Saturday, August 8, 2015

5 things I learned the hard way about Central Florida Gardening


Sprouting been sprouts, fresh picked veggies and eggs

When I moved to central florida 11 years ago I started a garden.  I had already gardened successfully in Colorado for a number of years and I just "knew" florida would be even better.  Well after basically everything went wrong the first year I gave a new location in the yard a try!  That flopped too!  Then I started to notice not many people had gardens...hhhhmmm.  So I gave up!  

The problem is that I was born to garden.  It's just part of who I am and  I was kinda at a loss.  
My Daughter with the mornings harvest

But then I visited a neighbor and they had started a garden that was doing great!  And I was determined to give it another go.  I started reading and visiting more successful gardens, asking the right questions and getting some answers and now 11 years later I can say, it is a lot more difficult here but it is getting easier every year.  So here are some things you probably already know but I had to Learn the hard way.

  • Central florida has 4 growing seasons.  You can plant something every month!  But if you want to garden in the summer like the rest of the country pretty much, you will be very limited because of the heat and humidity.
  • Compost, manure, organic soil additives are essential.  Sandy soil dries out quick and does not hold nutrients so you must amend.  I use mushroom compost by the truck full literally!
  • Raised beds and container gardens are really smart because your soil additives stay put instead of running off with each rainfall.
  • Mulch!  This is vital for me.  Mulch keeps out the weeds and keeps in the moisture.  The earthworms seem to love being under it too!  And earthworms are free workers, you want them!
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  • When you want accurate information go to the Florida Extension Office website.  When to plant, how to plant, what to plant, how to compost, so much information!
Plan to learn as you go.  The spot you choose to garden will have it's own quirks and you will need to see what works for you! Now go plant something!

Friday, August 7, 2015

What is Malabar Spinach?

Gardening in Central Florida is not always an easy endeavor.  So when you find ways to make it work you get pretty excited about it.  That's why I want to bring up Malabar Spinach.  This vine is grown in India and other tropical places.  It thrives in Hot, Humid, and above 90 degree conditions.  Well that's Central Florida in the summer for sure! This summer I have been experimenting a lot with it and here's what I have learned.  

  • Not a true spinach but a terrific replacement for summer when most greens especially salad and spinach won't stand a chance.

  • It germinates great from seed even when I just toss them in the ground in mid July and water somewhat regularly.  

  • The leaves are thick and juicy and have a very mild flavor with hints of citrus and pepper.

  • Malabar Spinach well vertically so you cangrow it up a trellis, or grow it in a container with something to climb on or keep it trimmed like a bush.

  • It is a good source of vitamin A, C, calcium and iron.

  • You can toss it in a salad, soup, stir fry, frittata, or cook it like spinach. 

  • All this being said it is not an amazing flavor you will rave about, what it is, is a summer source of home grown healthiness, we have a saying you "feed your body not just your mouth,"at our home.  We like our foods to taste great but we also like to eat nutrient dense homegrown foods to take care of our bodies.  So add this to your hot summer gardening possibilities. (Okra, eggplant, sweet potatoes, hot peppers, and Malabar Spinach are all thriving right now in our Hot Humid Florida garden)

easy to grow in a pot, great for kids because its so easy!

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