August 12, 2021
The Florida Fall Garden Starts in August
You might be a Florida gardener if you are thinking about getting your vegetable garden going again. Even though it is hotter than a pepper patch in the Sunshine State, it is time to start planning the fall garden. In North and Central Florida you can get a second spring garden in. I know this time we are keeping one eye on hurricane tracks but it really is the best time to get an edible planting in.
Think about getting going with bush and pole beans, eggplant, peppers, and small-variety tomatoes in late August to early September. For these heat-loving crops the idea is to get them up and thriving so they can set a crop before that first cold spell slows them down. Beans are ready to harvest in 50-60 days from seed so if my math is correct they will be ready well in time for your Thanksgiving meal.
Remember to save room in your garden space for your traditional fall crops like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, greens, and chard. Since we are in a hurry to get these up and going, use healthy transplants if possible or get your seeds started as soon as possible.
With the cooling temperatures and shorter days come fewer insects and weeds making it a very enjoyable time to garden. As you are reading this you might be envisioning a large traditional garden or several 4x8 raised beds, but if you don't have space like that, I encourage you to plant edibles wherever you can in the landscape. Find spots that have adequate sunlight and are close enough to the garden hose, and plug in a patch of beans or a few mustard greens. Currently I have three datil pepper plants and garlic chives growing under my crapemyrtle and collard greens in a perennial bed.
If you are a container gardening aficionado include edibles in your pots. Some of my favorite varieties for containers are 'Red Giant' mustard, Lacinato kale, and 'Freckles' lettuce. They are beautiful as well as delicious. Herbs like chives, cilantro, sage, and thyme are easy to incorporate in your containers and are so convenient for cooking.
Keep these plants thriving with regular watering and fertilization. The Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide recommends two or three light applications of fertilizer during the growing season. Apply the fertilizer just beyond the outside leaves. Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, kale, and collards benefit from side dressings of nitrogen-containing fertilizer. If a cold snap comes early, cover your warm-season edibles with frost cloth. Your cool-season veggies are mostly cold hardy but will need to be protected when frost is forecasted.
For lots of invaluable information on growing edibles in your Florida yard be sure to visit https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/get-growing/.
-- Wendy Wilber