Some folks just make vegetable gardening look easy. These green thumbs will even tell you how it can be done, but the reality is that a productive vegetable garden takes a good deal of effort and a little bit of luck, too.
First, you will need to designate a spot.
Your growing site should have a minimum of 6 hours of full sun and well-drained, improved soil. The garden spot should be close to a water source and near your home.
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Next, choose your veggies.
Once your site is selected and your soil is prepped, you will need to choose the right vegetables for the growing season.
The simple fact is, some vegetables are easier to grow in Florida than others. Here’s a quick list of some of the easiest ones for beginners to try:
Tomatoes: Everyone wants to grow tomatoes – but did you know that cherry tomatoes are much easier to grow than their bigger cousins? They are vigorous growers and keep producing huge crops even when the weather gets hot. Choose varieties like Sweet 100s, Sun Gold, Yellow Pear and the Everglades tomato, an heirloom Florida favorite. For a jump-start, use transplants instead of seeds.
Peppers: While it can be difficult to grow sweet bell peppers, hot peppers like jalapenos, cherry bombs, Thai chiles, habaneros and cayenne peppers are much easier to grow. These varieties are very productive and surprisingly tough in the garden. Grow hot peppers from transplants for easy success. If you are lucky enough to live near St. Augustine, you can usually find transplants of the famous Datil pepper. This heirloom variety has been grown in Florida for centuries.
Seminole pumpkins: These grow like crazy and require a good deal of space in the garden – but you will find that they are worth making room for. Heirloom pumpkins are pest and disease resistant and produce loads of pumpkins for fall harvest.
Radishes: If you would like a quick harvest, you can’t beat radishes. They sprout in about three days and are ready to harvest in less than five weeks. Try varieties like Cherry Belle, White Icicle and Sparkler. You’ll want to start radishes from seed in the cooler months, as the summer’s heat can make the flavor of the radish bitter or overly spicy.
Collard greens: These are some of the easiest veggies to grow in Florida. Although the cool season greens are more flavorful, collards are heat and cold tolerant. Varieties like Georgia, Top Bunch and Vates are tried and true for Florida and can easily be grown from seeds or transplants.
Tip: Harvest only the lower leaves. The plant will keep growing, allowing you to harvest all season long.
For more information about what to plant and when, check out the Florida Fresh web tool at floridafresh.ifas.ufl.edu.
Find a printable PDF of University of Florida/IFAS’s comprehensive Florida Vegetables Gardening Guide here.
Discover a whole online library of helpful articles and guides at gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu.
About the Author: Wendy Wilber is the statewide Master Gardener Program coordinator and an environmental horticulture agent for UF/IFAS Extension.