Q. When should I start planting my vegetable garden? I want to grow tomatoes, peppers and beans.
You can start planting in mid-October. Buy varieties that are disease- and nematode-resistant. When buying seedlings, make sure that they aren’t too large. Seedlings older than 6 weeks old may be harder to transplant. For tomatoes, it’s important to buy small seedlings since large transplants are not productive once planted.
In South Florida, it’s easier to grow vegetables in a raised bed and it doesn’t need to be large. Your garden can be as small as 4 x 8 feet, which provides enough space to grow vegetables for one person.
Avoid planting in rows so that no space is wasted. Divide your raised bed into 1-foot squares by laying sticks on top of the soil. To maximize the space, plant large specimens such as tomatoes, eggplants, broccoli and squash one plant per square foot. Medium-size plants such as beans, leaf lettuce, and peas can be planted four per square foot. For small plants such as carrots and radishes, up to 30 seeds can be planted per square. In fact, you can plant both radish and carrot seeds in the same square. The radishes will be ready to harvest in 3 to 4 weeks, which then will give the carrots more space to develop.
In your raised bed, use compost, composted cow manure, potting soil or a mixture of compost and potting soil instead of earth or top soil. You can learn more about raised bed gardening online, in gardening books or contact your local University of Florida Extension office.
This UF web site has information on vegetable gardening for South Florida: http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/ Click the “vegetable gardening” photograph.