New gardener in Florida

HarmonicaBruce(9)October 31, 2011

Greetings. I've moved to Florida from Michigan. I still garden in Michigan during the summer, but I want to garden in Florida while I'm here in the winter. I'm only interested in growing things I can eat. Last year I grew some broccoli. It's a lot different here in Florida, there's no dirt here! I have room for a fairly large garden, and I want to know what grows well down here. Thanks!

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I've been here two years now, a New England transplant. First thing I figured out is, don't plant in the ground. Get some of those plastic kiddie pools and fill them with good soil. Plant in these. I've tried a number of veggies, but bugs, squirrels or weather get them before they mature. The only thing I've been successful with is different lettuces and herbs. That's fine, we have a nice fresh salad every night with our own organic lettuce. Find a local farmer's market for the other veggies you need, and you'll be ahead of the game.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 1:24PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Hi Harmonica Bruce

Welcome to the Florida gardening forum!. If you are planning an edible garden for the cooler months you will do fine. Less bugs and heat. It all depends what you like to eat. In my garden right now I have cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, cabbage, collards, beet, carrots, peas, lettuce.
Warm season plantings are still producing, squash, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, peppers. I also have a lot of herbs for cooking.

Before you plant you will have to amend the soil, sandy soil has no nutrients, there are many ways to do this, depending on how fast you want to start planting, it can be done, you just have to follow the guidelines for a successful garden in Florida, every place is different and has its own set of rules.:)

Good luck to you and if you have any specific question, I will try to answer.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 2:27PM
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ibarbidahl(9 (tampa-ish))

Welcome aboard!
Almost everything grows here- just needs to be planted at the right time and that is NOT the time planted up north! Silvia's got the market cornered on the garden department she's got some great advice.
You'll definately need to put some work into amending your soil, but there is no reason to think you can't garden here!



    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 2:47PM
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Ok, I do have some questions.
1) Can I plant anything now? My plot is just sand. I have access to horse manure, but Florida horse manure is not like Michigan horse manure, it seems more like fine sawdust. I could rototill it in the garden. Would I have any chance of harvesting anything I plant now in this plot that hasn't been amended (assuming I rototill in horse manure)? The spot I'm thinking of gets shade in the early afternoon, which may help.
2) Is Spanish Moss good for anything related to gardening, i.e. can it be used for mulch or can it be composted?
3) Could someone recommend particular types of tomatoes, squash, beets, turnips, or carrots? I'd really like to grow plenty of carrots or other root crops to give my friend with horses, upon whose land my garden will be planted.

Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 4:10PM
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Welcome to the Florida Gardening Forum, Bruce!

I'm a relative newbie gardener, and found this forum to be extremely helpful (and generous) with someone just feeling their way around. Hopefully I can repay a little of that forward a bit!

Below is a link to the University of Florida IFAS publication on Florida vegetables. IFAS is a great resource for many questions on Florida growing, and this document has a lot of useful information (particularly on growing seasons).

I'm down in zone 10, and grow mostly in raised beds. Of tomatoes, I've had my best results with Yellow Pears, Green Zebras, Cherokee Purple, and Better Boy. I'm still trying to get my squashes to work out, and I haven't really gone in for root vegetables.


Here is a link that might be useful: IFAS Veggie Guide

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 4:40PM
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pabrocb(Sarasota/Cape Cod)

I'm a pretty new Florida gardener too. I use Earth Boxes for vegetables and find it works really well. I'm thinking of getting some for our Cape Cod garden. You may also look around at different container and raised bed systems on this site.

Nematodes are a problem here.

I save the rest of the yard for flowers, palms, citrus, and plantings for wildlife.

Carol B. Sarasota

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 8:31PM
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whgille(FL 9b)


I would only use composted manure for right away plantings.

In zone 9 warm season crops get planted in spring and fall, in winter we plant cold season crops.

A lot of varieties do well here providing an amended soil.

Carrots need a bed that is free of stones and has a good composted soil. If you planted carrots before, you can use the same varieties that you are familiar with. For a beginner gardener Nantes type always do well.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 8:34AM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Thank you Barbie and we missed you at the party.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 8:35AM
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ibarbidahl(9 (tampa-ish))

There is definately a LOT of things that can be planted now. All the brassicas and (most) root crops do well planting in this cool season, along with lettuces, spinach, and time is right for strawberries to plant for spring crops.
But, you are definately going to have to work on that sand first. The horse manure is hot now unless it's already been composted and cooled signifigantly you won't be able to plant for a while - but it is certainly a great start to helping out! How large of an area are you trying to make usable? Are you dividing this into smaller beds or trying to use it as one large area? It will make a big difference when it comes to the quality of nutrients from the dirt vs feeding with fertilizers and virtual hydroponics. (LOL- the sand has no real nutrients here)
Spanish moss? not much in the way of nutrients and a whole lotta buggies if it hasn't been heat treated.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 12:41PM
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Thanks for the great answers. I'm wondering if amending the soil would really be effective. If you mix real dirt into the sand, does it all wash away after a few rains? I'm hearing a lot about using containers, which sounds good if I can find them cheap. Any ideas on that?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 4:52PM
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Thanks for the question. I am new here also, I live in Tallahassee. I made a newbie mistake and planted my vegetables in a place that had sun, in February( when we moved in to our new home) shade space last year. Aslo I put some potting soil mix in when I planted but the soil is NOT. Something should have grown, But it all died. I planted shade plants in the shade areas. Again nothing lived. So I am asking for help. Thanks all for being so nice with suggestions to us newbies. Any one here in Tallahassee??

