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, August 25, 2014

From the Ground Up

The secret to healthy good looking plants is not really a secret at all.  It's just plain old common sense. It all starts from the ground up ~ ~ with the SOIL!

It's the NUMBER 1 and MOST IMPORTANT thing to do, consistently, when establishing a garden.

Florida's poor sandy soil does not contain enough nutrients for good plant health and for retaining water. It's easy to recognize plants that are growing in the barren, unproductive, paltry looking stuff we call soil. Many of us have learned this lesson the hard way, and now subscribe to the notion of adding a generous, heaping supply of organic matter to every garden bed before planting. As my mother always said (and you know mom's are always right) and I quote, "It's better to place a 50 cent plant into a $5 hole."

Don't skimp . . . add your homemade compost or spend the extra money to buy mushroom compost or composted manure. And, by all means, be generous when creating that $5 hole. Your plants will love it, and you'll be a happy, successful gardener.

~ ~ More useful ways to enrich the soil ~ ~

* Make your own compost with leaves, grass clippings, food and plant wastes. It's a great way to save money on soil amendments, and it will be readily available for use when needed.

* Lay newspaper or cardboard around plants before mulching. Both provide nutrients as they breakdown, and serve as a good weed barrier for newly disturbed areas.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch all garden beds. Oak leaves are a good source, if they are available to you. They are great in turning sandy soil into black gold. Heap a generous amount of oak leaves on all  beds each spring, and they will generally last until the next spring. If leaves aren't available, renewable mulches such as pine bark, pine needles, straw or melaleuca are good choices. Cypress mulch which isn't as easily renewable and could be harvested from old and rare cypress trees is better avoided.

That's it! This one simple step of enriching your soil will help you create a beautiful garden. It won't be long before your neighbors are asking you what your secret is to growing healthy, beautiful plants.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Simon Seed Farm & Garden Center

At the start of every vegetable gardening season, I make numerous trips to Simon Seed Farm & Garden Center located at 105 W. Magnolia Street  - right off the main street - in Leesburg. My rationalization for going  . . . not that I really need one, but you know how it is when you really don't need any new plants . . . is to purchase vegetable starts. Well, since I start most of my veggies from seeds that rationalization really doesn't hold water. The true reason I go is for the feeling that it gives me to hang out in this wonderful little garden center from another era.

I can't seem to get enough of the wildly natural plantings that encircle their garden center and to enjoy their whimsical use of old lawn relics. Thank goodness our mowers have progressed from this rusty old relic. Hey, I never thought about leaving my old and useless mowers in the yard - - a definitely, unique idea!

You can enter one of two ways. Either through the garden center proper, or 

climb the steps up to the old wooden porch that runs the length of their building, and overlooks the garden center. Should you decide to enter this way, you'll be greeted by the cooing of doves and the scratchy voice of a very LARGE parrot. I choose this way of course!

Lining the porch is a nice variety of herbs and vegetable starts. These are not the typical vegetable starts you buy at the local box store. These are hmmm, should I say it, in better condition, and you can afford to buy more because they're small. But, if you want a half-grown garden, then you might want to visit those other stores.

Here's a clever idea for you. They've hung an old wooden ladder horizontal from the ceiling and have used metal "s' hooks from which to hang plants from. This would be a great idea for hanging orchids.

And, speaking of orchids, you can purchase them here, along with other container and houseplants. One of the things I love about this nursery is that despite its small size they carry a nice selection of unique plants that are not that easy to find. In the past, I've purchased some neat begonias, herbs, succulents, salvias and there are quite a few others that I've been tempted to buy . . . and probably will in the future.

Here's those succulents I was talking about. They also have a small, but nice selection of clay pottery. The owner surely has a knack for creating vignettes in the garden . . . don't you think?

Here's something you don't find at every garden center . . . bog plants. These plants that love to have "wet feet" are displayed together in a large black tub.

Then there's the ponds and their plants.

And, a second pond with more pond plants. For a small nursery, they've got a very diversified variety of plants for sale.

Off the side porch you'll find a nice selection of Florida-friendly shrubs, perennials and annuals to choose from. Doubt that you'll find these folks selling petunias and pansies in May.

Do you see why I LOVE visiting Simon Seed Store? So much old-fashioned ambiance and a wonderful selection of plants to choose from. And, I haven't even mentioned that they have a nice selection of orchid supplies, fresh eggs, local honey, hens and baby chicks, rabbits, fertilizer, seeds, of course . . . plus a dog and cat that follow you around. 

It's nothing short of pure "garden center" Heaven!

Definitely, put Simon Seed Co. on your short list of nurseries to visit. You'll enjoy strolling through the restored downtown district of Leesburg and having lunch at one of the many cafes.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

5 Easy Earth-friendly Garden Moves You Can Make Now

Whether you're looking to improve your landscape, grow your own vegetables, or improve the health of the planet, here's 5 easy earth-friendly garden tips that will make a difference immediately.

#1 - Compost  - Create a simple compost pile and toss plant clippings, twigs and vegetable scraps into it. Not only will you reduce the amount of trash you send to the landfill, you'll never have to buy bags of compost for your garden again.

#2 - Eliminate or reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers - Finding effective solutions to toxic pesticides is beneficial to your health, wildlife and ground water runoff. Manually removing pests or using a simple solution of soap and water will generally solve most pest problems. Reducing the use of fertilizer in the garden will help reduce the amount of toxins that end up in our lakes and rivers.

#3 - Plant drought-tolerant and native plants - As water supplies dwindle in our state and more water restrictions are implemented, native and drought-tolerant Florida-friendly plants will become the workhorse of the Florida garden. These plants will keep your garden beautiful while using less water.

#4 - Shrink your lawn turf  - Turf grass requires lots of water and lots of maintenance. Less turf grass means less water, less time mowing edging and blowing, and less fossil fuel.

#5 - Choose mulch carefully - The process of creating mulch involves the logging of trees, bagging it in all those plastic bags and trucking it to garden centers. Definitely, not an earth-friendly process.  By using available resources such as fallen leaves and pine needles first to mulch your garden beds you'll be saving lots of $$$'s and will reduce the amount of mulch you may need to purchase. Also, planting ground covers reduces the need for mulch.

These are just a few things you can do to create a greener garden. What earth-friendly garden tips do you practice in your Florida garden?