How to Grow Vegetables in Central Florida

Overview

The challenges of growing vegetables in central Florida are the mid-summer heat and lack of water, but the warm climate also allows vegetable gardening year round. Plant vegetables early to avoid the hottest weather, and protect them during the occasional cold snap. Plant warm season crops in the early spring and again in the early fall. Plant cool season crops in the late fall.

Step 1

Check with your local water management district to determine the watering rules in your area. While most areas of Florida are under watering restrictions, there are often exceptions for vegetable gardens.

Step 2

Locate the garden on a well-drained site that gets at least six hours of sun daily.

Step 3

Dig or till the soil a month before planting, and add plenty of organic material to the soil at this time. The University of Florida Extension Service recommends the addition of 25 to 100 pounds of compost per 100 square feet of garden row to sandy soils.

Step 4

Get a soil p.H. test. According to the University of Florida Extension Service, vegetable gardens on the sandy soils of central Florida do best at a p.H. between 5.8 and 6.3. They recommend adjusting the p.H. if the soil p.H. is below 5.5 or above 7.0.

Step 5

Apply lime to soils below p.H. 5.5 at the rate recommended by the soil test. Work the lime into the soil thoroughly to a depth of six to eight inches, and water it in.

Step 6

Add acid-promoting organic matter to soils with p.H. above 7.0 and use a fertilizer with micronutrients. Areas of central Florida where limestone, marl or shells are present at soil level have a high p.H. that cannot be permanently lowered. Add organic matter to the soil often or create raised beds filled with good quality top soil.

Step 7

Use plenty of organic compost or a commercial fertilizer high in nitrogen and potassium. Most areas of central Florida with sandy soil, rock, marl or clay do not need additional phosphorus, according to the Florida Extension Service. Use a formula such as 9-0-9 or 4-2-4. Organic soils with high muck or peat levels need a low nitrogen fertilizer such as 0-12-20. A soil test can determine the exact nutrients needed in your garden.

Step 8

Sow seeds directly into the garden at the recommended depth or about twice the diameter of the seed. Start tomatoes early indoors or purchase tomato plants.

Step 9

Water the vegetable garden frequently. Sandy soils and hot weather increase water needs. Water in the morning so that plants have time to dry out completely. Apply water at the base of the plant if possible and avoid wetting the foliage. Drip irrigation or the use of a soaker hose is ideal.

Step 10

Apply three to four inches of organic mulch to reduce water loss and weeds. Remove weeds as they appear by hand pulling or a light hoeing.

Step 11

Use floating row covers, if desired, to keep out insects. Remove during flowering to allow pollination. These covers are also handy to keep birds off the fruit.

Step 12

Use shade cloth in the heat of summer. Hang the cloth so that it provides shade for the plants during the hottest part of the day.

Things You'll Need

  • Tiller or shovel
  • Trowel
  • Organic compost
  • Organic mulch
  • Fertilizer
  • Row covers, optional

References

  • University of Florida Extension: Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide
  • University of Florida Extension: Producing Garden Vegetables with Organic Soil Amendments

Who Can Help

  • IFAS Extension: Florida Gardening Calendar
Keywords: central florida gardening, grow florida vegetables, florida vegetable gardening

About this Author

Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.