Summer in Your Florida Vegetable Garden

Theresa Badurek, UF/IFAS Extension, Pinellas County

Okra flower, Photo: UF/IFAS

Have you ever noticed how unique Florida is in so many ways? Our vegetable gardening practices are no different. While our neighbors to the north are enjoying prime veggie gardening right now, we are very limited in what will grow in summer. While there is plenty of sunshine and rain (too much sometimes)…the heat is not ideal.  Most crops people really want to grow just won’t perform in our subtropical summer temps, and it can be downright brutal to weed your garden mid-July. But what if you are determined to garden in the summer anyway? Well, grab a hat, some sunscreen, and a bottle of cold water and head outside- here’s a few tips to get started:

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Black-Eyed Peas, Photo: USA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program,(Credit: Gillaspie, G.)

Summer crops for Florida are limited; crops such as like black-eyed peas, okra, and sweet potatoes are best this time of year. If you are interested in getting ready for the more diverse fall vegetable gardening season, black-eyed peas are a great choice since they are legumes and the help fix nitrogen in their roots. If you grow these as a cover crop and turn the plants into the soil before they produce peas, you will help nourish your soil with more nitrogen for the fall. You can also grow and harvest the peas if you like, but this will reduce the amount of nitrogen put back into the soil. Sweet potatoes are healthy and they grow on beautiful vines. Growing this crop is a great way to keep down weeds in your garden while keeping it beautiful all summer long. Okra has beautiful flowers and will also keep weeds to a minimum. Plus, if you like gumbo this is the crop for you!

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Sweet potato vine, Photo: Purdue

All of the usual tips and techniques apply when gardening in the summer as well. Mulching will keep down weeds down and help conserve soil moisture and scouting for pests regularly to avoid infestation is great advice. Keep an eye on your plants to make sure they are getting enough water. We usually get plenty of water from rain in the summer, but not always. Be sure to avoid letting your garden wilt in the extreme summer heat. Plants grown in containers will need more frequent watering to avoid this. For all you need to know about vegetable gardening- at any time of year- please visit The Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide. This handy link will give you the tools to succeed in your Florida garden any time of year, including planting dates, best varieties for Florida, and times to harvest.

Check out my presentation on summer in the Florida vegetable garden by clicking here!

We also have a series of “how-to” videos for vegetable gardening called “Your Florida Vegetable Garden”. Check them out here to learn more:

Garden Site Selection

Plant Selection and Layout

Soils and Composting

Nutrients for Your Garden

Garden Pest Management

Micro-Irrigation