Tag Archives: zone 8b garden

Have You Started Any Seeds Yet?

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Last year, I had spring fever so bad that I was putting seeds in the oven to help them germinate. Remember that story?

Well, this year I stuck to the plan and waited until Valentine’s Day to start my heat-lovers like tomatoes.

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The tomatoes germinated well, the dill and cilantro are doing great, and I even have some zinnias.

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I like to use inexpensive methods of labeling seedlings, and this time I had a yogurt container on hand.

Will these labels last forever?

No, but I really just need them to last a few weeks or until I can get the plants into the garden.

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I actually have daffodils this year, and they make me so happy! I love tulips and crocuses too, but North Florida is not cold enough for them.

I have already started planting my green beans, wax beans, and UFO squash. Pickling cucumbers have been planted with some dill.  Homemade pickles are the best!!!

Hopefully my ‘Royal Burgundy’ beans will be in the ground soon. I have never grown purple beans, and figured this year would be a great year to try them. Have you had them? What did you think?

If you are new to starting seeds, you may want to check out my posts on the basics of starting seeds, DIY plant labels, and how to prepare your seedlings for transplant.

Also, if you haven’t started a compost pile yet, my post Coffee to Compost- Literally! is a good place to get information.

Let’s get growing!

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North Florida Gardening March To-Do List

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I love spring! I think the cold nights forecast for the next 2 nights will be the end of the cold nights, so I have some gardening plans.

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The garden by the shed has given me great harvests for mustard greens, and I am looking forward to harvesting 36 cloves of garlic later this year!

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The large garden is still producing plenty of kale, collards, and mustard greens. The pole bean teepee is gone; this year I’m going to try ‘Merit’ corn in that square. Anybody tried that variety?

If nothing else, I hope it looks neat. I plan to have ‘Purple Queen’ zinnias and marigolds around the box.

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The ‘White Egg’ turnips have done fantastic for me. I need to let some go to seed, but it’s hard to stop pulling them once you start!

Time for more roasted veggies– yum!!

Here’s my to-do list:

1. Plant green beans, squash, cucumbers and corn. I’m going to plant seeds from cucumbers that I grew last year- they made great refrigerator pickles!

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2. Harden off tomato plants. If you are starting your own plants from seed, you can check out my seed-starting tutorial here and then read about hardening off seedlings.

3. Start eggplant and  peppers.

4. Plant flowers like zinnias, marigolds, and cleome. I love to have flowers in my vegetable garden! They are beautiful and attract pollinators.

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5. Plant out my sugar snap pea plants. I had so much trouble last year with the squirrels that I decided to start my peas in flats, even though direct seeding them technically is better. My local seed source did not get any in time for me, so I just planted the few that I saved from last year. We’ll see if I get any, as it’s going to be getting too warm for them soon.

6. Hang netting on the fence for cucumbers.

Easy DIY Cucumber Trellis

Wow. Was that really my garden last year? I love being able to look back and see what I grew last year, and to plan to improve this year.
I hope you plan to grow something this year. Start small, and enjoy the journey!

Are you excited for spring to come? What are you anticipating the most? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Know anybody in North Florida or in zone 8 that is thinking about starting a garden? Feel free to email them this post or share it with them on Facebook using the buttons below this post.

Happy gardening!

Colorful Roasted Turnips, Radishes, and Carrots

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Sometimes simplest is best. If you have never tried turnips, I recommend this easy preparation.

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I planted my ‘White Egg’ turnips a bit too closely last fall, but have been able to harvest them at various times without succession planting them. I harvested some as greens, and others have made large roots as their neighbors have been cleared.

I have found them to be sweeter than the purple top turnips that I planted last year.

My husband doesn’t care much for them mashed, so I decided to try roasting them with some carrots from a friend’s garden, as well as with the last of the radishes.

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I tossed the chunks with some olive oil, and roasted them at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes, turning them halfway through.

They  were seasoned with just a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a smidgen of fresh thyme.

I love the pretty pink of the radishes. 🙂

Also, my husband liked the roasted turnips!

I love eating fresh food from the garden. It is nice that I seldom have to buy the vegetable side dish for our dinners; I just harvest what is ready to eat and prepare it. That’s convenience. 🙂

Gardening saves me money and is good for us too!

Have you ever roasted radishes? I planted another row that I hope will be ready by the beginning of March. I’ll pull them, then plant some green beans!

I have another seasonal recipe for you coming soon- Sauteed Mustard Greens! They are quickly becoming one of my favorite greens, and when sauteed do not have a harsh mustardy flavor like their name may suggest.

 

What I Found at 3 A.M.

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Ever gotten up and just couldn’t sleep?

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It’s February in Florida, which means that I am getting spring fever and thinking about starting seeds.

So when I was up one night and just couldn’t stop thinking about the bulk seeds I was going to buy the next day, I decided to pop over to the University of Florida’s great spreadsheet to be sure I didn’t miss out on anything that I could be growing.

For the first time, I noticed a little note at the bottom about another article on “minor vegetables” and decided to take a look.

What fun! I found so much information on various crops that will survive the terrible soil and hormonal weather patterns of North Florida.

Then I was really too excited to sleep. 😀

By the way, my mug says, “I listed Starbucks as my emergency contact at work.” One of my former students got it for me and it is one of my favorite mugs.

Enjoy the link!

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!

Mixing Vegetables and Flowers for Winter Color

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My poor flowerbed looks pretty bleak in the winter. After our first frost, not much is green except the day lilies.

So, this fall, I am planning to plant snapdragons in that flowerbed, along with some herbs and leafy vegetables.

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I saw this display of snapdragons and pansies last spring and it sparked a determination to have some of my own. Seeing something like this from my kitchen window would certainly make doing the dishes much more pleasant!

So, right now I’m considering snapdragons and Swiss chard for color, curly kale for green, and potted herbs for structure. Maybe some lime green Bibb lettuce too?

Keeping the herbs in pots also gives me the option of tucking them indoors in case of a nasty freeze.

What do you think? Can you think of any other vegetables or flowers that I should add? What survives the cold for you? I’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas!

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?

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!