By Noris Ledesma
Growing vegetables in South Florida is a little different than doing so in the rest of the country. Our summer acts as our winter—usually zapping most flowering plants and vegetables, which can’t handle our intense heat and humidity. And in the winter, cold air and frosts can make their way down south and put a chill in our tender plants. Growing wonderful edible gardens here requires a special understanding of our climate, and a few tips will make your edible gardening easier and more productive:
Your garden plan: Consider the space you have available. For most landscaping areas dwarf or semi-dwarf trees will work better with the other trees and shrubs you’ll be incorporating.
It’s always a good idea to focus on annuals. Winter is the perfect time to plant a number of common herbs, and with the right location you can even keep them all year around. Herbs are perfect for container gardening, and they can also easily be used as a border planting or part of a flower garden. Herbs also may be grouped together so that you can easily replant each year. Get creative!
Vegetables: The list of vegetable that grows well in Florida is almost endless. Vegetable season preparation should begin during the fall. If you are starting from seeds this is the best time to do so.
Early-bearing varieties of some vegetables are also suitable for planting after the harshness of summer has waned, providing a late fall crop. Cool-season vegetables in Florida include lettuce, kale, onions, cabbage, collards, mustard and carrots.
If you start your vegetables and herbs from seeds, soak them in warm water for two hours, then plant. This will encourage seeds to germinate quickly.
Fertilize slowly: Amend established garden beds with slow-release nutrients rather than fast-release fertilizers.
Control weeds: After transplants have been set and plants are two inches high, mulch the entire bed, even between plants. Apply two to four inches of mulch to keep the soil moist and prevent weeds.
Bring Friends together: Pair herbs and flowers with vegetables to thwart insect damage. Companion planting is centuriesold, fragrant and tasty. For example, Rosemary protects cabbage, beans and carrots by repelling moths and beetles.
Don’t forget to include fruit trees and your favorite varieties: Many gardeners think of gardening in terms of vegetable or ornamental (flower) gardening. Many fruit trees don’t start producing fruit for a couple years, so you will have time and space to add other alternatives in your garden.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with fruit trees in your landscaping—they will probably require less work than herbs and vegetables and they will stay with you far longer.
Few things invoke a sense of island paradise quite like the taste of fresh tropical fruit. Tropical fruit trees such as mango, avocado, jackfruit, sapodilla, canistel, and mamey thrive in tropical climates. While only gardeners in the far southern reaches of states like Florida can grow these fruit trees outdoors, many varieties are suitable for growing in large pots as houseplants.
To Learn more about What to plant in South Florida: