In Florida, gardeners can grow vegetables year-round. You just need a plan of what you’d like to grow and when to plant. Different parts of Florida have different growing seasons, so you’ll want to be sure to plant when it is correct for Central Florida.
Right now, you may think it is too hot to start gardening, but from now to August is the right time to plant many fall vegetables. If you are giving your garden a break and preparing for a more productive fall garden, now is also the time to think about solarizing your soil to combat pests and weeds.
Solarizing and Preparing the Soil
An efficient way to combat soil pests and weeds is solarizing your soil. Covering the area your garden will occupy with clear plastic for six to eight weeks will allow the soil to reach temperatures that will kill most pests and weeds. Done correctly, it can eliminate pests for four months or more — plenty of time to plant and harvest a fall vegetable crop.
It’s best to do this after a rain or irrigation so the soil is wet. Incorporate any soil nutrients you plan to add. Rake the area smooth and stretch the plastic tightly over the area. Seal the edges of the plastic in the soil to create a barrier.
Planting for Fall
If you aren’t solarizing, you can start preparing the soil now and plant fall vegetables such as beans, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, corn, zucchini, and squash if starting from seeds. If starting from established plants, begin planting by mid August.
Before you plant, make sure your soil is ready. Turn up the soil by spade or plowing three weeks before planting. Florida soil is typically low in organic matter, so you may want to add compost or fertilizer well in advance of planting. Also be sure to check the soil pH. If your soil is between 5.5 and 7, then you don’t need to make any adjustments for vegetable gardens.
Using Cover Crops
Another way to prepare for a later garden is to plant a cover crop during the summer that will suppress weeds and pests and reduce erosion. Good summer cover crops include cowpea, velvet bean, soybean, and sunflower.
Vegetables Need Moisture
Keep in mind that the success of your garden will depend on efficient watering. Vegetables can’t tolerate standing water from poor drainage after rainfall or irrigation. The best place to start your garden planning is with the irrigation specialists at Challenger Irrigation. We service Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, and Citrus counties and can install a new irrigation system, or repair your old system, to make sure your garden produces abundant vegetables for your table. Call us to set up an appointment today!