Growing Vegetables in Florida
Have you noticed that Florida is divided into three gardening zones? To grow vegetables successfully in Florida year-round, an understanding of zones 8, 9 and 10 is important. Since Florida has a long hot and humid season, choose varieties with disease resistance built in. Grow hot-weather crops in the summer and cold-weather crops in the winter. Have gardening success all year with compost and planning.
Geography of Florida
Florida lies within subtropical latitudes and is divided into the North, Central, and South regions. Key West is considered a fourth region and it is tropical. The southern region near Homestead and Miami has the advantage of a long growing season, and producing tropical fruits and vegetables is what the region does best, since freezing temperatures are rare. Central Florida also has advantage of a long growing season providing cover is used for tender plants, should a freeze occur.
Zone Chart and Planting Dates
Its important to consult a Florida zone chart for planting dates. Planting dates from North Florida to Central Florida vary by about a month. Since these lines do not cut straight across Florida, it is best to find your location on the zone map. Inner portions of the state are cooler than the coast during winter. The planting dates for South Florida, depending on variety of vegetable grown, are different altogether. Consult your local Ag Extension for planting charts.
Select Disease-Resistant Varieties
No matter where you live in Florida, it's hot and humid from late spring to early fall. To ensure a good yield on your crop, consider disease-resistant varieties. These types are proven to resist soil or airborne plant diseases. The high heat and humidity in Florida incubates fungus and bacteria at a fast rate and can wipe out a crop.
Amend Sandy Soils
Florida’s soils are sandy. Water and nutrients pass beyond the root zone in many cases. High levels of limestone cause pH to run above 7.0. Have pH tested. Amending sandy soils with compost increases moisture-retentive properties and brings pH down to an ideal 5.5 to 6.5. Nutrients will be "unlocked" for the plants' consumption. Home gardeners have best results with raised beds and containers that have compost worked in, also reducing nematodes.
It may seem strange to have vegetables growing from October through May. That is peak growing time in Florida, according to the University of Florida's planting chart. Since Florida is closest to the Equator, the beneficial warmth and sunny days create ideal growing conditions for what is considered the cold season in other parts of the country. Transplants to Florida must become knowledgeable of zones and planting dates to ensure success.
You Can Do It
Armed with a bit of knowledge, you can be successful at growing vegetables in Florida. Planting at the right time, amending soil with compost, selecting disease-resistant varieties, creating growing beds, and selecting large containers for vegetable growing will bring the sweet success of a bountiful harvest.