It is time to prepare your spring vegetable garden. Warm season vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, summer squash and beans can be planted after the middle of February. You will want to spade up your garden area and incorporate about 25 pounds of organic material per 100 square feet of garden. Cow manure (already composted), compost, peat moss or any combination of materials are great organic amendments.
Some nurseries have starter plants for tender crops now. Vegetable Gardening in Florida by James Stephens is a great reference book for growing vegetables and the UF/IFAS Extension publication, Florida Gardening Guide is available at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/VH021.
Blossom-end rot can be a serious problem. The bottom ends of tomatoes, peppers, or squash turn soft and dark. It is important for the soil to contain adequate calcium and for irrigation to be consistent. Correct this deficiency by using lime in the garden or treating existing plants with calcium chloride, commonly sold as Stop Blossom-End Rot.
Read the pesticide label. Using more than recommended is not better. Following the label directions will also help protect Florida's fragile environment.
Source: Theresa Badurek, urban horticulture extension agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension Service. Learn more at askextension.org or pinellascountyextension.org.