Extending the Season for Leafy Greens

Are you interested in growing lettuce and other leafy greens?  Are you looking for tips on extending the growing season for your leafy green crop?  If so, then check out this very informative instructional video by Washington County Horticulture Agent Matthew Orwat.

Hydroponic Bucket Garden

Leaf lettuce growing in a floating hydroponic system.

Leaf lettuce growing in a floating hydroponic system. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS Extension.

Christmas is just around the corner and what better gift could you give other than the gift that keeps on giving…a hydroponic bucket garden!  Floating hydroponic gardens are easy to build with supplies found at just about any home and garden center.  A simple garden can be constructed with a 5-Gallon bucket, polystyrene foam board insulation, and “net pots” or other suitable containers to support the plants.  Leaf lettuce and herbs are suitable plants for growing in a floating garden and will grow well indoors as long as there is plenty of natural light available.

SUPPLIES

  • 5-Gallon Bucket
  • Polystyrene Foam (1½ inch or thicker)
  • Water
  • Water-Soluble Fertilizer (10-10-10, 20-20-20, 24-8-16, or similar grade)
  • Epson Salts (magnesium sulfate)
  • Suitable Plants (leafy lettuce, greens, or most herbs – NOT rosemary)
  • “Net Pots”, Polystyrene Cups with punctures, or other suitable containers
  • Jigsaw, Drywall Saw, or Sharp Knife
  • Hole Saw

CONSTRUCTION

  • Cut, with a jigsaw, a 1½ inch board of polystyrene foam board insulation into 1-by-1-foot squares.
  • Place the bottom of the bucket on a 1-by-1 foot square of foam and trace the shape of the bucket on the foam. Cut out the circle.
  • Use a hole saw to cut evenly spaced holes out of the foam. (Typically 3 to 4 depending on “net pot”/plant container size.)  The hole size should allow the bottom of the plant container to be level with the underside of the foam.

FERTILIZATION & PLANT CARE

Fill the bucket with approximately 2.5 gallons of water.  Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of water-soluble fertilizer for each gallon of water to be used in the bucket (approximately 5 to 9 teaspoons for 4.5 gallons of water).  Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of Epson Salts for each gallon of water to be used in the bucket (approximately 2.5 to 4.5 teaspoons for 4.5 gallons of water).  Mix the fertilizer and Epsom Salts with the water in the bucket.  Continue to fill the bucket with water to within 1½ inches of the rim of the bucket.  Set “net pots” or plant containers in the hole cutouts in the foam circle.  Lay the foam circle, with inserted containers, on the surface of the water/fertilizer mixture in the bucket.  Place the young starter plants in the containers.  Do not remove the potting mix from the plant roots.  The most critical aspect is the depth of the transplant’s root ball in the solution.  The bottom of the root ball should be flush with the surface of the water.  As the water/fertilizer mixture is taken up by the plants and evaporated, the water level in the bucket will decline.

FURTHER INFORMATION

A bucket garden may just be the beginning of your hydroponic ventures.  For additional publications on growing hydroponic vegetables please visit the University of Florida/IFAS EDIS website hydroponic production page.  If you want to start your own hydroponic farm then you may also be interested in attending the “Starting a Successful Hydroponic Business” training at the Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center in Live Oak in March.

My Fall Vegetable Garden

My Fall Vegetable Garden

Direct seed root crops and many leafy greens, such as arugula and spinach. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Direct seed root crops and many leafy greens, such as arugula and spinach. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Fall is fast approaching, and that means my favorite season for gardening has arrived! September is the month we get to start all of our fall favorites. For me, this means starting lettuce, kale, broccoli, and collards by seed in flats indoors. I use full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs, which mimics natural sunlight. In a couple of weeks, I will direct seed arugula, carrots, mustards, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips into my raised beds.

Seed many brassicas and lettuce into flats. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Seed brassicas and lettuce into flats. Photo by Molly Jameson.

But before I get started direct seeding, I will first need to do some garden cleanup. Sadly, this means I will need to say goodbye to my basil and okra, which are still hanging on despite the heat (and despite the hurricane!). Then it will be time to add a fresh layer of compost. Additionally, I will be adding worm castings, which I have been creating for my fall garden in my home worm bin all summer. There is no better feeling then growing brassicas and lettuce from seed, digging small holes, adding homemade fresh worm castings to each, and planting the eager seedlings.

Grow many greens for the fall season. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Grow a variety of greens for the fall season. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Fall is a wonderful time to garden in zone 8b – generally less pest pressure and a chance to plant hardy leafy greens that can be harvested all the way into spring. Of course, I always keep frost cloth around, in case temperatures dip below freezing for extended periods of time. In which case I will be sure to carefully cover my lettuce and Swiss chard, making sure the cloth is well secured.

I love my tomatoes, peppers, beans, and squash, but they usually involve staking and the ever imminent threat of caterpillars and intense heat. In the fall, most crops hold themselves off the ground, and I certainly cannot wait to pull on a jacket in the crisp early morning, come out to harvest kale and spinach leaves, and add them to my breakfast smoothie and veggie omelet.

For more information:

Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide

 

Time to Start a Fall Garden

Time to Start a Fall Garden

broccoli

Broccoli, a popular winter vegetable. Photo by Mary Derrick, UF IFAS

As the days get shorter and temperatures decrease, it is time install your cool season vegetable garden. Many vegetables can be grown in Florida, but it is important to understand what the climatic requirements are for each crop to have the most success.

To get the most of your garden space know the recommended months for planting and the turnaround time for harvest so that you can stagger plantings or change out crops as needed.

September is the ideal time to plant cabbage, beets, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, and radishes. After the New Year some options include eggplant, potatoes, English peas, and turnips.

Many gardeners start their tomatoes and peppers as early as February, but they are frost sensitive and early planting carries some risk of cold damage.

If you are interested in learning more about fall vegetable gardening, join the UF/IFAS Bay County Master Gardeners on Friday, September 18th for a free vegetable gardening workshop. This class will be held at the Bay County Extension Office at 2728 E. 14th Street in Panama City. To register please call 850-784-6105 or email bay@ifas.ufl.edu. Fall-VegMG2015

For more information and a full chart of what to plant when see Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide.

 

Build Your Own Floating Hydroponic Garden

Build Your Own Floating Hydroponic Garden

Building a floating hydroponic garden as a fall project could be rewarding and delicious. In the fall, lettuce, cabbage and greens are ideal for floating hydroponic gardens.

Watch a video by UF / IFAS Extension Agents to learn how to construct your own floating hydroponic garden by clicking on the picture below.

 

The publication, Building a Floating Hydroponic Garden, is also available for those interested in more information.