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July 7, 2011

What can we plant in July in Florida?

What can we plant in July? Surprisingly, a lot of things! July is one of the busiest months of the year for seeding future crops. We are now officially in a fall preparation mode. Florida has three, or in some sense four growing seasons, and fall is one of the most important ones. Most popular vegetables to grow in the fall are tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. But all these need six to eight weeks from seed to transplanting into the garden, which gets us here, in July, to start the seeds.

If you have never seeded a plant you might feel intimidated. But no fret, it is really very simple. Once you get a hang of it you will never resort to buying plants from the box store again. Plus, did I say seeds are cheap?

First, you need to get yourself some seeds and some "nursery" containers to plant them in. I use blue styrofoam containers that are leftover from the mushrooms you find in a grocery store. If you do not have these, you might look around your house to find something suitable: it has to be at least three inches deep and allow poking some drainage holes on the bottom. Probably glass and metal are not good candidates, but I have seeded plants in cardboard boxes before with no issues.

Poke some holes in the bottom of your container and fill it with soil. I use Miracle Gro potting mix and found it to be very good seeding matter. It is cheap, about nine dollars per two cubic feet bag, which is a lot of soil.

Here's a container filled with potting mix and holes on the bottom:

Next, you want to moisture your soil, even if it came from a fresh bag. Fill some container with water, I use a sink for that, and let the nursery container sit in the water, about half of it's size deep. The water will moisturize the container from the bottom eliminating the chances of having dry pockets that you would have if you watered from the top:

You will know that soil is moist when you see (and feel) the moisture on the top of the soil. It will change color (darken) and will be wet to the touch.

Now you need to make some "rows" where the seeds will be planted. I use a regular pen for that, but any blunt thin object will do. Just make some indentations in the soil about quarter an inch to half an inch deep. In my blue containers I usually make three rows. Put the seeds into the rows. Again, a container like that takes about twenty seeds, but the rule of thumb - the spacing between the seeds should be about a half an inch:

Now cover the seeds with the surrounding soil and you are done. Place the containers outdoors in a shade. A porch or lanai works best, but if you don't have these, just put them under a tree or a bush. Keep the soil moist and in about a week you should see the seedlings coming up. Tomatoes usually come up first; peppers and eggplant might take up to three weeks, so do not give up on them, keep them watered!

In addition to fall planting preparation we can still plant cowpeas, okra and sweet potatoes if you have slips ready.


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