All About our Winter Community Garden

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Welcome to the Ever’man Co-op Community Garden. I would like to introduce you to our garden, what we have planted in the garden, and the reasoning behind it. Our garden is a beautiful selection of Heirloom vegetable, herbs, and flowers. All of them were grown from carefully selected heirloom seeds and cutting, many of which have been grown and passed down in my own family for close to 100 years.

Lets start our introduction with a quick definition of an Heirloom. Expert opinions vary, but typically they are at least 50 years old, and are often pre-WWII varieties. The year 1951 is important, because that is when hybrid plants were first introduced. Anything prior to 1051, is an most likely an Heirloom. Most heirlooms come from seeds that have been handed down for generations in a particular region or area, hand-selected by gardeners for a special trait. Others may have been developed by a university a long time ago (again, at least 50 years), in the early days of commercial breeding. All heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated, which means they’re pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention. In addition, they tend to remain stable in their characteristics from one year to the next. It is this stability that makes saving Heirloom seeds so critical to our food supply, and diversity in our food crop. Hybrid seeds are not stable, and in some cases, are even sterile.

Now let bridge together Heirloom gardening with overall gardening in northern Florida. Anyone who has been gardening in Florida for a few years has probably planted a few different heirloom varieties with varying degrees of success. That's part of the fun with heirloom vegetables, each one has its unique characteristics. In addition to their rich history and time tested stability, Heirlooms also provide the richest food source for our pollinators and beneficial insects. This is an important reason why Heirloom vegetables were chosen as the mainstay of the Ever’man garden.

The challenge with heirlooms is to find the right one, for the right time and place. Growing a garden in Florida has enough special challenges. We love where we live and the warm climate that goes with it. For those same reasons, so does every pest known to gardening, as well as a large selections of mildews, mold, funguses and diseases. It is best to learn which varieties will produce here, and stick to those varieties. There are plenty of heirlooms that thrive in Florida's climate. I will walk you through the varieties we have planted, and why they were selected. I will also provide you with several useful resources for information, and seed companies that specialize selections that will be successful in our climate. In the Ever’man store, we carry a high quality organic seed by High Mowing. There is a wide selection of vegetable, flower, and herb seeds, as well as a selection of sprouting seeds. Many of these varieties can be found here in the store.

Our garden in divided into 4 sections. Today, we will explore what is planted in the lettuce patch. All of these Heirloom varieties have been field tested and recommended by IFAs Extension, University of Florida for our growing zones 8-8b.

The Ever’man garden is planted utilizing the practices of companion planting vs herbicide, pesticide and fungicides. Every crop has a friend, a companion and a foe in the garden. By using this practice, we create a balance in nature, without the use of chemicals, which allows our pollinators and beneficial insects to thrive, and to work with us side by side.

Lettuce varieties -Plant Jan-March and Sept-Oct; Great lakes, Simpson Black Seeded, Salad Bowl, Red Oak Leaf, Cimmaron, Flashy Gem, Butter crunch, Bibb, Paris Island, Red Romaine. All of these varieties are “cut and come again”. You harvest the outer leaves and leave the center to grow for the next harvest. Plant every two weeks for a contentious harvest throughout the season.

Dwarf French Marigolds March- Sept. Cover for a hard freeze. Marigolds are the “wonder drug” of the companion plant world. French marigolds (T. patula) produce a natural pesticide chemical from their roots. It is so strong, it will remain in the soil years after the plants are gone.

Onion- Bunching August-March chives, both garlic and onion

Peas- Jan-March Sugar snap, Wando, Green Arrow

Radish- Sept- March White Icicle, Cherry Bell, Sparkler. Plant every 2 weeks for continuous harvest.

Carrots- August- March Chantenay, Nantes, Danvers. Plant every 2 weeks for continuous harvest.

Beets- Sept.-March Early Wonder, Detroit Red, Cylindra. Plant every 2 weeks for continuous harvest.

This reflects one fourth of the Ever’man garden. It is a good example of choosing the correct varieties, for the correct climate, at the right time. It is also a good model for companion planting.

Sources for this article are; IFAS Extension, University of Florida and Florida Heirloom Seeds.