Knowing when to plant vegetables in South Florida can be a bit tricky because every vegetable is different. Most vegetables thrive in our milder temperatures through autumn, winter, and spring because too much direct summer sun can end up scorching them. That being said, there are still a few veggies that can take the heat and will grow well here in Fort Lauderdale if planted in summer.
Planting Vegetables in South Florida: Autumn Through Spring
Lots of vegetable plants tend to have more Goldilocks-like preferences: not too hot, and not too cold. Plant them in the more temperate seasons for optimal performance, and cover them with shade cloth if you need to protect your plants from a heat wave.
Broccoli: This cold-hardy vegetable prefers milder temperatures and will grow best if planted between September and January. It usually takes between 75-90 days to mature and produce harvestable food. Since it takes so long, you probably won’t want to plant any later than January or else the temperatures will get too warm and the broccoli will bolt—meaning it will begin to flower instead of maintaining those tiny, green buds we savor on the plate.
Arugula: We love the spicy kick this salad green packs, and it’s so easy to grow! It pairs fabulously with sweeter ingredients, like honey-based vinaigrettes or sliced beets, but it can also be used in more savory dishes, like on top of pasta for a bit of extra crunch. There’s a pretty big window of time in which you can plant arugula—anytime between October and January should be fine. It will be ready to harvest fairly quickly, within 35-60 days.
Cucumbers: The ideal time to seed cucumbers is between September and February, and they’re good to go in about 45-60 days. While generally considered a warm weather vegetable, our South Florida climate is just a bit too warm for cucumbers in the summer, so autumn through spring will provide more comfortable conditions for them to grow in.
Beans: Bush beans, pole beans, and lima beans all have about the same growing season in Fort Lauderdale—between September and April. They mature pretty fast, so if you get antsy waiting for your vegetables to develop, beans are a great option for getting harvestable food in just 2-3 months.
Spinach: Popeye was “strong to the finish ‘cuz he eats his spinach”, but spinach is really only strong in South Florida if seeded between October and February. It prefers milder, cooler temperatures, but while its growing season may not be terribly long, it matures quite quickly (between 45-60 days), so you’ll still get plenty of food out of it.
Beets: These sweet, bright magenta root veggies definitely don’t like too much heat, so seeding between October and January is your best bet. They take between 50-70 days to mature and you may notice seedlings sprouting a couple of extra “baby beets.” We recommend thinning out the beet seedlings after you’ve planted to ensure that the stronger beets get adequate nutrition, and prevent you from being left with a bunch of smaller, underperforming beets. It’s also a good idea to stagger your plantings so you don’t end up with one giant harvest all at once. Plant a few each week for a month or two and you’ll have a nice consistent harvest throughout winter and spring!
Cauliflower: We can’t believe how trendy this vegetable has become—buffalo cauliflower “wings,” cauliflower pizza crusts, cauliflower pasta—you name it! This veggie is everywhere. Lots of folks grow their cauliflower alongside their broccoli, as they tend to have pretty similar needs and grow at similar speeds. If seeded between September and January, you’ll have a fresh crop within 75-90 days.
Kale: This popular vegetable has really been making waves in the last few years, and while cauliflower may be taking center stage more recently, kale still deserves some love. This cool weather vegetable can be seeded between September and January and matures in 50-70 days.
Radish: For one half of the year, you can get away with seeding and growing radishes: from October to March. They’re definitely one of the fastest vegetables to develop, usually ready for harvest in one month, and make fantastic container plants.
Summer Squash: Despite their name, these hearty veggies aren’t quite cut out for summers in SoFlo, but you still have a pretty reasonable window of time to plant them. Begin seeding sometime between August and March, and they’ll be ripe and ready in 40-50 days. Tomatoes: Okay, okay, we know they’re fruits, but they’re still deserving of a spot on this list. You should aim to plant tomato seeds sometime between August and February. The time they take to mature is really dependent on the cultivar you purchase, so you’ll be looking at anywhere from 70-110 days to reach maturity.
The Best Vegetables to Grow in South Florida Summers
These heat-loving vegetables can handle our Florida sun like total champs. If you want to plant vegetables year-round so you can enjoy fresh garden produce regularly, adding some of these veggies to the garden will help fill in the gaps during the hotter months when most vegetable plants can’t quite hack it.
Peppers: These delicious veggies can pack a ton of flavorful heat, and they certainly like to soak it up, too. Plant peppers sometime between February and September in an area with lots of direct sunlight. The maturation time depends on the variety—sweeter peppers are usually ready between 2-3 months, whereas hot peppers can take as long as 4 months.
Sweet Potato: The ultimate comfort food vegetable, the sweet potato is a classic staple in winter holiday dishes. Yet, it really prefers to grow during our warmer months, so planting from February to the end of June will yield the best results. Sweet potatoes should be started from “slips,” which are basically tiny starter plants, as starting them from seeds can make them more disease-prone. Water them consistently and thoroughly to avoid splitting, and make sure the soil is nice and loose so they don’t get stunted growth.
Cherry and Grape Tomatoes: For such tiny, delicate morsels, cherry and grape tomatoes can withstand some pretty intense temperatures! Their small size and quicker maturation time make them less susceptible to damage or stunted growth from our hot sun. You can pretty much plant them any time in Florida, but if you’re worried that the weather conditions are a bit too extreme, you can plant them in containers and move them around to different spots.
Okra: Easily one of the most heat-tolerant vegetables around, this plant is a staple in South Florida vegetable gardens. You can begin to seed okra any time from January to September, and you’ll be delighted at how quickly they germinate. Adding some mulch around the base of the plant will help to conserve moisture so you don’t have to water quite as frequently.
Jackfruit: Jackfruit has become increasingly popular because it makes such a healthy, eco-friendly meat alternative. Check out our blog on how to plant jackfruit to learn more about this fantastic tree!
With a bit of pre-planning and a well-scheduled seeding calendar, you can enjoy fresh vegetables from the garden all year long—it’s all in the timing. If you’d like to get started on germinating vegetable seeds, or if you’d like to buy some slips or starter plants, visit Living Color Garden Center in Fort Lauderdale, and we’ll be happy to get you started on creating your own backyard produce aisle!