Starting a Vegetable Garden in Florida

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Besides a bountiful crop of fresh, delicious vegetables, starting a vegetable garden in Florida is a great way to enjoy the sunshine, relax outside and save money on groceries. Florida’s temperate climate makes it ideal for vegetable growing, so with a little planning and some elbow grease, there’s a good chance of success.

Things You'll Need

  • Plot of land
  • Garden plan
  • Seeds
  • Transplants
  • Irrigation system
  • Small spade
  • Plastic cups
  • Row covers

Preparing the Garden

  • Choose a spot for the vegetable garden. Both Florida’s coastal and interior climates make ideal locations for a vegetable garden. When selecting a location at home, choose an area that gets at least six hours of direct sunshine each day. Florida soil can be boggy and wet, so choose a well-drained location.

  • Brainstorm ideas for planting the vegetable garden. Florida’s temperate climate makes a terrific host for all sorts of vegetable types, so list which are personally preferred for the home garden. Then, sketch out a plan detailing which vegetables will be planted where in the garden.

  • Purchase seeds and transplants. Some people like to create from-scratch gardens using seed packets. Others are more comfortable using transplants which have already begun to grow, or a combination of both. For each vegetable type, note the ideal planting time by reading the back of the seed packet label, or the small plastic stake typically inserted in transplant pots.

  • Prepare the soil. Florida soil can be mixed with additives, such as organic fertilizer, such as animal manure, rotted leaves or commercial mixes. Fertilizers should be mixed with the soil between one month and four months before planting time.

Growing the Garden

  • Plant the seeds and transplants. Seed depth and spacing depends on the vegetable type. For example, lima beans should be planted between 1 and 2 inches deep and 3 to 6 inches apart; broccoli should be planted between 0.5 to 1 inch deep, but 12 to 18 inches apart.

  • Prepare an irrigation system, including sprinklers, hoses and draining. Heavy Florida rains can devastate vegetable plants if left in standing water.

  • Develop a plan for managing pests. Avoid using harsh pesticides, which introduce chemicals into the homemade garden. Try placing bottomless plastic cups around the base of plants as “collars” protecting delicate plant parts from invasive pests; erect lightweight plastic row covers over the plants; or purchase insects such as ladybugs, which feed on certain pests.

Tips & Warnings

  • Florida soil can be enhanced by planting cover crops, also known as “green manure” in between vegetable gardening. Ideal cover crops include soybeans, sunflowers and cereal rye.
  • Before planting, bring a soil sample to a pH testing facility to adjust pH levels, which should hover between 5.5 and 7.0. Low pH levels can be adjusted by mixing in several pounds of finely ground dolomitic limestone, as recommended by the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida. High pH levels are tougher to tackle, but may respond to the addition of granular sulfur.
  • Planting vegetables “out of season” make them particularly vulnerable to pest damage. When possible, plant vegetables when indicated on their seed packet.

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References

  • Photo Credit Basket of Garden Vegetables image by Karin Lau from Fotolia.com
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