Time to order seeds

With Summer as the Florida gardener’s off-season, the time to prepare for the start of our Autumn season is now. Gather up the seed catalogs that were mailed months ago, compare products and prices, and pick your favorite crops.

 

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Here in Central Florida, I look to the end of the rainy season, sometime in late September, as the time to start planting to our garden growing beds. Since most of our crops are started as transplants from seedlings started in the greenhouse, 4-6 weeks of germination and initial growth must be accounted for. Simple math decrees that by mid-August, seeds should start hitting the dirt.

The only crops we directly seed to the garden soil are beans, carrots, and radishes. Carrots will not grow in the heat and wet soil of late Summer, so we usually wait until mid-October to start seeding them. Risking continued monsoon conditions of early September, try a planting smaller patches of beans and radishes to get the growing season started. Don’t procrastinate on the beans; the cold of Winter has been known to arrive as early as Thanksgiving, so for a 50-60 day crop that is cold sensitive, starting as early as possible is imperative.

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Summer Gardening if Florida

(Gleaned from my July 12, 2011 Seminole Voice newspaper column.)

Florida vegetable gardeners’ off-season is never well bracketed by the debilitating freezes or blankets of snow that schedule definition to most temperate regions. My crops of peppers, eggplant, collard greens, okra, scallions and herbs planted in early spring don’t stop producing just because the calendar clicked over to July and August. Barring lake-effect monsoons, I expect these crops to continue producing until first frost. In the mean time, we’re back into the throes of autumn planting. I’m almost envious of the iconic scenario of curling up in front of the wood stove with a seed catalog and imagining the world as it’s not.

If you are the least bit organized, taking it easy in the garden in summer is part of the plan. Never one to leave well enough alone, preparing for the next season fills every available moment. But if the power goes out, the thunder is growling, and the mosquitoes are biting, it is time to hunker down with a selection of seed catalogs.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds of Winslow, Maine, is one of my primary seed sources. Although Maine is not a regional partner, Johnny’s seeds have grown consistently well in my garden. The catalog from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply of Grass Valley, Calif., is always close to the top of my stack. Another classic source is Bountiful Gardens of Willits, Calif. The home of Ecology Action and John Jeavons’ pioneering efforts at sustainable food production have been groundbreaking. Redwood City Seed Company, also from California, is an eclectic source for unique crop seeds, especially peppers.

A little closer to home, Tomato Growers Supply Company of Ft. Myers’ name speaks for itself. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange of Mineral, Va., offers a full spectrum of open pollinated seed choices. The Park Seed Company of Greenwood, S.C., encyclopedic catalog has been a reference in my library since the beginning.

July 2016 update: We’ve not seen a drop of rain, let alone the occasional monsoon for over a week. The near 100F temperatures are even more extreme to the remaining crops without some moderating moistureIMG_8784. Our compiled memories of daily thunderstorms are merely a social expectation of the good old days. So I’ll use the fear of sunstroke instead of lightening as my excuse to peruse through my stacks of catalogs

. Weather only a gardener could love?