Timing, a success-to-failure garden affair
“Timing is everything.” The person who coined this phrase must have been a gardener, as the time of year when certain cultural practices are practiced often makes the difference between success or failure.
Bulb onions and strawberries are often misunderstood and planted at the wrong time of year in our area.
We can produce beautiful sweet onions with bulbs up to four inches in diameter, with a flavor that rivals those from Vidalia, Georgia. To do this, we must establish the plants in the fall, and not in the spring, as is the case in the North. In fact, onions planted after the first of the year make small bulbs or perhaps just green tops.
Some North Florida gardeners successfully grow large sweet onions. Here’s how they do it. They use short-day onion varieties like Grano, Granex, Texas Grano, Excel or Tropicana Red. Granex is the variety used to produce Vidalia onions and St. Augustine sweets.
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Some gardeners sow their onions in September and have plants ready to transplant into the garden in November or early December. Others simply buy the plants of these varieties in the fall. These plants are spaced four to five inches apart in rows twelve to twenty-four inches apart. Light fertilizations will be necessary during the season to keep them vigorous. Onions grow well in our relatively mild winters and will be ready for harvest from April to May.
Many gardeners make mistakes with strawberries by planting them in the spring. In our part of the country, they should be planted in October and November. Like onions, strawberry plants are cold hardy, producing a full-sized plant in the spring and yielding a harvest from March to May.
Use only “short-day” strawberry varieties. These include Chandler, Sweet Charlie, Dover, Selva, Oso Grande, Florida Belle and Florida 90.
Fall is the time to plant other cool-season vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, bunching onions, turnips, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, endive, escarole, kale, kohlrabi , leek, lettuce, mustard, parsley and radish can all be planted in the fall.
The time of year that many flowering and shrub perennials are transplanted also makes a big difference. Most spring-flowering bulbs are best planted in the fall. Fall is the perfect time to move a shrub from one area of the yard to another or to plant and establish new trees and shrubs in your landscape.
The topic of timing can be applied to fertilizing, pest control, pruning, and almost any other gardening practice. Done at the right time, expect good results. On the other hand, if done at the wrong time of year, a lot of time and money is wasted.