Florida fall vegetable gardens share much in common with gardens in other states. Although many people think of Florida as a warm or hot state year-round and imagine it to be solely zone 10, it actually spans three gardening zones: 8, 9 and 10. Within the state, micro climates may also impact what can be grown in the fall. Plan Florida fall vegetable gardens with the same care and attention you would if you lived in a cooler zone and you'll harvest vegetables almost year round.
Planning Florida Fall Vegetable Gardens
The best part about growing vegetables throughout Florida is that the growing season for summer vegetables is longer. Fall vegetable gardens throughout Florida can include a second planting of many vegetables that die in zones 7 and higher. In addition, the usual fall crops can be started in late summer.
Refresh the Vegetable Garden
Plant new seeds for green beans and if necessary, remove spent vegetables such as eggplant and cucumbers. Most Florida fall vegetable gardens can get in a second planting of carrots, beets, and similar root crops. If a frost hits during the winter months, it will only make root vegetables taste sweeter.
Plant Cool Weather Vegetables
When cooler winter temperatures set in, it's time to plant cool weather vegetables.
- Chinese cabbage
- other vegetables that prefer cool temperatures
Among the herb plants, chives, oregano and several other hardy herbs thrive in the fall.
Prepare for Frosts
Fall is a great time for garden projects, but make sure your vegetable garden is prepared for a sudden frost or cold snap. If you have raised beds, consider a few minor adjustments to transform them into cold frames. A cold frame is a box with a glass or plastic cover on top that traps warmer air underneath and prevents frost damage on tender plant leaves. It's a great addition to the vegetable garden and can prevent frost damage on many tender plants.
Consider also row covers and simple homemade covers such as cloches made from milk containers or soda pop bottles. Any of these may be used in a pinch to prevent frost damage on vegetables and herbs.
A good application of mulch now will also prevent many vegetables and edibles from frost damage. Mulch helps keep the soil near the plants' roots moist and may also protect against the natural freezing and thawing of the soil, which can cause heaving and damage to roots.
Other Fall Gardening Tasks
A few other fall gardening tasks for Florida gardeners will help prepare the garden for the new season:
- Fertilize: Apply compost or a good, balanced fertilizer to the garden now for added vigor.
- Watering: Hurricane and tropical storm season may bring torrential rains to your area, or perhaps it's the opposite - you're experiencing a drought. You won't know for sure unless you put out a rain gauge. You can make a simple one with a clean cat food or tuna can or buy an inexpensive rain gauge at the garden center. Monitor the water levels in the vegetable garden and supplement the rainfall if there's less than an inch per week from Mother Nature.
- Clean tools: You'll still use your tools in the fall garden, but take time now to clean and sharpen them. Clean and disinfect pruners, and be sure to check power tools to see if they need maintenance.
- Turn the compost: Turn the compost pile now to mix it and aerate it. Use any of the rich compost in the vegetable garden for that extra fertilizer boost. Turning the compost while days remain warm ensures the plant material and manure added to the pile have time for the bacteria to work with them and transform them into 'gardener's gold.'
No matter where you live, tackle fall gardening chores when the days are cool and pleasant. Even in Florida, cold weather will be here before you know it, and you'll be longing for the spring vegetable garden again.