Time to Get Growing

If you happen to be a transplant from the North, your mind probably isn’t turning to vegetable gardening at the moment. We lived most of our lives in an area where you carefully monitored the weather, longing for the frost-free date when you could safely plant your tomatoes. Then, in early September, you monitored the weather again, this time for the first killing frost that would officially finish the vegetable gardening season.

Well, that’s all different here in SW Florida!

I’m having a difficult time adjusting my head to this fact, in spite of living here for some 22 years or so. I did better this year and actually had the vegetable garden started in February. It was a huge success, for the most part. Then I did the unthinkable. I planted a second crop of my favorites. It was a total failure! The only plants that thrived were the weeds. I learned the hard way that our hot, humid, rainy summers are not what the vegetables want. If they sprout, they quickly succumb to mold, mildew and the wide variety of bugs that all adore the summers here. I even managed to screw up a crop of okra, which is supposed to do well in our summers!

And now it’s time to Get Growing again. Late August should have seen me planting tomato seeds, as well as most other plants we normally transplant into the garden. I should be starting to transplant them out NOW. Instead, my more or less Yankee brain is just now getting itself wrapped around the idea of planting the seeds.

Not to worry. It will take 4 to 6 weeks to get the seedlings big enough to transplant. Seeds germinate quickly in this weather, so I should be able to get caught up… unless we have more of the horrid freezing weather we had last year!

Today I will be planting two or three varieties of tomato seeds, peppers (both sweet and hot varieties), broccoli and other cole crops. If time and energy permits, I will be planting green beans, too.


GoGo Gardening

That’s not a misprint. I really mean GoGo instead of BoGo, which we all know means Buy One, Get One.

So what is GoGo and GoGo Gardening? It means Grow One, Get One. It’s not my original thought, though. I borrowed it from an article in the latest copy of “Florida Gardener”, my absolute favorite gardening magazine… next to new seed catalogs in January, of course. I just received the Oct/Nov issue in the mail yesterday.

The article is full of interesting little gardening gems, all of which give you at least two distinct “crops” from the same plant. Grow one plant and get the bonus crop, too. That’s GoGo Gardening.

Did you know that the pretty fern-like foliage that grows at the top of a carrot is edible? I sure didn’t. I’ve always cut it off with about an inch of good carrot attached. That makes a wonderful treat for the rabbits… or the goats. However, I think they’ve lost at least a part of their treats. I’m planning to use some myself.

Carrots are closely related to parsley… and that’s exactly what those leaves taste like! I’ve never had much luck growing parsley but carrots are another matter. The article didn’t say anything about drying and saving the carrot leaves as you would parsley so I guess I’ll try it when I have the next carrot crop.

Sweet potato leaves are also edible. Supposedly, they taste like a milder, more tender substitute for spinach. If you like home-grown spinach, you know it only grows during cool weather. That’s in extremely short supply in SW Florida… but sweet potatoes love our hot, humid summers. So… you plant sweet potatoes in the spring, munch on the leaves all summer, either raw in a salad or cooked as a green, and then dig up the sweet taters in the fall. That’s a lot of mileage out of a single crop!

Everyone knows by now that pumpkin seeds, when dried and toasted, are a tasty, nutritous snack. But did you know that the tender vine tips and newly opened baby leaves of the calabaza tropical pumpkin are also edible? The calabaza tropical pumpkin grows exceptionally well during our summer months when very little else will. A single plant (50 ft vine!) took over the entire garden the year I tried it. However, that’s another story.

By now I think you’re getting the picture on this GoGo Gardening concept. Don’t go around munching on anything and everything in the garden, though. Some of the stems, vines, leaves or roots can be toxic. Things like tomatoes…. only the fruit is edible, so far as I know. Rhubarb leaves are definitely off limits. You can only eat the stems and then only after they are cooked.