For the Best Gardeners in the Cardiff Area

   Sep 22

Your Questions About Gardening

Donna asks…

Vegetables to Grow Indoors?

GardenersCardiff answers:

9 Vegetables to Grow Indoors

Mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes and other popular vegetables can be raised indoors.
From All-Season Guide to Gardening


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Conservatories and windowsills are good sites for growing vegetables. Put heavy containers on the floor or a firm support. Some vegetable plants, including trailing species, are suitable for growing in hanging baskets fitted with integral drip trays. Mushrooms are straightforward if you have space in a dark cupboard. Some plants such as chicory and rhubarb can be forced to produce their crop earlier than normal.

Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant: These easily raised tender crops are favorites for a sunny windowsill and can be grown from seed or small plantlets. For window boxes or hanging baskets, choose pendent varieties such as Tumbler tomatoes. Train cordon varieties such as Sweet Million tomatoes up canes or string in a conservatory, where they will produce long trusses of tasty, decorative tomatoes for several months. Peppers and aubergines are less prolific.

Carrots and radishes: Most root crops need greater depth than you can provide indoors, but radishes, especially round or globe varieties that do not root very deeply, grow well in boxes, troughs and pans. Seeds can be sown from late winter until mid-autumn, often producing usable roots 21 to 25 days later. Round carrot varieties are also successful in pots and boxes

Potatoes: Seed tubers used for outdoor plantings are easily grown in large pots, buckets or even plastic sacks, and produce worthwhile yields of tasty new potatoes. When planting the tubers, leave space at the top of the container for adding more compost to earth up the plants as they develop. The top of the sack can be rolled down to start with, then rolled up, as required.

Mushrooms: Mushrooms are an ideal indoor crop for any time of year. Prepared bags of special compost with mushroom spawn only need watering before being left in a draft-free, dark place such as an attic or cupboard. Keep at 50 to 60ºF (10 to 15ºC) and mushrooms should be cropping a few weeks later. Alternatively make your own compost with straw and a purchased activator. Pack this mixture in a sterile container, such as a large plastic bucket. When the initial heat has died down and the mixture is turning into compost, add the spawn.
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Beans and peas: Dwarf french beans can be sown in pots from late winter onwards for early pods. Dwarf broad beans and dwarf runner beans crop well indoors, too. Tall runner beans grown on cane wigwams or on string up the side of a sunny conservatory are decorative as well as productive, and both dwarf and tall mangetout peas will do well as houseplants. Pick the pods while they are young, tender and juicy.

Daniel asks…

I want to start a fruit and vegetable garden in Central Florida… What should I grow?

I am willing to devote my entire yard to this. Trees are A-OK. I already have a Coconut tree, an orange tree, a mango tree and a Sugar-apple tree. So far, I’m thinking I will grow more Citrus, Pomegranate, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, papaya, and banana. Any other suggestions? Any reason why I should not grow any of these? Please back up any comments or criticism with facts and references.

GardenersCardiff answers:

I grew up on a horse farm in west Central Florida–in Zephyrhills, FL. We had an entire acre of our 40 acre property devoted exclusively to a vegetable garden. In fact, about the only thing on your list we didn’t grow was pomegranates—but I’m sure they will grow here just fine because it is a tropical.

My father is a 4th generation farmer and rancher (who also happens to be educated as well–he is an electrical engineer who just recently retired from a 40 year career at Tampa Electric Company). Our vegetable garden was primarily for fun and for family use–we ate all our own organically grown garden produce and raised our own poultry and beef right on our own farm. I live in St. Petersburg, FL now, but I still have about 40% of my yard planted with edibles (right along with my flowers and landscape plants). Vegetable gardening in Florida is all about knowing what plants like the sun or shade and what the water usage is. You can plant most vegetables here if you provide the right microclimate for them–meaning cold-weather crops will need cool partial shade and probably a different soil ph than is found here. You’re probably not going to be able to grow good asparagus, broccoli, or rhubarb here unless you have a greenhouse–it is too hot and sunny for those plants. However, I have successfully grown corn, blueberries, apples, spinach, and various other cold zone plants just by making sure they get less sun and by adjusting the soil content. Make sure you add potatoes (regular and sweet) to your growing list–they are easy to grow and the plants are pretty, plus you can grow them in mixed rows with other plants that are taller (like beans). Lettuce is very difficult to grow in Florida without greenhouse conditions (too susceptible to FL pests and insects), but you can grow good cabbage, brussells sprouts, all kinds of beans and peas, onions (yum), carrotts, leeks, watermelons, pumpkins, squash, all varieties of peppers, …….I can go on and on.

Just read the seed package if you’re starting things from seed and follow the rules! Talk with a good local nurseryman or horticulturist (not to be found at Home Depot or Lowe’s, sorry to say–they’ll sell you anything just to sell it)–a local vegetable farmer is a much better resource! Use plenty of compose and start your own compost pile at home–you’re gonna need it. Horse manure is king–hook up with a good stable near you to ensure a plentiful supply of this gardener’s bounty. Make sure you have good irrigation available–a sprinkler system with a programmable timer and/or a drip system is best. Also, think about investing in keeping some small banty hens (yes, chickens)–we used these to control insects in our garden rather than use pesticides…it works well, plus you get the manure as a bonus.

Don’t start with a plot that is too big for you to work by yourself–vegetables need a lot of weeding, aerating, pinching, picking, and general tending. It took our entire family of four working more or less daily during the growing season to stay on top of a one acre garden. However…more than worth it, because that one acre provided our family with almost our entire produce needs year round.

Fruit trees don’t need a lot of work if they are planted well and watered in…so go to town there. Grow a nectarine tree–they are delightful fruit trees to grow in Florida…the flowers smell heavenly and the fruit is to die for. You should also consider grapes…there are several varieties that grow well in tropical conditions–we had three varieties on trellises in our garden to shade some of our more delicate vegetables. Passion fruit is another FL fave–gorgeous flowers and the fruits are very pretty and unusual tasting.

Email me if you have any other questions. I am an avid gardener and, although I do not do it for a living, I have set up gardens for almost every friend I have, plus I am on the Botanical Society for Sunken Gardens, FL. Enjoy your garden!

***BTW, Fl is one of the leading tomato producing states, so no problems there–almost any variety will grow here. Eggplant and papaya are also good choices, but bananas are mainly ornamental here–it doesn’t get hot enough! Bananas are a true-blue near-equator tropical plant that require extreme temperatures and torrential rainfall to ripen to an edible fruit. It is not common for a banana tree to bear edible fruit in FL, but grow it anyway–they are such pretty plants and your squirrels and birds will love you for it!

Charles asks…

Growing vegetable plants?

I am growing a tomato plant, but was wondering, is fertilizer completely necessary for it? If because of photosynthesis it makes its own food, do you need any fertilizer and can the soil run out of minerals?

GardenersCardiff answers:

If you want to grow good and healthy tomato plant, the answer is yes you need to constantly put fertilizer to the soil around the tomato plant. This ensures that the plant are taking and absorbing the necessary nutrient for its natural growth. The main purpose is to keep the stem and leafs to be at their best state of condition. When the plant are in good shape, they will keep growing flowers. The flowers will be pollinated by bees and other pollination agent to keep producing nice and juicy tomato fruits. Basically the tomato plants needs sufficient calcium and nitrogen. Just find your self any fertilizer with these item in it that’s all. Hope this helps.

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