new flowers that I’m starting: milkweed (for the butterflies), painted daisies, nasturtiums, black-eyed Susans, and blanket flowers. I loved my zinnias and petunias last year and am planting them again.

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Zinnias were great for attracting butterflies.
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I was able to save some of the tiny petunia seeds from my Mother’s Day hanging baskets last year. Special memories are connected to those flowers.

I’ve also been sketching out where I want to put everything. I love to plant on paper before I start digging in the ground. Literal “back of the envelope calculations” and rough sketches help me avoid the temptation to over-plant.
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I may be the only one who understands the scribbling, but it helps me get organized rather than just plopping plants in the ground.

So I’m starting seeds, weeding, mulching, and planning the garden in February. I’m getting ready for some fresh tomatoes! What are you looking forward to from your garden??

Why Another Garden Blog?

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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.