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. 


MelissaB said...

Wow, personal reply, that's very helpful. I am very new to this, so all the information you provided is very helpful. Due to a back condition (can't bend down comfortably) I am planting everything in containers of various sizes, which are placed on a retaining wall in the back yard. I had planned to stagger the plantings, so we don't end up with a bunch of anything at once, assuming we are sucessful. So far I've grown potatoes-looked great-tasted odd but not spoiled, threw them out; tomatoes-got two tomatoes from about $30 in materials, broccoli that never developed the broccoli part and onions. I'm about ready to pull the onions-they look good, from the top anyway.

My plan for August was pole beans, broccoli, sweet corn, okra, bunching onions, pumpkin, summer squash and watermelon. If I read correctly, you'd suggest skipping most of those, but starting carrots. Is that right? For September I was going to add bush beans, lima beans, cucumbers, lettuce, bulb onions and peas. Any suggestions/corrections?

Unknown said...

Where/how do you start your seeds this time of year? Would I be ok to set them on a table on my lanai out of the elements? In the "winter" I have a small greenhouse to use but I'm really not sure where to start seeds in this heat and with no real indoor space that would work well. Thanks!

Leah Brooks said...

Kelly, I do hydroponic gardening, and when I start my seeds, I start them in the house. I use rock wool as the growing medium, pre-soaked in slightly acidic water. I keep the container in the dark until I see little leaves. Then, I move the seedlings outside into the sun on my patio. I make sure that they have afternoon shade this time of the year. I keep plenty of water in the container so the plants don't dry out. I do this for my hydroponic veggies; however, lately I've been also doing this for my in-ground plants (like basil) and it works out well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael and glad you're back in the game. I'm establishing a new smaller garden in my front yard because it gets the best sun conditions but I've little experience with fall gardening. Since I'm late to start I'd like to try sowing the Bionda di Lyon directly although starting some seeds in pots. 25 days to harvest sounds really good!

I'll try local brocolli plants, onions, and would like your suggestions for lettuce.

I was looking through one of my older gardening books by Tom McCubbin the other day for fall vegetables and read this suggestion for shading tender vegies: Shade with Saw palmetto fronds. This might work in my front yard garden where passersby may frown on shade cloth.