While other regions of the country are enjoying prime vegetable gardening, the climate in northern Florida creates a unique growing environment for summer gardening. This is mainly due to the heat and at times the overabundance of rain in the region. For those of you who are determined to garden despite the conditions, here’s a few tips to get started.
Plant crops such as black-eyed peas, okra, and sweet potatoes this time of year. As a general rule, if you are interested in getting ready for the fall vegetable gardening season, black-eyed peas are an excellent selection since they are legumes and will 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. Alternatively, you can also harvest the peas if you like, but this will reduce the amount of nitrogen you can return to the soil.
Selecting okra as a summer crop has benefits as well, depending on the cultivar, it can be harvested between 50 to 65 days. From the time the seed is planted to the day the okra is harvested, okra is a fast growing and high yield crop. Temperature and soil moisture are driving forces to growth rate. Harvest will happen within a few days of the okra’s first bloom and should be picked several times a week in order to harvest tender pods. If left on the stalk for too long, the pods become fibrous and their texture is altered.
Sweet potatoes are a unique crop to plant that can produce in poor, sandy soil and may produce significant amount of vines at the expense of producing tubers in overly rich, over-fertilized soils. Sweet potatoes can be planted as late as June under proper conditions. Plant rooted cuttings or slips that are about nine inches long approximately one-foot apart within each row and approximately four feet between each row. Bush-type cultivars such as ‘Vardaman’ are particularly adept to gardens with limited square footage if you would like to maximize space in a home garden. As the season progresses, you can make more rooted cuttings to increase your future crop as the vines grow.
In addition to selecting the correct crop for your summer garden a discussion of summer gardening preparation wouldn’t be complete without talking about hurricane season. Prepare your garden for hurricane season by checking trees for damaged or weak branches and to commence pruning if needed. Be sure to contact a certified arborist to do this work as they are certified and trained to do this specialized work on trees. This will help lengthen the life of your trees and minimize the chance of property damage in the event of severe weather conditions.