July is an interesting time in a South Florida vegetable garden. In the past we have grown a variety of edible tropical summer plants in the heat here, but not so much anymore. There’s been so little interest in harvesting them or it just doesn’t pay to battle the influx of insects that plants draw at this time of year. So – no luffa, no black-eyed peas, no bitter melon, no tropical spinaches that nobody wants to use… This season’s summer crops are limited to okra, eggplant and long beans, along with an ongoing harvest of sweet potatoes – all of which our gardeners enjoy. (If you’re an okra lover, check out our recipe page here for three different dishes). And if you want to know what some of those summer crops are that we don’t grow, here is one of many articles which you can access online: “Growing Vegetables in South Florida”. Be sure to indicate “South Florida” in any searches you do since our growing season is quite unique compared to most of the US.
We sometimes refer to our garden as magical because of the longer harvest time for most spring crops. It isn’t really magic, it’s science: our garden gets less sun than most so the crops last longer. It hasn’t been that long since we harvested the last of our kale, parsley, carrots, full-sized tomatoes and loads of basil!
Just as pleasing to us is that even now, in the dead of summer, we still have things to harvest – sweet and hot peppers, more basil, sage, onions and leeks, sweet potatoes, a few pineapples, collard greens, Swiss chard, sorrel, and a long-lasting crop of celery. Heck, we’ve even had a few lingering little strawberries to enjoy! And of course, our die-hard perennials of garlic chives, rosemary, Thai basil, mint, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and Cuban oregano (see Herbs in the Florida Garden for links to many of the herbs you can grow here). It is also fennel seed harvesting time, as we purposely allow some of the plants to go to pollen (yummy!) and seed. We will use the seeds for both cooking and planting next year’s crops. You can read more about how we grow fennel in this post.
And lastly we must mention our beautiful flower production this season which is still going strong: salvias abound in varying colors (thanks to transplants from one of our gardeners), bright red and white celosías, orange cosmos, vibrant purple gomphrena (aka globe amaranth), a vining small-blossom black-eyed Susan, and drop-dead gorgeous butterfly pea (aka blue pea) vines that are happily overtaking our towers. And now, sunflowers are just starting to bloom. All these flowers add so much color and joy to our garden!
So while we endure the heat, weeding and clearing/prepping our beds for the upcoming fall season, we also enjoy the harvest as it continues to give! Do see our post Preparing for the Fall Garden as that kind of work is ongoing as well. Happy Gardening!