Maintaining a Fall Vegetable Garden in Central Florida

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Maintaining a Fall Vegetable Garden in Central Florida

Growing Vegetables in Florida

We are truly blessed to be one of the only regions in the United States that can actually continuously grow vegetables all year round. Fall is a long, beautiful season that begins in September and continues clear through February. We don’t get the long, hard freezes experienced by many regions where the nighttime temperature slips below the 30’s for days or weeks in a row. We get our cold snap, and if the temperature is in the 30’s for more than two nights, it’s a shock. Because of these ideal conditions, growing vegetables in Florida can be a year-round activity.

Fresh green peppers grow in a vegetable garden

What to Grow in the Fall

Be sure to plant only seasonal vegetables to be prepared for the cold snaps. Fall vegetable plants include: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, kale and spinach. There are some exceptions because we live in Florida, and our winter season is so mild. Tomatoes, eggplants and bell peppers can grow practically all year round here due to the mild winter. Because these are not typically cool weather crops, they need to be covered up when the temperature dips down into the 30’s. Just moisten the soil, then cover these vegetable plants with a fitted sheet. No need to cover your broccoli; it actually tastes better when it’s harvested after a frost. If you’re not sure about what vegetables will grow best in Florida, have a look at our seasonal menu.

Micro Greens grow in a Florida vegetable garden

Harvesting Vegetables in Florida

Florida’s ideal weather conditions in the fall also means we get to harvest many of these plants for a good solid four to five months. This is one of the joys of growing vegetables in Florida. One thing we need to be sure to do is to prune the plants properly. Remove the extra suckers as they grow on the tomato plants and the cucumbers. These are two examples of plants whose vegetables can take over a region of your garden. As you’re thinning out your fall garden, just remember the beet tops and tiny little lettuce heads make a beautiful, tasty and nutrient-packed addition of “micro greens” for any salad!

Harvest fall vegetables when they are young for the maximum nutrient density as well as flavor. Those two always go hand in hand. Don’t wait for your vegetables to get too big. It might be funny to have the biggest cucumber in town, but when the vegetables get too big, they just don’t taste as good. For tomatoes and peppers, allowing them to ripen on the vine is always preferable. Make sure to finish your fall planting at least 30 days before the first fall frost. That typically occurs for us in late December or January. This will ensure that plants are large and hardy enough to endure the cold snaps that will come throughout the winter.

Quick tips to care for your fall vegetable garden

There are a few other simple tips about fertilizing and watering that will ensure you’re growing the best vegetables in Florida that you can. Make sure to fertilize every four to six weeks. This will ensure optimum vegetable production. Always read and abide by the instructions on the fertilizer package. Also, ensure that the vegetable plants get a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day. Mature plants need about ¼ inch of water each day. Larger plants prefer to be watered more heavily and less frequently. New starter plants need frequent watering but in smaller amounts. Drip irrigation systems are a great way to conserve water in the garden since you’ll be watering only the garden and not the surrounding yard, like many sprinklers do.

Harvested vegetables on a counter top

Fall Vegetable Garden - Best Kept Secret!

Florida’s fall planting and harvesting season is the best kept secret around. We have the opportunity to grow an abundance of fall vegetables to nourish our families and share with our neighbors. Not even hurricane season can mess that up, due to our extended growing season. I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving table is one filled with wonderful vegetable recipes for things like mashed potatoes and green bean casserole straight from the garden. Be sure to support your local farmers markets and community gardens this fall season and always.