Thursday, May 1, 2014

May in the North Florida Food Garden from Gardener Ed

Maintenance: As your plants grow tall, be prepared with support materials to keep your crops from falling over.  About one month after planting, side dress crops with one-half inch of organic compost.  If you didn’t use mulch previously, get out your scuffle hoe and attack the weeds.  It's never too late to mulch.  Once you have cleared emerging weeds, apply heavy mulch to discourage them from reappearing.

May harvest: Turnips, rutabagas, kale, beets, chard, snow peas, shallots, and the last of the winter and early spring greens.  Tomatoes and potatoes towards the end of the month.  Cut herbs and harvest vegetables regularly to encourage continued production.

What to plant now: Most vegetables should have been planted in March or April, but some can still be planted now and even more later.  
Vegetables that can be direct seeded in May are arugula, basil, green beans (bush or pole beans), southern field peas, butter beans, peanuts, Seminole pumpkin squash (feed well and provide plenty of room) and other “winter squashes,” lettuce (under shade cloth later in the month), melons, winter squash, and okra.  Transplant basil, eggplant, lettuce, winter squash, plant sweet potato slips, and “chance it” with tomatoes.

Beauregard Sweet potato “slips” are available at Native Nurseries and Gramlings in bunches of 9, 10, and 25, at the rate of about $0.30 to $0.50 each.  They keep selling out, so call ahead.

Fertilizer and water:  Apply organic fertilizer or compost as needed; even monthly in some cases. (Note: Never compost diseased plants.)  Water is especially important as vegetable fruits are maturing.  Water deeply when needed, and always water in the morning to prevent disease problems.  Uneven soil moisture may cause tomatoes to crack or split, or develop blossom end rot.  Mulching well helps to maintain even soil moisture. 

Corn must be kept well-watered while tasseling and silking.  Blueberries, figs and grapes should be watered deeply as fruit is forming.  Keep them well mulched to retain soil moisture and retard weeds.

Pests: Not all pests are about during daylight; so, scout your garden after dark with a flashlight.  Use the least toxic control possible for insect or disease problems in your garden.  Hand removal of insects or affected plants is often effective. 

Watch for, and pick off tomato horn worms as you find them.  Use insecticidal soap for soft bodied insects, such as aphids, thrips and whiteflies. Horticultural oil and Neem oil may be used as directed.  Apply when temperatures are below 80° F. Neem oil is also purported to be effective against fungal diseases.  

A naturally occurring bacteria known as BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) can be used to control army worms, tomato horn worms and other caterpillars.  This is a biological control product and is sold under several trade names including Biotrol, Thuricide and Dipel.  It is available as a liquid or dry (wetable) powder.  The latter form is preferred and can be used as a dust or mixed with water according to directions. BT is degraded by UV light, so apply it in the evening.  A newer and similar product is Spinosad.  Other insects, and worm blooded animals are unaffected by these two products.

Squash vine borer damage causes rapid wilting and death of the vines, is caused by larvae of the clear winged vine borer moth.  Eggs are deposited on stems near the crown and once they hatch, the larvae tunnel into the stem.  Prevent squash vine borer damage by applying Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) regularly.  Look at stems for squash vine borers and cut out the borer, or prune off affected parts.

Control slugs and pill bugs with “Sluggo and Sluggo plus.”  Sluggo is iron phosphate incorporated in tasty granules.  “Sluggo plus” has Spinosad an iron phosphate. These products are approved for organic use.

Fruits: Keep fruits well mulched, especially figs and blueberries.  Place bird netting over your fruits before they ripen if you are trying to keep a few berries or figs for yourself.  Apply organic fertilizer to citrus (citrus tone), figs, grapes, nut trees this month. Plant blackberries.

Herbs: sow dill, basil, and cilantro seeds, and transplant other herbs like Mexican tarragon, oregano, thyme, mint.

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