Though Florida won’t even think about cooling off for another month, now is the time to start your Florida fall garden… and if you’re a new gardener, I’m going to give you a way to do it easily.
Down in South Florida you can plant all the way through the winter, but in the Northern half of the state, it’s time to get started on your fall gardening.
Fall is a bit tougher than spring, both in its timing and in the variety of pests you’re going to encounter. The grasshoppers are huge, the beetles are hungry, and all kinds of freaky things are lurking and looking for tasty new plants to devour.
But don’t let that stop you. A Florida fall garden can feed you right through the winter if you plan it out properly. Chop down the weedy bits of your spring garden and compost them, turn the ground over, then get planting!
What To Plant in a Florida Fall Garden
While it’s still hot – that is, right now – you can start planting a new round of warm-season goodies like bush beans, eggplant, tomatoes and hot peppers. We probably don’t have enough time for anything like Seminole pumpkins or sweet potatoes, so plan on those for next spring.
When it gets to about October, I plant my collards, peas, fava beans, lettuce, beets, broccoli, carrots, turnips and other plants that don’t mind a bit of cold. If you wait too long, they often have a hard time germinating in the cold and growing much before it’s too chilly… if you plant too early, the heat may cause them to bolt. October through early November seems to be the sweet spot.
Don’t wait until spring to put in a garden – you CAN grow food all winter here. You’re putting your food security in the balance. You have no idea what might happen between now and spring. So don’t wait. It’s better to try, fail and learn something than it is to keep relying wholly on a dangerously overextended and fragile infrastructure. Learn now, while you can.
If you’ve never done much gardening before, you’re not alone. Many times I interact with people at master gardening events and elsewhere, and meet those that haven’t grown much of anything except for grass and weeds. That’s okay. But don’t stay that way.
For a quick, easy and cheap way to get started on your Florida fall garden, try this in a few weeks when the weather starts to cool off:
1. Go out and find yourself a good container.
A five-gallon bucket, a large pot, an old wheelbarrow, an old cooler… or just anything you happen to have lying around. Make sure it’s at least a foot or so deep so it doesn’t dry out easily.
2. Buy a bag of potting soil and a package of lettuce or spinach seeds.
These are cool-season crops. Other cool-season crops include broccoli, kale, collards, kohlrabi, radishes, fava beans, peas and onions.
3. Drill or punch a few holes in the bottom of your container, if they’re not there already.
Drainage is important. If it doesn’t drain, you’ll drown the plants and rot their roots. If you like doing that sort of thing, you’re a SICKO! BAD gardener! BAD!
4. Fill it with dirt and put it where you get about a half-day of sun.
Morning sun is better than afternoon sun. Also – keep it close to where you pass every day. Near your car or by a back door is perfect.
5. Sprinkle a pinch of seeds across the soil and lightly crumble them into the soil with your fingers.
Yeah, it’s that easy. Don’t plant too deeply or crumble too aggressively.
6. Water gently and wait.
In a few days, your seeds will start popping up. Water the bucket daily and watch what happens. In about a month, you’ll be picking young greens for salads. Once you start harvesting the result of your work, you’ll realize why God placed man in a garden to begin with. It’s healthy, beautiful and good for the soul to grow your own food.
Once you’ve started, it’s hard to stop. But you need to start – now – so you’re ready to expand and grow as the economy continues downhill.
(By the way, container gardening is a great way to get children involved in growing their own food… and trust me, it’s a lot more worthwhile and eye-opening than a throwaway plastic toy from China.)
For those who are looking for a good list of planting times and crops for Florida, the University of Florida has a great downloadable PDF HERE.