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October 16, 2011

Grow tomatoes, eggplant and peppers over the winter in Florida

Who says we cannot have our cake and eat it too? In Florida we can. With some adjustments, we can grow tomatoes, peppers and eggplant year round, except for the summer season. The only thing we should do is to protect the plants from the frosts. Barring elaborate covering or green house set ups, we can grow these vegetables in containers and bring them inside on frost nights. If you want to venture on to winter growing of these warm season vegetables, you should plant them in some nice containers now:

Here's some eggplant:

Cubanelle Peppers:

and some tomatoes ready to be transplanted.

One thing all these vegetables have in common, they like 65F to 85F degree weather, which can be easily achieved througout the winter in Florida, except for the North Florida. In Central and South Florida we can grow these vegetables in containers and just bring them inside on frost nights. Even in the event they don't fruit in the coolish weather, we can still have an earlier start on the harvest, by probably two to three months by just growing them in this manner.

October 14, 2011

Update on growing peanuts

I had these peanuts from a grocery store growing since June, and now they started to flower. Peanuts take a long time to grow and that is why it is important to seed them at the right time so they would have adequate amount of warm weather to develop and fruit. Pictured below is a peanut plant flowering:

Here's my peanut patch, of maybe six to ten peanut plants. The orange flowers are cosmos, not peanuts. Cosmos seeded itself and I let it be for the beauty and pollinator attracting ability.

Peanut plant is supposed to bury their "children" into the ground. So far I am not observing that behavior, but will keep an eye on them and will report on the progress.

October 12, 2011

Another update on three sisters garden

Thanks to the cooling weather, corn, beans and squash are finally starting to perform. All of the beans and squash have germinated, and corn picked up the speed as well.

I planted two squash seeds on each corner of the three sisters garden, and all the seeds have germinated. I hate killing a perfectly healthy plant, but at some point a decision will have to be made. The amount of space allocated to the three sisters garden cannot support that much squash, so one of the squash in each corner will have to go to let the remaining one have the room and the sun to grow to it's full capacity:

The idea of this project is to have a triple harvest at Thanksgiving: corn, beans and squash, all growing together and supporting each other by nutrients, shading and support functions.

October 10, 2011

Sweet potato harvest

Back in July I planted some sweet potato slips from a grocery store potatoes, and now, in October, it is time to harvest the crop. I was astounded by the size of the potatoes:

Just a few of them weighted at four pounds, but total of six pounds from two little twigs grown from a potato:

You can see on these pictures that potatoes are cracked and split, this is because we had so much rain lately. These potatoes are still very edible, but for the storage you need potatoes that are intact. This is why it is advised to grow sweet potatoes in hills, that is in soil piled up well above the ground to provide good drainage. I do not have the space in my garden to dedicate to storage sweet potatoes, but if this is your goal, you need to grow them either in raised beds or in hills.

Usually, it is expected to harvest two to five pounds of sweet potatoes from every slip, depending on the fertility of the soil and growing conditions. But hey, would you complain if you grew even one pound of potatoes per slip from a store bought potato? This is free food at it's best.

October 9, 2011

Update on growing luffa in your garden

Finally I'm getting some good results. Luffa that was planted some time in June is coming to some nice fruit.

But luffa seeded a whole month and a half after the initial one is doing much better: larger fruit and healthier vines all around:

This "later" luffa also has more developing fruit that does not fall off:

This leads me to believe that luffa does not really like our summer heat and prefers cooler weather. So, for the fall harvest we should seed it sometime in August, like any other squash family. In spring it probably should be seeded in February. I have a total of five plants going, and by counting the developing fruit I would have at least twenty grown gourds to make my sponges. Not a bad proposition.

October 8, 2011

Growing small grains

I germinated some bird seed for sprouts sometime in June. We happily juiced the sprouts but the plants still had the roots and stems living. I felt bad throwing them into compost, so I planted it in the corner of the bed. There were probably forty or so plants there, but some survived summer heat and neglect. Now I have a small grain harvest:

I'm not sure what kind of grain these are, as far as I remember the package listed wheat, millet and milo, possibly some others. But the experiment is worth the try. You might not produce enough grain to feed the family, but will have some to make artisan bread and have more free seeds for the next season. I am going to try to seed maybe forty square feet of grain next spring. I imagine they should be seeded in February, just like any other warm season vegetable.

October 6, 2011

Pickleworm control

Pickleworms are common on cucumbers and squash. I don't use pesticides, so my pest control is manual. Luckily, these worms are easy to identify. They like to wrap themselves around in the leaves of the squash or the cucumber and lay the eggs there so that their youngsters have immediate access to food.

You need to pay attention to the leaves. When you see damage to the leaves, examine the under part of the leaves, and especially when you see leaves curled up and sealed like this:

When you open the curled part you would find a small green worm sitting there:

Destroy this thing immediately and keep checking the leaves for other pickleworms. The plant will survive with some leaf damage, but it will be a problem, if unchecked, when you start harvesting because pickleworms will destroy fruit. You might try BT to control the worms, but it has to be applied regularly as it washes off with rain and watering.

October 4, 2011

Warm season vegetables in October

After a two month lull in production we are starting to enjoy fruits of our labor in October. Warm season vegetables that were seeded in July and August are ready for the harvest and will continue fruiting till Thanksgiving. Cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and peppers are our main crop in this season.

Tomatoes started to fruit:

Peppers are blooming and will start to fruit soon:

Warm season vegetables are quite tricky to grow in the fall because we have to start them when it is excruciatingly hot, in July, but harvest time is limited by cooling weather and potential frost. But it is still worth it because we can enjoy second season of these wonderful fruits. You might want to extend the season by getting a green house and planting fewer plants so they can fit in there, if the green house is small.

October 2, 2011

What can we grow in October in Florida?

In October we can seed all cool season vegetables and herbs directly into the ground. The weather is cool enough for optimum development of these plants. My zone is 9A, but check your zone for refined planting dates. Even if we get frost in December, these vegetables are not badly damaged by it and survive frosts just fine. Here's an alphabetical list of these vegetables:

BeetsBok ChoyBroccoliBrussels sprouts
CabbageChinese CabbageCarrotsCauliflower

Check proper spacing prior to seeding these vegetables.

Radish is a popular vegetable and can be seeded througout the season every two weeks or so to ensure continuous harvest. It grows very fast, you can have radishes a month after seeding.

Approximately at this stage radish needs to be thinned to about three inches between the plants. The thinned out seedlings can be used as greens in salads.

Lettuce is another popular vegetable and can be seeded continiously through March. Pictured below is Romaine lettuce, but you might try other types, such as Black Seeded Simpson and Mesclun Mix; both grow very well in Florida and are easy to grow.

October 1, 2011

Want free fertilizer?

Get some chickens!

Just thought I'd share...  :)

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