Prepping for Spring Planting - a few questions
I'm a relatively new gardener (2nd year) and I have a few questions for anyone experienced with mid-Florida gardening - especially close to the Gulf Coast.
I have 6 raised bed gardens, plus a bench of about 30 container plants, and a 4x16' onion patch. Up until this weekend, they were all full of some living, some dying plants. The cold spell hit us a little harder than we thought, followed by rain, humidity and altering hot and cold days. My poor plants, which are normally pretty healthy, took a beating. Plus I've been traveling for my job more than usual, so I couldn't keep an eye on all the conditions they were developing. However, I do have a pretty sophisticated drip irrigation system to each bed that I'm able to regulate by zone on an automated system so irregular watering is usually not one of my problems. It's also linked to a rain shut-off sensor.
So.... this weekend, I ripped most everything out to prepare for the spring garden. I have lots of seedlings started and I want to prep the ground as much as possible before I transplant. I'm a little worried though because several of the plants succumbed to large amounts of mildew. Especially the tomatoes that had reached the top of their 6 foot cages.
So, here's my questions:
1) After (or before) I add compost, is there a good way to "sterilize" the soil? Obviously, I don't have the time or heat for any type of soil solarization, so would it make sense to spray the soil with any type of fungicide?
2) How meticulous do I need to be with the sterilizing the tomato cages since I had such a heavy dose of mildew? Any trick to getting them ready for the next planting?
3) I rotate my crops through the beds each season, is there anything else I should be doing to minimize the damage we get here in Florida from humidity and the resulting fungal damage? I do try to space my plants out so they don't get crowded and air can circulate.
Any advice is greatly appreciated!!