They called them “Victory Gardens” and everyone had one during and post World War II. They were plots of land in city backyards planted with anything that would grow and the yield was shared with neighbors. I remember gathering in our yard to cook big pots of whatever people brought. According to my mother, as a very little girl I would sit in the garden and eat green tomatoes, dirt and all.
We don’t have Victory Gardens any more, but we do live in a “Garden State” and once again I’ve learned through the Extension Service that we can grow almost anything in Florida as long as you plant it at the right time, under the right conditions and it can be organic.
After my latest visit with Sally Scalera, Homeowner Horticulture Agent, and Linda Seals, Commercial Horticulture/Small Farms Agent who is extremely involved with the new Farmer’s Market at Wickham Park, I came away with enough information to grow fruits and vegetables and what time of year to plant them.
If you want the best and aren’t into growing your own I can tell you that the new Farmer’s Market in Wickham Park mandates that 75 percent of what a vendor sells must be locally grown or produced. There you can find everything from grass-fed antibiotic-free Florida beef, the most beautiful spinach I’ve ever seen, freshly made marinara and garlic sauces and baked breads and pies. All are made in certified local kitchens.
Some studies suggest that local honey will help relieve allergies and there’s plenty available from whipped to plain, along with beeswax candles in all shapes and sizes. Perfectly shaped bell peppers in all colors, Roma tomatoes as well as some strawberries were available at the market. I didn’t see the Heirloom tomatoes I was looking for and I’ve been advised that Heirloom tomatoes can be grown in both containers or directly in the ground, but bell pepper do much better in containers filled with a light-weight, fast-draining potting mix, unless your garden soil is rich with organic matter.
Take the time on Thursday from 3-7 p.m. to browse through the market. Before you leave, be sure to run your fingers through the fresh herbs for the sheer delight of the fragrances.
If you want to plant your own vegetables then get a copy of the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide from www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021. Also, check out the use of Liquid Seaweed on plants. It’s available locally at most nurseries and Ace Hardware. It helps all plants through stress like flood, drought and cold. Here are two more useful websites you may want to check out: www.gardensalive.com; www.groworganic.com.