A Where to Start Fruit and Vegetable Gardening Guide for North Florida, Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Its Surrounding Areas.
Lets just face the facts, fruit and vegetable gardening in Northern Florida has its share of challenges, it can be overwhelming. Our seasons just seem backwards to experienced gardeners from cooler climates …YOU CAN GROW WHAT IN DECEMBER? THAT’S A COOL SEASON CROP HERE???
Things that you may be used to growing in the heat of summer in a more northern climate may be better off planted in the fall here, or maybe even split into two seasons and planted in both spring and fall to avoid our brutal summer heat, humidity and rains altogether. Tomato plants for example, will stop producing flower buds during our hottest summer months, so we grow two tomato crops here in North Florida. Without that little bit of knowledge of North Florida gardening for tomato plants, you could quickly become disgusted with your results for edible landscaping here in Florida.
Add to the somewhat confusing calendar of planting our seemingly never ending insect populations and you can easily come up with a recipe for disaster!
Typical rules just don’t apply here, as I learned from a neighbor myself after 15 years of successful gardening I decided to try my hand at my own fruit and vegetable garden harvest, after all, my orange trees were doing great. Why not spinach and broccoli, and blackberry’s too? So of course, being a bit of a book worm, off to the library I went.
Well, after my very unsuccessful attempt at a vegetable garden I realized that those books and helpful hints just weren’t working for me. I realized that the reason the orange trees were doing great was that the rest of the country can’t grow oranges, so that book on Citrus plants was specifically for climates similar to mine. The vegetable books I had picked to read were geared more for the rest of the country than our subtropical Florida climate full of heat, humidity and best of all…bugs!
I had pretty much given up on growing fruit and vegetables myself, when along came one of our typical Florida typhoon like storms in the middle of summer. Well it blew my pergola over the 6 ft privacy fence and into a Holly tree between my neighbor’s property and mine. We both happened to be out inspecting the various storm damage at the same time and he gave me permission to go into his backyard to better get at the tree to get the cloth cover from my pergola down, and I discovered he had a gorgeous vegetable garden hidden behind that 6 ft wooden fence!
In true gardener fashion he was willing to tell me all about it. He had been raised on a North Florida farm and had spent most of his early life helping out with the work load, as a result of all that WORK on Dads farm, he hated gardening, got a degree and spent his life behind a desk. When he retired his Doctor told him he needed to get some exercise and suggested… you got it… gardening. So he reluctantly picked up a hoe and started to dig, and of coarse you know how this is going to end, he found out he didn’t hate gardening after all, the tips and tricks he had learned on the farm as a boy quickly made his vegetable garden a site to behold! I learned allot from my neighbor, but the one that stuck with me is just because the book said so doesn’t mean its going to work for me here in St. Augustine!
Growing fruit and vegetables here in the North Florida landscape can be a challenge, but just as I found out from my new neighbor friend, with a little help from the locals, or some books with the word ‘Florida’ in the title, growing your own fruit and vegetable harvest from the garden can be a rewarding experience.
This site is for all of you who, like me, were intimidated by growing your own edible landscape plants here in the Jacksonville, St. Augustine area or who, like me, tried and failed and had to rethink your gardening ability. You know who you are…you kept looking at your thumbs to see if for some reason they lost their green color! Don’t worry, you still have green thumbs, they just need a little Florida adjustment to get you back up and growing.
So whether you’re new to Food Forests and edible landscaping, a northern transplanted transplant to Florida whose tried and true rules no longer apply, or an experienced gardener with visions of baskets of goodies fresh from the garden, here is a little help along the way from me to you, our own little chat over the garden fence when you need some help with your “garden’s harvest”. Give it a try, or even a second try, you’ll be glad you did!
Charlotte, S and J Nursery