South Florida Gardening

Mid-Growing Season

by , on
Feb 10, 2020
Head of green cabbage

January and early February mark the middle of our growing season here in South Florida. It is a time for assessment and planning as to what we want to grow into the Spring. Many of the crops we grow can be planted throughout the entire season. Others (such as cabbages and heirloom tomatoes) have a shorter window, i.e. the time for planting them is running out, especially if starting them from seed. continue reading »

Preparing for the Fall Garden

by , on
Sep 20, 2019
3 pages of seed inventory

Fall 2019

August and September – hereafter referred to as summer months – are sooo hot in South Florida, and in our garden there is very little growing to harvest and cook (besides some okra and a few herbs). The remainder of the spring vegetables have finally given their last breath (would you believe we harvested a few leeks and some chard in August?!); the sunflowers are wilted and gone; the herbs are either bid farewell to or hanging tough through the summer heat depending on their durability. We said goodbye to the sorrel, basil and tomatillo plants recently, sad to say, they just gave out. continue reading »

Flowers in our Veggie Garden

by , on
Aug 12, 2019

A vegetable garden is not complete without flowers planted in it – scattered around in various beds among the many types of vegetables we’re growing. While flowers certainly add beauty to the garden (who doesn’t love them?!), their main purpose is to attract beneficial insects to the environment. These insects act as predators to non-beneficial insects and as pollinators for vegetable production. Flowering plants provide a place for insects to lay eggs, caterpillars to thrive, and adult insects to feed. Insects are such a vital part of the growing cycle, and help to protect the health of plants, that we take them for granted, or sometimes may even wish we didn’t have them (unless they’re pretty)! As an aside, here is an interesting “factoid” for you: What percentage of insects are harmful? You won’t believe, me; feel free to look it up – One percent. Yes: 1, uno. Look it up. continue reading »

Square Foot Gardening – We’re in Love!

by , on
May 22, 2019
Vegetable plantings in a square foot style garden bed

Several months ago I was exposed to the technique of square foot gardening, when an older edition of this book was loaned to me. Well, this approach seemed just plain weird – why bother planting everything all packed into little squares, what’s the point? And so many different things in one bed, kinda chaotically? And to bother doing the work to divide a bed up all precisely like that? Well, as they say, “Don’t knock it ’til you try it!” Now that we’ve tried it, we’ve fallen in love with it. No, not just a fly-by-night infatuation, this is true love! continue reading »

Preparing the Soil – Update

by , on
Feb 19, 2019

Last season I wrote a post explaining how we go about preparing the soil for planting which you can find here. Well…. this is a new season, with “more water under the bridge” – and new knowledge gained through experience, the advice of experts and our own research and reflections. Therefore I want to update last year’s post with what new ways we are preparing “soil” – or better said “growing media” – to start and grow our veggies. Don’t get me wrong – most of what I said last year still stands. Where we’ve significantly changed a practice that I touted back then, I will indicate it here and in that post as well. continue reading »

Growing Green Beans – All Season Long!

by , on
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.

For favorite recipes using fresh green beans from our garden, please see our posts Green Beans with Mustard-Tarragon Dressing – Simple & Delicious and  A Fresh Take on Three Bean Salad

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.
  • 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

    So here are some notes on our current varieties of seedlings:


    When we start our tomatoes depends on the type: the larger varieties we start very early in the fall, the cherry tomatoes we start later, as the latter grow longer into the spring/summer season. The one large tomato we wait until winter to start is the “Momotaro” – a wonderful Asian variety introduced to us by a friend a few years ago, that is very tasty. It is so exclusive that we got exactly (yes, I counted!) 12 seeds in a packet. Right now, we’ve got lots of cherry seedlings growing strong, including the ever-so-popular Everglades tomato, hailed by our gardeners as “tasting like candy.”

    Brassicas (cabbage family):

    It is time for a second cycle of these plantings – this includes our regular and Chinese cabbages, kohlrabi, different varieties of kale, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, etc. For some, such as our regular cabbages, this is near the end of when we will be starting and transplanting seedlings for harvesting this season – as they are slow growing and need the cooler weather to thrive. Others, such as kale and kohlrabi, and even Chinese cabbage, we can plant them again a month or so later with a high probability of success.


    This is prime time for the lettuces that we start in flats, i.e. heading lettuces. Right now we have some beautiful Bibb and Romaine seedlings, and it is very likely that we will transplant these directly into our garden beds rather than taking them through the intermediate step of four inch pots. Why? Because that seems to work well for us.


    Other varieties:

    This is also prime time for many other types of vegetables we wish to have ready to eat in the Spring. Leeks, celery, peppers, escarole, chard, sorrel, fennel, nasturtiums, and more – these can all be started again now to produce another harvest later on (not to mention other crops that we directly seed in the beds, such as beans, carrots, peas, radishes, etc.).  Many of them are already sprouting or growing in flats or pots; others will be started from seed very soon. Starting and transplanting seedlings becomes a main part of our gardening work at this time of year. We feel very fortunate to have two (or more) rotations of many of our most loved crops during our major (fall-winter-spring) growing season here in South Florida.







    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:

    Grown and being harvested: (of course, more of each will be planted)

    • Arugula, mizuna and cress
    • Two different kinds of bok choy
    • Red and pink radishes
    • Green bush beans
    • Jalapeño and aji dulce peppers

    Planted and growing well:

  • Heirloom and regular tomatoes
  • Green cabbage
  • Broccoli raab
  • More green beans and purple beans, bush type
  • A few strawberry plants
  • Carrots
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mesclun lettuce mix
  • Daikon
  • Parsley, thyme and dill
  • Red mustard greens
  • Onions
  • Escarole
  • Swiss chard
  • Sweet mini peppers
  • Nasturtium, calendula and cosmos
  • continue reading »

    Seedling City – Where It All Begins

    by , on
    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?

    The needs of plants vary, and some do better with one of the methods above over the others. For example, tomatoes need to be started in flats; beans need to be direct seeded into beds; and for most of our herbs we buy the starter plants.

    For an idea about what particular plants we start in flats vs. direct seeding into beds, see our post Yesss!! Fall Planting, Part I. About half or more of our seedlings are started in flats, so here is some info and tips for using this method:

    Planting seeds in flats for transplanting later

    Our soil mixture is so vital to the success of the seedling. We have tried many different combinations, following advice of experts over the years, and based upon our experience, this is what we now use. Thoroughly mixed together:

  • 48% homemade compost
  • 48% peat
  • 4% worm castings (very potent & very expensive, so it’s used sparingly)
  • 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.

    Fall is our “spring” when it comes to planting here in South Florida. Our growing season starts in the fall and runs through the spring, which is the opposite of most regions in the U.S. For the first few years that we had this garden, we had wonderfully rich organic soil that we were able to obtain at a steep discount. To “prepare the soil” meant opening the bags and dumping them in the beds, and voila! – our plants would thrive! But when we lost our source, we had to learn how to create the best soil environment for our plantings on our own. It has been a process – one that we improve upon each year, and continue to learn from.

    There are many steps we take to prepare the soil for planting our new crops each year.

    I. Before the fall season:

  • A truckload of finely ground tree mulch is ordered at least six months in advance so that it can break down into composted soil in time for fall planting.
  • Seeds are planted for our cover crops in many of the beds (see post: Summer Cover Crops) in late spring/early summer, after completing our harvest. As the plants mature (in a few months), we cut them down and turn them into the soil for decomposition.
  • We get as much of our own homemade kitchen-scrap compost going as possible, in bins at our community garden and at home (see post: Compost It!).
  • continue reading »