Sweet potatoes love our South Florida climate, and we love them back! They are such a fun and easy crop to grow here, from getting them started, to watching them thrive, to the treasure hunt of harvesting, and then of course using them in a variety of ways to please the palate. Here we will take you through this process, step-by-step, and provide some helpful tips along the way.
We sometimes dub a growing season, especially when its harvest is peaking, as “The Year of…” – depending on what did really well that year. I remember quite vividly our Year of the Nasturtium as our garden was blanketed with their flowers in a variety of colors and the bees were quite happy to visit! Other crops in contention for the title have been kale, fennel, cabbages, green beans, and sweet potatoes – all bringing a particularly abundant and joyful harvest in a given year. Here are some key points that got the tomato this past season’s (20-21) royal title:
Every year we post about the excitement of fall planting time, and this year is no exception. With the temperature beginning to drop a bit now, we do tend to get over-enthusiastic, we can’t help it. Not just because we’ve had enough of the heat, but also because we can start putting some of our favored crops in the ground without killing them.
January and early February mark the middle of our growing season here in South Florida. It is a time for assessment and planning as to what we want to grow into the Spring. Many of the crops we grow can be planted throughout the entire season. Others (such as cabbages and heirloom tomatoes) have a shorter window, i.e. the time for planting them is running out, especially if starting them from seed.
August and September – hereafter referred to as summer months – are sooo hot in South Florida, and in our garden there is very little growing to harvest and cook (besides some okra and a few herbs). The remainder of the spring vegetables have finally given their last breath (would you believe we harvested a few leeks and some chard in August?!); the sunflowers are wilted and gone; the herbs are either bid farewell to or hanging tough through the summer heat depending on their durability. We said goodbye to the sorrel, basil and tomatillo plants recently, sad to say, they just gave out.
A vegetable garden is not complete without flowers planted in it – scattered around in various beds among the many types of vegetables we’re growing. While flowers certainly add beauty to the garden (who doesn’t love them?!), their main purpose is to attract beneficial insects to the environment. These insects act as predators to non-beneficial insects and as pollinators for vegetable production. Flowering plants provide a place for insects to lay eggs, caterpillars to thrive, and adult insects to feed. Insects are such a vital part of the growing cycle, and help to protect the health of plants, that we take them for granted, or sometimes may even wish we didn’t have them (unless they’re pretty)! As an aside, here is an interesting “factoid” for you: What percentage of insects are harmful? You won’t believe, me; feel free to look it up – One percent. Yes: 1, uno. Look it up.
Several months ago I was exposed to the technique of square foot gardening, when an older edition of this book was loaned to me. Well, this approach seemed just plain weird – why bother planting everything all packed into little squares, what’s the point? And so many different things in one bed, kinda chaotically? And to bother doing the work to divide a bed up all precisely like that? Well, as they say, “Don’t knock it ’til you try it!” Now that we’ve tried it, we’ve fallen in love with it. No, not just a fly-by-night infatuation, this is true love!
April 18, 2020 Update re 2020 spring-to-summer growing green beans in South Florida: Since this is by far my most popular post, and many people are now venturing into gardening for the first time due to our virus lockdowns, here is some discussion on the timing of plantings. We planted a new full crop of green bush beans about five weeks ago and they’re bearing nicely! (They get a little shade from the mid-afternoon sun; beans do need lots of sun.) We put in another crop last weekend and they’re doing great so far, time in our growing heat will tell – making sure they get enough water as it’s dry now.You might be able to plant some if you do it VERY soon (like now) – you might not get a second crop due to the heat but it’s worth a shot for one crop. Planting much later than now will probably just be too hot. Plant them in October and then again and again through winter and spring! Now, you could definitely plant lima beans at this time (along with many other heat-tolerant crops) if any of those interest you – see UF/IFAS Guide to Summer Vegetables. Happy gardening!
Our fall and winter crops here in South Florida are basically the same. Most of the things that we start in the earlier part of the growing season (fall), we can start another rotation of in December or January. Much of our work is planning what seeds need to be started when. We will either direct seed some of our crops, such as carrots and beans directly into the beds. Or, with many other crops, we will be getting them going in flats, and then transplanting seedlings as they mature into four inch pots and/or directly into the beds, and then watching them grow! For a list of what we can grow in the fall/winter here, please see our post http://www.soflagardening.com/fall-planting-beds/
Our fall gardening is going strong here in South Florida as we head into December. Though we had a late start this year due to weather events, we are well on our way to filling up our beds with organic veggies that can be grown now and into the spring. “Winter” is not worth mentioning because we don’t really have one here. We consider the winter solstice (December 21-22) as the transition time for us from fall to early spring when it comes to gardening.