This may be a stupid question, but when it comes to gardening, I am
I live in South Florida and want to grow some produce in my garden
(when I make a garden).
I have a couple of questions, concerns.
My sprinkler system feeds of the 'pond' behind my house. Is it safe to
water 'food' with water from this pond. Since all the pond is, is an
water retention pond that is refreshed with road run off from rain.
Being as the 'soil' here is primarily sand what should I do to get it
ready? I intend to start composting and what not, but I am sure I need
to do more to start.
Thanks for the guidance, I am sure that I will have more questions but
those are my major concerns.
there are no stupid questions. Stupid answers sometimes, and you are NOT
stupid. You are not learned yet. You are a newbie, a new gardener as you
aptly put into your header. Let's try this now (and you'll get many great
suggestions from residents in Florida, whereas I am up in Eastern Tennessee
and am a master gardener, obcessed gardener and fairly but not totally
knowledgable in horticulture. And I'm still learning and still ask
your veggie garden should be dug and planted where it can get the most
sunlight of the day. Things like lettice you can build a simple shade
protection using a piece of lattice laid on top of bricko blocks (cinder
blocks) which will give them just the right height to allow air circulation,
room to grow, and provide shade for the more delicate lettices and such.
Tomato's, squash and other veggies need at least 8 hours of sunlight.
well until you said it was a water retention pond that is refreshed from
road run off, I would have said fine. But roads have tars, petroleum
residue's, gasoline residue's, etc. To use that runoff water would put you
at risk watering your edibles with it. Trace metals and chemicals. Better
that you put a plastic barrel or rain catcher under your downspouts to
capture rain water in it's semi pure form and use that to water your food.
This would be the same concern if you wanted to use treated landscape
timbers or fresh railroad ties to raise up the beds. You don't want to use
these to do that. Untreated, or something different would be much safer and
better in the long run. The benefits of raised beds is quite wonderful. **
** and since it is mostly sand, I'd raise the beds up with bricko blocks,
which would provide you a place to sit on the edge to pull weeds and thin
Start watching for bags of grass clippings, leaves (I'm sure leaves fall in
Florida, but there are more experts here in the newsgroup that can help you
more on that subject). Purchase broken bags at Lowes of manures, top soil,
peat moss, etc. ANY of those bags of soils and such can easily be
incorporated into your sandy soils. I'd stear clear of the soils with
moisture granuals. The leaves and grass clippings will break down over
time, and add bulk to your garden beds.
Your compost pile should be placed in a convenient spot, where you can
"harvest" the finished compost. No meat, no bones,no dairy, but everything
else layered like a lasagna. Grass clippings, dry leaves, kitchen waste
like peelings, coffee grounds (with the filters), tea bags, egg shells,
smashed up sea food shells, fish heads buried deeply enough to deter
scavengers. A walk on the beach if you're close would provide you with
seaweed you can add to the compost pile. No carnivore poop. Herbivore poop.
If there is a local zoo or a circus in town, see if you can snag some
elephant poop, or other critter's they have in the show. (no meat eaters, of
course). Stables with horses would be another source for great manure, but
horse manure doesn't heat up like cow. Chicken is quite hot, but layered
right would be fine. Cleaned out water from a friend's aquarium would be
wonderful stuff to water the plants with.
Ordering some red worms from Gardens Alive!@ would be great to throw into
the compost pile so they could do a lot of the work for you.
if you do decide to make raised beds, it's easy. Double dig. dig one trench
putting the soil on the left side, working your way towards the right. The
next row would fill the first, and so on until you reach the width you want.
The last trench would be filled with the first pile of stuff. Then you
incorporate the extras.
No bed should be wider than four feet because of the reaching abilities of
your body. They can be as long as you want, just not wider than four foot.
If you didn't raise the beds, you could sit or stand and comfortably work
from front side of back without painful aches from reaching too far.
the extension agents are there for not only farmers but home owners and
gardeners. It's their job and what they get paid for. And they will even
come out to your house if you ask and set up a time to give you a hands on
good luck and keep us informed as to how it goes!
madgardener gardening up on the ridge (where I have RED CLAY SOIL filled
with glacial rocks of all sizes) back in Fairy Holler, overlooking English
Mountain (which sits on the north side of the Smokies) in Eastern Tennessee
zone 7, Sunset zone 36
Actually, the pond water should be fine, provided you do two things: 1)
Make sure your pump's intake is well below the water surface. Oil, gas,
etc. will form a thin layer on the water surface, so having your intake
sufficiently below the surface avoids these nasties. 2) Do NOT position
the intake so close to the substrate that you take up mud. Most (i.e.
almost all) the heavy metals from road runoff adsorb to soil particles.
