It is one of the most exciting times in our South Florida garden when we can start harvesting in the fall! Our first ready-to-eat crops are lettuces and choys, as they grow so quickly after direct seeding into the beds. Now, we use the term “lettuces” very loosely – we mean a variety of leafy delicate greens that can be used in salads.
Our salad-mixture plantings typically include the following:
It’s important for lettuces to have fine, loose and thoroughly weeded soil to grow in. We direct-seed each of the above kinds in its own little section, adjacent to each other in the same bed. For these crops we use the scatter seeding method, putting the seeds in rather densely so we can harvest as described below. Lettuce seeds should not be covered with dirt when they are planted, as they need light in order to germinate. They should be kept well-watered.
Well it’s a strange time of year here in South Florida. While anxious to get started on our fall planting, and after weathering the recent tropical storm winds of Irma, we have one more hurdle to overcome: our very rainy season in September, albeit a little late this year. We had torrential rains last night and expect at least a week straight of rain – not a good formula for getting our seeds in flats or in the ground. One lonely flat of tomato and pepper seeds has been started and we will have to see how it does through all the rain. Meanwhile we will continue with a bit of cleaning up from the storm and prepping our beds for planting, weather permitting.
Well one of the die-hard vegetables that can make it through our long hot summer months here in South Florida is collard greens. While they take a back seat to all our other greens during the regular season, now that they are the only cruciferous left to harvest, they’ve become popular. We are lucky to have a green like this in the middle of August!
Collards are an extremely hardy crop – they are very popular in the South as they grow so easily and throughout the year. We just grow a basic type (e.g. Georgia or Carolina variety) in our garden, starting them from seed in flats and transplanting the seedlings when big enough. A few years ago, a fellow organic gardener gave me some pelleted seeds for “blue collards,” which have become one of our favorites. They really do have a bluish tinge to the usually dark green leaves.
Okra seems to be one of those things that you love or hate, and to my surprise, there are many haters out there – “It’s too sliiimmmyyy” is the usual complaint. Well, I say – “You have to know how to cook it” – ’cause I don’t like slime either, but I do like okra.
I was quite fortunate as a kid to have my grandfather living behind us on his own large piece of property here in South Florida. Papa was a sharecropper for much of his life (in Georgia), and so having a garden was something he just did, naturally, every season, into his 90’s. He loved growing okra, which he called “okry,” and always had quite a substantial crop. My Mom would make an okra stew – which I don’t think I ever ate as a child, but it is one of my favorite ways to eat it now. (See recipe links below). I brought it to a family potluck dinner where my siblings (as adults) told me they were all dreading an okra dish and guess what? They loved it!
It’s always a little sad at the end of our regular (Fall-Winter-Spring) growing season here in South Florida when we have to pull out our withering crops. Of course we do have a few summer crops of unusual veggies to look forward to, as well as engaging in the exciting planning process for the fall!
Cherry tomatoes are a hardier crop than regular and heirloom tomatoes at any time in Miami, requiring a lot less care and giving continuously. We can start cherries from seed from August up until late December and harvest them all the way into June. One of the ironies in our garden is that our Everglades tomatoes, the smallest of the cherries, is the favorite – they’re the sweetest! And we don’t even start them from seed any more – they are all “volunteers” – meaning they sprout up from seeds left in the soil from prior seasons or distributed through our own composted soil.
Long beans love South Florida in the summer! Planted less than two months ago, these nutritious gems are already producing more than we can keep up with. Also known as yardlong beans or asparagus beans, they typically grow 12 to 18 inches long. Harvesting should be done before the beans turn light green and soft.
Long beans are used in Asian recipes – here are a few of our tried and tested favorites:
Asian eggplants come in many shapes and sizes. This one is new to us, it’s called “Thai Ribbed.” It was added (cut in large bite-sized chunks) to the long beans in the first recipe above – delicious!