Florida Gardening in July

July Gardening:

In July the monsoon season is in full swing. This is a blessing for many gardeners after the dry winter and spring months. It’s consistently HOT and very humid. I spend very little time in the garden and only in the mornings. I walk my gardens daily to check for weeds, pest problems and standing water.

It is peak mosquito season. Be sure to dump standing water after each rainfall. This helps prevent mosquito hatching. Mosquitoes will hatch in any stagnate water. You can also try planting a mosquito garden to help deter this pesky insect.

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Zinnia Profusion Double White

What’s growing in my vegetable garden:

Not much! My raised beds look pretty pathetic. It’s too hot for most veggies. I have a few pepper plants, everglade tomatoes, squash, and a dill plant trying it’s hardest in this heat.

What’s flowering:

My butterfly gardens are doing wonderful.  My lantana, zinnias, and milkweed have thrived in this humidity. The butterflies visit late each morning and lazily flutter to all the colorful flowers. My periwinkle has been flowering for several months and the heat hasn’t hinder the blooms. My bromeliads are flowering, which is new and exciting.

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Periwinkle or vinca (Catharanthus)

I recently purchased a few more orchids and tend to them weekly. I repotted a few and make sure to fertilize and water them weekly. The orchids love this humidity and flourish well outside in Florida.

I weeded out my snap dragons that couldn’t take the heat and replaced them with vinca or periwinkle, which are the same thing (something I just learned minutes ago!). This may be confusing to anyone from the north since vinca is also a shade-loving ground cover. I also added some Pentas lanceolata, commonly known as Egyptian Starcluster.

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Egyptian Starcluster (Pentas lanceolata)

Fruit trees:

My fruit trees have tried to flower, but I’ve had some difficulty with my pomegranate in particular. I’m not too concerned because the tree is small and needs to concentrate on growing roots and branches. Every time a bloom pops out (which has happened five times), the bloom breaks off. My Jamaican cherry trees has a few blooms, but are also small trees. I’m not too optimistic on much of a yield. Otherwise, my fruit trees are growing and growing. I fertilize monthly to help promote growth.

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Jamaican cherry (Muntingia calabura)

Other landscape:

My biggest concern has been scales and now I’ve noticed white flies. The scales I was able to remedy with rubbing alcohol and some patience; it’s tedious work. The white flies don’t seem to be causing any evident damage, but can weaken the plant and make it susceptible to disease. The white flies can be conquered naturally with neem oil.

*NOTE: I prefer natural remedies for my garden. If you are interested in other chemicals, please be cautious what you use and talk with a professional. Some chemicals may quickly kill a pest, but it may also kill beneficial insects or be poisonous to children and pets.

Bring the garden into the kitchen:

My Jamacian cherry tree is fully stocked. I have picked the fruit daily and either throw the cherries in smoothies or freeze them for later. These ‘cherries’ taste like cotton candy. I had so many and decided to attempt a jam. I just replace sour cherries with my Jamacian cherries. It’s super sweet and excellent on pancakes or waffles with some whipped topping. Enjoy!

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Moringa (Moringa oleifera)

July is a time to find some shade, sip lemonade and enjoy the luscious green surrounding the gardens. When I’m not sitting in my garden, you can find me at the beach. Live fully and enjoy your season of life!

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. ~Marcus Tullius Cicero

Let’s Get Dirty and Talk Soil

First, get your minds out of the gutter and into the dirt. This is a gardening blog!

I believe soil is the basis for every healthy plant. So many factors play into a successful garden, but if you don’t nourish the soil your garden will require more work and could cost you money if your plants fail. Plants derive much of their nutrients from the soil surrounding them. Those nutrients help the plants grow and produce fruits, vegetables, flowers, and healthy green leaves. If your soil lacks these nutrients, you’ll find you have to fertilize more. This means more work and less time enjoying your garden. I’m all about enjoying my garden. And I don’t need more work, I have four beautiful daughters who supply me with plenty, daily.

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Picture courtesy Pexels

Soil in Florida

I moved from the prairies of Illinois where the soil was sinfully black and the most amazing soil. My gardens grew with no effort to the soil. I mean no added work. Florida is a tad less dirt and a lot more sand. Most likely you’ll be working with sandy loam or sugar sand. If you live in recently built development, it’s likely your soil is back filled with anything and everything. You may find glass, rocks, garbage. It’s terrible! But there is hope. With a little planning and prep work, these soils can be amended.

