Get an early start on a spring garden
TRACY HODGESpring in Central Florida is the perfect time to plant a vegetable garden. However, some vegetables grow best when planted while the weather is still fairly cool. If you want to have a successful garden, here are some vegetables that should be planted during early spring.
Published: January 23, 2013
Published: January 23, 2013
Planting cool-season vegetables early will ensure your vegetable crops are fully mature before our weather turns hot. You also will be able to have more vegetables at harvest than when planting these crops too late in the spring season.
Peas are very hardy and will thrive when planted early. Seeds can be planted as early as two full months before the recommended dates, even when there is still a threat of frost. Most types of peas are completely mature 60 days after planting.
The University of Florida, IFAS Extension recommends planting English peas from January through March in Central Florida. Spinach grows best when planted ahead of other plants. January is the best time to plant this vegetable for a spring harvest. Crops should be harvested as soon as leaves mature.
Lettuce is fairly easy to grow in our area and should be planted up to six weeks before last frost averages from February through March. Heading lettuce is easier to cultivate than leaf lettuce.
Some other vegetables that thrive when planted from February through March in Central Florida are beans, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet corn, cucumber, endive, peppers, pumpkin, squash and tomatoes.
Planning ahead is key to successful vegetable gardening. If you are a beginner, start with a small garden and work your way up. That way, harvest time is less stressful. It can be daunting when many vegetables are ready for harvest at once, so be sure to plant seeds of the same type within a few weeks of each other. This is known as succession planting and it will also ensure that you have a continuous harvest all season long. Before planting, till the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches and amend the soil with compost. Water at regular intervals.
Your planting site is also an important part of successful gardening. Vegetables must have at least eight hours of sunlight each day to grow and thrive. Avoid planting in areas that are shaded much of the day by your house, trees or other structures.
For optimal growth, vegetable plants should have well-drained, light soil such as sandy loam. While fertilizers are important to plant growth, avoid applying nitrogen rich fertilizer.
Insects may also attack plants when leaf growth is excessive. Some common Florida pests are aphids, various beetles, stink-bugs, whiteflies, thrips and spider mites. Placing mulch around vegetable plants will hold in moisture and will help regulate soil temperature.
If you don't have a lot of outdoor space, you can also plant vegetable plants in containers. Many vegetable plants can be grown on balconies, patios and in window boxes. Be sure to choose containers that will allow for root growth. Typically, 2- to 5-gallon pots will work for vegetable crops depending on the size of the plant at maturity. Be sure to place containers in an area that receives 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Container-grown plants will dry out quickly, so water them more often that plants grown in beds. In the later part of spring when our weather warms, these plants must be watered daily for maximum growth.