Growing vegetables in Central Florida can be easy, although many gardeners find it difficult initially. There are 2 things to keep in mind so you can grow vegetables successfully.
- Plant at the recommended planting date for your area (Central Florida).
- Try recommended varieties.
For planting vegetables, one of the best guides is the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide. This publication gives recommended planting times (see Table 1 – Central FL) and suggested varieties to try (Table 2). These varieties do well in Florida and may be easier to grow. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/VH/VH02100.pdf
Alternatively, check out the free Florida Fresh App. Using this app – available on your computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone – you can type in your zip code to see exactly what you can grow this month in your area: https://floridafresh.ifas.ufl.edu/
Table 3 of the Guide also lists common vegetable garden pests. The footnote “e” denotes least toxic methods of pest control. For example, for caterpillar control on cucumbers, you could use spinosad or Bt.
- Add mulch to the raised or in-ground vegetable beds after planting. Mulch will help reduce splashing of spores from the soil onto plant leaves.
- The Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide is a helpful resource. For example, the Guide suggests planting peppers January through March and again August through September in our area.
- If vegetable plants are older than one season, they may be ready to be replaced with new plants. For example, resist the urge to grow a pepper plant for several years. Replacing them with new plants can help reduce diseases and pests.
- Check the varieties that are/are not doing well. Hot peppers, for example, that tend to do well in our area include Early Jalapeno, Jalapeno M, Cherry Bomb, Hungarian Hot Wax, Big Chile II, Mariachi, Numex, Ancho, Thai, Anaheim Chile, Long Cayenne, Habanero, Caribbean Red Habanero. Varieties not listed may be good to experiment with but listed varieties are good to mix into your garden.
- Use the Guide to check the plant family column. You’ll want to rotate plants in the same plant family seasonally. Plant them in different locations to avoid planting them in the same spot year after year. This may also help reduce pest, nematode and disease problems.
- If you plant tomatoes in a bed one year, and then plant peppers in the same bed the next year, it doesn’t help with crop rotation because these plants are in the same family. Same goes if you plant tomatoes in the same spot from one season to the next.
- Maintain consistent irrigation. Raised beds and vegetable gardens can dry out quickly and then get saturated. Try to purchase good, fertile soil and monitor the beds to provide adequate irrigation. Reduce irrigation if you get plenty of rain each week. An inexpensive rain gauge can help measure rainfall.
- You may want to get a soil test to check and for micronutrients, especially if the soil was purchased in bulk. The soil test will tell you if there are any nutrient deficiencies you need to be aware of in the soil. Cost is $10 per sample.
- See the Guide for fertilizer recommendations. If you haven’t applied fertilizer, adding some might help. 2 – 3 fertilizer applications are recommended per season.
Organic Gardening Guide: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/HS/HS121500.pdf
Type in any plant term: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ for example, fruit, peaches, tomato, fig, apple, squash, pests, beneficial insects, etc. to find free information