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Growing the right vegetable varieties for the area

By Staff | Aug 9, 2016

It won’t be long before the weather starts turning cooler and thoughts turn to vegetable gardening. But the decisions you make on what to plant will certainly affect your success.

Gene McAvoy, the five-county vegetable agent for UF/IFAS, will be the guest speaker for August’s Edible Gardening Exchange on Thursday, Aug. 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Fort Myers Recreation Center.

McAvoy will guide people on how to make better choices on varieties to grow this fall.

“When you go to the store to pick up some seeds and don’t know what variety to choose, he will guide us in making decisions that are intelligent for where we live,” said Karen Harty, who runs the exchange. “This is for diseases, insects and other things we need to have protection against.”

This isn’t always an easy choice, especially as the weather changes from wet to dry during October and the temperature comes down.

“Everybody who lives here knows this is a different climate than New Jersey or Ohio, and varieties that work in those areas sometimes don’t work here at all here,” McAvoy said. “In the north, you garden in the summer. Here we start in the fall and in November you have to switch to cooler weather crops.”

Among the popular choices are the various kinds of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash, all of which can be started in the fall, McAvoy said. With the dry season, irrigation has to be adjusted, but with rainy season comes a lot of disease, so getting plants that are more disease resistant is important.

McAvoy said there are hundreds of insects and diseases that can harm plants, regardless of the ability of the grower, so there isn’t a shortage of topics.

Harty said McAvoy is the foremost expert on gardening, someone whom she can always count on for advice.

“I don’t ask anybody else about herbal gardening, I go right to him,” Harty said.

As always, the meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. with an open and informal chat on edible topics. Consider bringing something to share with other gardeners (seeds, plants, a snack).

All fees are paid at the front desk. The fee for all six monthly summer classes from April to September is $10.

To attend, a Lee Parks and Rec lifetime membership is also required, which is a one-time fee of $10 per person.

For more information, call or text Karen Harty at 610-530-8883 or email KarenHarty@GrowAGardener.org.