By BJ Jarvis
Pasco Extension Horticulturist
By now all the holiday decorations should be put away, and it’s time to get the vegetable gardening supplies out to get a jump on spring growing.
Up north, most vegetable plants went into the ground at roughly the same time, but here in Florida there are distinct seasons. While cool season veggies such as lettuce, spinach, sugar snap peas and cabbages are thriving right now, Florida’s warm season veggies are planted in early to mid-March when the ground has warmed sufficiently. This season includes tomatoes, peppers, melons, cucumbers, green beans, eggplant and okra.
Some are quick sprouters such as green beans, cucumbers and melons, while others require more time to sprout and grow.
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and okra require about seven to 14 days to germinate, ultimately requiring 80 to 100 days to reach maturity and produce fruit. Gardeners can get a jump on the season by starting these from seeds indoors.
Now don’t think this takes expensive equipment. A domed plastic container from rotisserie chicken or a fast-food salad makes a great miniature greenhouse.
Start with moist soil. Think of the feel of a wet sponge that has been wrung out. It’s still wet but not dripping. Don’t make any holes in the container and fill it with about 1 to 1.5 inches of moist soil and poke in the seeds. Cover with the clear lid, then write the date and name of the seeds in marker. Place the container in a bright, but not direct sun, location. Don’t open the lid, and don’t try to add water. Plants have sufficient water until after they sprout.
In a few days you should see seeds beginning to sprout, but leave the dome on even if green sprouts don’t show up right away. Depending on the plant species, but generally after two to three weeks, all the seeds that are likely to sprout will.
The tender new plants can be moved up into small pots to be nurtured until the weather and garden are ready for the new additions. This simple, cheap, repurposed approach has worked for years. When the clear domed lid gets yellow or brittle, it’s off for another yummy salad turned greenhouse.
Try this approach to get a jump on the spring gardening season.
Didn’t see your favorite vegetable listed? There is information about nearly 50 different vegetables in the University of Florida’s vegetable gardening guide that can be found at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/VH/VH02100.pdf. You can also call the UF/Pasco Extension office with vegetable or other gardening questions at (352) 518-0474.
—BJ Jarvis is Horticulture Agent and Extension Director at Pasco Cooperative Extension, a partnership between the University of Florida, Pasco County government and the USDA. She can be reached at .
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