Tag Archive: Garden

Gear Up for Leon County Extension’s Garden Educator Training Series

The Garden Educator Training Series helps garden leaders start or improve their school or community garden. Photo by Molly Jameson.


By Tiffany Torres

Tiffany Torres is the Family Nutrition Program Northwest District Food Systems Specialist with UF/IFAS Extension.

With the cooler months of fall upon us, school gardens across the Panhandle are beginning to awaken from their summer slumber. Soon, students and teachers will begin to replenish the soil, plant their seeds, and dive into an engaging edible education experience.

For these schools and communities, gardens are much more than just a few beds of carrots. School gardens serve as outdoor classrooms, bringing academic concepts to life in new and exciting ways, while also encouraging environmental stewardship. In addition, school gardens can expose students to lifelong healthy eating habits by inspiring them to try new fruits and vegetables. In time, the school garden can become a facet of school culture and pride, ultimately reinforcing an overall healthier school food environment for students, teachers, parents, and the broader community.

School gardens can inspire students to try foods, impacting their eating habits long-term. Photo by Molly Jameson.

To help support teachers and other school garden stakeholders on this journey, specialists at the University of Florida IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program developed a seasonal school and community garden training. The “Garden Educator Training Series” provides teachers and volunteers with tools for improving school garden education, enjoyment, and long-term outcomes. This monthly education and networking opportunity welcomes teachers who want to start and sustain school gardens, college students who want to volunteer with local gardening projects, and other garden enthusiasts, such as Master Gardeners, who want to lend their time to ensure the success of school and community gardens.

Each session includes three engaging components: 1) seasonally relevant, hands-on gardening skills; 2) curriculum and education connections; and 3) community organizing strategies to build team commitments. Sessions also include an opportunity to share successes and challenges amongst fellow attendees, resulting in a stronger school and community garden network. Each garden project leader will build a “Living History Binder,” which they will fill with resources throughout the series and use with their team to help organize their garden projects.

Through the Garden Educator Training Series, it is our hope that everyone involved will gain tangible and valuable skills to launch or improve their school or community garden projects. The program will give educators the tools necessary to design their gardens to be outdoor classrooms; promote health and wellness through gardening; facilitate community engagement; and teach students valuable life skills such as teamwork, cooperation, focus, and patience –  inspiring the next generation of “garden leaders, not just garden weeders.”

The Series provides teachers and volunteers networking opportunities and tools to improve school garden education. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Interested in participating in the Garden Educator Training Series? The Series is free of charge, and will take place at the Leon County Extension Office (615 Paul Russell Rd, Tallahassee, FL). Fall sessions are 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on September 14th, October 12th, November 9th, and November 30th. To register, visit the UF/IFAS Leon County Eventbrite website (https://leongetsfall2017.eventbrite.com).

For further information, please contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office at Leon County by calling (850) 606-5200.


Author: Molly Jameson – mjameson@ufl.edu

Molly Jameson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/09/18/gear-up-for-leon-county-extensions-garden-educator-training-series/

Harvesting Your Garden: What To Do With All Those Radishes!

Harvesting Your Garden:  What To Do With All Those Radishes!

Radishes are an easy vegetable to grow in North Florida, and in the Spring, there is an abundance of radishes in our gardens. So, what do you do with all those radishes?

Radishes are a fast growing vegetable that can grow from a seed to a plant in less than 30 days. Radishes are a root vegetable belonging to the Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage) family. Radishes vary in size, taste, and color. Radishes can be eaten raw, oven roasted, or pickled. The length of time radishes are allowed to grow affects their taste. The longer they are in the ground, the spicier they become.

Radishes contain only 19 calories per serving, are high in vitamin C, and contain other important nutrients such as folate, potassium, and fiber. According to the Centers for Disease Control, eating vegetables like radishes may help reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers.

Radishes add color, flavor, and texture to coleslaws, salads, and side dishes. When oven roasting root vegetables like radishes, their natural sugars are released, bringing out their sweet, nutty flavors!

Here is a light and flavorful coleslaw recipe for all of those freshly picked radishes. Adding granny smith apples and thinly sliced radishes to traditional coleslaw makes it sweet, peppery, and delicious!


