About Central Florida Gardener

Welcome and thank you for visiting Central Florida Gardener. Florida is a unique state in which to garden. It can be frustrating but also rewarding for gardeners who persevere. This blog was created as a resource for Florida gardeners, both new and experienced, in search of information specifically for Florida gardens.

You are invited to participate by leaving your comments, suggestions, tips and recommendations relevant to Florida gardening - don't be shy! Thank you for dropping by to learn more about gardening in the Sunshine state. I look forward to hearing from you! Susan

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Spring Vegetable Garden

In early to mid-March, once the threat of freezing temperatures is greatly reduced, warm-season crops can be planted in the garden. But, remember if you plant early...you may need to protect young seedlings if the temperatures drop.

Warm-season vegetables...those that will produce through mid-June (some longer) are:

Beans (bush and pole), corn, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, peppers, potatoes, yellow squash, tomatoes and zucchini.


Basil, dill, fennel, marjoram, Mexican tarragon, oregano and parsley.

Garden Tip: Rosemary is a great year round herb to plant in the garden...even if you don't cook with it. It doesn't freeze, it's fragrant and it makes a great looking landscape plant.

Planting seeds is most economical, but to harvest tomatoes before summer's heat and humidity arrive, you'll  need to start your seeds in pots the first two weeks in January, and bring them indoors to protect them from cold weather. If you're just getting started now, buy already established plants from a local nursery and plant directly into the garden.

Garden Note: You can still plant cool-season varieties such as: broccoli, carrots, lettuce and radishes that should produce into May (better to get them planted by February 15th). But, if you have limited garden space, you may want to stick with warm-season varieties for a longer harvest time.

To extend the tomato season into summer, try the new heat-resistant varieties available such as: Solar Set and Sunmaster, or plant some cherry tomato varieties which will do better during the hot months. My favorites are chocolate cherry, black cherry and sun gold.

For the total scoop on growing tomatoes in Florida see the University of Florida Extension's article: Tomatoes in the Florida Garden.

To the seasoned Florida vegetable gardeners...

What advice would you give to someone planting vegetables for the first time?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Bee-Friendly Garden

Indian Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
 Many people may not think about the necessity of creating a bee-friendly garden, but bees are essential to the pollination of vegetable and flower gardens. And with their declining populations, it's worth the effort to make the garden more bee-friendly in an effort to attract a few more of these beneficial species into our own gardens.

There are 6 families of bees...each with numerous species...in Florida that work as pollinators for native plants, food production and in our gardens.

I wanted to find out more about making my own garden a little more bee-friendly, so I did a little research. If you're interested in having a more diversified, wildlife-friendly garden here are some tips that will make your garden an inviting bit of paradise to our Florida pollinators:

#1 - Don't use pesticides. Avoid pesticide use whenever possible as they kill off beneficial insects, as well. In circumstances when you need to use one, choose the least toxic product available.

#2 - Grow local native plants. Add a variety of native plants to all areas of your garden. Studies have shown that native plants are four times more likely to attractive native bees.

#3 - Plant blue, purple, white and yellow flowers. These colors are most appealing to bees and will attract a larger number of pollinators to the garden. Choose a variety of plants for blooms in all four seasons.

#4 - Choose flowers with different shapes - Generally, single flowers attract more bees than double petals which don't produce as much pollen and nectar. But long-tongued bees and bumblebees love to dine on tubular shaped flowers...to ensure that you provide food for a variety of bees, plant flowers with a variety of shapes.

#5 - Place bee-loving plants in clumps. Planting clumps of one species together will attract more bees than placing a single plant in different places around the garden.

#6 - Provide year-round blooms. Make sure you have flowers in your garden year round, especially in winter.

#7 - Be a little less tidy in the garden - Bees need natural materials to construct nests. Leave dried grasses through the winter and small brush piles hidden in the garden for this purpose. Also, leave some unmulched ground so that ground-nesting bees can construct their nests.

I noticed this past summer that two particular plants in my garden...liriope (both Big Blue and Evergreen Giant), and Moss Rose were attracting large number of bees on a regular basis. Also, the native mallow (most people would call it a weed) that I let grow in parts of my backyard while it's blooming (photo on right) is another favorite.

What plants in your garden are the bees most attracted to?