Dianne Reed is the Beekman Deputy Heirloom Gardener for Zone 10.  She lives in Boynton Beach, Florida with her husband, Daniel, Bichon Frise Dog, Bentley and Amazon Parrot, Jasper.
Welcome Beekman Heirloom Gardeners !
I write to you from South Florida with great hope and happiness for a properous 2011 growing season.  South Florida has a year round season, but one has to carefully select the proper times to plant various seeds.  I usually start the season by drawing a planting plan on a piece of paper, kind of like a road map, to refer to along the way.
It’s good to plan ahead. Decide what you are going to plant, when and where, using in-ground or raised-bed plantings.  Make raised-beds six inches above the ground or higher with wood or concrete blocks.  In South Florida, use materials that are resistant to rot and termites.  Most home improvement stores have pre-treated wood to use for this purpose, though some people are worried about the chemicals used in pressure-treated wood.  I use a bed that is four feet wide. The lengths of the beds can vary to incorporate the amount of plantings.
Most plantings need a sunny location, six to eight hours of sun a day.  In South Florida, most of the soil is sand.  Sand offers good drainage and aeration for root growth, however it holds few nutrients and plants need frequent watering and feeding.  I add organic matter to the soil.  Compost works great.  You can make your own or pick it up at a landfill.  Peat moss is another good alternative.  I like to use four to six inches of peat moss and mix it in with the sand.  Manure also works well.  Horse, Cow and Chicken manures are readily available in garden stores or if you have a farm nearby, bake something and and see if you can negotiate a trade.  I have never been turned away with fresh baked goods in hand.  I use about twenty five pounds of manure for each one hundred square feet of bed.  Potting soil also works well but it can get expensive if you are planning a large garden.
You can test your soil with a pH kit available at most garden centers.  Some garden centers offer pH testings free of charge.  pH is important as it determines the availability of nutrients to the plants.  We are now planting for our warm season so some of the vegetables included in the Beekman Heirloom kit cannot be used at this time in South Florida.  I am planting the pumpkin, winter squash, bell peppers, busch beans, cucumbers and black cherry tomatoes.  I will use the other seeds included in the kit for the cool season planting.  If you’re in zone 10, don’t wait any longer to start your seeds. I am using Peat Pellets to germinate the seeds.  You may use any containers you wish to use.

Peat Pellets from a garden store

If you do use the peat pellets, follow the directions on the package.  Use two or three seeds per pellet.  Keep the seeded containers in an area with good air movement to prevent disease and out of direct sunlight.  Check the containers each day to determine if additional water is needed and when you do need to add some, add warm water.  When the first seeds sprout, if using the peat pellets, prop the dome open a little.  The tomatoes should sprout first, probably within a week to ten days.  The other seeds will follow along within a couple more days.  When all of the seeds have sprouted, if using the peat pellets, remove the dome and place in a sunny location.  After the first leaves appear, cut back all except for the strongest seedling in each pellet.  Place outside in the shade for two to three days and gradually expose to full sunlight.

I have another week or so to complete the planting beds.  Check back for additional posts and pictures of the planting beds once they have been planted.  It is my pleasure to be a part of this wonderful community garden project.  Good growing everyone !!!

Dianne Reed is the Beekman Deputy Heirloom Gardener for Zone 10.  She lives in Boynton Beach, Florida with her husband, Daniel, Bichon Frise Dog, Bentley and Amazon Parrot, Jasper.

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  • By: Carolyn Midkiff

    Hello Jan,

    I try to plant what I feel taste and will sell the best. This is the first year I've planted so many. I have Brandywine, Black Brandywine, Cherokee Purple and Krill. I've only planted into the ground so far, this is the first year for raised beds. The plants are doing extremely well and have been moved outside for the final hardening. Here's hoping they stay healthy!!

  • By: Dianne Reed

    Hi Linda. After looking at the zone map I believe we are in the same Zone 10.

  • By: Linda

    Hi there!

    I am a total novice at gardening but, I have a question. I live in Southern California (LA)and I thought I was in zone 10. I see you are in Florida. Is it possible we are still the same zone?

    Thanks!

  • By: Dianne Reed

    Hi Patrice. If you are using seeds, plant them as soon as possible. We are now in our warm season so some of the vegetables in the Beekman Heirloom kit cannot be used at this time here. I planted the pumpkin, winter squash, bell peppers, busch beans, cucumbers and black cherry tomatoes. I will save the other seeds for the cool season which starts in September. I planted my seedlings a week ago Saturday and already the squash are starting to grow more leaves and are spreading. Everything is growing and I am watering every other day. I will also fertilize the garden next Saturday. I think you will be happy with the raised garden bed. Keep me posted and I am around should you have further questions. Good luck and I look forward to chatting with you soon. Take care.

  • By: Patrice Sanders

    I am in Key West (which I have been told by the local gardening club is Zone 11 – not a choice)and am very new to gardening. Could you possibly give me a rough guide to planting in this zone? Like, when to plant what? I will be using a raised, small, starter bed as I am so new to gardening. The back story is that DH & I have bought our first home and we're in our late 50's. We've spent the first 2 years learning about our trees and plants and how to care for them, as we have alot of landscaping (35 Palm trees!). We have tried to be "locavores", but there are no produce markets down here & it leaves us to just buying produce in season. (Of course, the fish is always fresh!) So we found the Beekman Boys, love their philosophy & want to start to garden using their seeds. Love the idea of awesome heirloom veggies & fruits! Thanks for any help in advance!

  • By: Zone 9 Expert Garden

    Wow, Carolyn…that's impressive! What varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes are you growing? When you transplant into your garden, do they go into the ground or into raised beds? How do you deal with fungal diseases? Looking forward to getting to know you through this terrific project! Best, Jan

  • By: Carolyn Midkiff

    Hello, Dianne! Great tips. I'm in zone 9 in the Sanford area. I have 1000 heirloom tomato plants under florescent lights. They are about 4 weeks old and ready for hardening soon. I'm selling most of the plants at the local farmers market but am keeping a few and decided to try the raised beds. This will be first for me and I'm excited to see how well they do!! Thanks for the growing tips!

  • By: Dianne Reed

    Good morning Jan. Thank you for your post. I just completed the raised garden bed yesterday and it came out fantastic! It is about 120 square feet. I will be posting pictures as soon as I get everything planted. I will be planting over the weekend. Cannot wait ! I wish we lived closer so I could take you up on the manure exchange. Sounds like you have lots of animals. I have always loved pot belley pigs. This community garden project is so terrific. I have met so many wonderful and talented people with so many fantastic ideas. Thank you Josh and Brent for getting all of us together ! Have a great day Jan and I look forward to sharing more garden stories soon !

  • By: Zone 9 Expert Garden

    Good advice, Dianne! Here in central Florida we are Zone 9, but our conditions are nearly the same as yours — high humidity, nearly year-round sunshine and very sandy soil. I use raised garden beds, too…and have plenty of manure from my pet miniature horses, pot belly pigs and chickens. Wish I could send you some ;-)

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