South Florida's subtropical climate is hot and humid for the vast majority of the year. The University of Florida defines its geographic location as south of SR 70, which runs from Bradenton on the west end to Fort Pierce in the east. During summer, the rainy season begins, and mixed with the hot temperatures, growing vegetables can be tricky. Gardeners will find most success with their vegetable gardens if planted in the cooler months of September through May. Temperatures are not so hot, the hurricane season has passed and the rains have slackened. As with any area of the country, South Florida gardeners should select varieties suitable for the region and the time of year.
Plan your garden. Write down the vegetables you will plant, considering what varieties will grow best during the season of your South Florida garden. South Florida gardeners can utilize the University of Florida article "Florida Vegetable Gardens" for help (Resources).
Figure out how much space each vegetable requires for proper growth to get a better idea of big your garden will have to be, or how much of each vegetable you can fit into a limited garden plot.
Choose a location situated in full sun that drains well and is relatively close to water. If you have a tendency to neglect your garden, consider tilling an area close to your house for the extra convenience. If you live on the coast, consider locating your garden on the west side of the house and away from winds blowing in from the Atlantic.
Clear the gardening area of weeds and grasses, as well as any rocks, limbs or other unwanted materials. Keep the garden weed-free at all times.
Amend the soil with compost or manure; the majority of South Florida soil is sand and lacks organic materials. Apply approximately 25 to 100 pounds of organic material for every 100 square feet of your garden plot. Work the organic material down to a depth of approximately 6 inches. Wait approximately two to three weeks before planting.
Till the soil again before planting and broadcast a 10-10-10 fertilizer over the plot, working into the soil to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Water the area. South Florida gardens will benefit from the additional nutrients added to the growing site.
Create any raised beds or rows throughout your garden, considering each plant's size at maturity. Water the soil before planting.
Plant your seeds and transplants in their appropriate locations and at their specified depths and spacing. Mark each row using a plant marking stick. List the vegetable and its days to maturity. This will cut down on any confusion; some vegetable varieties such as squashes have similar foliage.
Water the garden thoroughly after planting, making sure the soil is saturated. Keep the garden moist by watering daily, depending on the weather in South Florida.
Fertilize the plants every week with a water-soluble, liquid 10-10-10 fertilizer. Spray the vegetable plants' foliage, completely saturating it.
Mulch the plants with dropped leaves or straw to retain moisture in the soil, as South Florida is hot and can be dry.