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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fall Edible Garden: Think Soil Prep

The brightest spot in the late summer edible garden is by far the sun-drenched coleus backlit in flaming red.

The last of the onions and carrots have been pulled up this week. Only the sweet pepper plants are continuing to produce any veggies.

Surrounded by perennial borders on all sides there are 4 raised beds and 2(4x8)framed beds that make up the edible garden.

The back side of the garden has a mind of its own post-summer. Not that I'm suggesting summer is over because every Floridian knows we are far from our first cool evening. But in terms of the edible garden the spring plantings have given way under the stress of the summer heat.

The two framed beds are catering to some wildflowers that I don't have the heart to extract just yet.

The native Salvia coccinea,scarlet sage self seeds each year. Next to red Pentas lanceolata, Cuphea ignea cigar plant, and zinnias the combination makes for consistent butterfly nourishment. And the gardener is happy to see blooms growing easily in the abundant heat and sunshine.

Even though the heat seems unbearable, Florida gardeners, it is time to get out and prep the garden for our fall plantings. Maybe you've already done this but I kept putting it off until the last week or so.

No question it is difficult to imagine fall while experiencing persistent high temps and humidity. It helps to get going now on the to-do list for the fall garden by reminding yourself how glad we will be in about two months when our edible gardens are starting to produce all that yummy goodness once again.

First things first.

Soil prep.

It is the elemental building block of the garden but doubly essential where the edibles are concerned.

Soil quality deserves the utmost attention. Best management practices using organic matter will increase soil health in the easiest and most natural way. For soil rich in nutrients and teaming with microbial life make your own compost.
Getting started we've pulled all the troublesome weeds that also love summer heat.

Adding ample layers of compost to existing raised beds in lieu of buying fresh soil this season we're counting on it to provide needed nutrients making organic nitrogen available to the plants once the seeds go into the ground .

It's a beautiful thing to know we can shovel up as much of our own 'black gold' as we need. All materials recyled from the garden in the first place. Given the correct environment, organic matter such as grass clippings, plant trimmings, kitchen scraps, shredded paper, and leaves are broken down by organisms living in the soil. Sufficient moisture and turning frequently for good air circulation is included in the equation. Since our methods are more true to vermicomposting the broken down product contains oodles of red wiggler worms.

When we have fed our soil we can be sure the soil, in turn, will feed our plants.

Blood meal and bone meal were mixed in with the compost as it was being transferred to the garden. Over the top pine bark mulch was laid in order to preserve the moisture and keep the beds from developing a hard 'crust' while baking in the sun.

The beds will be left to 'cook' for a few weeks while the tomato seeds in small pots are developing their seedling roots.

Seeds of squash, bush beans, pole beans, broccoli, collard greens and cucumber will go in the ground in September. Later in the month and the beginning of October lettuces, spinach, peas, onions, radishes, and carrots will be added.

For a complete guide to Florida planting go here.


  1. Hello Meems, no fall plantings for me down here. The only fall am doing is falling over the weeds. You are lucky to have mulches like bark, to buy it here costs a fortune, like everything else. I do have to do some soil prep though, haven't done that in years. I will order a load of cow manure to add to my compost. Take care my friend, hugs.

  2. Hello Meems - you are so right about soil preperation. Only yesterday I was in a garden where the roses were pegging out due to the wrong, undernourished dry soil .

  3. Good information here, Meems. I have been preparing my containers and the soil concoction I use for them. You've inspired me to use the bone/blood meal and fish emulsion this year. My little tomato seedlings seem to be doing pretty good. I plan to plant some lettuce and bush beans this year. I may have a bunch of questions for you on those:)

  4. Makes me want to get out and get started. Your pine bark looks good too and holds down the wildflowers, and er weeds too. Thanks for sharing the vegetable guide. Sydney had spent many weeks updating it last year so that is has the best U of F research behind it. You may want to try TurfPro in your garden some time. The ancient Humic and Folic acids and clay contain many beneficial microbes and act as a long lasting wetting agent too so the crusting is somewhat less of a problem. You end up with plants that can take up water and nutrients better. I am not sure you would see a big improvement in the way you are doing it but for gardeners with less compost than you have there would be substantial differences.

  5. Meems,
    Thanks for the suggestions. I'm only starting to think about planting vegetables, but I see that I should start planning now. Is too late to solarize (use plastic to retain the sun's heat to kills the weeds)? Will solarizing help to get rid of nutsedge? I'll have to carefully plan how to get "soil" into my garden since I only have fine white/gray sand and not enough of my own compost yet. I may have to buy some topsoil to get a raised bed started, then I can add bone/blood meal, etc.

  6. Soil preparation starts for me right about now when I see which vegetables are not doing as well as they should, and I start wondering what I forgot to do in the spring. Someday I am actually going to do a soil test.

  7. Meems: Good reminder :) Once again, I am not prepared... I still don't have an offcial veggie garden area, maybe I will grow something edible in the containers this fall.

  8. I am starting my Fall planting preparation this weekend (depending on the heat index) thanks for the reminder and tips

  9. Hi Meems, Just checking in to say HELLO. I always enjoy seeing your garden. You should have an Open House and invite people in your area to come and see all of your hard work.... You could also teach a class on what works and what doesn't work down there....

    We are fine... Just trying to stay COOL in this very hot summer.

  10. meems,

    that coleus combination is wonderful. i love that you are already doing your fall are always so on top of things. it makes me want to do some fall planting.
    i made myself get out and clean up some of the dead stuff the other day. i feel somewhat better about it and i even sowed some radish seeds, wheat and cat grasses to fill in a few of my containers.
    we have had some rain and it has made all the difference. thank God.
    when will you begin planting your seedllings?
    i have yet to put my pumpkins seeds in so it might be too late. they should've been planted in july.
    happy august days.

  11. Hi, I love your multi-coloured coleus and your wild flowers blooming in that heat. We have more or less the same climate but over here, we are having rain and thunderstorm in the evenings but at least its cooler to do our gardening.Im starting a vegetable plot soon for the first time, still germinating the seeds, so your info abt soil preparation and making own compost is really useful. Thanks

  12. How wonderful to be able to grow vegetables so late in the season! I could plant a few cool season crops like spinach and beets, but by fall I'm usually so busy harvesting and preserving all the tomatoes, I never get around to a second planting.

    Besides my own compost, this year I discovered our local landscape recycling center which sells compost...dirt cheap:) It's more trouble to go pick it up, but my gardens have really appreciated the extra nourishment this year.

    Love that red coleus!

  13. I'm counting the days until October 1st, my personal benchmark for the beginning of fall. 40 days of awful left! I haven't even thought about fall veggies yet. Here's to cooler days for Florida AND Texas!


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September 2010

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