Avoid sucking up the silt at the bottom of the pond and you will
successfully avoid adding heavy metals to your garden. ....
Furthermore, using the pond water will also add small crustaceans and
algae to your garden (the crustaceans, by which I mean zooplankton, will
die when removed from the pond).. The post to which I am replying
suggested that aquarium water and algae are both beneficial to gardens,
so why not take both from a large outdoor "aquarium"?
Of greater concern in Florida is salt. In the North, salt in runoff is
a problem because it is laid down on roads to control ice during the
winter. In coastal areas (all of FL), the sand may contain enough salt
to make the pond water too salty for your garden. This is a question
for your local extension agent or a friend with a saltwater aquarium -
get him/her to test the salinity of the pond water for you.
The raincatcher/barrels idea is OK except for one major problem in FL -
West Nile Virus. If you have a cistern of any type, make sure it has a
good lid that mosquitoes can not easily penetrate.
Hope this helps,
good points. and a simple solution for West Nile in the water is to drop a
mosquito dunker into the water which will release harmless to us Bt but
deadly to the mosquito's and they won't be able to reproduce. I used
mosquito dunkers until we put large goldfish into our BBQ fountain's holding
trench. They eat all the larvae now, but before I put them in there, I'd use
a floating dunker that came nine to the package I got from Lowes. Great
investment! And Bt is harmless to us, pets and beneficial insects.
some considerations: how much traffic on the road? I certainly would
use run off from my street, it is a dead end street with virtually no
traffic. I doubt that the road itself is a source of too much
pollution. second, you should consider something other than sprinklers.
Florida climate + wet leaves = lots of dead or dying veggies. If you
can, go the drip route, place soaker hoses under mulch or place the
hose on the ground. But never ever wet leaves.
sandy soil needs major amounts of organic matter. It is nutrient poor,
tends to be acid, and does not hold water. We are talking one foot of
matter, and you would be better off calling a tree service and ask them
if they can dump a truck of wood chips in your driveway (they will do
it for free). Make your beds and fill them with the matter. It will
take a while for the stuff to make good soil (two years), and you will
have to add lime and nitrogen fertilizer often, but you can start
gardening soon as there are veggies that don't mind the acidity .
Potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, and squash for example. The beds will be
self-mulched for a while, which is good (saves water, cuts down on
diseases). Learn to plant through the mulch, it is a bit more work
early but saves you time and pain later.
finally, make sure you grow greens in the winter and semitropical
plants in the summer.
Others have already pointed out the hazards of using run-off water from the
road, so I won't repeat that.
Sandy soil: I had the same situation many years ago, in a house 2 blocks
from the (salt)water in Long Island. Great drainage because of the sand, but
barely organic. The landlord who owned the rental had installed flowers over
the years, and added bags of topsoil, so it wasn't pure sand, but pretty
close. We added lots of peat moss, topped with leaves which we ground up
with the lawnmower. In the relatively mild climate (zone 6), the leaves
broke down nicely over the winter.
In a pinch, people have used peat moss to stop wounds from bleeding. It acts
like a sponge, drawing moisture away. So, if you want to use it in your
garden, it's imperative that you do it this way:
1) Open the flat side of the bag like the way single-serve cereal boxes used
to be perforated. Fold back the flaps and dig out an amount of peat moss the
size of maybe 10 1-gallon milk jugs. This makes room for you to pour in
water. Set aside the peat moss you've removed, and moisten it later. Pour in
enough water to fill the hole you've made, and wait a day or two until the
remaining stuff has absorbed it. Remove it in chunks and rub it over some
metal hardware cloth (screen with 1/4" holes - home centers sell it, and
it's cheap. You'll find other uses for it in the garden). The goal is to
break the chunks into more of a powder. Add that to the soil, and dig it in.
Left on the surface, it'll dry and blow away. If you're not using all the
peat moss right away, enclose the bail in a couple of big lawn & leaf bags
to keep it moist.
2) Peat moss will make your soil acidic, maybe too much for some plants. Get
yourself a soil test kit and check it. You might need to sprinkle some lime
around to counteract the acidity. The kit will be needed over the years
because the pH is not a static thing - it'll change gradually. Unless it's
way off, it's nothing to obsess about, but since it's so easy to fix, you
may as well attend to it.
3) Find organic matter in addition to the peat moss. Are you near beaches?
Seaweed's good stuff, as are fallen leaves. Grass clippings can be sprinkled
on the rows, but watch two things: First, do NOT use clippings from lawns
that have been chemically treated. Second, don't let fresh, green clippings
come into contact with tiny seedlings. Keep it 3-4" away. Apply thin layers
of clippings. When it browns, add more. Besides adding some nutrients, it
helps keep dirt from being splattered onto the plants during heavy rains.
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