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Photo courtesy Pexels

Let’s Talk Sand

Sand has it’s disadvantages and advantages and can be turned into quality planting soil. In just nine months, I have turned my sandy yard into a little darker dirt. It still has a long way to go, but it can be done, and your plants will love you. There’s been a little work involved in prepping my gardens, but it’s all been worth it.

Sand disadvantages:

  • Sand hold little nutrients
  • Offers little resistance to pests
  • Needs to be watered frequently
  • Sand is hot
  • Not all plants will do well in sandy soil

Sand benefits:

  • Drains well
  • Good aeration for roots
  • Easy to dig in
  • Easy to amend

The good news – it can be amended! Adding organic matter can greatly improve your soil. Choose one or a few of the soil amendments below and experiment.

  • Compost
  • Peat Moss
  • Manures
  • Leaves
  • Potting soils
  • Top soils
  • Mulch

How to Turn Sand into Dirt

I use all the soil amendments listed above except peat moss. That isn’t because I don’t think peat moss will work or because I don’t like it. I just haven’t experimented with peat moss.

My favorite soil amendment and most successful is mulch. Everyone tells me that it will disappear by the end of the summer. But I’m okay with that because I’ve already noticed my butterfly gardens went from tan sand to dark sand. And I can just make or buy more mulch. I’ve recently been laying cardboard everywhere as a weed barrier and also as compost. This can look ugly, but can easily be covered by mulch. And viola! You have compost and mulch working together. Mulch is something I can pick up at the store, relatively cheap and have immediate results. It also makes my gardens look tidy. You can make your own mulch by using grass clipping, branches, and leaves. This is a good way to repurpose lawn litter. You can also toss these things in your compost pile or bin and wait until it turns into dirt. So many people take it to the lawn compost center or have a service pick up their lawn litter. That’s free mulch. Use it!

*Secret admission: I was biking around the neighborhood this past weekend and saw everyone putting out their lawn clippings for pick up. I thought, That would be awesome for my compost. Do you think my neighbors would think I was a crazy hippy? Crazy hippy or not, free mulch is worth the possible awkward moment.

Compost

I’m going to briefly talk about compost, because I believe it deserves it’s own post. I love, love, love compost. It’s taking things you already have (i.e., kitchen scraps, newspapers, cardboard) and turning it into dirt. It’s easy, and you don’t need to spend any money to make it. You can just toss it on your gardens and let it do it’s work! I have so much compost, I have two compost bins. Composting is brilliant and, I believe, a must in the garden. I’m also experimenting with vermiculture – worm composting!

Topsoil/Potting mix/Manure

I use potting mix and topsoil when I’m repotting or propogating plants. This will then be added to the soil when I transplant. My raised beds have been filled with a mix of topsoil, potting mix and manure to give them a head start. These are all things you can buy at your local garden store. Manure you can find from neighboring farms, but I haven’t ventured down this avenue yet. When I lived in Illinois, we had chickens, and I had a regular supply of manure. Sometimes, just go for what’s easiest and most convenient. You’re more likely to stick to it.

Sand isn’t a lost cause. With a little bit of knowledge and a lot a bit of determination, you can make soil! So get your hands dirty and start making your soil do what it’s supposed to do…grow plants! Happy planting!

A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.  ~Liberty Hyde Bailey

 

References:

Maccubbin, Tom. Month-By-Month Gardening Florida: What to Do Each Month to Have a Beautiful Garden All Year. Minneapolis, MN: Cool Springs Press, 2014.

When the impossible is truly possible – Strawberries in Florida in July

While visiting with one of my friends this week, I discovered that she has strawberries in July! Strawberry season in Florida is usually during the winter months, so this seemed amazing! Her strawberry bed is in the shade in a densely wooded area. This would never work in my yard where there is a lot of direct sunlight. My friend is experimenting with pinching the buds to encourage vine growth. Look how healthy and green those leaves are in 90-degree weather! Something is working. If you have time and the funds to waste (because we all know sometimes those experiments are a big fail) it can be fun and surprising!