   Cabbage, Apple, and Radish Coleslaw

  Serves: 8        Prep Time: 10 minutes


5 cups of shredded cabbage, red or green

1 cup granny smith Apples, cut into small pieces

¾ cup radish, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons white onions, diced


¼ cup sugar

¼ cup cider vinegar

1.5 tablespoons water

1.5 tablespoons oil

1/8 teaspoon celery seed

1/8 teaspoon dry mustard

A pinch of salt and pepper


Mix cabbage, radishes, apples, and onions in large mixing bowl.

In smaller bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, water, oil, mustard, celery seed, and salt and pepper, and mix well.

Add dressing to cabbage mix and stir well. Place in refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes before serving.


To learn more about Radishes, visit the FDACS website at: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/search?SearchText=radishes

Cabbage, Radish, Apple Coleslaw recipe courtesy of Blackberrybabe.com: blackberrybabe.com/2016/05/23/cabbage-radish-apple-cole-slaw/

To learn more about Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, visit the CDC Website at https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/




Author: Laurie Osgood – osgoodlb@ufl.edu

Laurie B. Osgood is the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at the Gadsden County Extension office. You can contact her at: (850) 662-3287

Laurie Osgood

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/03/harvesting-your-garden-what-to-do-with-all-those-radishes/

Drama in the Garden with Amazon Dianthus Series

We may shy away from drama in our lives but drama in the garden is always welcome. One plant series that will be a prominent feature in any garden bed is the Amazon Dianthus series.

Amazon Dianthus series is showy in the garden or in a container. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

Although we normally consider Fall the time to plant dianthus, the Amazon Series developed by PanAmerican Seed company can be planted in Spring for blooms that extend into Summer. This is the combination of two dianthus and the results are plants with striking colors and longer blooming cycles.

The Amazon series comes in a few bright colors including Amazon Neon Cherry, Amazon Neon Pink, and Amazon Rose Magic. Flowers are held on stems about 1.5-2′ tall and foliage is an attractive dark green. Plants are generally low maintenance but be sure to deadhead flowers as they fade. Plants will need rich, well drained soil and full sun.

Neon Cherry. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

Neon Pink. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County











If you don’t have room for the Amazon dianthus series in your landscape, plants will also grow well in containers to brighten a patio or deck.


Author: Beth Bolles – bbolles@ufl.edu

Horticulture Agent, Escambia County

Beth Bolles

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/05/01/drama-in-the-garden-with-amazon-dianthus-series/

Full Steam Ahead for Vegetable Garden Soil Prep

If you haven’t already, it’s time to prepare the garden space for the summer bounty of fresh vegetables. The following information will help you get started. Just remember, as the soil preparation goes, so goes the vegetable production.

Figure 1: Planting Vegetables in Prepared Soil.

Credit: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS.

By far the most physical part of vegetable gardening is soil preparation. This is the foundation that your garden is built on, so let’s not cut corners at this stage. Plain and simple, poor soil prep will result in poor garden performance. Before you begin prep, it is a good idea to have a soil sample analyzed. With a soil analysis complete, a more customized fertilizer and application may be recommended for your needs. However, a complete fertilizer like 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 can be used as general purpose. Also, pH can be determined through this test. If the soil is too acidic for vegetables, then a liming requirement may be needed. pH is key information, especially regarding planting time. If one needs lime, it is recommended to wait at least a month before planting to allow the lime to adjust soil pH. Generally, a small amount of lime can be added to a garden space regardless, as lime also contains the vital micronutrients calcium and magnesium. Contact your local extension office for more information on soil testing.

To begin the garden prep, one will first need to remove the weeds from the space. The next step is to turn the soil. This will help aerate the soil and accelerate soil decomposition which leads to higher organic matter. Turing the soil will also eliminate any soil compaction issues that would stifle seed germination. With sandy soils throughout the Panhandle, one will most likely need to amend by spreading a rich organic compost in the space. An application of fertilizer can be mixed in at this stage as well. Always follow the manufacturer’s label regarding application directions. Once complete, the soil should then be turned by digging down six to eight inches. A large garden will require a motorized tiller, but hand-held implements should be fine for smaller spaces.

After the soil is turned, be sure to break up any clods and rake so that the area is level. The soil should be of a fine texture by this point. Again, this makes seed germination much easier and will assist in further root development of transplants.

To have a vegetable garden that all will envy, it begins with soil prep. Remember, not only does a vegetable garden provide nutrition, but it also provides for exercise, a feeling of accomplishment and even could save you a few bucks. Please contact your local county extension office for more information.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: “Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide” by Sydney Park Brown, Danielle Treadwell, J. M. Stephens and Susan Webb: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/VH/VH02100.pdf

Information on garden plot preparation was also provided by Emeritus Vegetable Specialist Jim Stephens, of The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science.

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.



Author: Ray Bodrey – rbodrey@ufl.edu

Gulf County Extension Director, Agent II Agriculture & Natural Resource, Horticulture, Sea Grant

Ray Bodrey

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/04/24/full-steam-ahead-for-vegetable-garden-soil-prep/

Increase Crop Diversity to Improve Your Garden

Most of you plant a spring vegetable garden with a number of different vegetable types. However, you may not realize that you are improving the health of your soil and your crops by planting a diverse garden.  Intercropping is a gardening practice of growing different crops in the same field.  When planting a mixture of crops in the same field year after year, it is important to rotate the location of each type of vegetable.  This is a practice known as crop rotation.  Intercropping and crop rotation will help reduce insect pest populations, increase beneficial insect populations, and reduce weed populations.

Crop Diversity

Growing plants in your garden that pest insects don’t like to eat makes the pests work harder to find what they do like to eat.  Studies have found reduced whitefly numbers on squash plantings mixed with a crop of buckwheat when compared to squash planted alone.  Another crop mixture that may be unintentional, but may work in your favor is a row of crapemyrtles along the edge of your garden.  Crapemyrtles will attract the crapemyrtle aphid which will attract predatory insects.  When the predatory insects run out of crapemyrtle aphids to eat, they will move to your garden and begin to hunt pest insects on your vegetable crop.

Squash with living mulch of buckwheat. Photo Credit: Oscar Liburd, UF/IFAS Extension

Trap Cropping

A trap crop is a plant that attracts a pest insect away from your food crops.  Trap crops work best when planted at the edge of your garden, along a fence row, or in movable containers.  A bare space, let’s say 5 feet or so, should be kept between your trap crop and your garden.  This will help keep the pests from moving on to your vegetables.  When you find a good population of pests on your trap crop then it is time to spray them with insecticide or cut the crop down and remove the debris to a location far from your garden.  If your trap crops are planted in containers, then it makes them that much easier to remove from near the garden area.

Cover Crops and Green Manure

Soil organic matter can be increased by the use of green manure and cover crops.  Cover crops are generally planted during the off-season, but they can be planted in between vegetable rows and tilled in at a designated time as a green manure.  Both cover crops and green manure improve the production of your garden by:

  • Suppressing weeds by competing for water, light, and nutrients;
  • Holding the soil in place and preventing erosion;
  • Scavenging for nutrients that can be utilized in future crops;
  • Reducing nematode populations;
  • Providing a habitat for beneficial insects.

A mixed plot of cover crops and trap crops. Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Extension

A number of different crops can serve as cover crops or green manure crops.  Most are legumes (bean family) or grasses.  A few that you might like to give a try are:

  • Cowpeas
  • Sunn hemp
  • Sorghum-sudangrass
  • Winter rye

More detailed information on cover crops and green manure can be found at this link: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/aa217.


Author: Matt Lollar – mlollar@ufl.edu

Matt Lollar is the Jackson County Horticulture Agent. He has 5 years of experience with University of Florida/IFAS Extension and he began his career in Sanford, FL as the Seminole County Horticulture Agent. Matt is originally from Belle Fontaine, AL. He earned his MS and BS degrees in Horticulture Production from Auburn University.

Matt Lollar

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/04/13/increase-crop-diversity-to-improve-your-garden/

My Fall Vegetable Garden

My Fall Vegetable Garden

Direct seed root crops and many leafy greens, such as arugula and spinach. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Direct seed root crops and many leafy greens, such as arugula and spinach. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Fall is fast approaching, and that means my favorite season for gardening has arrived! September is the month we get to start all of our fall favorites. For me, this means starting lettuce, kale, broccoli, and collards by seed in flats indoors. I use full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs, which mimics natural sunlight. In a couple of weeks, I will direct seed arugula, carrots, mustards, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips into my raised beds.

