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Vegetables in Southwest Florida

November 8, 2019
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

We can grow vegetables year-round here in Southwest Florida. September through April are our most productive months. We receive twice the amount of sunshine than states in the northeast United States, our winters are mild and warm while our summers are long, hot and humid. Plants can enjoy temperatures that rarely fall below 60 degrees F, and our rainy season helps perpetuate our plantings.

The Atlantic hurricane season is June 1 to Nov. 30, so we have time now to settle in our crops. 2019 will be remembered as the year of Dorian. The threat is ending, and the weather is cooling and drying -- nice for working the gardens.

This is the season for cruciferous vegetables. They belong to the Cruciferae family, which also contains the Brassica genus. Cool weather crops, cruciferous, have flowers that have four petals resembling a cross. Mostly the leaves or flower buds are the edible parts, but there are a few where either the roots or seeds are also eaten.

Plants that belong to the same family are all susceptible to the same pests or diseases. This is helped by rotating your crops. Once trouble has set in, these pests and diseases flourish, changing the location keeps them from setting up housekeeping and ruining future crops. Play a game of hide-and-seek with the plants and pests or diseases. Don't plant cruciferous vegetables where one was planted last year, because ones that overwinter in that spot attracted pests and diseases that remain and carry over setting up future problems.

The diseases include anthracnose, bacterial leaf spot, black leaf spot, black rot, downey mildew, peppery leaf spot, root-knot, white spot fungus. Pests include aphids, beet armyworm, cabbage looper, cabbage maggot, cross-striped cabbageworm, corn earworm, cutworms, diamondback moth, flea beetles, imported cabbageworm and the ever-present nematodes which cause root-knot.

We like to eat these same vegetables as the pests, therefore we don't want to use insecticides to cure what ails the plants because that cure would add to our ailments. If you used herbicides to kill unwanted grasses and weeds, water well and wait two weeks before sowing seeds or planting new plants so the area has been cleared of these herbicidal poisons.

Your planting patch should receive six to eight hours of sunlight daily, drain well and is near to your water supply and house. Water the garden once every day or two days depending on the weather.

Mulch to help retain the water. Remember, sandy soil leaches out fertilizer and water, and sandy soil is, mainly, what our soil is.

Create beds running from east to west to ensure enough sunlight reaches the plants. Plant the taller plants on the northern side of the rows to utilize the sunlight and not shade the shorter plants. The easier your garden is to maintain, the less likely it will be you neglect it. Run a border of marigolds around the beds to not only add color, but the stinky kind repel insects that might bother the good plants.

It's fun to poke plants in our foundation plantings, but then we can't use pesticides for the foundation plantings, friendly as they may seem. Keep them separate or don't use pesticides.

My son-in-law maintains a great garden and he has enlarged his fenced-in area from the small patch to the entire lot next door. Nothing beats fresh produce. Their granddaughter loves to join him in their garden. I remember following my father around and I decided to help him pull weeds. Strangely, he kept missing some plants so I pulled them. Our first major discussion about gardening.

When they say, "It ain't over until the fat lady sings," and November ends the threat of hurricanes; well,

November has some time left, and anything can still flare up. Mother Nature has sent us 17 named storms, with six hurricanes, three which were major hurricanes. A normal season has 11 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, Dorian will define this year. Who knows what evil lurks in the North Atlantic heart of coming winds? Don't fool with Mother Nature.

Autumn balm is the time of year we tour the colorful parade of tree leaves. We have a few here that turn colors, but the best thing to do is take a trip to the north, even staying in north Florida. Facebook has been showing some beauties. Autumn is my favorite time of the year, cooler days, colorful trees, a season of endings and new beginnings. Snow has come to the northern states. Seasons are changing on us. Fortunately, we don't have the repercussions our northern neighbors have, no snow and ice.

Thank the trees we have for our life-giving oxygen and eliminating the carbon.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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