Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Easy peasy winter veggies — it's not too late to start!

The more I grow vegetables, the fewer vegetables I grow.

In my first garden 20 years ago, I planted big beefsteak tomatoes. I had one beautiful harvest before every hornworm caterpillar, mockingbird, squirrel and virus discovered the free buffet.

I never won after that. One year I arranged rubber snakes near the bed and asked my son to move them around every day after school to fool the birds and squirrels. The only fool was me. The kid did such a good job, I jumped every time I set foot in that garden! What the wildlife didn't get, something else did: blossom end rot, yellow leaf curl, my own mistakes.

Then I discovered tiny tomatoes. They ripen long before anything realizes they're there, and they require much less care than their more impressive cousins. I can't brag about my cherry Sun Golds or marble-sized Everglades, but I can grow 'em!

Exasperation has made me give up on more than beefsteaks. After a couple of bouts with powdery mildew, I said adieu to cucumbers. And I discovered it takes a lot more green bean bushes than the space I've got to grow enough for a fresh-picked side dish for dinner.

Nowadays, my veggie bed's basic: teeny tiny tomatoes, lots of leaf lettuces, sweet peppers. For grins, I'm giving broccoli and brussels sprouts a try for the first time.

It's not too late in the season to start your own veggies. Here's a new product especially for busy people and non-gardeners, and helpful tips from some local vets.

It doesn't get easier than this.

H2Grow was inspired by a horticulturist-missionary looking for ways to help gardeners in developing countries. It's so easy, it makes the EarthBox look complicated. The Sarasota-based company invited me to test the system and provided it at no charge.

The 25-pound basic unit is a sturdy sack with a built-in irrigation system that evenly disperses water, and a patented blend of organic soil and slow-release (non-organic) fertilizer. It comes assembled with clamps on either end and a water-pressure regulator to which you attach a garden hose. Mine also came with a timer for the spigot, a container and a dibber for planting, all of which are convenient but not necessary to use H2Grow.

I planted Brussels sprouts. They're new to me, so they're a good test. I put just four in the bag, because they get pretty big, and I put four more starters in my traditional bed to compare results.

They went in Oct. 28. All the plants are doing well, but those in H2Grow are much larger. In fact, they're getting lots of attention from my neighbors. My little bed is in an otherwise inhospitable side yard visible from the street, and I've had admirers age 11 to 82 stop by to comment on their remarkable progress.

The timer takes care of turning on the hose for one minute every morning, and I don't have to worry about weeds or soil-borne pests. Nice!

"It's completely labor-free — great for the non-gardener, the elderly, children, busy baby boomers," says Dan Hoffman, H2Grow's director of strategic planning.

You can attach up to four more units, and the system can sit on a table — great for someone who can't get down to the ground.

The downside? Prices start at $69 for the basic, 12-pound version. My kit costs $219. The company recommends using it for just one season; replacing my 25-pound unit would cost $84.99.

It's available online at www.H2Grow.com; no extra charge for shipping.

"Why so much?" I asked Dan.

They've played around with prices, he says, trying to make it less expensive. But ...

"Everything is made in America, and that costs more," he says. "And there's a lot of technology built into it. We've been working on this for more than three years. It will work anywhere in the country."

If I had an important loved one who dearly wanted to grow veggies but couldn't, I might splurge on H2Grow for a holiday gift. But for me personally? I'll stick to mixed results the old-fashioned way. Catch a 20 percent break during the official product launch Dec. 2-9.

Tips

• Be sure to plant varieties for this area. You can find recommendations (and more) at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/vh/vh02100.pdf. It's too late now to start veggies that might get frostbite, but broccoli and greens usually do well all winter. Broccoli will continue to give you florets even after the main head has been cut.

Pole beans are hardier than bush beans.

Gardening in containers saves on water and fertilizer, and they're easier to take care of.

Frances Mallett, 93-year-old Port Richey gardener and Florida native

• For vegetable gardeners who suffer from arthritis, buy or build a crib that sits high off the ground. I've seen beautiful ones in gardening magazines. I've also seen people use stacked cement blocks and stacked tires to accomplish this. You can paint them to make them look better.

Patricia McGhee, Town 'N Country

• If you leave a cucumber on the vine too long it can become bitter. To make the cuke tasty again, cut 1 to 2 inches from the end opposite the stem and rub the pieces together. It's called "milking" by the old-timers, and it really works.

Robert Bowden, director of Harry P. Leu Gardens, Orlando

Reach Penny Carnathan at [email protected] Find more local garden topics on her blog, www.digginfladirt.com, or join in the chat on Facebook at Diggin Florida Dirt. Follow her on Twitter, @DigginPenny.

Easy peasy winter veggies — it's not too late to start! 11/13/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 12:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Students at middle school pretend to rape black classmates on Snapchat

    Nation

    The Snapchat had just about every offensive topic the middle school students could cram into a video clip: race-based simulated sexual assaults, profanity-laced slurs and repulsive language that shocked whoever the intended audience was - and, eventually, many more people.

    Students at a Virginia middle school pretended to rape other students on video, which was shared on Snapchat. Reports say white members of a football team enacted the rape scenes while in the locker room. This photo of a standard locker room is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
  2. Seminole Heights restaurants face struggles amid killings, post-Irma

    Food & Dining

    SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — The neighborhood's hip circle of popular, well-regarded restaurants is feeling the squeeze in the wake of a recent killing spree. And the timing is rough.

    Ella's American Folk Art Cafe. Times files
  3. St. Pete-Clearwater holding food, supply drive for hurricane refugees

    Airlines

    CLEARWATER — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are holding a food and supply drive for the Hispanic Outreach Center in Pinellas County. The event, which will benefit refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria, will be held Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the airport at 14700 Terminal Blvd.

    St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are hosting a food and supplies drive Tuesday for refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria. | [Times file photo]
  4. A buzz-worthy look at the Astros-Dodgers World Series matchup

    The Heater

    Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel is congratulated by Jose Altuve after scoring during the fifth inning of Game 7 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) TXMG170
  5. Florida, FSU try to ignore death threats, angry fans

    College

    GAINESVILLE — Frustration over uncharacteristically down seasons at Florida and Florida State has started to spill over from message boards and start crossing real-world lines.

    Fans watch the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. At the half, Florida was up 10 to 3.