Seed many brassicas and lettuce into flats. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Seed brassicas and lettuce into flats. Photo by Molly Jameson.

But before I get started direct seeding, I will first need to do some garden cleanup. Sadly, this means I will need to say goodbye to my basil and okra, which are still hanging on despite the heat (and despite the hurricane!). Then it will be time to add a fresh layer of compost. Additionally, I will be adding worm castings, which I have been creating for my fall garden in my home worm bin all summer. There is no better feeling then growing brassicas and lettuce from seed, digging small holes, adding homemade fresh worm castings to each, and planting the eager seedlings.

Grow many greens for the fall season. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Grow a variety of greens for the fall season. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Fall is a wonderful time to garden in zone 8b – generally less pest pressure and a chance to plant hardy leafy greens that can be harvested all the way into spring. Of course, I always keep frost cloth around, in case temperatures dip below freezing for extended periods of time. In which case I will be sure to carefully cover my lettuce and Swiss chard, making sure the cloth is well secured.

I love my tomatoes, peppers, beans, and squash, but they usually involve staking and the ever imminent threat of caterpillars and intense heat. In the fall, most crops hold themselves off the ground, and I certainly cannot wait to pull on a jacket in the crisp early morning, come out to harvest kale and spinach leaves, and add them to my breakfast smoothie and veggie omelet.

For more information:

Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide



Author: Molly Jameson – mjameson@ufl.edu

Molly Jameson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/09/16/my-fall-vegetable-garden/

Fire Ants in the Garden

Fire Ants in the Garden

Ants can be treated with spinosad in vegetable gardens. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Ants can be treated with spinosad in vegetable gardens. Photo by Molly Jameson.


There’s nothing worse than sinking your fingers into your garden soil to dig up a potato, plant a seedling, or pull up a radish, and be met with a sharp, painful sting, and little red critters rocketing up your arms. If you are a gardener in the panhandle, my bet is that you know exactly to what I refer: fire ants!

Fire ants are certainly not native to our area. These guys are an invasive species from South America that are very resilient, and many are territorial, with the potential to drive out any native ant populations. Fire ants arrived in the 1930s, and can now be found throughout most of the southeastern United States.

So when you end up with fire ant mounds engulfing your carrot patch, what can be done? Since fire ants in your garden mean fire ants in your food, the least toxic control methods are of high importance and conventional broadcast bait treatments and mound treatments should be avoided. Even in your lawn, be careful when using strong insecticidal bait treatments, as these can harm the native ant populations that help control the spread of fire ants. This can then lead to a strong resurgence of fire ant populations that can outcompete the native ants.

Although completely controlling fire ants in an area is not possible, there are sustainable management techniques that can help. Some fire ant colonies have a single queen while others have multiple queens. Either way, in order to eliminate a fire ant colony, all queens in the colony must be killed. Fire ants are omnivorous, in that they eat plants, insects, sugars, and oils. The catch is that they are only able to ingest liquids, so solid food must be brought into the colony, where larvae regurgitate digestive enzymes onto the food, breaking it down into liquids. Therefore, any method of control by ingestion will need to be in liquid form, or the ants must be able to bring the material into the colony, without first being exterminated.

Fire ants can become a problem around and in raised vegetable gardens. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Fire ants can become a problem around and in raised vegetable gardens. Photo by Molly Jameson.

There are some commercially available products that contain boric acid or diatomaceous earth. These products may reduce populations, but eliminating whole colonies with these products can be a challenge.

The use of a nervous system toxin called spinosad is effective on fire ant populations and is considered safe to use in vegetable gardens. This toxin comes from a bacterial fermentation process, and is therefore considered organic. But be aware, even though there are organic products with ingredients derived from botanical sources such as rotenone and nicotine sulfate, they should not be used in vegetable gardens. When using chemical methods of control, always follow the directions on the label carefully.

One physical method of control is the use of hot water. Three gallons of scalding water, which is between 190 to 212ºF, has been used on colonies with a success rate of 20 to 60 percent, when applied in several treatments. You will want to slowly pour the water on the colony, being extra careful not to get burned, and avoid injuring any surrounding plants. If you are like I am, and you often leave your garden hose in the hot sun, you can spray the ant colonies with the hot water, as you wait for the water to cool off enough to water the garden. Hot water control takes persistence, but you can eventually drive the ants out.

