South Florida Gardening

Sauteed Garlic & Ginger Bok Choy

by , on
Feb 4, 2018
Chopped choy and stems

I can’t think of a better way to eat bok choy than to saute it with garlic and ginger, add a little salt and heat, and finish it off with toasted sesame oil. It absorbs the aromatics well, and the contrast between the crunchy stems and the tender leaves makes it all the more pleasurable. Garlic and ginger bok choy is an excellent addition to any protein-based Asian dish, e.g., tofu, fish, beef, etc. It provides a “kick” as well as a nutritious boost to any meal.

Bok choy is really a generic name for many varieties of choy, which are readily available not only in our own organic vegetable garden, but in the many Asian markets (and large general grocery stores) across South Florida. I recently purchased a few different kinds at one local market, which were very fresh and inexpensive. See our post “Ode to Choy” for more information about different choys and how we grow them. 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.

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 »

Ode to Choy

by , on
Jan 14, 2018
Crop of choy

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. 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 »

Today’s Harvest: Small & Plenty

by , on
Dec 18, 2017
Rosemary sprig with cup of olive oil

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. continue reading »

Green Beans with Mustard-Tarragon Dressing – Simple & Delicious

by , on
Dec 10, 2017
Green beans with dressing

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! 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

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? continue reading »

Lettuce begin the harvest!

by , on
Nov 5, 2017
Crop of arugula

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:

  • Black-seeded Simpson lettuce – very delicate, our early fall choice as it tolerates the lingering summer heat well
  • Arugula – always the first crop to come up, very hardy. Needs to be used early on unless you like bitter (which some do)!
  • Cress – sharp and peppery tasting, used sparsely in salads for a kick. Also best when used early on. One of our members makes soup when plants grow more bitter over time.
  • Mizuna – a wonderful leafy green that is actually a member of the mustard family – but don’t worry, because you wouldn’t know it! It has a licorice-y taste and the crop lasts well for a few months. It’s become a favorite for many of us.
  • Mesclun mixture – We just put these seeds in near the end of October (and they’ve come up beautifully!) as they don’t sprout in the warmer weather. We love a dense crop of these different colored and textured lettuces, so great for salads.

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. 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 »

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