Growing Veggies in Southwest Florida

by Adrienne Diaz

Most people think that Spring, or maybe Summer, is the best time to grow herbs and veggies. Up north that is true, but not down here. Winter is actually the most productive time to grow your own backyard herbs and vegetables. This is when the humidity is low and the mornings and evenings get a little cooler – all things that temperate plants like. When the humidity and temperatures soar in the spring and summer, and the rainy season begins, almost all herbs and most all beloved vegetables begin to struggle or give up. After hearing this, many people ask me, “Can you grow any veggies or herbs in the spring or summer here?” My answer is always, “Absolutely, but those will be tropical varieties,” and that is a completely different story – stay tuned to read about those in May and June.

I do want to emphasize that you do not need to plant veggies in the ground here. You are actually better off planting them in small raised beds or containers, which is perfect for those who are living in neighborhoods with small to no yard space, or in gated and golf course communities with many rules and regulations about planting in the ground or existing landscape.

If you choose to raise your crops in pots, then all you need to do is have a container that drains well and be sure to use aerated soil (a potting mix that has peat moss, vermiculite or perlite and a bit of compost). If you would like to raise more veggies than your backyard or patio will allow, consider growing in a community garden bed. These are usually 4×8 feet and you can grow enormous amounts of food if you follow the square foot garden method.

I am currently harvesting bok choy, swiss chard, radishes, collards, eggplants, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, turnips, lettuce, spinach, peas, peppers, green beans, tomatoes, kohlrabi and soon will have onions and carrots too.

Make a New Year’s resolution to begin growing some of your own food. Not only will you be healthier (because you will have clean, chemical free food), but you will also be wealthier (have you seen some of the prices in the Organic food markets?). And I guarantee you will also be happier – there’s a reason gardening is the #1 hobby in America!

Happy New Year and I hope to see you in the garden!

Backyard Veggie Growing 101

Learn the Basics for a Successful SWFL Veggie Garden

When: January 18, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Where: WaKeHatchee Rec Center 16760 Bass Rd, Fort Myers (next to Lexington Middle School)

What: Calling all beginning, transplanted or frustrated gardeners: Do you have a desire to grow honest, non-toxic, nutritious food in your own backyard, but don’t think you have the know-how or even the space? We will discuss in detail our special zone, soil and season information. Knowing how to work in a sub-tropical climate makes all the difference in the world on how successful your garden can be and with much less effort and space than you think! The class is free, but please RSVP to apdwith5@gmail.com for handouts.

Adrienne Diaz is a Certified Square Foot Garden Instructor, a Lee County Master Gardener and the Project Director of the Six Mile Charter Academy School Garden. She grows numerous fruits, vegetables and herbs year round. She offers free workshops & classes monthly, gives garden tours and can speak to your group. Contact her on Facebook at Miss Potters Place, apdwith5@gmail.com, or 239-464-5754.

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