Ready, Set, Plant!

by Donna Torrey

Okay, folks, the time you have been waiting for is finally here. It’s time to get your garden ready to plant vegetables, and we are fully stocked with all your faves.

If you are new to South Florida, then you may be a little confused. You see, here it’s “opposite world” from the rest of the continental U.S. We have tropical summers and our winters resemble “northern” summers. This is one of the reasons that I love South Florida so much—there is never a gardening down time. It’s grow, grow, grow, 365 days of the year, and I love it.


Here’s a list of some of our favorite vegetables that were off limits during the summer but we can grow now: Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Potatoes, Collards, Broccoli, Arugula, Cabbages, Squashes, Melons, Cucumbers, Okra, Onions, Leeks, Beans and Peas.

Our options will increase even more by October, peaking in January, so now is a good time to get the beds ready by adding lots of compost or other organic amendments and beneficial nematodes to the soil, especially where plants such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and okra are planted, as the root knot nematodes will adversely affect their growth.

Place your veggie gardens in at least eight hours of direct sun for maximum success, especially tomatoes. Leaf crops can take a little less. With good soil, full sun, and organic fertilizers such as composted chicken manure (Black Hen) and fish emulsion, you are off to the right start. Place your containers or beds where you have easy access to water as proper and regular watering will ensure your success.

If you keep your plants as healthy as possible and diversify your beds by interspersing them with herbs and flowers, you may not need any pest control, and the insects will balance each other out. If you do run into severe problems, refer to my website tutorial on Pest Control at

Never underestimate the hazards of synthetic, toxic chemicals to yourselves, the soil, other beneficial insects and animals. Their damage is cumulative, and most of us are already carrying a heavy load in our bodies. Just say NO to using any of them.

Ready, set, plant! See ad page 60.

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