Another method of physical control is excavation. This requires digging up the mound, putting it in a bucket, and taking it to another location. Apply talcum or baby powder to your shovel handle and bucket to help prevent the ants from escaping and crawling up to sting you.

One reason fire ants are so rampant in the United States is that they have little competition or natural enemies. Scientists have released multiple species of phorid flies, natural parasites of fire ants in South America, and a few species have become established. Scientists at UF/IFAS are currently researching additional fire ant biological control methods, such as the use of a fungi, which has shown promise.

Remember, not all ants in the garden are bad guys! Many species act as roto-tillers, aerating and redistributing nutrients in the soil. They also play a role as decomposers as they assist in turning dead insects into soil nutrients. Ants can disturb garden pests by attacking them or interrupting their feeding, mating, and egg laying processes. Additionally, ants are a food source for wildlife, such as other insects, frogs, lizards, birds, spiders, and even some mammals.  



Author: Molly Jameson – mjameson@ufl.edu

Molly Jameson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/08/12/fire-ants-in-the-garden/

Caterpillars in the Vegetable Garden

Caterpillars in the Vegetable Garden

In the last few weeks, more garden pests have arrived! It is a fact of life in northwest Florida that we will have a few things in our garden including heat, moisture (humidity and rainfall), and BUGS! With a cooler spring the arrival of some of the troublesome pests in the garden seemed to be delayed a few weeks. It was nice while it lasted but the insect pests are here to stay until frost in the fall or winter (at least we hope for a frost this year).

There are thousands of insects that you can see in your garden. It’s wise to identify them before making a decision to spray an insecticide or remove them by another method. Insect samples can be taken to your local county extension office for identification.

In this article we will just discuss one of the top insect pests in the vegetable garden, caterpillars, and what you can do about them.

Mature larva of the cabbage looper. Photograph by John L. Capinera, University of Florida.

Mature larva of the cabbage looper. Photograph by John L. Capinera, University of Florida.

Beet armyworms, fall armyworms, hornworms, cabbage loopers, southern armyworms, tomato fruitworms, and other caterpillars love to feed on tomato foliage and fruit. They will show up eventually on tomato plants in the garden, if not this year then in the future. These larvae are immature moths and cause a lot of damage if left unchecked. The homeowner can control them effectively with Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) approved pesticides. A bacterial biological insecticide called Bacillus thuringiensis, also referred to as B.t., can be very effective in controlling these caterpillar pests. B.t. is a stomach toxin to these pests and will cause them to quit eating and starve to death. The key to using B.t. effectively is to routinely apply it before the caterpillars hatch from their eggs as the smaller caterpillars are easiest to control. Larger caterpillars are more difficult to control.

For more information related to using OMRI pesticides:

Organic Vegetable Gardening in Florida

Insecticides for Organic Commercial & Backyard Vegetable Production



Author: Blake Thaxton – bthaxton@ufl.edu

Santa Rosa County Extension Agent I, Commercial Horticulture

Blake Thaxton

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/05/20/caterpillars-in-the-vegetable-garden/

Start Planting the Spring Vegetable Garden

Start Planting the Spring Vegetable Garden

With weather warming up and daylight savings time right around the corner, we are in the midst of prime time for planting spring vegetable gardens. Gardeners routinely growing vegetable gardens should note that it is best to rotate plant families when planning a vegetable garden. See the table below to determine which families should be rotated.

* okra is not a member of the solanaceae, but may be included as part of the solanaceae rotation

* okra is not a member of the solanaceae, but may be included as part of the solanaceae rotation

SONY DSCVegetable gardens should be located on sites receiving at least 6 hours of sun per day, consisting of well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Since most Florida soils are low in organic matter, composted organic matter should be added before or at planting time. Uncomposted organic matter should be mixed into soil one month before planting. Vegetable garden pH should be between 5.8 and 6.3 to maximize absorption of nutrients. If it is lower, addition of agricultural grade lime or dolomite will be necessary. Obtain a soil test from your local extension office to determine if liming is needed.

