By Craig Chapman
Have you always wanted to have your own home garden, chock full of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs but lack a green thumb? Same here, so we reached out to Christi Brown, owner of Violets in Bloom and Roses are Red with a bachelor’s degree in environmental horticulture from the University of Florida to give us the basics on planting your own Florida garden at home.
Whether you use your bounty to create some delicious craft cocktails or to freshen up a traditional family recipe, the hard work and patience you put in to growing your own food will always make your culinary creations taste that much more delicious.
The soil in Florida can present challenges to first time gardeners, but Christi is here to help.
“There’s only a few things that grow well in Florida soil. I’ve had success with broccoli and cauliflower and black eyed peas. Row crops like that will do just fine in Florida soil. But most other things will appreciate being in a pot or raised bed in high quality potting soil.”
In more simple terms, you will need a lot of organic soil. “I have all types of lettuces, tomatoes, and herbs growing very easily in pots,” Christi said. “You need a little bit of drainage in the bottom set in about a two-inch-deep saucer.”
Soil, check! Now we move on to what to grow exactly, especially for the novice gardener.
“For the beginner, the easiest thing for anyone to grow is a lettuce spring mix in a pot,” Christi suggested. “Keep it moist and you will start harvesting baby lettuce in three weeks.”
If you have three or four pots, you can keep them on constant rotation so you can always have salad.
“Broccoli is something that is extremely easy. Tomatoes in pots tend to do very well. I like to go with cherry or grape tomatoes because they are a little easier. The best way to grow tomatoes is to mix up eggshells in your soil when you plant.”
When it comes to fruit Christi has a few suggestions.
“Strawberries in some kind of container are fairly easy. Blackberries do great in Florida. Mango are great, any type of citrus.”
Pineapples are another simple fruit to grow in Florida soil but take about two years to mature. You can just cut off the top of a full pineapple and throw it in the sand and it will do the rest of the work for you.
If you find your herbs and vegetables are dying every year don’t fret, they’re supposed to, you’ve done nothing wrong.
“Most vegetables you replant every year,” she said. “Most fruiting plants you do not have to plant every year. Typically, herbs are very easy to grow. They are good beginner plants and they are typically annuals. They may only last four to six months, but something like rosemary will last a lot longer.”
Most of all it is important to have fun while gardening, it’s not something you should stress about.
“Something that is fun about gardening in general is it’s not forever. You get to try new stuff every year. It takes a little practice. It’s learning the conditions in your own yard. So I think that’s some of the fun of it, there’s some trial and error.”
One final tip Christi has for a first time Florida gardener relates to fertilizers, and it’s a very important rule. “When you are planting I suggest mixing in a slow release fertilizer. Whether you are planting in a pot or the soil, you don’t want to use a liquid fertilizer because it is bad for the environment. It goes straight through the soil in to the aquifer.”
With a little trial, error, and patience comes great rewards when starting your own home garden. Good luck and share your experiences with us!
To learn everything you need to know about planting your own Florida garden, visit the University of Florida’s ‘Vegetable Gardening Guide’ at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021
For more information, contact
Christi Brown at Violets in Bloom: