In spite of this record-breaking hot summer, it might be surprising to realize that we are just a month away from the onset of fall. As the sun-soaked dog days gradually relinquish their hold to the inviting coolness of autumn, the allure of the new season comes into view.
If your thoughts are already conjuring images of vibrant leaves and the anticipation of robust greens and earthy root vegetables in your garden, we extend an invitation to explore our newly revamped edition of the North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide.
We’ve transformed the guide from a static PDF into a user-friendly website, making it easier than ever for you to tap into its wealth of gardening insights. Crafted by the adept hands of the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension, this guide serves as an invaluable resource catering to both seasoned horticulturists and aspiring gardeners.
Dive into an array of articles, planting schedules, images, and informative UF/IFAS EDIS publications – all thoughtfully designed to address your gardening questions. From the basics of getting started to the finer points of site selection, pest management, fostering biodiversity, soil testing, composting, harnessing cover crops, and mastering irrigation techniques – the North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide website has it all covered.
For those who prefer a tactile experience, physical copies are available upon request at the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Office, located at 615 Paul Russell Rd., Tallahassee, FL 32301. A quick call ahead will help you ensure availability.
We’re also excited to announce our upcoming Fall 2023 Backyard Gardening Series, set for September 6 and 13, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on both evenings at the Leon County Extension Office (615 Paul Russell Road).
If you’re eager to explore the art of fall gardening in depth, this series will cover topics like site selection, soil enrichment, effective fall planting techniques, and more, including a hands-on planting activity.
Individual tickets are available for $10 per person if pre-paid online or $15 in cash or check at the door. For families of three to four, pre-paid online family tickets are $20 per family or $30 in cash or check at the door. This registration fee includes both evenings on September 6 and 13 and light refreshments will be provided.
For any further inquiries, please contact Molly Jameson at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 850-606-5200.
It doesn’t get much better than eating fresh vegetables out of your own garden. I guess you could add a beverage to the mix to improve the experience. A dry chenin blanc would probably go well. Unfortunately, this month’s Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE steered clear of wine as a topic, but the featured agents did focus on vegetables.
Size does matter when it comes to container gardening. Think about the full grown size of the plants you plan to grow when selecting a container size. For most vegetables, 10 inches wide by 10 inches deep is sufficient, but you can grow in much larger containers. The larger the container, the more room the roots will have. For more information on gardening in containers, check out the articles “Don’t Think You Have a Green Thumb? Try Container Gardening!” and “Container Gardens for Outdoor Spaces”.
If you have a really deep container and don’t want to spend the money on potting soil to fill it up, then you’re kind of out of luck. Rocks or other materials placed in the bottom of containers will create a perched water table. So basically, you’re creating a shallower container by putting materials other than potting mix in the bottom. The physics on this topic is better explained in “Rocks in Pots: Drainage or Perched Water Table Problems?”.
It’s best to start with new potting soil each year. Especially if you plan to grow the same plant species/families in the same containers. However, if you do plan to reuse potting soil, make sure to mix it up a bit with a trowel or dump it out and put it back in the container or another container. Also, choose a different crop than what you grew in the soil the previous year. Here’s an interesting publication on growing squash in recycled potting soil.
Raised beds are a great option if you live in an area with poorly drained soil or with a soil that doesn’t hold nutrients. They also can be built on legs like a table to save your back some stress. More information on build a raised bed can be found in the article “Building Raised Beds”.
Who says you can’t landscape with vegetable plants and fruit trees? Vegetables such as cabbage and kale can add a depth of color and texture to your annual flower beds. And blueberry bushes and citrus trees have beautiful blooms that bees love.
Trellises can be easily built and attached to raised bed gardens. Pole beans and Malabar spinach are just a couple examples of vegetables that need something to climb on. Lettuce and other small vegetables can be grown vertically in different hydroponic systems.
Some seeds can be sown directly into the garden while others should be started in trays and transplanted. More information on sowing seeds and timing can be found in the Vegetable Gardening Guide. Just make sure to check out the tables at the end of the guide.
Some plants are more tolerant of salt air and salt water. This doesn’t mean you can water these plants with the Gulf of Mexico, but they will tolerate a little bit of salt. A list of salt tolerant vegetables can be found in “Salt Tolerant Vegetable Gardening”.
There aren’t a lot of options for perennial vegetables in North Florida. A perennial vegetable that can be grown here, taro, can be invasive. If you plan to grow this vegetable, please consider growing it in a container. Fortunately, we have a lot of options for perennial fruiting crops. More information on growing fruit trees can be found in the publication Dooryard Fruit Varieties.
Blackberries grow well in North Florida. You may want to try the thornless varieties ‘Freedom’, ‘Traveler’, ‘Osage’, and ‘Ouachita’. More information on growing blackberries can be found in the publication “The Blackberry”.
Community gardens provide a place to garden for people that may not have space at home. Gardening in these plots also gives people a place to meet their neighbors. Information on starting a community garden can found in the publication “Starting a Community Garden”.
Vine borers and leaf footed bugs are some of the most damaging pests to a vegetable garden. Planting early in the season can help avoid these pests, but if you’re too late on planting then you might want to give some natural products a try. The publication “Natural Products for Managing Landscape and Garden Pests in Florida” provides some good pointers on controlling these and other insect pests.
Squirrels and other wildlife can also be pests in the garden. Deterrents can help keep these pests out of the garden.
Squash and other cucurbits don’t last long in wet areas. They don’t last long on the vine in the first place. Growing on plastic mulch, or even pine straw, can help these vegetables stay dry. You may also want to consider building a trellis for vining cucurbits. Also, make sure to harvest in a timely manner. Squash that overripen on the vine attract insect and disease pests and just don’t taste very good.
Weeds can compete for nutrients with your crops and don’t look very attractive in the garden (or anywhere). If you’re tired of hand weeding, the Vegetable Production Handbook of Florida lists herbicide options by crop.
Past episodes of Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE can be found on our YouTube playlist.
Join us via Zoom on Saturday, August 7, for our Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop. Graphic by Molly Jameson.
Join Us August 7 for the 2021 Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop
Planting vegetable seeds and growing a garden is a great way to get outdoors and appreciate nature. Since 2015, the Leon County Public Library has supported gardeners in Leon County by providing vegetable seed packets for patrons to take home and plant in their gardens.
During the virtual workshop, Extension agents will discuss planting seeds, growing vegetables, and how to incorporate veggies into healthy meals and snacks. The workshop coincides with the first day the seeds in the Fall 2021 Seed Library will become available. Residents of Leon County can check out three sample seed packets per month with their library cards from all Leon County library branches.
Even if you are not a resident of Leon County, everyone is welcome to join us at the virtual workshop. Along with the gardening portion of the workshop, there will also be a live virtual cooking demonstration featuring vegetables available in the Fall 2021 Seed Library Program.
Here is the list of the vegetable seed varieties that will be available starting August 7: Common Arugula, Waltham 29 Broccoli, Chantenay Red Core Carrots, Michihili Chinese Cabbage, Slo-bolt Cilantro, Alabama Blue Collards, Early White Vienna Kohlrabi, Rocky Top Salad Blend Lettuce, Pink Beauty Radishes, and Tokinashi Turnips.
Last spring, we were all ready to host another Open House and Plant Sale on Mother’s Day weekend. When the realities of the pandemic became clear, we canceled the event for the safety of everyone involved. We typically have more than 500 visitors and dozens of volunteers on site. This year we are happy to announce we have adapted our annual fundraiser to a monthly learning and growing opportunity for the whole community.
Master Gardener Volunteer Jeanne Breland is growing native milkweed in her monarch exclusion fortress for a Plant with Purpose talk and sale in the spring. Previous years’ milkweed have been eaten by monarch caterpillars before the sale so Jeanne has built her fortress to get the best results. Photo by Rachel Mathes
Our Master Gardener Volunteers will be teaching Thursday evening classes on particular plant groups throughout the year in our new series: Plant with Purpose. Topics will range from milkweed to shade plants to vegetables and herbs for different seasons. Attendees can attend the talks for free and grow along with us with the purchase of a box. These boxes are modeled after community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes you can purchase from local farms. Buyers will get a variety of the plants discussed in the plant lesson that week. For example, in our first event, Growing a Pizza Garden, we will have two tomato plants, two pepper plants, and one basil plant available for $20. Throughout the year, prices and number of plants will vary depending on the topic.
We hope with this new model of presentations and plant sales will enable us to remain Covid-safe while still bringing horticulture education to the community. Classes will be held on Thursday evenings from 6-7 pm via Zoom. Register on our Eventbrite to get the Zoom link emailed to you before each talk. Plant pick up will be the following Saturday from 10 am to noon. Master Gardener Volunteers will load up your plant box in a contact-free drive thru at the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Office at 615 Paul Russell Rd.
Propagation of angel wing begonia and other plants by Joan Peloso, Master Gardener Volunteer.
Master Gardener Volunteers are already growing plants for you to purchase throughout the year. Landscape plants, herbs, vegetables, shrubs and even trees will be available later in the year. Funds raised from this series help fund our Horticulture programming. Some notable programs that will benefit from Plant with Purpose include our Demonstration Garden, 4-H Horticulture Club, the Veterans’ Garden Group at the VA Tallahassee Outpatient Clinic, and various school gardens we help support throughout Leon County.
In the last year, we have adapted many of our programs to meet virtually, and even created new ones like our Wednesday Webinar series where we explore different horticulture topics twice a month with guest speakers from around the Panhandle. While we still can’t meet in person to get down in the dirt with all of our community programs, we hope that the Plant with Purpose series will help fill the hole left by our cancelled Open House and Plant Sale. Join us for the first installment of Plant with Purpose on Thursday March 18th from 6-7pm. Pick up for purchased plant boxes will be Saturday March 20th from 10am-noon.
