For many years I never knew that there was more than one kind of bok choy. Actually it was probably when I started gardening and buying seeds that I learned what an incredible variety of choys there is to choose from.
Choys are so easy to grow organically here in South Florida. I like to joke that it would probably grow on a pile of rocks, that’s how readily it thrives in varying conditions. If we have a spot in the garden that doesn’t seem sunny enough for most plants, or wet enough, or dry enough, or soil-nutritious-enough, sure enough – choy will prevail! And I can’t think of a time – ever – when it has been bothered by any diseases or pests.
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/
Is there anything more gratifying than finding uses for a “small harvest” from the garden to enhance a meal? Well, after a thoroughly enjoyable and productive gardening session, my husband and I stopped by one of our favorite shops on the way home – Proper Sausages is an artisanal store located in Miami Shores, specializing in homemade (off-the-scale!) sausages as well as a range of other meats and goodies (like bacon jam, homemade condiments, incredible sandwiches, etc.). As soon as we laid eyes on the bleu cheese burgers, we knew what dinner would be. Adding a package of those wonderful special buns they have, along with two pounds of the best bacon in town, we were on our way.
Tarragon grows like a weed year-round in our South Florida garden – not to mention how easy it is to grow green beans here in the fall-to-spring. We were lucky to harvest our first crop of beans right before Thanksgiving (actually, we do try to time it that way each year). And while we didn’t have enough to feed our big crowd, we were proud to add them to this dish as representative of our organic garden’s harvest.
Tarragon has a lovely fragrance and flavor, and it makes a delicious vinaigrette when mixed with mustard and olive oil. This is a very simple dish – steamed green beans tossed with the dressing, adding some toasted almonds on top for crunch. It’s a great way to use harvest from the garden and homegrown herbs to boot. I guess if we were really ambitious, we could start making our own mustard… actually, we had a garden member in the past who made killer mustard for us, and we sure do miss him!
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:
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
As promised, here is one last summer recipe – roasted okra. That’s about all we’re growing here in our organic garden that we can make a substantial side dish out of at this point in the season. Not to feel hopeless after all our South Florida weather events this past month, we are about ready for some serious fall planting over the next several weeks!
Meanwhile, we will enjoy our long-producing okra, which just loves our lingering summer heat. Having discovered the method of roasting it a few years back, it is a go-to recipe when a fast, fail-safe and delicious way to use it is needed. This is such a no-fuss method; we don’t even bother to trim it up after the stems are removed. That way we can eat it as finger food if we like, just pick it up by the end and bite into this savory treat (and discard the tops). Another nice thing about roasting okra is that it’s much quicker than roasting other veggies; in 12 minutes or so it’s done. Be careful when you take it out of the oven – it’s such a great snack that chances are your family will devour it before your meal is served – no kidding!