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 11:13PM
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ibarbidahl(9 (tampa-ish))

Silvia, I missed you all, too. :-( One of these years my entire family will be well at the same time and I'll finally make it!

As for amending the soil- you won't make much of a crop without it. There are a few things you can do to help meanwhile though. You can plant a covercrop of peas (any legume that will help 'catch' the nitrogen. THen till it into the ground come spring. That combined with your (by then) composted horse manure will be a great combination.

Containers however are a fantastic choice for Florida - and that is why you hear so much aobut raise bed gardening. It's kind of a cross of in ground and container gardening. It will allow you to amend the soil - keep it from washing out so quickly, retaining the nutrients better and making life easier.

It sounds to me like you should get your nose into some books and do a little research! There are a lot of options to be had. Check out the different forums (maybe you have- I tend to stick to only a few) and see what each has to offer. Once you have a better idea of what you want to do with the space you have available you'll get better and more precise (and diverse)advice to help with whatever tyupe of gardening you choose.

THere are lots of us here that like to concentrate on edibles so don't be afraid to ask!


    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 12:19PM
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One thing you can do that won't help much this year, but will yield results over time is called lasagna gardening. You can search Gweb for detailed instructions, but basically, you lay newspapers or cardboard over weeds and yard trimmings and cover with mulch. Year after year of doing this will improve that sandy soil.
Something else that worked for me my first year was to save seeds from the farmer's market. The organic growers down here have tested a lot of different varieties and found the ones that do well in our conditions. I got lots of cantelopes from seeds from one I bought at the farmer's market.
One other crop that's easy is arugula. Grows like a weed in my yard. I just sprinkle seeds over the mulch. But you gotta like that peppery arugula taste. Some people don't.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 9:55AM
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I'm also new ro FL but I know not much is going to grow in plain sand. I'm mostly using containers which can be expensive but I've also had a few given to me by making it know that I needed containers an by garbage diving. ( I resqued a childs sand box frame from the curb) It is just a plastic frame about 36" I placed that in yard where I wanted it laid cardboard from coke boxes in bottom filled with some good quality potting soil an it has done beautifully.

We also bought med sized cheap tote boxes filled with dirt an tried tomatoes but at the wrong time of year. We drilled holes in the bottom of the boxes for drainage.

I also bought a few plastic bowls at walmart for a dollar each drilled holes they worked wonderfully for aloe an also impatients etc.

Usually bigger is better less watering.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 8:38AM
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zzackey(8b GA)

We have had great successs with collards in our sandy soil. They don't seem to mind it. They grow like crazy for us with very little fertilizer. Lima beans did super in similar soil. I'm not able to do much amending with my bad back. Strawberries grow well in containers, this time of year. We bought some nice window boxes and pots at yard sales. Curb side is always good too. Craigslist posts curb side items people are putting out for free pickup. Good luck! Welcome to Florida!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 3:58PM
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I am in 10B. The best bet here is raised beds kept to 4' X 8 to 12', or large containers.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 6:30PM
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Randy Ritchie

Welcome to FL, and don't despair. You have probably noticed some great gardens and yards here in FL. You didn't say where in FL you are located. There can be alot of differences in planting time, varieties that will thrive, and shade needs for various plants, depending on where in FL you are located.

Containers are my mainstay, as we are renters, up to this point. We moved here at the height of housing prices, and decided not to buy at that time. So...I agree on the containers, and lasagne gardening, which I used in Savannah. But, be aware, the bigger containers are the way to go. And black plastic, like landscapers' pots, will heat up the soil in the sun here. I've gotten a large number of black plastic pots dumpster diving and curb shopping. As we have plenty of shade here, they work ok for me, as temporary homes until plants are large enough to be put in nicer pots, which I purchase one at a time, each payday, lol. Small pots dry out too fast to work well here in south FL. It's hard to keep plants in them alive, much less grow anything other than succulents. I layer my potted clusters of plants with largest pots in the back, and gradually smaller ones around them, to help cover their commercial look, for esthetics. As I said, these are temporary pots for me. I also cluster the pots in areas, so that watering is simplified somewhat, but still alot of time required. Others might be able to offer simple tips on how they keep theirs irrigated. Good luck and enjoy FL!


    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 10:09AM
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