A Florida gardenerd wrote in recently:
“I live in Orlando, Florida and I know that every place has its season to grow vegetables. I am interested in growing tomatoes and green peppers to start. Don’t know anything about it, and want to know how to grow them organically. Thank you for your help.”
You’re smack in the middle of the ever changing Zone 9 over there in Orlando. According to several sources, that area has been shifting between zone 10, 9a, and 9b for the last 50 years. Sandy soil, tropical heat and sudden frosts, right?
I did some research and found that your question had several suggestions posted on the iVillage Garden Web Forum, including suggestions about which tomato varieties have done well for someone in that area. The basic idea is that you will need to continually add compost and fertilizer to your soil, and use mulch to help prevent those nutrients from leaching out. Suggested varieties include:
Indeterminates (meaning these produce fruit over a period of time, rather than all at once like determinate plants)
Matt’s Wild cherry
For the full thread on the forum, visit: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/organic/con020939012412.html
As far as peppers go, they have many of the same requirements as tomatoes. I would suggest (and so would the research I’ve seen) that you grow peppers (whether you grow green (bell) or hot peppers), eggplant and tomatoes in pots if your soil is really sandy. That way you can build your growing medium from scratch and control the moisture content more easily.
Here is a nice website that goes into detail about growing peppers: www.chilipeppermadness.com.
I know I refer to Gardener’s Supply a lot, but they have some great self-watering containers that might get you on your way if you’re a first-timer. Check them out:
Tomato Success Kit
Finally, I would also recommend reading a previous post on the Gardenerd Blog that includes some great tomato advice: http://blog.gardenerd.com/2008/02/29/ive-got-the-tomato-blues.aspx
I hope that helps you this spring with your tomato and pepper adventure. Keep us posted on your successes and trials. Thanks for writing in!