Monday, July 25, 2011

I get questions...

A reader writes:
I'm curious about your plant list as I'm new to gardening. I found some planting guides from the county extension services/IFAS offices that say for central FL, in August we should plant pole beans, broccoli, sweet corn, bunching onions, pumpkin, summer squash and watermelon. You said you are about to plant lettuce, carrots, peas and onions. I have all but the carrots planned to start in September and the carrots in October. I'm in Lakeland, just a little south of you. Could the guides be too conservative or once skills are developed you can plant earlier or later than recommended? 
Those dates (I presume) are for seedlings, which require at least four weeks to get to size. So, plant seeds now and they should be ready for transplant by the beginning of September. I wouldn't direct sow anything now: While generally I prefer direct sowing, the conditions are not suitable for it. Too much violent rain, too darn hot, too much humidity, and the earth is just writhing with buggies who love to eat your seed. Better to have some control--I like a mix of half and half peat/perlite in seedling trays. Microwave the medium for a while to get it clean, then soak it well. Keep things under cover, but where they get some sun, until the seeds germinate and break the surface of the medium. Then, move to a partly-sunny, shaded & protected site, with protection from the elements. And hope for the best! So much can go so wrong so quickly this time of the year.

Hold off on adding liquid fertilizer until the seedlings have their first "true leaves."

In the fall, I would not plant any melons/cucurbits at this time, even in Lakeland: October and November are wet, cloudy and humid... perfect conditions for molds/fungi. Just not worth it when it comes to pumpkins, etc. Same holds true for pole beans: They can certainly be grown, but they are prone to rust and take up a lot of room that would be better used growing other things.

My gardening friend Christine started her carrots mid-August, direct sown, last year. By September, they were already a few inches tall. I'm going to give it a shot this year, using seed tapes from Johnnys.

Generally speaking, it's crucially important to get crops in as early as possible. Better to have to replant than to get things started even a week or two late.

A week or two in the fall can mean a month's difference in harvesting schedule: You want plants as large as possible before it gets cold and growth slows down. I've sown broccoli a couple weeks apart, and gotten crops from the early seeds before Christmas, but had to wait until February for the seeds sown later. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Back in the game...

Since May 11, I've spent a total of twelve nights here in DeLand. On the road... Now, I'm back. Florida welcomed me with a might storm last night: at least four inches of rain, likely closer to six, in a short time. I've never seen the flooding so bad.

The garden looks pretty shabby now--hot days, abundant but irregular rainfall, fungi and bugs have taken their toll. The Juliette tomatoes are still producing pretty well--two plants have produced an abundance of pear-shaped cherries, more really than the family could eat. I got back into town and, after one week of no one picking them, I managed to get about a pound of fruit. For whatever reason, presumably skin thickness (though I don't detect it), these tomatoes are pretty resistant to stinkbugs. The only thing that eats them is us and the birds.

Let's see... my grapes are ripening. I opened one of my pomegranates today: Typical Florida fruit. Pale, but acceptable. Persimmons are ripening. Sweet potatoes have the run of the place. Beans are producing scantily because of our warm nights. Basil is hanging in there, but it cannot cope with these conditions... Herbs in pots (thyme, oregano, rosemary, mint) are doing OK and will get rejuvenated when the hot weather breaks in six weeks or so.

August first is my traditional seeding day for the cool season--brassicas and carrots, the former sown in jiffy pots and the latter directly sown. I'll try to get some lettuce and chard started (including that Indian chard I bought recently from Evergreen), but I've always had trouble getting those crops started when it's so warm. Here's my Johnnys order... I'm going to give growing onions from seeds a shot this year--last year I had to wait until early spring to get appropriate sets, and while I had a very nice crop, I would prefer to get them in earlier.

Gosh, I wish Johnnys shipping weren't so dear!

Blue Wind (F1)-Packet
Vegetables > Broccoli > Hybrid

Snow Crown (F1)-Packet
Vegetables > Cauliflower > White

Super Sugar Snap-Packet
Vegetables > Peas > Snap

Gonzales (F1)-Packet
Vegetables > Cabbage > Early Green

Desert Sunrise (F1)-Packet
Vegetables > Onions > Hard Storage > Red

Moneta (Monogerm) (F1)-Packet
Vegetables > Beets > Round Red

Sugarsnax 54 (F1) (Pelleted)-Packet
Vegetables > Carrots > Main Crop

Mokum (F1) (Pelleted)-Packet
Vegetables > Carrots > Early

Rainbow (Pelleted)-Packet
Vegetables > Carrots > Colored

Bionda di Lyon-Packet
Vegetables > Quick Hoops™ crops > Quick Hoops™ crops for Zone 8 and above