Sugar snap peas prefer to be planted when the soil is cool and the pods are delicious raw or cooked. Photo by Full Earth Farm.
Leon County’s Spring 2021 Seed Library Program Starts February 13
Although we are still experiencing the coolness of winter, the spring gardening season is right around the corner. To get a head start on the heat that will start taking over by May – and certainly by June – it is important to have a spring garden plan. If you want to start your veggies from seed, certain crops, such as tomatoes, need to be seeded soon for best results. Other warm-loving crops, like squash and cucumbers, also benefit from an early start to beat the life cycles of many common pests.
A young volunteer helped pack seeds from home for the Spring 2021 Leon County Seed Library Program. Photo by Jeanne Breland.
Here are the vegetable seed varieties that will be available starting February 13:
Italian Large Leaf Basil. This is a fast-growing plant, with four-inch-long green leaves that have an anise flavor and a sweet aroma.
Jackson Wonder Butterbeans. A high yielding heirloom, these beans produce pods with three to five reddish colored beans in each. When dried, the beans develop a mottled pattern.
A & C Pickling Cucumber. Plants are productive, producing many straight, dark-green fruits that are great for pickling when they are four to six inches long. Eaten fresh, they can be grown out to 10 inches.
Edisto 47 Melon. Plants prosper in hot, humid climates and produce mildly sweet five-pound cantaloupes in about 90 days.
Burmese Okra. Plants have very large leaves and at about 18-inches tall, produce slender curved 9 to 12 inch okra pods that are virtually spineless. Under 10 inches, pods can be eaten raw and are less viscous than some other varieties.
Sugar Snap Peas. Plants produce sweet, crisp pods that can be eaten raw or cooked. Seeds germinate well in cool soil and plant growth is vigorous, requiring support.
Corno di Toro Sweet Bell Pepper. This productive pepper, whose name translates to “Horn of the Bull,” produces thick horn-shaped fruit that is flavorful and great eaten raw or cooked.
Butternut Waltham Squash. This winter squash produces four-to-five-pound fruits with necks that are thick, straight, and cylindrical. The flesh of the fruit is smooth and has a flavor that sweetens with storage.
Black Krim Tomato. This Russian heirloom has indeterminate growth and produces 8 to16 ounce, brown-to-red fruit with a deep smoky flavor. The shoulders of the tomatoes are brownish green and darken with more heat and sunlight.
Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomato. This deep-red small cherry tomato has indeterminate growth and produces soft fruit that is very sweet and full of flavor.
Whether you are located in Leon County or not, everyone is welcome to join us Saturday, February 13, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., for our Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop. Via Zoom, agents with UF/IFAS Extension Leon County will discuss spring vegetable gardening techniques and food waste prevention. There will also be a live cooking demonstration showing how to prepare healthy meals and snacks at home, featuring vegetables available in the Spring 2021 Seed Library Program.
Join us via Zoom on Saturday, August 8, for our Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop. Graphic by Molly Jameson.
Leon County’s Seed Library Program Continues On
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives. In Extension, we have learned new ways to be innovative in our programs, and we have made adaptations to continue to reach the community through technology. While these technologies have allowed us the opportunity to connect with clientele and continue to allow important discussions related to the life sciences, there is no substitute for hands-on learning.
For this reason, I am thankful that the Leroy Collins Leon County Public Library System is proceeding with the Leon County Seed Library Program this fall. Since the spring of 2015, the Leon County Public Library has provided Leon County community members with sample vegetable seed packets to take home and plant in their gardens. While many aspects of the Seed Library Program will be altered this season, seeds will still be available to be “checked-out” from all Leon County library branches.
While face coverings and other safety precautions will be required, Leon County residents can still “check-out” seeds starting August 8. Photo by the Leon County Public Library.
As we continue to strive to keep ourselves and our community safe, many of us have used gardening as a way to relax and find some peace during these turbulent times. Planting vegetable seeds is a great way to learn about agriculture and our natural environment and gives us an opportunity to spend some time outdoors.
As an Extension Agent in Leon County, I have had the pleasure of partnering with the Leon County Library to help pick out the Seed Library Program seed selections, plan kickoff events, and provide hands-on workshops at various library branches. While “checking-out” seeds at the library this season will be a socially distanced activity, we still want to provide an opportunity for the community to engage with UF/IFAS Extension and learn about planting seeds, growing vegetables, and how to incorporate vegetables into snacks and meals to stay healthy.
Whether you are located in Leon County or not, everyone is welcome to join us Saturday, August 8, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., our Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop. Via Zoom, agents with UF/IFAS Extension Leon County will discuss vegetable gardening techniques and the importance of eating healthfully. We will also be doing a live virtual cooking demonstration featuring vegetables available in the Fall 2020 Seed Library Program.
Here is the list of the vegetable seeds that will be available starting August 8: Calabrese Broccoli, Cosmic Purple Carrots, Georgia Green Collards, Lacinato Kale, Buttercrunch Bibb Lettuce, Giant of Italy Parsley, Easter Egg Radishes, and Silverbeet Swiss Chard.