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Updated: 01/11/2018 08:30:03AM

Growing Florida vegetables — timing is everything

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Seminar participants look over handouts.


David Austin (UF/IFAS Horticultural Agent/Highlands County Master Gardeners).


Some gardening chemicals.


Jincy and Tracie Wheelus.


Horace and Barbara Williams.


"Gardening in Florida" slide during the presentation.


Soil pH was another topic discussed.


Not all plants are easily moved elsewhere.


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A cold Saturday morning, with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees, did not affect the turnout at the Bert J. Harris Agri-Center in Sebring, for the Vegetable Gardening Seminar last weekend. People were bundled up, but the auditorium was warm and there was plenty of hot coffee.

“Who thought it was way too cold to get up early and come here today — but you did anyway?” asked David Austin (UF/IFAS Horticultural Agent/Highlands County Master Gardeners). The attendees smiled and some even raised their hands.

Austin is a wealth of information on anything to do with local gardening and horticulture. He has several other seminars coming up, so be sure to call the Master Gardener office for topics, dates and times.

“It’s cold right now and people are worried that they can’t grow anything,” said Austin. “Onions, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots are doing fine right now.”

It starts to get warm in February and March. If you plant too late, the vegetable plants tend to flower. Bolting is a term describing when the plants flower at the wrong time.

Tomato plants will only fruit when the temperature goes below 70 degrees at night. They should be planted in the early fall and again now, after the frost is over. Timing — is everything!

Horace and Barbara Williams attended the seminar. “We’re setting up our garden again after losing ours to Hurricane Irma. We’re learning what to plant and when,” said Horace.

Jincy and Tracie Wheelus were ready to learn more about gardening, “Jincy has a big garden on our property and we want to learn more about caring for what we plant,” said Tracie.

Some of the major areas of concern in planting a garden are infertile soils, insects, disease, pH levels, proper fertilization and timing of the vegetable planting. There are different ways to set up your garden including traditional, stackers, raised beds, containers and trellises.

“When you plant is the most important thing you can do,” stressed Austin. “Also, remember that vegetables need sun, at least six hours a day. The morning sun is best; the angle of the sun changes. Plants should be near a water source, away from competing roots and have well-drained soil.”

Tips for planting your garden: (1) plan your garden – draw it out; (2) note the proper planting dates for your vegetable choices; (3) determine whether to use seed or transplant; (4) always plant what you like to eat; (5) plant by height to insure plants get adequate sun and are not shaded by taller plants; (6) maintain proper pH (soil is acid, alkaline or neutral) and (7) be sure to fertilize properly.

The next class is on beekeeping; raising your own bees and selling the honey. It will be held on Saturday, Jan. 13. For more information on this class or any of the many services and clubs available, please call 863-402-6540.