If you're moving to South Florida from pretty much anywhere else in the country you might think that Florida weather is not that great for a lot of gardening, but, it really is all about finding the right plants and those that thrive in this climate. Sure, it's hot and humid, but some plans absolutely love our weather so if you're trying to grow spinach or sugar peas, you might not have a whole lot of luck. But, a few peppers, basil, and artichokes, and your garden could be blooming with life by Midsummer.
Here are six tips for creating and maintaining a garden in South Florida.
Test the soil
Before you go planting vegetation that just doesn't like your soil, test your soil. Order online a test soil kit or visit a local garden center and ask them what type of soil is best for growing the type of plants you desire. You can even test on soil's pH without a soil kit by collecting one cup of soil from different parts of the garden, separating it, and adding 1/2 a cup of white vinegar. If the soil fizzes you have alkaline soil and most plants thrive in slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7 so depending on how alkaline or acidic your soil is, you'll need to add more nutrients to get where you want it.
Obviously, you can go to any big-box store or even your local hardware store and find plants but what type of plants work best for your environment? It's best to contact a local nursery it's been around for years. They will know the best plants for your soil and your location and also give you tips and advice on what plants to use for getting the most out of whatever garden you are creating. Whether it's a vegetable garden or flower garden, experts at garden centers will typically have great suggestions for native plants and landscaping options.
Watering can be challenging for South Florida homeowners as we all need regular drinks from time to time. But, water can cost money and there may be local restrictions depending on your community. Having a fixed irrigation schedule might help but it can be expensive as well. Consider using xeriscaping, which uses native plants and flowers that are literally built to thrive in the weather and offer drought-tolerant roots. Good air occasion is always key and consistency is important. Short, and frequent watering encourages shallow root systems, which is bad for just about any plant or grasses. During the hottest time of year run the irrigation two times a week or even three times it is been extremely dry. In the winter, one week on average should be sufficient. Morning is often best as the water has a chance to soak into the earth without it creating and growing fungus by watering at night.
unfortunately, a lot of Florida soil has no nutritional value so it's important to fertilize your plants, flowers, and vegetation regularly. Controlled-release fertilizer is a simple 14 – 14 – 14, balanced fertilizer that can be used on just about any plants. Liquid fertilizer likes a 20 – 20 – 20 and a plant can take up the fertilizer easier and quicker. Again, talk to your garden specialists, preferably not at a big box store to get the right amount of fertilizer for the type of plants you're growing.
With all of the extra watering you'll be doing, weeds will absolutely love your soil and there's really not a whole lot you can do because this is a year-round maintenance necessity. Mulch will definitely help because it blocks the light that weeds need and retains moisture in the soil. However, be careful not to bury the plants and trees with too much mulch. Mulching too close to a plant's base prevents it from drying out between watering. Groundcovers and we do mats also make excellent weed control options. Of course, once you have weeds, the only option is to pull those suckers up.
bugs, critters, and pests can be a nuisance for South Florida gardeners. It's important to monitor your plants constantly in case you find fungus, other issues, or problems that need to be addressed right away. Neglecting your plants for days or even weeks will cause the problem to spread. Stress, insects, and disease are all problems for plants. Plants can experience stress under cold winter snaps, sitting in wet soil for too long or lack of irrigation. You want to treat any fungicides with a spray or drench but again, ask your garden professional on the type of issue your plant is having and take pictures when you go in so they know exactly what they are looking at. Chewing and sucking insects can be a nightmare such as caterpillars, cutworms, aphids, and more and by the time you see these, they've probably been there a while wreaking havoc on your plants and leaves. Keeping your plants well fed and watered regularly is the best defense against insects but there may be some natural insecticides that you can use, Neem oil or a similar product, and stay on top of it until the problem is completely eradicated.
Now is a great time to start prepping your garden and landscape for flowers, vegetation, and any other plantings you plan to do this spring and summer. There are so many home remedies for planting and gardening that you may not even have to leave your home. Match up pictures with issues you find online and see if you can tackle any plant problems with the DIY touch.