D.W. asks about summer gardening in Florida:
A couple of years ago I acquired property (10+ acres) with the intent to homestead (self-sufficiency a primary intent) and after getting it cleaned up am ready to invest in food production.
I know you’re probably thinking why it took me this long….
The property was an abandoned nursery (20+ years) and therefore had lots of lovely landscape cloth, buried irrigation piping, hundreds of sprinkler heads, grow-houses and lots of other goodies all buried underneath wonderfully thick vines. At this point I am very close to completion of the clearing phase and set aside 1.25 acre niche for home, equipment and food production/garden areas. Within this I would like to allocate about 1/3 acre for a food forest.
My research has led me to your site and recently heard your composting presentation on the home-grow network (think that’s the correct name). That led to the purchase of several of your books and doing a lot more research into Permaculture. I would first like to thank you so much for writing about Florida-specific growing methods and plants for the central Florida area. It appears to me that this environment (I am located [near Orlando]) has unique challenges not encountered in many other places. Also your books avoid being overly technical so that the beginner is not overwhelmed and encouraged to just get started. Much appreciated!! :-).
Now that you have me equipped with rudimentary knowledge of the system, etc. as well as enthusiasm to begin… It is mid-July in Florida and I have an open pasture as my palate. I’m accumulating compost materials as rapidly as possible, however the brutal heat and humidity seem to make it a good time NOT to plant. Are there plants I can be getting in the ground now? If not when? if your recommendation is to wait what do you suggest I do in the meantime? I have the ability to irrigate but obviously there is no shading canopy available yet. May have missed in your books but saw no reference to timing other than to get started NOW.
Thanks again for the information easily digested, your renegade approach, parodies and humor in your articles and videos. They are a hoot! The one about coffee connoisseur and Yam workouts especially got me laughing heartily Keep em coming – you have a gift.
Thank you for the kind words, D. W.
As you have experienced, summer in Florida is no joke. It’s hot, humid, and miserable on plants. You’re right to not “jump right in,” even though I’m sure it’s tempting.
Here are my recommendations for summer gardening in Florida.
Vegetables that Take the Heat
There are a few options open to you right now on the annuals front: yard-long beans, okra and southern peas. That’s about it. Most everything else will simply die.
Even these will suffer a bit in the heat, but not like everything else does.
If you plant yard-long beans now, you should be picking beans by September. Same with okra and southern peas. I use southern peas as a green manure in the hot months, planting them where I plan to plant fall gardens later. Just buy a bag of black-eyed peas from the grocery store, soak them overnight, then toss and rake them into a bed. Keep watered and they’ll be up in a few days.
For perennials, you can still plant moringa, chaya and cassava in the summer.
Or you can just skip planting crops altogether and spend your time getting ready for a killer fall garden.
Use the Summer as a Head-start on Fall Gardening
Taking the time to make compost in summer is a good start. Make piles and get them going so you have compost to feed your gardens in fall. Water the piles well to get them going, unless you’re getting plenty of rain.
Another great task for summer: use the sun to your advantage!
Put down black plastic sheeting or woven plastic landscape fabric over areas you would like to garden in the fall and let the sun ROAST the weeds!
That’s one thing the heat of summer is great for: toasting weeds.
Alternately, you can start digging beds, making lasagna gardens and deciding where you’ll be growing in fall.
These were what the beds in my Florida kitchen garden looked like:
Get Going on Fall
I usually got serious about fall gardening in late September and early October.
The first plants I’d put in were another round of warm-season crops like hot peppers, eggplants and beans.
In October I’d plant broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, lettuce, cabbages, carrots, kale, and other plants that can take a little cold.
Another thing I always spent time doing during fall was digging new garden beds.
When the weather cools off, it’s actually nice to be outside again. Use it to your advantage.
Finally – fall is the time to plant fruit and nut trees and shrubs. I always put in a new round of them in the fall.
For vegetable planting times in North, Central and South Florida, check out the chart UF posted here.
It’s very useful.
Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening: The Secret to Growing Piles of Food in the Sunshine State
Related to today’s post, Lina wrote this week:
“David, got my books! Two down and one to go….. one suggestion on your Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening book made me become hopefull again: checking out the UF Extension gardening guide for Florida (for me South Florida). All my spring plantings of annuals were off. No wonder little thrived…. I followed the planting times for colder zones. All the advice about growing seeds indoors is irrelevant for South Fl. I am learning so much. Thank you soooo much for all your help.
Check out Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening if you don’t have it – it’s based on years of experience with Florida gardening.
It’s also now available in audiobook format, read by yours truly. It’s not a long book but it has the keys you need to literally grow piles of food.
Summer may not be the best time to garden in Florida, but it’s not completely worthless. Throw down some weed-killing cover, plant a few yard-long beans and get planning for fall.
Just be sure to avoid going outdoors between 9AM and 4:30PM or you may be incinerated by the sun.