Floridians enjoy long growing seasons due to the warm weather and lack of deep freezing conditions that are found in the states to the north. In most parts of Florida, it is possible to grow vegetables all through the year, as long as the right vegetables are planted at the right times. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zones for Florida range from 8a to 10b, which means up to a 35 degree difference in some areas during the winter so it is essential to follow the planting recommendations to prevent freezing in the winter or burning in the summer.
Study your yard and decide where to put the garden. The location should receive at least six hours of direct sun per day, should be convenient for watering and it should be a well-drained area of the yard.
Prepare the garden area for planting by clearing the area with a rake and turning the soil with a shovel or tiller. Preparing the soil is a very necessary step in Florida gardens. Florida tends to have very sandy soil or wet and poorly drained soil.
Add composted materials to the soil. This will help to provide the plants with necessary nutrients as well as help to keep some of the moisture in the soil, where the plants can utilize it. The soil should drain well, but retain some of the moisture after drainage. If you plan to use raw organic materials that have not been composted such as grass clippings, leaves, manure or cover crops, be sure to till them into the soil at least 90 to 120 days prior to planting, and then loosen the soil using a rake or shovel when ready to plant.
Add a well-balanced fertilizer to the soil immediately prior to planting. If you are not planning on using fertilizer, be sure to use at least 25 to 100 pounds of composted materials for every 100 square feet. Florida’s soils tend to be lower in nutrients because of the sandy soil, so fertilizer or large amounts of compost are highly recommended.
Rake through the soil and be sure that it is free of debris and that it is loosely packed. The planting soil should be prepared at least 8 to 12 inches deep.
When to Plant in Florida
Plant beets, carrots, kohlrabi and radishes from September through March for the northern areas, October through March in the central areas and October through February in the south.
Plant broccoli from August through February in the northern areas, from August through January in the central areas and from September through January in the south. Onions can also be planted at this time, but their planting season extends further one month in each zone.
Plant tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers from February through April and again from July through August in the northern areas of Florida, January through March and again from August through September in the central areas and August through March in the south.
Plant bush and pole beans as well as corn, pumpkins, squash and watermelon from March through April and then again from August to September if in the northern areas of Florida, in February through April and again in September if in the central areas and from September through April in southern Florida.
Plant turnips and potatoes in the cooler weather, from January through March in the northern areas, January through February in central Florida and September through January in the south; turnips as late as February. Turnips can have a second harvest by per year by also planting from August through October in the north and September through November in central areas.