Timing is key when it comes to your vegetable garden
Published: Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 1:39 p.m.
Recently, I found myself explaining to gardeners the importance of following the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) recommendations on planting vegetable crops.
The "Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide" provides recommendations to gardeners on varieties of vegetable crops suitable for North, Central and South Florida. This publication can be found at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/VH/VH02100.pdf.
We consider Marion County to be on the border of North and Central Florida, so we sow tomato seeds, for example, in January or February, to be ready for spring planting in March and April, and sow again in mid-July, to be ready for fall planting in late August and early September.
If you follow the information as outlined, you should encounter few problems. The scientists have planted crops at different times of the year on one of the 12 research stations across the state, and they have developed recommendations that will yield optimal results under growing conditions specific to Florida.
One gardener indicated she has tomatoes in bloom now, but they are not setting fruit.
Tomato varieties that are not heat-tolerant will tend to not set fruit when daytime temperatures are above 90 degrees. Gardeners who plan to plant tomato varieties in the summer should use heat-tolerant varieties such as Solar Fire and Florida 91 to get better fruit set. Tomatoes planted too late in the fall also may fail to set fruit because nighttime temperatures are too cool — 55 degrees or lower — when the plant begins to bloom.
The timing of planting also affects the incidence of disease and insect problems.
There are three things necessary for a plant disease to occur: a susceptible host, a suitable environment and the disease organism. This is referred to as a disease triangle. In order to reduce the incidence of a disease, it is imperative that all three conditions are not occurring at the same time. A vegetable gardener indicated she has tomato plants that are starting to wilt on one side of the plant. This symptom is typical of Fusarium wilt disease caused by a soil-borne fungus that thrives in warm soil.
To break the disease triangle and have a successful tomato crop, use these effective strategies: Plant at the recommended time of year (environment), use a resistant variety that has the initial "F" after the name (host), and do not plant tomatoes in the same spot the next growing season and sanitation (pathogen).
UF/IFAS researchers also have found the timing of planting is an effective cultural practice in controlling insect pests. Cucurbits — squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe and cucumber — are usually attacked by pickleworm. This pest causes damage to the flowers and also will burrow into the fruit making it difficult to control.
Planting early during the recommended time frame is one way to escape pickleworm damage. The same recommendation applies for these crops with melonworm, which can defoliate leaves of cucurbits and occasionally the fruit.
For more recommendations on controlling pests in cucurbits, visit: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN16800.pdf.
Keep these tips in mind as you get ready to plant your fall vegetable garden. Remember, UF/IFAS Extension is your tax dollars at work. We provide "Solutions for Your Life," whether it's gardening, nutrition, finance, animal production, youth development and more. The list goes on.
For more information on our other programs, visit http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu.
Norma Samuel is the Urban Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Marion County Extension Service. Contact her at email@example.com.
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