October 8, 2020
Gardening is making a comeback. Whether you’re looking to sure up your food supply or just enjoy some fresh air away from a screen, 2020 feels like an ideal time for beginners to take up the hobby.
Robert Bowden can offer some advice. He’s the executive director of Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orange County. It’s a 50-acre botanical garden that’s run by the City of Orlando, with thousands of ornamental flowers, fruit and vegetable plants. Bowden is also the author of Florida Fruit & Vegetable Gardening: Plant, Grow, and Harvest the Best Edibles. He offers these tips for getting started.
- Start now. Fall is prime time for planting a garden in Florida.
- Start small. “A small, well-maintained garden is better than a large, unmaintained one,” Bowden says. “It gets a little overwhelming, and then you give up.” Check Pinterest for ideas on how to create a 4-by-4-foot raised bed.
- Soak up the sun. Position your plants so they get at least six hours of sunlight daily. If you live in an apartment or condo whose balcony doesn’t get enough sun, ask your landlord about starting a community garden on the property.
- Easy does it. Fool-proof vegetables that are ideal for beginners include bush beans, green beans, cabbage, radishes, lettuce, kale and cucumbers. Low-maintenance fruit plants include bananas, starfruit, lychees and mangoes.
- Grow what you like to eat. “There’s no sense in growing beets if you hate beets,” Bowden notes.
- Don’t bug out. By and large, Bowden says, “healthy plants don’t get bugs.” Grow your plants in well-drained soil, make sure they get enough sunlight and use organic fertilizer every three to four weeks. Then you shouldn’t see more than an occasional harmless insect.
- Cancel the compost. Composting is a great way to enrich soil. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll end up with a stinky, useless mess. Beginners should buy ready-to-use compost from a mulch supplier or garden center.
- Have fun. Gardening is about more than having an Instagrammable harvest. It’s about the feel of earth under your feet and the satisfaction of growing your own food. If there’s a caterpillar on your beans or a small hole in your kale, it’s no big deal. Boden reminds us, “Plants don’t have to be perfect.”
Explore The Zest
Host: Robin Sussingham
Producer: Dalia Colón & Robin Sussingham
Photo Credits: Heather McPherson