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Prepare Your Garden Bed for Summer

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

Florida summers are the hottest and wettest months of the year and the time to prepare for the fall growing season. Most gardeners will bed-rest their plot or grow a cover crop to allow the soil to renourish, while some gardeners may continue to grow a limited summer crop. Keeping up with your maintenance during this time will ensure the health of your garden through the summer and a better harvest next season.

You can use compost/mulch (a layer gardening technique) or cover crops—just don’t leave the ground bare, which is an invitation to both weeds and pests.

Layer Gardening - Harvest, Compost and Cover

To allow your bed to rest and re-nourish:

1. Harvest your vegetables.

2. Cut plants at the soil level leaving the roots to compost.

3. Add 1 inch of compost and brown leaves.

4. Cover the bed with a black weed barrier (located in the shed) and secure with pavers or pins.

Cover Crops

The use of cover crops (green manure) is an excellent management practice for the vegetable gardener. The crop is used to "cover" the soil of an otherwise bare garden. Cover crops improve soil health, enhancing production the following season.

Cover crops are divided into two main categories: legumes and nonlegumes. Legumes take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form used by plants. We recommend Cow Peas, which you can order on the VISTA website.

When you replant in the fall, turn cover crops under at least three weeks before planting to allow organic matter to decompose. This is the point where the plant will provide the greatest amount of biomass and nutrients to the soil.

Save What You Can

Utilize every last bit of your bounty by taking the time now to save what you can from your garden. Capitalize on successful plants by saving the seeds to sow next season. You can also harvest any leftover herbs for drying and use them in your cooking throughout the rest of the year.

Be Sure to Weed

Weeds are most prolific in summer. As summer sets in, weed seeds become better established and can flourish in the hot, humid conditions. Staying on top of weeding will deter new weeds from seeding themselves, ultimately allowing fewer of them to propagate next year. If you see a weed pull it up and place in the trash.

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