South Florida Gardening

Well, it is that time of year again in our organic vegetable garden, when the crops are beginning to wither, the harvest is thinning out, and the heat is rolling in – yes, it’s May in South Florida! We are also having an extra-heavy rainfall bout, like two weeks solid of rain on a daily basis. We’ve had to say goodbye to some of our favorite crops (til next season!) – heirloom tomatoes, Chinese and regular cabbages, escarole, broccoli, dill, most of our lettuces and our delicate greens like mizuna and arugula, and our nasturtiums. The good news is that there are still many things growing in May, and a few we can still plant at this time of the year.

So this is what we have in our garden as our regular (fall-winter-spring) growing season is drawing to a close:

What’s Still Thriving

A few plants in the brassica family tend to weather the heat better than others, namely collard greens and lacinato (dinosaur) kale. We fully expect the collards to last through the summer and well into next season.

Collard green plant

collard greens

The kale may or may not make it through the summer, but I think it will hold up for at least another month. Luckily, one of the beds it’s planted in is partially shaded, so those will likely last longer. We are also diligently picking bottom leaves on all our kale varieties, so we avoid waste and help the plants stay healthy/bug-free. We do have to watch for aphids, and we treat for snails more at this time of year which we use OMRI certified Sluggo for.

Lacinato (dinosaur) kale plants in garden bed

Lacinato (dinosaur) kale

We are pleasantly surprised to see our strawberries still going strong. It’s amazing! The berries are smaller now, and not always ripening well, but we’re still managing to get some sweet treats off of these vines.

Ripe strawberries on a bush

Strawberries in May!

Here is another surprise – our Swiss chard seems to be thriving in some of the beds (yet withering in others). The more shaded areas are doing well, and again especially at this time of year, it’s important to keep the plants trimmed of the larger bottom leaves as they’re ready. Otherwise they will wither on us and be wasted.

Swiss chard plant

Swiss chard

Cherry tomatoes always last longer than the larger heirloom tomatoes – usually well into June. We are beginning to notice a little less sweetness in some of them taste-wise – which is attributable to the heat. However, we are still picking a full basket each gardening session and enjoying them! We have a great crop of golden cherries this year, which we will save some seeds from for next season. And of course our die-hard little Everglades cherry tomatoes just keep on giving!

Basket of assorted cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes still producing!

You would not typically find green beans growing in May in our garden. We took a chance and planted a combination of three colors (yellow, green and purple) rather late – i.e. in mid-April, and another crop just a few weeks ago. Well the first ones are beginning to bear beans, and the younger plants are thriving. Now we don’t expect to get the usual second crop from these, but that’s okay, we’re happy to get any beans now! It’s been a useful experiment.

Two rows of young green bean plants

green beans planted in May? We’ll see…

We have one small crop of leeks that is pretty much ready, which has hung in there beautifully through this hot and rainy weather lately. They don’t seem fazed by it, at all.

Leek growing in garden bed

Beautiful leek

We tend to plant celery where there is a little less sun than most of the other beds, and this year’s crop is a beauty and holding its own for now. We love clipping off the outer stems and using these for some intense stock/soup flavoring. The ones we grow here are a little tough for eating raw.

Celery plant


Our “magical bed” of French sorrel (see this post) is still going strong. The jury is out on whether it will make it through the summer, which would be very unusual here in South Florida – if it can anywhere in our garden, it will in its present location of a semi-shaded bed.

Crop of French sorrel

French sorrel

Currently there are poblano and shishito peppers producing fairly well in the garden. The problem we anticipate over the summer is not the heat but the rain – and whiteflies, which just love pepper plants.

Poblano pepper growing in bed

Lovely poblano

Shishito peppers on a bushShishito peppers

What’s on Its Way Out

Just a couple of fennel plants left, in addition to the two which we are allowing to “go to seed.” Have you ever tasted fresh fennel seeds? They’re incredible – intensely flavorful, and keep for a long time. Great to just munch on or add to recipes calling for it. And to plant next year’s crops with!

Fennel flowers on plant

Fennel flowers

Some late harvest lettuces are ready but are actually beginning to turn a little bitter in the heat, so we don’t have many takers for that. One of our garden members does feed our old lettuces to his turtles

Red romaine lettuce plant

Red romaine lettuce

Head of butterhead lettuceButterhead lettuce – getting bitter!

Our tatsoi (aka Asian spinach) has a little left to give, it’s almost done – and too delicate to make it any longer into the warmer season.

Tatsoi plant


A few herbs that are still hanging in there that we typically lose for the summer are parsley, thyme and oregano – only to plant them anew in the fall. It’s surprising that the thyme is even still growing in May as it doesn’t typically take the heat well.

Parsley plant


thyme plant close-up


Curly kale does not last as long for us as lacinato/dinosaur kale. Even though we give it a lot of attention and care at this time of year, picking bottom leaves continuously, it is waning in production and health – just can’t take the heat!

curly kale plant

Curly kale

We’ve been pulling out our last carrot crops – not as big and robust as former crops. It’s time for most of them to go because we found a few rotting from the excessive moisture in the soil right now. We do have one small crop still growing in a semi-shaded area and will be interested in seeing how they produce. Our youngest garden member was delighted to bring one of our carrots to her preschool park’s horse.

Child feeding a carrot to a horse

Horses love organic veggies too!

So each year it never ceases to amaze us what we still have growing in May in this garden! While we curse our shortage of sun in the regular growing season, it works to our advantage in the late spring, early summer. It’s nice to be rewarded with a few lingering veggies as we work through the summer months getting our beds ready for the fall.

In case you’re wondering what we’re planting now – not a lot. Okra, long beans, eggplant, and sunflowers. We are not big on the tropical summer vegetables (our members just don’t use them, and it’s very hot to grow things that don’t get used). Check out this publication on what can be grown in the summer in South Florida if this interests you: Summer vegetables in South Florida.