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Newbie to SFG Gardening in Florida

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Newbie to SFG Gardening in Florida Empty Newbie to SFG Gardening in Florida

Post  Captblacksmithmike on 5/25/2018, 6:25 pm

Hello everyone.

As I say in the title, I am a newbie to this site and to Square Foot Gardening.

I live in Central Florida, out in what remains of the "Oxford Farmlands."  Oxford is a small little place in the NE most part of Sumter County, Florida and butting up to a portion of southernmost Marion County, near the heart of what has been Florida horse and cattle country. 2015 Triple Crown Winner, American Pharoah ---did some of his early season training on a horse farm not too far from me....

I live just outside the boundaries of a part of a place called The Villages, Florida---one of the largest adult only, retirement, golfing/golf cart communities in the country. This place now stretches over parts of three counties--has passed 100,000 in population and growing by the day with the total number probably now going to tap out at least twice that many.

I had lived in the community for a time, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. Mostly thanks to very restrictive deed covenants and I didn't like the constraints that puts upon you.

I had come down here to help my mom after my dad had a bad stroke and during his rehab. He did eventually pass but I decided that I was done with winter for good--being from SW Ohio-the Dayton/Cincinnati areas. I do have a long history with Florida though, going back to when I was a kid and do remember what was a very different state than it  is now...

So being not so happy in The Villages---I started looking at places outside in what remains of the countryside down here.  I found a place---a nicely redone mobile----on a nice piece of land---with just over an acre.

Had I not left Ohio--I would already have made the move to the SW Ohio or Northern Kentucky countryside from having lived in suburbia--with the goal being---being able to grow at least my some of my own veggies, etc. 

Last year was my first full year on the property and I took some spots---did some soil amending---the soil is pretty much pure sand and not so good, planting some plants in those plots.

Between lots of heat, and being in a several year drought----2017 was one tough year to try to raise anything down here. I do volunteer work and "living history" programs at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Florida State Historic Park not far out of Gainesville.

Marjorie Rawlings was the author of "The Yearling" and other famous books, and among them are two non-fiction books--"Cross Creek" and "Cross Creek Cookery" in which she wrote about the place she came to settle in the early 20th Century and about the food she ate and prepared there.

There is a garden at the park, growing the same things that she wrote about growing and those who work the garden--say it was one of the hardest years to keep the garden going.

I had zero luck last year and everything I planted---died.

I have been doing training and researching on getting into Aquaponics. I am sure most know that that is but if not--easy way to describe it---you raise fish in tanks, circulate the water, get the system balanced and using different sorts of tanks, you can grow veggies, fruit and other plant life without using nasty chemicals. 

I had planned to start that late last year--but with the passage of Irma through nearly all the state---that put those plans on hold.

I am going to build and start up my first tanks this fall doing a small "test bed system."

Things got busy for me and the time did slip up on me fast this spring and I got a bit of a late start to put in some sort of garden this year and while getting things together one day at a local Lowe's store,  I found the 2nd edition of the SFG system book.

Instead of using wood to make my plots and since I already had a stack of concrete block--I decided to use what I had instead of wood.  I wound up needing a few more, but not too many.

I have four total "units" so far--three of of them are three blocks x three blocks long and wide and the fourth--I stretched to use four x four blocks to do some corn in.

I do admit that I did not put in the grid system. I did "cheat" and just went to Lowe's and a few other stores to get already growing plants with the exception of planting corn seed.  One of those shops is a local shop called Simon's Seed and Farm in the nearby town of Leesburg. It has been in business since the 1940s and has that old school vibe, but they are very new school in that they focus on doing things organically and more naturally. 

They have many organic products, fertilizers and such like organic, heirloom seeds, etc.

They offer local products like Black Kow--which is a company also in the Oxford area-in fact their place is just a bit shy of three miles from me. They do not sell retail there though---strictly wholesale. For bulk Black Kow products--the cow manure and mushroom compost--and now Top Soil in bags--I get them from Lowe's, Simon's or another local place called Sparr Hardware, that caters to the horse and cattle ranchers. 

Simon's also sells earthworm castings, from a source up near Gainesville.

