We are smack in the middle of summer. What does that mean for us in the Florida panhandle? It's hot, it's humid, mosquitos are out in full force, the garden is producing heavily and we are busy harvesting and preserving food.
I might have been a little ambitious, as we set out earlier this year in expanding the garden and quadrupling it in size. We went from a few raised beds, to doubling up on raised garden beds and adding another 1,000sqft inground garden to the mix.
I thought I could handle it. In case you are wondering how we are managing this large garden, ... we are failing! I might have (insert sarcasm) underestimated how much time I would spend away from home tending to my full-time employment.
We are extremely happy that the garden is producing, despite our shortcomings this year. Though we've had a few disappointments along the way, we have harvested hundreds of pounds of fresh produce and turned them into shelf-stable groceries through fermentation, pickling, and canning.
Being in the Florida Panhandle, we are technically zoned as 8b as per USDA growing zone. This is due to us being a bit further in-land and roughly 30 minutes North of the Gulf of Mexico. The nearest bigger city is Pensacola, which is growing zone 9a, due to it sitting right at the Gulf.
Dealing with heat and humidity during the hot summer months, and a fairly mild winter, we do get 2 growing seasons. If we had a greenhouse or high tunnel, this could easily be expanded to growing 24/7 & all year long. We do not have such additions yet here at the homestead and have to adjust and deal with whatever Mother Nature throws our way.
In 2022 this meant the weather remaining cooler then normal for longer, followed by extreme heat and draught, followed by torrential downpours daily for weeks at a time, followed by extreme heat again. Let me just tell you, my garden did not appreciate it. My tomatoes least of all, which resulted in an insulting tomato harvest this year and some hypothetical tears shed.
If I learned one thing about gardening in the last two years I've actively gardened, it's that things don't always work out the way you would like them to or how you had planned them out. I still have enough tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce from my harvest last year to last a while longer. Worst case scenario I'll give another local farmer some business buying tomatoes off them for my homemade sauces and ketchup.
The tomotoes may not have worked out well this year, but I'm pretty sure we have enough pickles for us, extended family and friends to last for a long time!