Container Gardening In South Florida
Growing vegetables in South Florida is a little different than in the rest of the country. Just like gardening in general. In our Zone 10 climate, the dead of summer acts as our winter usually zapping most flowering plants and vegetables who cant handle our intense heat and humidity. But even in sunny Florida, cold air and frosts can make their way down south and put a chill in our tender plants mid winter. So how can we achieve a full growing season without risking the loss of harvest?
Planting our vegetables in containers.
Container gardens have both their advantages and disadvantages. For starters containers can be easily moved to receive more (or less) sunlight in order to keep your crop growing happily throughout the season. Containers can also be moved easily into a garage or indoors if a rare frost or cold front happens to arrive mid winter.
One major advantage is that pots and planters offer protection from root knot nematodes found in our warm climate soil. These pesky pests eat the roots of tasty veggie plants and kill the plant from the ground up. Another advantage is that you can choose a higher quality store bought soil which many fruit producing plants prefer to our native, nutrient-lacking, sandy South Florida earth.
Aesthetically speaking, veggies aren’t the most decorative or attractive plants. Planting them in containers allows for the flexibility of moving unsightly plants away from your main gardening oasis to a less visible part of your yard where they will be less of a focal point. This method also allows people with very little garden space or unpaved land to enjoy home grown fruits and vegetables of their own.
So why not plant your entire garden in containers?
Container gardening does have its drawbacks. For starters, a potted garden requires more care and watering to be sure your plants have enough water and are draining properly. You may also need to fertilize more often as soil in containers may not hold the nutrients as long as ground soil. Containers can be costly and although you can reuse them every year they can still deteriorate over time. (We like to re-use the old black pots our plants came in from the nursery, but sometimes-bigger containers are required). If you’re garden is out of sight (like ours is) you can use any type of container like old (thoroughly cleaned) paint buckets with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage; or the like.
Click through the gallery of our container garden for more tips and info on growing tomatoes and bell peppers in South Florida.
A note on squirrels and other rodents:
We recently had our homegrown tomatoes attacked by local squirrels. It was a sad and horrifying site to see the largest tomatoes eaten in half and left on the vines to rot. Quick action was needed to save our crop! A fast search on the web provided many suggestions on how to rid your garden of the pests. Everything from covering your garden in mosquito netting to using hot pepper sauce on your larger veggies to out-right shooting the squirrels (yikes!). We opted to cover our largest fruits with zip lock baggies (cut the corners off to let air circulate and rain water drain). This seems to be working well for us, although I do worry about fungi or mildew forming if they do not get adequate ventilation. Other suggestions include wrapping in pantyhose or other sheer fabric. This sounds like a better option since the fabric will breathe and stretch with the fruits growth, but we had baggies on hand so we’re using this method at the moment.