I am still getting the hang of basic gardening technique—like how to keep stuff alive. I usually seed at least twice as many plants as I plan to need so I have backups for when, inevitably, disaster strikes. Right now, I am battling moles, caterpillars, crows, neighborhood cats, and aphids. Some days I’m close to buying a taser. Or at the very least, arming myself with a lighter and a bottle of hairspray. This past fall, we actually had to fork the broccoli. (Sounds naughty, right?)
When we moved back to Florida two and a half years ago, I was determined to have a badass vegetable patch. I quickly learned that gardening in Central Florida defies all logic, reason, and instinct. Supposed sun-obsessed veggies like tomatoes, beans, and squash thrived in the beds that only got four hours of direct light. Tomato and pepper plants produced continuously in the dead of winter. Yet during the peak of summer, the garden was just dead. Madness.
Here are the four raised beds I’m in the process of planting for spring. You can see greens, Brussels sprouts, and peas rocking out in the front bed, a row of bush beans in the back right bed, and that I was too lazy to weed wack last time I mowed. To simplify planning and planting, I loosely follow the square foot method, which assigns a number of plants to be put in one square foot of dirt. Three of the beds are 8’x’4’ and one is 6’x4’ — that’s 120 squares!
Below is my Spring 2016 plan, a chart for each bed. Nerd alert.
The Big Trellis Bed
This is the 6’x4’ raised bed. Last week, I planted the sweet potatoes slips we grew ourselves. (Check out that post here.) When the bush beans die off in about two months, I will fill that space with three more sweet potatoes. The trellis indicated at the top of this drawing was an old metal bench swing frame we rescued from our neighbor’s curb.
I spray painted it black and ran lines of hemp, spaced about 4” apart, vertically across the 7’ span. So far I’ve only used it to grow pole beans, but I might throw some cukes or cucamelons on it this summer.
The Hot Hot Bed
Ahhhh, tomatoes. Tomato sauce, tomato basil soup, oven-dried tomatoes, tomatoes stuffed with onions and cheese and breadcrumbs oh my. I planted the tomato transplants (seeded January 17th) last week. This year I am proactively protecting them. I added crushed eggshell to the holes (about two to three eggs worth) before planting. I had blossom end rot one year due to calcium deficiency. You could also add a crushed up Tums tablet. In a few weeks, I will start spraying with a homemade garlic fungicide in attempts to ward off the fungus that always seems to take over the lower half of the plant. Additionally, I will start sprinkling the plants and surrounding soil with BT powder (bacillus thuringiensis, an organic pesticide) to slow down the unavoidable caterpillar infestation.
This bed gets full on sun all day long. I have about five pepper plants in this bed that survived last summer. Yes, there is such a thing as too much sun for a vegetable garden. I plan to plant most of the new peppers in a bed that gets more shade, but any extras will probably get thrown in here.
The Slightly Shady Bed
This is the back right bed currently occupied by a row of bush beans, a few onions, and two tomato plants. Hopefully, the peppers transplants will be big enough to plant out soon. In the meantime, I will continue to mulch this bed with grass clippings to keep the weeds down.
The Short Trellis Bed
The trellis that runs along three sides of this bed is only about 2’ tall. I attached stakes to each of the four corners and ran bird netting (leftover from shielding the blueberry bush) between the stakes on three sides. Sugar snaps don’t necessarily need to be trellised, but having them upright allows for more room in this bed. Also, they are the perfect height for little fingers to harvest those peas!
Aside from a few peppers here and there, this the only bed we are currently harvesting. The sugar snap peas are blooming right now and the spinach and chard are getting huge. I’ve been picking Buttercrunch lettuce and arugula for salads almost every day. This is the second or third round of greens we have planted here this winter. And as long as I keep blasting those aphids with the hose, we might even get some Brussels sprouts!
How does your garden grow?