How to Start a Vegetable Garden in South Florida
So you’re thinking about starting a vegetable garden, but just don’t know where to start. For the beginner gardener, this can be a bit confusing but the good news is starting a vegetable garden is a step in the right direction because of the many benefits that are involved from encouraging biodiversity in your home garden to contributing to our eco-system, for example, encouraging the presence of pollinators and beneficial insects.
Then there are the rewards of feeding both ourselves and our family, in this discussion we will be taking a closer look at the a to z of all that’s involved in starting a garden of this sort. You will be amazed at how easy it is from installation to maintenance. We will also discuss the healthy side of edible gardening so continue reading to find out.
When is the Best Time to Start a Vegetable Garden
Although vegetable gardens can be started year-round in South Florida the ideal time is during the fall season because too much sunlight can have an adverse effect by scorching them.
1. The Best Location to Install a Vegetable garden
The best location for planting a vegetable garden is in an area that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight because veggies need this amount of sunlight to grow their best. Insufficient sunlight will encourage plants that are weak and sickly with a poor crop yield. If your veggies are showing signs of light green foliage, lanky stalks, and garden pests infestation may be that you need to provide adequate light or relocate your veggie garden.
2. The Best Soil Type For Vegetables
This is so important that we can not afford to neglect it, at the root of growing healthy plants is the soil type, this key component can either make or break your garden. A soil pH test will help to determine what’s lacking and what’s needed to grow healthy plants. Remove several soil samples from the planting area for example take a tablespoon of soil from about 6-8 areas place the soil in a zip-lock plastic bag seal the bag tightly and send it to your lab for testing or a home soil pH test can be carried out. This pH soil test kit can be purchased from your garden center.
In South Florida soils should range anywhere from 7.0 to 8.5, once the soil test is done, the soil may need improving. Soil improvement involves bringing in good topsoil or the addition of organic matter. There are many types of organic matter from, rotted leaves, grass clippings, and animal manure for example aged chicken, cow, horse, rabbit, or goat manure, etc…. adding compost is a plus (gardener’s gold) and your veggies will love you for it.
When adding animal manure make sure that it’s dry because fresh animal manure will cause plant burn, cover crops can also be used however if compost or cover crops are preferred, thoroughly mix them into the soil well in advance when deciding to plant a veggie garden. At least a month before the actual planting date.
3. Planting Your Vegetable Garden
You have chosen the right location and made the needed soil adjustments now it’s time to get those veggies going, infact your choice of veggies should be the first thing on your list. Veggies can be planted either by seeds or seedlings, seedlings are young plants that are grown from seeds. When planting seeds or seedlings ensure to give the proper spacing because crowding or planting too close will encourage poor air circulation that will lead to disease. The planting depth is also important because seeds that are planted too deeply will not germinate. The guide for planting your veggies can be found on the seed package or if planting from seedlings then your nurseryman or garden center rep. will be your source of information.
4. How to Water a Vegetable Garden
Either direction can be found on the seed package or your garden nurseryman or garden center rep. is your best source of information, or as a rule to go by irrigating 2 to 3 times a week is sufficient. Caution here, monitor the soil for moisture or dryness before water application or if rain is forecast hold off on water application, if it doesn’t rain then go ahead and apply water if needed. Seeds and seedlings especially should be monitored because at this stage they need less water and more irrigation at maturity. To make water application less confusing ensure that the soil is somewhat moist not waterlogged or water-saturated which will lead to root rot.
You can either water by hand or prior to planting veggies a drip irrigation system can be installed, if watering by hand or with a hose, it’s best to have a hose attachment and gauge it to gently shower. Pressurized water or water that comes out of the hose too strong will damage young seedlings, and seeds will be washed out of position or even buried deeper than recommended.
5. Fertilizing Your Vegetable Garden
Some prefer fertilizing at the time of planting and then others would rather apply fertilizer 2 to 3 weeks after planting once seedlings have adjusted. Seedlings however should not receive an application of fertilizer during the early stages of growth which can cause much harm. When seedlings produce their first set of true leaves and reach around 2 inches tall can be given a light dose ( half strength) of fertilizer. A water-soluble fertilizer for example 8-8-8 0r 15-15-15-can be used, if applying a water-soluble fertilizer avoid overhead application, and fertilize at the soil line or the base of the seedlings. A slow-release fertilizer should also be considered, there is less chance of plant burn because fertilizers are released slowly over time as you irrigate your vegetable garden.
6. Vegetable Garden Insect Pests Control
Pest issues if left unchecked or neglected can cause serious problems and will rob you of your harvest, the most common vegetable garden insect pests are aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, scales, the larvae of leaf miners, earwigs, cutworms, fungus gnats. To bring control refer to, January Garden Pests In South Florida, February Gardening In South Florida, Garden Pests and Pest Control. For edible gardens or food crops, it’s best to use an organic pesticide to discourage contamination. Before pesticide application read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for the best results.
7. Controlling Disease in Your Vegetable Garden
Overwatering, heavy rainfall, wet conditions followed by consistent heat, poor soil drainage, and poor air circulation because of planting too closely or overcrowding encourages disease, once you avoid these conditions except for heavy rainfall which can not be controlled your veggies should do well.
Here are Several Benefits of Growing Vegetables
- Less food contamantion
- It’s good exercise
- Gardening is a great stress reliever
- Veggies at your fingertips
- You can share what you grow with family and friends
- Vegetables are fresher
- Having an almost endless supply
- Save money on your grocery bill
- Growing foods without the use of harmful pesticides
- Home-grown veggies taste better
- Working outside in nature
- Spending time with family in your garden
- Can educate kids on the importance of sustaining oneself
- Just the joy of seeing what you have grown
The final word on vegetable gardening in South Florida for beginners
Growing and maintaining a vegetable garden is that easy, these gardens are of great value because of the many benefits that are involved, following this guide is your blueprint to growing and harvesting your very own food crops. The rewards of growing edible crops are amazing, so go for it you will be so happy with the results.
About the author
Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.