Florida’s subtropical climate is perfect for growing a wide assortment of vegetables. When you decide to grow your own tasty, healthful food crops, you might also consider growing them without pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Insects such as aphids, scale, caterpillars and others can be a problem, especially in warm, humid regions such as Florida, but it's possible to control those bothersome insects with organic alternatives.
Growing Organic Vegetables in Florida
Build your garden near your house and a faucet or convenient source of water. Measure the area you wish to use, and make raised beds that are about 3 feet wide by 6 to 8 feet long.
Start composting your kitchen scraps, lawn trimmings, fallen leaves and other plant materials as early as possible. If you begin a compost pile in the fall, it should be ready for you to use for spring planting. You can make a compost pile on the ground, inside a ring of chicken wire or in a special container designed for compost. (See Tips.)
Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of compost on top of your raised garden bed area. You can purchase bags of ready-made compost at your garden supply store if you prefer not to make your own. Then dig the compost into the soil, going down at least six inches. Finally, set a sprinkler on the area for one hour.
Plant young vegetable plants one day after you turn the soil and water it. Some plants, including most root crops like carrots, do not transplant well, so plant seeds of these vegetables directly into the ground. Check the specific planting instructions on the seed packets.
Monitor your plants for signs of small chewing insects such as aphids, and if you begin to see holes in your plants’ leaves, examine the plant to determine what type of insect is attacking it. For aphids, spray with insecticidal soap, available for purchase at garden supply stores. For scale insects, mix one tablespoon of canola oil with the insecticidal soap and spray with the mixture. For caterpillars and other chewing worms, dust your plants with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring soil bacterium available at garden centers.
Fertilize your vegetable garden about one month after you plant, and then once a month until late summer. One way to give your plants continuous nutrition is to spread a 2-inch layer of compost on top of the soil around your plants as mulch; this serves to keep the soil moist and also to nourish plants. Fish emulsion is a good organic fertilizer—purchase it at your garden center, then mix and apply it according to label instructions.