NOTE: Make sure you read the first three posts (in order!) before tackling the rest, or it could be confusing: Post 1 is Designing the future, Post 2 is Setting up the problem, and Post 3 is Estimating basic requirements.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Florida gardening

The growing season in Florida is just barely underway. I’m brand new to gardening (I haven’t gardened since I was a kid), so I started small with a couple raised beds. One is shown in the pictures below.

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We have a sampling of tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, carrots, scallions, pepeprs, spinach, lettuce, and radishes on the left, and strawberries on the right. A good windstorm the other night knocked a dead branch full of precious deciduous leaves from my elderly neighbor’s tree, which I procured in spite of her confused stare at the request. It was a lucky find of free mulch for the strawberries in a place where leaves rarely fall.

9 Comments:

At 8:05 AM, Blogger DJEB said...

Throw on mulch until you think it is ridiculous, then double that amount. Your soil will love you for it.

 
At 8:24 PM, Blogger PeakEngineer said...

I'm going to have to do some serious scrounging -- there's not much mulch to be found in suburban Florida.

 
At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Jeff said...

Try a sanitation department. Some give away mulch for free; it's usually just wood and bark chips which may not be ideal for a vegetable garden, but may be better than nothing.

Living most of my life in Wisconsin, I was surprised to learn Florida had a growing season. I thought you could grow year round down there.

I'm volunteering at two organic farms next year. In addition to my weekly small bags of fresh produce, I want to experience organic agriculture. I hope to find at least one farmer employing polyculture.

Additionally I'll be growing my own (very small) vegetable garden. I'm hoping I can grow a couple stalks of bamboo. I'm wondering if you'll be dealing with pests organically, and if so, what pests you have down there and what techniques you’ll be using.

 
At 8:52 PM, Blogger DJEB said...

Wood chips (often available from the City for free) does make a good mulch, in my experience. It can also be a substrate for mushrooms, should you care to have a go at growing them.

As for pest control, two things that work great are milk (yes, milk) and smoke oil. Smoke oil is supposedly the ultimate organic pesticide, though I've never had the setup to make it. Milk works wonders on aphids and tackles mildew on cucurbits. It would be worth a try on other pests to see which ones are lactose intolerant. Some helpful natural products are available here:

http://www.nemaslug.com/
http://www.buglogical.com/
http://www.natpestco.com/

Some loss to pests is natural. Huge losses are showing you that there is some imbalance in your system. This may be self-correcting over time (2 or 3 years), assuming that you have designed ecosystemically. If not, you will need to figure out what is going on.

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger PeakEngineer said...

Florida has a specific growing season for the opposite reason than in the north -- here it's too much heat and sun. I'm from the midwest originally and I had the same impression that Florida should have a year-round growing season. I planted a vegetable garden in June before I realized my error.

The pests down here are pretty much the same (as far as I remember) -- cucumber beetles, leaf-footed bugs, tomato hornworms, leaf miners, caterpillars of various types. I've found that garlic/pepper spray works on some of them, but mostly I've been hand-picking. This is still my first year gardening in Florida, so I don't know how the pests change over the season. We'll see...

 
At 8:32 AM, Anonymous Jeff said...

PeakEngineer, I think we have very different ideas on how a new community is started. I was hoping you could give me a better idea of what your thoughts are. Based on your last post I get the impression you'd like to start a community where everyone retains their traditional jobs working for an employer. The community would only provide housing and people would grow most of their own food. Is that about the gist of it?



Djeb, thanks for the book recommendation, and the three links on the other post. I noticed you’re a permaculture designer. Just out of curiosity, have you worked on any urban/rural permaculture projects?

 
At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Jeff said...

Djeb, Smoke oil?

 
At 9:31 AM, Blogger DJEB said...

I gather that smoke oil is sort of distilled out of smoke from a stove. A fellow permaculturist got his hands on some from an ESL student and found that it worked great. For the expense/effort, I think milk of the best all around stuff I've used so far.

 
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