South Florida Gardening

Growing Green Beans – All Season Long!

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Jan 26, 2018
Fresh green beans in hands

Green beans are one of our staple crops throughout the fall-winter-spring growing season here in South Florida. We usually (if we’re lucky) have our first harvest at Thanksgiving time, and our last in late April to mid-May, depending on how soon the heat of summer begins to roll in.

There are many advantages/benefits to growing green beans in South Florida:

  • They are just so well suited to our climate, thriving well in the moderate temperatures our growing season offers. It’s also easy to grow them organically as they suffer from few pests or diseases. Our biggest problem comes from rusting leaves when there’s too much moisture/rain and our remedy is to remove those leaves and adjust moisture when possible.
  • They are a fast growing crop, from planting them to bean-producing – typically ready to start harvesting in five weeks or so.
  • The bean plants will render two crops. After picking the first round, watch for them to reflower and produce more.
  • Beans help the soil by adding nitrogen to it. This will benefit certain nitrogen-loving plants, such as cabbages and tomatoes, which as part of our crop rotation will be planted next in the same soil.

The preference among our gardeners is pretty much bush beans over pole beans (though we do plant both). There is a variety of purple bush beans that we’ve been enjoying in addition to our typical green ones. But here’s a warning: the purple ones turn a vibrant green color when cooked. I only found this out on Thanksgiving one year. I was so excited as this was our first harvest ever of purple beans, just in time for the holiday! – and I thought I was going to have a beautiful mixed colored dish of fresh green and purple beans. Until, that is, I lifted the lid off the pot of steaming beans. They were a beautiful green color, much to my amazement and disappointment! continue reading »

Transplanting Seedlings: Our “Winter” Crops

by , on
Jan 7, 2018
Chinese cabbage seedlings

Our fall and winter crops here in South Florida are basically the same. Most of the things that we start in the earlier part of the growing season (fall), we can start another rotation of in December or January. Much of our work is planning what seeds need to be started when. We will either direct seed some of our crops, such as carrots and beans directly into the beds. Or, with many other crops, we will be getting them going in flats, and then transplanting seedlings as they mature into four inch pots and/or directly into the beds, and then watching them grow! For a list of what we can grow in the fall/winter here, please see our post http://www.soflagardening.com/fall-planting-beds/ continue reading »

Fall Planting: The Beds are Filling Up!

by , on
Dec 3, 2017
Tomatoes growing in bed

Our fall gardening is going strong here in South Florida as we head into December. Though we had a late start this year due to weather events, we are well on our way to filling up our beds with organic veggies that can be grown now and into the spring. “Winter” is not worth mentioning because we don’t really have one here. We consider the winter solstice (December 21-22) as the transition time for us from fall to early spring when it comes to gardening.

Continuing on from our first post, Yess!! Fall Planting – Getting Started! here is a breakdown of where we are at this point with planting: continue reading »

Seedling City – Where It All Begins

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Nov 26, 2017

We’ve described how we prepare the soil in our beds for planting – now it’s time to discuss how we get our plants started. Because we are in South Florida, our prime time for cultivating seedlings is in the fall.

We basically have three methods for starting our plants in the garden:

  • Planting seeds in flats for transplanting seedlings later
  • Planting seeds directly into the garden beds to sprout there
  • Buying small starter plants to put directly into the beds

We definitely prefer to start our plants from seed, for a number of reasons. First, when you purchase seeds as opposed to starter plants, there’s a much greater variety to choose from. We also like cultivating them from their very beginnings in our own organic soil and supplements. And it’s much less expensive than buying plants. There is also the chance of introducing pests and/or diseases that are brought in on starter plants. Last but not least, who doesn’t love the hands-on experience and good feeling of engaging in a plant’s growth every step of the way? continue reading »

How Do We Prepare the Soil for Planting?

by , on
Oct 29, 2017
soil in bed

Not exactly an exciting or pretty picture right? But it’s just perfect, because this is how much of our garden looks as we prepare the soil for the coming season. It is a serious endeavor, as we have learned from experience that a successful garden is more dependent than anything upon having really good soil. Not only does it support the growth of our plants, but determines their nutritional value as well. And, good soil is a pest deterrent, because poor soil produces weak plants that are more vulnerable to pests and actually attract them. Also, the beneficial microbes in good soil help to prevent plant disease. continue reading »

Yesss!! Fall Planting – Getting Started!

by , on
Oct 19, 2017
Green beans growing

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. continue reading »

It’s Time to Order our Fall Seeds!

by , on
Sep 3, 2017
Packets of seeds

Fall is a very exciting time for us as we begin our new planting season. Buying seeds is of course one of the most important tasks we undertake, and the process has been refined over the years. We have many beds to fill, many tastes to please, and our South Florida weather and conditions to take into account. No, we cannot grow Brussels sprouts and asparagus here (though I have to confess we’ve tried!). But we can grow so many varied crops that it was hard to know where to begin when we first started gardening. Now it’s become kind of routine – we have our favorite seed companies and we pretty much know what we can and would like to plant. continue reading »

Compost It!

by , on
Aug 27, 2017
Compost pile

Compost is one of the main keys to a healthy, thriving organic garden. We used to be able to buy some really incredible ready-made organic soil, but no more. So a few years back, we set out to learn how to create our own, and found how essential it was to produce a steady supply of compost! Our two main resources, where we learned the most, was (my gardening bible!) How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons, and the University of Florida’s Agricultural Extension’s resources, especially this article: Compost Tips for the Home Gardener. We learned that composting isn’t about constantly throwing your scraps into a pile whenever you had some; it is a careful layering technique in a designated area with specific dimensions and scheduled maintenance. We had a lot to learn, but now that we’ve got the hang of it, we enjoy the whole routine (although the saved-up kitchen scraps can be nasty!) and especially using the compost to enrich our vegetable garden – nothing like that rich, dark compost that we know is chock full of nutrients! continue reading »

Summer Cover Crops

by , on
Aug 6, 2017
Japanese Millet Cover Crop

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: continue reading »

Making Your Own Natural Pest Deterrents

by , on
Jun 18, 2017
natural pest deterrents essential oils

Make your own natural pest deterrents to keep your garden free of aphids, mosquitoes, snails, and other harmful insects and animals.

Natural Pest Deterrent #1

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.

Natural Pest Deterrent #2

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. continue reading »

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