So I’ve only had a garden once in my life, about 12 years ago. I did a fair amount of research on permaculture methods specific to the desert when I was living in New Mexico, but I’ve just moved to Gainesville, Florida and I’m feeling pretty clueless. The soil is so sandy here, swales don’t seem like a good option, and I’m not even sure that they’re necessary. My main concern right now is water, but considering the ridiculous amount of rain here, maybe that doesn’t even make sense to focus on? Would mulched raises beds be a good option? Is mulch even necessary? Should I focus on what the water does in my yard? Some advice would be really appreciated, I’m feeling kind of lost. Thanks!
Welcome to North Central Florida, Josh! I'm just northwest of you, outside of High Springs. We've been here for almost 2 years...gardening here definitely has challenges, even though we can grow year-round. I spent the entire first year working on building the garden and growing soil - it's going to be an ongoing project, since anything you add magically disappears within a month or 2. I can say that I'm finally getting a little bit of harvest, but mostly I've focused on trees and perennials, so it'll be another year or so before I really see the effort start to pay off. (We also have Florida Cracker cows and sheep, along with pigs and poultry-we've been renovating pastures for the last year as well)
Some really good resources:
Mary's Heirloom Seeds has an awesome planting guide specific to our area.
There's a facebook group called Grow Gainesville that focuses on edibles - they have offshoot groups for different aspects of gardening and/or food production, there's a monthly meeting with workshops, various activities such as sweat equity work parties and garden tours...unfortunately, most of those things happen while I'm working! There are also a few permaculture groups on there.
Edit to add...yes, mulch. It doesn't matter how much rain we get, the soil/sand drains so fast that all the nutrients wash away if you don't have something to hold them in place. I did in-ground raised beds, using logs from property cleanup, and used trench composting to get the fertility jump-started. Be extremely careful if you use hay or straw to mulch, the farmers use persistent herbicides. I had a run-in with that last year...now I grow my own wheat to use as mulch. Also be careful of localcompost and/or manure - the herbicides pass through the animals.
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Perennial Vegetables: How to Use Them to Save Time and Energy