Saturday, May 31, 2014

June in the North a Florida Food Garden

June is the “harvest month” in North Florida. You could be picking basil, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, green beans, onions, summer squash, tomatoes, and more!.

Garden Maintenance:Keep crops picked to stimulate continued production.

We are entering the hot summer season and some vegetables will grow better under shade cloth that reduces solar radiation twenty percent. This may be especially helpful for transplants and new seedings.

Tall and vining plants will need support. Support can be provided in many ways. Improvise to save the expense of purchased wickets and trellises. Six inch welded mesh concrete reinforcing wire is often leftover waste on construction sites and can be had for the asking. It is particularly adaptable for support as a trellis or wicket; panels of any length or rounded into eighteen inch cylinders thirty to sixty inches high. A big advantage is that you can reach through to pick vegetables on the opposite side. Cutting it to size can be a challenge. Use heavy duty pliers, fencing pliers, or best of all ‑ a small bolt cutter.

Be sure to water when necessary and adjust irrigation based on rainfall. If using overhead watering, water in the morning to allow the leaves to dry before evening. This will decrease fungal and bacterial diseases that thrive with higher humidity. If you can manage it, drip irrigation that does not wet foliage is preferred over overhead watering (pun intended). Use mulch. Mulch not only conserves soil moisture, but also cools the hot summer soil, adds nutrients, and controls weeds.

For those weeds that haven’t been controlled by mulching, remove them by shallow cultivation before they get large, more fibrous, and consequently are harder to manage.

Monitor for pests and diseases. Pick off adult hard bodied insects like bean beetles and Colorado potato bugs. To control aphids and other soft bodied insects, spray with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Chewing insects can be controlled with BT or Spinosad. These are available as “wetable powders” and can be mixed with water and sprayed on plants. Spray in the evening as they are degraded by UV light.

What to Plant NowClear away finished crops and prepare the soil for succession plantings. For instance, snow pea vines are finished and can be replaced by okra or sweet potatoes, etc.

In June you can plant arugula (may need shade protection), basil, bush and pole beans, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, pumpkin, southern peas, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Rather than planting a whole crop at one time, consider succession planting of smaller amounts for a continuing harvest.

In otherwise empty beds and plots, plant cover crops such as iron clay peas, Sunn hemp, buckwheat (cut buckwheat down before it flowers, and plant again, and repeat to control weeds), annual summer grass like millet and sorghum-sudan. Sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea) is a legume that when grown as a summer annual can produce over 110 pounds of dry matter biomass per 1000 square feet and over 2.25 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. It makes great compost chopped up.

If you do plant annual-summer-grass cover-crops, cut them down when they have achieved deep root development but before they become larger than four feet and are too large or fibrous to easily manage. Sweet potatoes (Beauregard is a local favorite) and Southern peas (like white acre, zipper, and black eyed peas) can double both as food crops and as cover crops.

PlanningIf you keep a garden journal, check back and see what worked and didn’t last year and before. If you haven’t been journaling, start now. Unless you have phenomenal memory, you will be well served by keeping a record for future reference.

For the future, see what the local organic market farms are selling so you will know what is possible for you to grow next year. (The emphasis here is on local, not the resellers who get their produce from other areas). From the date the crop appears in the market, count back using the days to maturity on a seed packet or chart for that particular crop. For fall crops, add and additional fourteen to twenty-one days. Now you have another way to know when to start flats or direct seed for that crop next year.

Start planning now for your fall garden. Order seeds in July and start seeds in flats and small containers in late July and Early August, in a protected location. They will be ready planting out in September.

For Fun
Experiment with succession and inter planting. Sometimes heat sensitive crops like lettuce can grow later into the season in the partial shade of taller plants.

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