Growing Vegetables in Florida During Summer: A Guide

Introduction

Growing vegetables in Florida during the summer can be challenging due to the intense heat and humidity. In all honesty, summer is the time of the year that I am the least active. The options are limited, the heat is intense, the humidity is high, and all the pests in the world (or it seems like it) are around. In general, it is just unpleasant to garden (especially for those sensitive to excess heat). However, with the right strategies and crop selection, you can have a successful and productive garden even in the hottest months. This guide will help you navigate the unique conditions of Florida’s summer and make the most of your gardening efforts.

Understanding Florida’s Summer Climate

I always like to say that it is hard for us humans to tolerate the heat, and it’s even harder for most vegetables to take high temperatures. Florida’s summer climate is characterized by high temperatures, high humidity, and frequent afternoon thunderstorms. These conditions can be tough on many traditional garden vegetables, so it’s important to choose heat-tolerant varieties and employ strategies to mitigate the effects of extreme weather.

Choosing the ideal spot

Ideally most vegetables requires 6-8 hours of direct sunlight in order to grow well. To determine the perfect location for your garden, think about your space in the long run. How long do you plan to stay in your current location? What are your future plans for your backyard? What kind of trees do you have in your backyard? All of those factors should impact the location of your garden.

Always choose a south facing position, close enough to your house (if you have acreage, never plant your garden too far from your resident as this decrease the rate of care), and accessible to a water source.

Choosing the Right Vegetables

Selecting heat-tolerant vegetables is key to successful summer gardening in Florida. Here are some vegetables that thrive in Florida’s summer heat:

  1. Okra: Okra loves the heat and produces abundantly throughout the summer.
  2. Sweet Potatoes: These tubers thrive in warm weather and can be harvested in late summer. I highly recommend the Tainung #64 variety from Cody cove farms.
  3. Southern Peas (Black-eyed Peas): These legumes are well-suited to hot, humid conditions.
  4. Malabar Spinach (spinach alternative): A heat-tolerant leafy green that can be used like traditional spinach.
  5. Seminole Pumpkin: This native(cultivated) Florida pumpkin is resistant to pests and diseases.
  6. Eggplant: Particularly the Asian varieties, which are more heat-tolerant.
  7. Peppers: Both hot and sweet peppers can withstand high temperatures. I recommend the following varieties: Cap 455, cheirosa, and biquinho.
  8. Cherry Tomatoes: More resilient to heat than larger tomato varieties. The Everglades variety thrives in the heat. However, the fruit is extremely small and the vine growth habit requires extra space.

Soil Preparation and Amendments

Another challenge that you will need to overcome as a gardener in Florida, is improving the native soil quality. Given Florida’s sandy soil, improving soil quality is crucial for summer gardening success. This is a problem as sand does not hold nutrients nor water well. It is vital to improve the soil quality to ensure a successful garden journey. Here are some tips:

  • Add Organic Matter: Incorporate compost, aged manure, or peat moss (I recommend researching the negative impact of using peat moss) to improve soil structure and water retention.
  • Mulching: Use mulch to retain soil moisture, regulate temperature, and reduce weed growth. I recommend dye-free mulch.
  • Fertilization: Apply balanced, slow-release fertilizers to ensure a steady supply of nutrients. I recommend using an organic, all-purpose vegetable fertilizer. Generally speaking, a fertilizer schedule should exist to avoid nutrient deficiency. In my garden, this happens every 3/4 months at the appropriate rate. Refer to your fertilizer instructions for the rate and method of application. If possible, a soil analysis should be done to better determine the rate of application (the UF/IFAS offer soil tests for an incredibly low rate).

Watering and Irrigation

Even though precipitation tends to be higher during the summer, the intense heat and the sandy nature of our native soils, which lack the ability to retain moisture well, necessitate extra watering for plants. I highly recommend investing in an irrigation system prior to starting your garden, this will save you money, time, and effort. Efficient watering is essential in Florida’s summer heat. Here are some strategies:

  • Drip Irrigation: Use drip irrigation systems to provide consistent moisture directly to the roots, reducing water loss through evaporation.
  • Morning Watering: Water your garden early in the morning to minimize evaporation and allow plants to absorb moisture before the heat of the day.
  • Mulching: Again, mulch helps retain soil moisture and reduces the need for frequent watering.

Pest and Disease Management

The hot, humid conditions of Florida’s summer can exacerbate pest and disease problems. Here are some tips for managing them:

  • Monitor Regularly: Check your plants frequently for signs of pests and diseases.
  • Use Organic Controls: Neem oil, insecticidal soaps, and other organic treatments can help manage pests. However, I highly recommend IPM (Integrated Pest Management) in order to increase your garden resilience. IPM Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a comprehensive approach to pest control that combines multiple strategies to manage pests effectively and sustainably. It emphasizes the use of biological, cultural, mechanical, and chemical methods in a coordinated way to minimize environmental impact, reduce pesticide use, and promote healthy plant growth. IPM involves regular monitoring, accurate pest identification, and implementing control measures that are economically viable and ecologically sound.
  • Plant Resistant Varieties: Choose disease-resistant varieties whenever possible. Picking the right varieties will make your gardening journey much easier! I highly recommend checking these local nurseries/seed sellers:

Providing Shade

During the peak of summer, providing shade can protect your vegetables from excessive heat:

  • Shade Cloth: Use shade cloth to reduce sunlight intensity during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Interplanting: Plant taller crops to provide natural shade for more sensitive plants.

Conclusion

While growing vegetables in Florida during the summer presents unique challenges, it is entirely possible with the right approach. By selecting heat-tolerant varieties, improving soil quality, managing water efficiently, and protecting your plants from pests and excessive heat, you can still enjoy growing a lot.

If this blog post was helpful, please follow me on my social media channels. Happy gardening!

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