It is one of the most exciting times in our South Florida garden when we can start harvesting in the fall! Our first ready-to-eat crops are lettuces and choys, as they grow so quickly after direct seeding into the beds. Now, we use the term “lettuces” very loosely – we mean a variety of leafy delicate greens that can be used in salads.
Our salad-mixture plantings typically include the following:
It’s important for lettuces to have fine, loose and thoroughly weeded soil to grow in. We direct-seed each of the above kinds in its own little section, adjacent to each other in the same bed. For these crops we use the scatter seeding method, putting the seeds in rather densely so we can harvest as described below. Lettuce seeds should not be covered with dirt when they are planted, as they need light in order to germinate. They should be kept well-watered.
So it is finally time to get some fall planting started – well, sort of. We are still experiencing weather conditions here in South Florida that are not conducive to our typical October plantings. Patience has been the keynote so far this season – we thought the late September (into October) rains would be over last week and we could start planting in the beds, as well as more seedlings in flats, but lo and behold it’s still raining! We did go ahead and put a few things in beds and for the most part they are doing fine. The seeds in flats are not faring as well as it’s just too wet for them. We’re hoping this coming week is the last of the rainy season before we’ll have not only mostly sunny days, but a little bit of cooling off as well. It’s been a wild ride with the weather this past two months, and we’re hopeful for some “normalcy” settling in soon.
Collard greens are a nutritious vegetable that can continue to grow into the hot Florida summer. Two advantages that collards have over many other greens is that they are super easy to clean, and there is minimal shrinkage – so you don’t have to pick (or buy) a boatload to get a dish of fresh cooked greens.
Cooking and baking with brown butter is becoming more and more popular – for good reason. Its nutty flavor and the richness it adds to dishes is very unique. As far as collard greens go, brown butter is a delicious, healthy alternative to the long stewing-in-ham-hock-“pot likker”-method (that, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy!). I was surprised to hear my husband strongly request this brown butter recipe when I brought some collards home the other day, I didn’t know it was his favorite way to eat them.
In South Florida our “off-season” is June thru September as the summer months are too hot and humid for most plants to thrive. So for us, this is mainly soil preparation time! After completing the harvesting of our Spring plantings, we allow the soil to rest for a few weeks and then begin planting our cover crops. Of course, we research and plan ahead during the Spring so we have our seeds ready.
Cover crops are any of a wide variety of plants which are planted in the off-season in order to enrich the soil for the coming new growing season. There are many functions that cover crops perform:
It’s always a little sad at the end of our regular (Fall-Winter-Spring) growing season here in South Florida when we have to pull out our withering crops. Of course we do have a few summer crops of unusual veggies to look forward to, as well as engaging in the exciting planning process for the fall!
Cherry tomatoes are a hardier crop than regular and heirloom tomatoes at any time in Miami, requiring a lot less care and giving continuously. We can start cherries from seed from August up until late December and harvest them all the way into June. One of the ironies in our garden is that our Everglades tomatoes, the smallest of the cherries, is the favorite – they’re the sweetest! And we don’t even start them from seed any more – they are all “volunteers” – meaning they sprout up from seeds left in the soil from prior seasons or distributed through our own composted soil.
Our blistering South Florida summer heat is setting in and sadly, our spring crops are wilting. So I needed a way to use some of our kale that had to be harvested before we lose it. Since I love butternut squash soup (who doesn’t??), and know that kale and chorizo combine well, this seemed like a perfect thing to put together.
I didn’t have quite enough squash and wasn’t sure how it would combine with sweet potato; it actually added extra thickness and a depth of flavor, so this combo is a definite keeper (of course you can just use squash). I also used both lacinato (aka dinosaur or black kale) and curly kale as that’s what was on hand and it worked very well. Before I add kale to a recipe, I steam or parboil it first for a few minutes to remove its bitterness – then it has a neutral to sweet flavor.
Long beans love South Florida in the summer! Planted less than two months ago, these nutritious gems are already producing more than we can keep up with. Also known as yardlong beans or asparagus beans, they typically grow 12 to 18 inches long. Harvesting should be done before the beans turn light green and soft.
Long beans are used in Asian recipes – here are a few of our tried and tested favorites:
Asian eggplants come in many shapes and sizes. This one is new to us, it’s called “Thai Ribbed.” It was added (cut in large bite-sized chunks) to the long beans in the first recipe above – delicious!
Make your own natural pest deterrents to keep your garden free of aphids, mosquitoes, snails, and other harmful insects and animals.
Mix 1/4 cup of Murphy’s Oil Soap per gallon of water to kill and deter whiteflies, mites, aphids, scale and other nuisance pests. Apply with a spray bottle to both top and bottom of affected leaves and stems when sun is not shining brightly.
Mix together 1 teaspoon dish washing liquid, 1 cup of vegetable oil and 1 cup of rubbing alcohol. Add 2 teaspoons of this mixture to 1 cup of water and apply as for #1 above.