GROW A VEGETABLE GARDEN IN 2013, by Larry Williams UF/IFAS Extension Agent

Vegetable gardening can be an excellent activity for you to try this year. For the beginner who doesn’t know the difference between a turnip and a tulip, or for the accomplished gardener who grows everything from asparagus to zucchini, there is always something new to learn from the experience.

For the experienced gardener who might be growing tired of gardening, try something new. There are many vegetables to choose that will grow in our area.

Chinese cabbage is something you should try. It is easy to grow and is delicious raw or cooked. You could try various herbs in the garden such as lemon balm, dill or chocolate mint. Sometimes color in the garden will help offer a change. Adding color to the garden is easy with annuals like marigolds, nasturtiums or ornamental kale.

For whatever reason you decide to garden, now is the time to begin planning.

First, choose a sunny location close to a water source. A location near the house will be easier to care for the garden and harvest the vegetables.

Second, have your soil tested, taking guesswork out of determining the amount and kind of fertilizer to use. It also tells you if lime is needed and how much to apply. Your local Extension Office can provide you information on soil testing.

Next, make a list of plants to grow. Choose vegetables that your family likes, use recommended varieties for North Florida and order early.

January is an excellent time to order seeds for your garden and avoid shipping delay before spring planting. Many times the newer, more popular varieties are sold out completely if you wait in ordering. many seed catalogs will help give you some ideas on what to plant but always buy from a reputable dealer.

If you start planting early in 2013, there are other things you can do. You will have time to start some of your own plants indoors for early planting outdoors in the garden as the temperature permits. Growing your own plants helps assure healthy, disease-free plants of the desired variety when they are needed. You also will be able to prepare the garden soil early. Working the soil early will help in controlling some garden pests such as soil insects and weed seeds.

For reliable information on vegetable gardening, contact your UF/IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/lawn_and_garden/veggie_gardening.html and http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021

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