When I first moved to South Florida, I thought like a Northerner. I purchased my vegetable seedlings in early May and planted away. I live in zone 9b, where it the summer sun gets blazing hot. So by mid June my lettuce was cooked, my peppers were wilted, and my tomatoes were burnt. The sizzling South Florida tropical weather took its toll on my poor vegetables.
However, I’m stubborn, and don’t give up easily. So I tried again in autumn, and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did I reap a wonderful harvest by Christmas, but many of my vegetables continued to produce all winter long. In fact, last year my area suffered a cold snap that hit record lows, and most of my vegetables continued to thrive in spite of the plummeting thermometer.
So here are my tips for a fabulous fall garden in South Florida:
– Tomatoes: The best tomatoes in my garden are the plum, grape and cherry varieties. They seem to bear up well in extreme heat as well as cooler temperatures. Some of the other favorites, like beefsteak and big boy do not seem to do as well for me. They seem to attract more aphids and other pests, and I prefer organic gardening as much as possible, particularly with edibles, so I’ve stopped planting the “beefy” varieties. That said, I did have a yellow tomato that did surprisingly well last year, but unfortunately, I did not note the variety.
– Peppers: I have great success with all varieties of peppers in my garden. So whether you prefer pimentos or jalapenos, plant away.
– Collard Greens: The collards in my garden grow so well, regardless of variety, that we share them with the neighbors. We learned to chop up collards and use them in all our soups and stews.
– Lettuce: Romaine seems to be the best grower in my garden. But as long as the weather is cool, I seem to have success with many of the red and green leaf lettuces. I have to say that iceberg lettuce has not done well for me, so I steer clear of it.
– Broccoli: This is one of my favorite vegetables, and a must for my garden. As long as I don’t let the broccoli flower, it produces all winter long.
– Pigeon Peas: Someone gave me a handful of pods from their garden, and I planted them and I now have little trees of pigeon peas. They bloom in the spring and the fall, and the best crop comes in the winter. You can dry the pods, crack them and shell the peas, and store the dried peas for use throughout the year in stews, soups and casseroles.
– Pumpkins, Zucchini & Squash: While most areas of the country are harvesting these vegetables, fall is the perfect time to plant them. I’ve tried to grown these plants at other times of the year without success. But fall seems to be the perfect planting weather.