Hot, humid, sunny, buggy, and sweltering are some words that describe Florida. You may find that Florida is unique in regard to gardening season and varieties that grow well in hot, humid conditions. Selecting disease-resistant varieties, and planting them at the right time of year can increase your harvest. Certain vegetables will not yield during a Florida summer.
All vegetables can grow in Florida when the conditions are right. Cool-weather crops --- such as cauliflower, broccoli, collards, beets, carrots, onions, lettuce, kale, and herbs --- are winter favorites and, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, do well from October through April. The seeds should be started in August and September. A nice cold spell will sweeten the brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale) and they can withstand brief periods of below-freezing weather. Summers in Florida are too hot for spring planting these vegetables for summer harvest.
Summertime Ideal for Southern Classics
Summertime in Florida is for heat lovers such as cherry tomatoes, okra, black-eyed peas, cowpeas, callaloo [amaranth], and tropical fruits such as passionfruit. Choose heat loving, disease resistant varieties to ensure success during the hot and humid, buggy summers. Keep in mind that the main seed-planting season is from August through May from central Florida southward. Central- and southern-Florida residents are lucky to have a nine-month growing season. Toward the end of May, it is simply too hot for many traditional vegetables.
University of Florida has developed a number of tomato varieties that are ideal for Florida's climate. Some include Neptune, Flora-Dade, Walter, and Solar Set, commercial tomatoes that set fruit under higher temperatures and are bred to be disease resistant. A delicious heirloom tomato with moderate disease resistance that will grow well in Florida is Cherokee Purple. Hillbilly, Lemon Boy, Sungold, Purple Passion, are other heirlooms to try. Tomatoes will not set fruit if night time temperatures are above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and many nights in summer are above that.