One of the greatest joys of living and gardening in Florida is the ability to grow fresh veggies throughout the year. Even though our summer months create a few challenges, it is still possible to grow these fresh delights year-round.
When you visit your favorite nursery or retail garden center, you will often see a dizzying variety of seeds offered for sale. The plain truth is some of these varieties will not always grow well in our tropical climate. Here are some of the best varieties to try in your home garden.
One of the most popular vegetables in this country is the potato. These curious vegetables are used in many dishes and are served a variety of ways. You can use them mashed, baked, fried and are used in making potato chips. On average, each person consumes 125 pounds of potatoes each year. No one can truly appreciate the taste of a great tasting potato until you have picked one from your own garden.
In order to grow a healthy potato crop, there are some initial soil conditions that must be met prior to planting. In Florida, most of the work is already done for you as they like a high acidic well-drained soil. This is the case for many Florida gardens. You do not want to plant potatoes in an area where standing water might be a problem. If you think this might be a problem, add soil to raise the bed at least 10 to 12 inches to ensure the crop stays above the water line.
Potatoes are heavy feeders and require lots of nutrition during their life cycle. A 10-0-10-fertilizer blend is ideal for these plants.
Most grocery stores and retail nurseries carry seeds for potatoes. The problem with some of these seeds is that they might not be disease free. It is better, if possible, to buy your seeds from a certified seed supply house. The seeds or tubers you buy from these growers will do much better in the home garden. A commercial garden supply center will usually carry these certified seeds and tubers. Tubers are small plants that have already been started and are in small pots ready to plant.
Plant your potatoes about 6-8 inches apart with the rows about 36 inches apart. You will need some space to grow these plants. Seed pieces should be planted 4 inches below the surface with the eyes facing up and the cut side down.
Although you can plant potatoes year-round, you will get better results during the fall and winter when we receive less rain. If you do summer planting, use the strategy of raising the bed so standing water does not become a problem.
Some other vegetable varieties we will be covering in the coming weeks include lettuce, bell pepper, sugar snap peas, onions and tomatoes.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site hometowngarden.com.