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Re-Blogged from the University of Florida, IFAS.

Everything Grows

Recently while singing Raffi’s, “Everything Grows” with my two boys, my oldest said, “no it doesn’t…fire hydrants don’t grow. Signs don’t, fences don’t, doors don’t…” Despite his snarky, yet funny observation, I reflected on the stanza, “food on the farm, fish in the sea, birds in the air, leaves on the tree. Everything grows, anyone knows, that’s how it goes.” Our gardens are one of the most powerful parts of our landscapes. Everything in our gardens grows – food, birds, plants, trees, and even ourselves.

In previous articles, we explored the power of gardening. Gardens we cultivate also cultivate physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual benefits. For our summer gardening article series, “In the Garden, We Grow,” we will explore all the ins-and-outs vegetable gardening, so we too may grow.

Starting at the Beginning

The most common gardens in Florida are in-ground, raised beds, or containers. Hydroponics and aquaponics exist too, but that is a bigger topic for a different day. Most homeowners find success with raised bed gardens or container gardens due to Florida’s sandy soils. To select a location for a garden, find an area that gives approximately 6-8 hours of sun, is near a water source, and is away from buildings and trees.

If it is your first-time gardening, start small. Containers are a great first step into gardening or an alternative for anyone living in an apartment, condo, or townhome. If you have the ability to build a raised bed, start with a three-by-three foot raised bed with a 12”-18” depth. Of course, feel free to build a garden bed that works best for you. If bending over is difficult, build taller beds. To reduce the amount of soil needed to fill taller beds, first fill the beds with large logs and then fill the remaining space with soil.

Soil

Like all gardening, our success starts with our soil. When starting a raised bed, a general recommendation is the 1:1:1 ratio of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. A 3’x3’x18” vegetable bed requires 13.5 cubic feet of soil, which translates to 4.5 cubic feet of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. Mix your soil well, put it into your raised bed, and you have a reliably strong foundation to start your garden!

Water

To water your vegetable garden, you may install micro-irrigation or you may water it by hand. Please water in the morning to allow any excess water on the leaves to dry throughout the day. This helps reduce water use and reduces the threat of fungal issues developing in your garden.

Pests

With any garden, pests can be a nuisance. Scout regularly, treat early, and rotate plants around your garden. Remove pests by hand, but if you have a prolific pest problem, try insecticidal soaps, neem oil, or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). These pesticides are generally considered safe and should manage most garden pests.

Fertilizer

To help with your vegetable garden, you can fertilize. Fertilize after you completed a soil test and right before planting. You may side-dress as your vegetables and fruits grow.

Planning our Gardens

Due to our warmer seasons, you can have a productive garden all year. As we continue our “In the Garden, We Grow” article series, we will explore the different plants, pests, and other fun gardening strategies. So, feel free to start your garden, explore, and experiment. Sometimes we try something in our gardens that does not work but that is ok. For as long as we continually try new things and share with our community, we grow too.

 


Posted: June 8, 2022

Re-Blogged via the Florida Department of Environmental Protection……

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Ron DeSantis signed a proclamation declaring June as Great Outdoors Month in Florida. The Governor’s proclamation honors Florida’s abundant natural resources and the nation’s best recreational opportunities, provided by the state’s waters, trails, public lands and parks.

Great Outdoors Month is celebrated across the country each June to spotlight not only the beauty and wonder of our lands but also the health and economic benefits they provide.

From vibrant coral reefs and white-sand beaches to clear, natural springs, ambling rivers and peaceful pine forests, the state of Florida offers a myriad of opportunities to connect with nature and explore outdoors. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service and Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection are committed to providing visitors with unforgettable experiences and lifelong memories.

“This Great Outdoors Month, we welcome you to come experience …the Real Florida and see why Florida is the only recipient of four National Gold Medals for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management,” said DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “An adventure awaits you at any of Florida’s 175 state parks, 42 aquatic preserves and three national estuarine research reserves.”

With families preparing for summer fun, June is the perfect time to enjoy the natural beauty of Florida. Florida’s state parks, trails and aquatic preserves offer opportunities to camp, hike, paddle along pristine waterways, enjoy local flora and fauna, and more.

Activities during Great Outdoors Month in Florida include: 

Learn more about Florida’s state parks, trails, aquatic preserves and national estuarine research reserves at FloridaDEP.gov.

 

Danny Kushmer, Executive Director

Evidence points to the fact that children gain their most powerful understanding of their natural environment through exploring it for themselves. However, within formal education, educators are often hampered from facilitating this exploration beyond the classroom by the pressures of the curriculum, health and safety concerns, and restricted budgets.  LE/AD, with help from a grant from the George W. Jenkins Fund within the GiveWell Community Foundation and its fundholders and Polk County Parks and Natural Resources is bridging the gap on this issue by offering a program to youth groups in Polk County.  This program will consist of:

1. A field trip to Circle B Bar Reserve, where the children will participate in many outdoor hands-on activities including dip-netting, hiking and bandana rubbing.

2. Participants in the afterschool program will have the opportunity to enter into a poster contest to describe what they learned during the sessions.  The contest will be judged by members of the LE/AD Board of Directors and the top three selections will be awarded prizes.

Funding Partner

The GiveWell Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity serving Polk, Hardee, and Highlands counties in Central Florida. The Community Foundation holds more than 300 charitable funds established by individuals, families, organizations, and private foundations and serves a wide variety of charitable services.

For more than 20 years, the GiveWell Community Foundation and its fundholders have been investing in the future of our communities through impactful, philanthropic giving.

Activity

LE/AD will provide programs to community partners with limited budgets in Polk County.  This program would consist of minimum of 10 groups participating in:

  1. An interactive, hands-on learning experience field trip, where the children will participate in many outdoor activities including dip-netting, hiking and bandana rubbing.  They will learn each phase of the water cycle and the importance of water conservation. An on-site hands-on learning experience with the watershed model that shows how fertilizers, pesticides, oil and erosion affect our watersheds. Staff from Polk’s Nature Discovery Center will assist LE/AD with supervision and implementation of this program. 

Evaluation

For their Field Studies visit, each group will take a pre and post test. Follow up will be provided with additional materials sent back to camp locations, and a poster competition will be an elective.

LE/AD would like to thank the Southwest Florida Water Management District for providing educational materials for children participating in this program.

Poster