In the fall, you can grow root vegetables, greens, crowning veggies like broccoli and cabbage, and cold weather herbs like cilantro, dill, and parsley. If you get the plants in the ground by September or early October, you can also grow another round of spring veggies like tomatoes and beans.
GROWING FROM SEED
Since Florida has a really long planting window in the fall (October through December), it’s a great time to teach kids how to grow vegetables from seed! All root vegetables must be direct seeded, or planted straight into the garden bed, while most other veggies should be started in seed trays or small cups about 2 to 4 weeks before you’d like to plant them in the garden. The “Days to Harvest” number on the packet will help you decide when to start seeds. This is how long it will take from the time you put the seed in soil until the time you can harvest it to eat. To keep it easy, I recommend purchasing mature plants for varieties that take a long time like broccoli or brussels sprouts and starting seeds for quicker varieties, like radish and arugula.
GETTING THE KIDS INVOLVED
Before you plant, get your little ones to help pull weeds and top dress your gardens with compost. We recommend layering 4-6” of good quality compost right on top of your existing soil instead of adding fertilizers. Since compost is an organic soil made from decomposed natural ingredients like food scraps, animal manures, leaves, and mulch, it is 100% safe for children to handle and dig in. If you don’t plan to plant right away, make sure to cover your soil with wheat straw, leaves or burlap to discourage weeds from taking over and to preserve moisture.
REAPING THE REWARDS
It’s always amazed me that kids who refuse to eat anything healthy will devour veggies out of a garden they helped prepare and grow. While a variety of plants are always better for your diet and your garden, there are a few must haves if you plan to get kids involved! Unlike store bought, homegrown broccoli is sweet and tender, making it a popular choice for family gardens. Any veggies that grow underground, like carrots or beets, are a constant hit with kids as are climbing vegetables like string beans or sweet peas. I also recommend veggies that come back after you cut them, like lettuce, or that continue to produce for months on end, like kale, because they provide a contrast to the one and done varieties mentioned above. Whatever you choose, keep it fun and easy! Gardens should be a reward, not a chore.
Get more of Shelby’s advice online at www.dogdaygardens.com.