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The University of South Florida’s Botanical Gardens hosts an annual flower show, and now that I’m a legit gardener, I decided to check it out. It consisted of dozens of vendors selling unique flowers, herbs, plants and trees and is touted as the area’s largest plant sale. A lot of it seemed pretty exotic, including the carnivorous fly traps and trees bearing fruit I’d never heard of. I reveled in the colorful sights as I walked through the garden on my way to hear an organic vegetable gardening talk.
An expert from a local garden shop gave an hour-long lecture on organic vegetable gardening. While I fervently took notes, I was reminded how after three solid months of gardening under my belt, I am still quite the novice.
Here are 4 facts I learned from the talk…Keep in mind, however, that this is my beginner’s interpretation of facts, so take them with a grain of salt, err, soil 😉
1. The Soil in Florida is Terrible
Basically, fruits and veggies don’t grow well in this swamp of a state we call home, so organic soil from a garden store used in a container or raised bed is our best option. I smiled to myself as I heard this because I kind of knew that already, hence my raised beds, but my smile quickly dropped when I learned about a monster of a bug that will infiltrate your healthy store-bought soil if you don’t have a bottom on your garden bed, which I don’t.
2. The Root-Knot Nematode is as Scary as it Sounds
This parasite thrives in hot climates like ours and infects plants’ roots causing them to sicken and often die. They create knot-like bumps on roots and prevent them from taking in water and fertilizer. Once they infiltrate, there’s not much you can do about them. So put a bottom on your raised bed and then fill it with store-bought soil and you should be safe from this nasty parasite.
3. Poop in Your Garden is Good
If I got this right, feeding your soil with healthy bacteria is as important as fertilizing your plants. And to feed your soil organically, you need to use some type of poop product. The expert’s recommendation was something called Fish Sh!t, which is exactly what the name implies. The microbes in it are supposed to keep your soil in good shape. I got a sample and literally threw it on my garden and went to the garden shop to buy more only to learn they cost about $20 for a tiny bottle and you’re supposed to significantly dilute it. Oops.
4. City Water in Your Garden is Bad
If you do decide to put pricey poop on your garden, be sure not to water it with city water. The chlorine and other chemicals that cleanse the water for drinking purposes will kill that healthy poop you just put on your garden. What’s the solution, you ask? A rain barrel!
I haven’t made a leap to this purchase yet because I’m still figuring out if this gardening thing is a long-term commitment or not. So for now I’ve got my Fish Sh!t stowed away because I don’t want to kill all its healthy bacteria with my toxic city water. Another solution is to fill up a barrel with hose water and let it air out to weaken the chemicals, but that seems like it would turn my backyard into a mosquito magnet.
I walked away from that talk with my head spinning, but it did prepare me for a couple of problems that cropped up in my garden. I added an organic insecticide called Monterey Garden Insect Spray in case I come across any more caterpillars or other bugs eating my food, as well as an organic fungicide called Green Cure, which I’ve sprayed on the garden twice now when I noticed leaves with powdery white mildew starting to form.
Slowly but surely I’m learning how to tackle the obstacles that prevented me from starting a garden. It’s a marathon of a learning curve, but fortunately you don’t have to learn everything overnight in order to have success in your garden!
Thanks for reading, and happy gardening!