Dear MOTHER April/May 2018

Letters from our readers about hugelkultur gardening, locating homestead schools, DIY successes, and more.

| April/May 2018

Ever-Changing Garden Practices

Several years ago, I transplanted myself from snowy New York to a 1-acre homestead in humid, subtropical Florida. To be successful, I had to adapt my gardening practices quite a bit. Here are a few suggestions for gardeners who share a similar problem of having to buffer temperatures from both extremes.

Greenhouses are great for keeping plants warm when the cold weather hits. Having a greenhouse, even in Florida, allows me to kick-start my warm crops for an early March planting. In fall, I extend the season for warm-weather crops planted in the ground, such as peppers and tomatoes. I may cover them with a blanket, add mulch, or wrap lights around hardy stems to provide an overnight heat source. Homemade cold frames are another option.

To shield my cold-weather crops from the hot temperatures that cause them to bolt, I mulch them heavily with a dark mulch to absorb as much heat from the sun as possible. I also mist regularly to keep the plants’ environment cool.

I’ve been experimenting with regulating sun exposure over the years. An ideal situation for keeping your plants cool is to place them where they’ll receive morning and early afternoon sun, and late afternoon shade. If you don’t have that on your homestead, you can install shade cloth on the west side of your plot. A high hoop house covered in plastic but with ends and lower sides that are open can also keep plants cool.

Finally, choose the right species and cultivars for your area. I stick with what my Floridian neighbors and their ancestors have grown for years. Because of nematodes, we can’t grow those softball-sized tomatoes that northerners pick by the bushel. Instead, we grow drought- and heat-tolerant tomato cultivars.

Kenny Coogan
Tampa, Florida

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