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.


bob said...

it takes me 4 years to engineer soil for a new elevated planter; I start with several to more than several 40# bags of cow manure & organic compost from HD; I add several 5 gal buckets of horse manure/wood shavings I get from the stables compost pile, to this I add a couple of buckets of composted horse manure/wood shavings that I compost in the 55 gal composting barrels I've designed & fabricated, it turns manila colored horse "cheer" into "black" rich gold in 4-6weeks(details of the process are available on request), I mix it all with my small cultivator /tiller & add espoma organic fertilizer; when all the tilth has merged I instill several handfuls of earth worms as the exclamation point; the worms really like their substrate & reproduce well, the 2nd year my plot is 1/4 to 1/3 worm castings & in my experience there isn't anything richer, my okra plants normally grow over 5 ft tall & produce a plethora of blossoms that attract many beautifully hued insects: wild green bees, 3 different varieties of bumble bees & last year an iridescent eyed bee that I could not find a taxonomic handle for, I like to make near macrophotograhy images of my garden visitors; ergo "if you grow it they will come"

Anonymous said...

Great story..... I love all your stories.....

Unknown said...

Don't forget pH. As organic matter goes up the pH goes down. Lime is your friend. ~Rick

Pat said...

Great compost ideas! I've long been a fan of recycling kitchen scraps as a supplement for fertilizer. One thing I've done personally is start putting my coffee grounds in my planters and flowerbeds. Being a caffeine addict, I have a ton of it! Look forward to more great posts!

David The Good said...

YES on the oak leaves.

I've even dropped logs around my property and the edges of my gardens in order to increase fungi and worm populations, not to mention the long-term benefit of the added humus.

Carlos said...

Excellent article. So many people throw away leaves and either 1) are not aware that leaves throughout their whole lives are nutrient dense and then the tree drops them for itself or 2) want a european-style trimmed green lawn free of leaves etc.