Once soil test results are available, fertilizer amounts will be able to be determined. Many gardeners use commonly available fertilizers such as 10-10-10 or 8-8-8, with micro nutrients, following directions on the package to determine the amount to apply. The soil test will determine if phosphorous is needed, so follow those results when choosing a fertilizer. When fertilizing, broadcast the fertilizer over the garden area at pre-plant, then apply as needed throughout the season. This will likely consist of 2-3 light applications applied beyond the reach of the outer leaves.

Irrigation of vegetable gardens is best done with drip, so that fungal disease is not spread by getting leaves wet. An added benefit of drip irrigation is a reduction in the quantity of water needed. Gardens may also be top dressed by mulch or organic matter to aid in water conservation and soil temperature reduction.

In March, bush beans, pole beans, lima beans, cantaloupes, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers southern peas, sweet potatoes, summer squash, and tomatoes may be planted. Some crops grow easier from transplants, while others grow better from direct seeding.

Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and sweet potatoes are best established by transplanting. Cucumbers, cantaloupes, summer squash, beans, peas and okra are best established by direct seeding. Summer squash may be transplanted, but is more vigorous and productive when direct seeded.

Be sure to choose varieties adapted to North Florida by consulting the charts on pages 8, 9 and 10 of the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide.

Happy Gardening!




Author: Matthew Orwat – mjorwat@ufl.edu

Matthew J. Orwat started his career with UF / IFAS in 2011 and is the Horticulture Extension Agent for Washington County Florida. His goal is to provide educational programming to meet the diverse needs of and provide solutions for homeowners and small farmers with ornamental, turf, fruit and vegetable gardening objectives. Please feel free to contact him with any questions you may have.

Matthew Orwat

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/03/12/start-planting-the-spring-vegetable-garden/

Add Potatoes to Your Florida Garden

Add Potatoes to Your Florida Garden

Potatoes planted in mid-February were ready to harvest in mid-May in Bay County. Photo: Vicki Evans, UF/IFAS Master Gardener

Potatoes planted in mid-February were ready to harvest in mid-May in Panama City. Photo: Vicki Evans, UF/IFAS Master Gardener

A common misconception is that all potatoes come from the Midwest. However, select Irish potato varieties are produced commercially in Florida on over 20,000 acres. Potatoes can also be grown in Florida home gardens if care is taken to select the correct type and recognize proper timing.

Potatoes are a cool season crop and the ideal time to plant in the Florida Panhandle is in January and February. Valentine’s Day is a good target planting date for home gardeners with plants producing tubers after about three months (variety and weather dependent).

The ideal site for potatoes has well-drained soils with a pH range of 5-6. To increase drainage, beds can be formed into hills that are 10-12 inches above the soil. Another option is to grow potatoes in raised beds or containers to ensure the plants will not sit in water during heavy rains.

Certified seed potatoes are available in garden centers. Photo: Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS

Certified seed potatoes are available in garden centers. Photo: Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS

Use certified “seed” potatoes to ensure you are starting with healthy tubers. Cut seed potatoes into egg sized pieces that contain at least one eye each. Allow the cut seed pieces to heal for a couple of days in a cool, dark spot with good ventilation. After healing they can be planted about four inches deep 6-8 inches apart with three feet between rows.

Sometimes potatoes will push to the surface of the soil and will need to be covered with more soil (hilling). If the potatoes are not covered, they can become damaged by the sun and inedible.

Keep your garden weed free to minimize competition with your crop and to also reduce the likelihood of weeds harboring insects or disease that can be harmful to potato plants.

A few weeks after planting seed potatoes, you should begin to see some vegetative (leaves and stems) growth above the soil. Potato plants can grow over a foot tall and are bushy. Small new tubers start to form underground before blooming, but they need more time to bulk up before harvesting. The entire growing process takes between 80 and 115 days from planting to harvest.

Potatoes harvested from container garden. Photo: Julie McConnell, UF/IFASIf you plan to store your potatoes, allow them to remain in the ground for 2-3 weeks after the top of the plant has died to fully mature. If the vegetative portion of the plant does not die on its own the top can be cut to induce maturation of the tubers.

For recommended varieties and more information on care and harvesting please see “Growing Potatoes in the Florida Home Garden.”



Author: Julie McConnell – juliebmcconnell@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Bay County Horticulture Extension Agent I

Julie McConnell

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/02/03/add-potatoes-to-your-florida-garden/

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