I could not find five compost products to create a soil mix around here--but I do make a mix of vermiculite, peat moss, the three Black Kow products and the Earthworm castings and I can tell you---the stuff I am growing--is doing wonderfully. I did mix in what was left of an almost abandoned compost pile I have. I am also adding some organic fertilizer in modest quantities.

I now have restarted the compost pile, putting on a bail of Timothy alfalfa and it is really "burning good."  I am also once again gathering non-meat table scraps of my own, from my mom and others, along with putting on some yard waste.  I will soon have some nice compost of my own to use.

Next year---I will start raising chickens and can use some of their poo too. 

I know that I have not been following the SFG program to the fullest degree--but I was in a rush to get the plots set up and get something growing--I did buy some slat wood, but never put them together---I will do that next year because I know I am going to continue growing things in the plots--I will in fact even with having some aquaponics set ups going--I will still use this method of growing things.

I am fully convinced that SFG works well and I do want to do it according to the program. When I get the aquaponics down pat and this as well--I want to be able to offer it and aquaponics as options for people to grow their own things----to not be so dependent on going to Wal-Mart, Publix, Aldi, Kroger or even Whole Foods, Earth Faire, Lucky Foods, etc. 

I think that when things get a bit less crazy, I will take the program to be a trainer for the program, too. 

I had been out of vegetable gardening for a few years while I lived in The Villages--since the developers and even my fellow residents---pretty much discourage doing so.  It does feel good that this year---if things continue as they are now---I will be able to harvest at least some things I want and like to eat.

I had joined the local chapter of the Florida Native Plants Society, and transformed some of my yard, the back, into a little native plant habitat and that pissed my neighbors off to no end.  That was just "too different" for them and all the griping---made me decide pretty quickly--"I am outta here!" so I found myself my version of "Green Acres."

In my concrete blocks--I have some herbs, some growing in the holes to make use of them, along with strawberries, corn, peppers--hot and green, eggplant,  yellow squash and zuchini, stevia, cucumbers and carrots.  Of course--tomatoes too.

Don't diss me for not having totally followed the SFG program--for my purposes this year--I am one happy gardener!

I do want to hear what works for others--especially if someone lives in Florida--our growing seasons down here--are a bit different than more northerly and temperate climates have. Like all of Florida--things can be a bit "Whacky and Wild." 

It most certainly is, a "learning experience."  Even Marjorie Rawlings----who had learned the way that things work down here pretty fast thanks to relying upon those around her---wrote in "Cross Creek" way back in the 1930s and '40s---growing things for humans and our animals to survive in Florida can be even more a challenge than it is in other places....

I know that I have rambled on--that is my way--but just wanted to tell my story of how I came to do this form of gardening and my plans and goals with it...I hope that most who read at least find it somewhat interesting..... Very Happy

Male Posts : 2
Join date : 2018-05-25
Location : Central Florida USDA Zone 9A

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Newbie to SFG Gardening in Florida Empty Re: Newbie to SFG Gardening in Florida

Post  countrynaturals on 5/25/2018, 8:48 pm

Very interesting -- thanks for posting. I know what it's like to garden in the Florida sand -- never was successful at it. Now I garden in the California clay (and rocks). We can also grow all year long, but our nights are much cooler than yours and our summer days much hotter. We also have very low humidity, so that makes things a little different, but we still have a lot in common.  glad you\'re here and please post some pics when you can. We  I love you pictures!

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Newbie to SFG Gardening in Florida Empty Re: Newbie to SFG Gardening in Florida

Post  AtlantaMarie on 5/26/2018, 7:20 am

Hi Mike. Welcome from Atlanta, GA!

I'm glad you're wanting to follow "the program" as closely as possible. And you'll find many of us do all sorts of gardening.

You might look in the archives for DStack's stuff. He's in FL. And Brainchasm, although in AZ, has some good advice for hot temps & using cinder blocks.

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Newbie to SFG Gardening in Florida Empty Re: Newbie to SFG Gardening in Florida

Post  sanderson on 5/27/2018, 2:43 am

Welcome (again) to the Forum. I moved your introduction to the Coastal & Tropical South sub-forum so that anyone else in Florida will see your post. And, tweaked your introduction to include Florida.

Regarding a variety of composts, I like this thread with photos.



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