HOW TO GROW VEGETABLES IN NORTHWEST FLORIDA

Vegetables for your fall and winter garden in North Florida

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Orange and brown may be traditional fall colors but home vegetable growers are thinking green in Florida. Green vegetables, that is.

Many of the vegetables we cultivate in the fall months here are green and mostly leafy. Vegetables that thrive when it’s chilly. And shrug off frost and the occasional freeze.

Vegetables such as collards, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, kohlrabi, spinach and broccoli.

Several root crops also thrive when the air and soil temperatures cool off, such as beets, carrots, leeks, turnips, onions and radishes.

Most of these veggies don’t require blooms or pollination to produce a crop for the dinner table. That’s a real plus in the late fall and winter – it’s hard to find a bee when you need it once the days turn cold!

Of course, without blooms, plants don’t produce fruit. So in the fall and winter, we are largely eating the vegetable plants themselves – their leaves, roots, and/or flower buds.

It’s fair to say growing cool season vegetables is less complicated than growing traditional warm season vegetables.

Less pest control. Less disease. Less fertilizing. Less watering. Less weeding. Less worry.

Many cool season vegetables may be planted through late winter but most should be in the ground well before then for the best chance of success. While the bitter January cold may not kill many of our cool season veggies, young plants don’t put on much growth during the coldest weeks of winter. They just wait it out until it warms up a bit and the days are a little longer.

Broccoli is very simple to grow. You pretty much just put it in the ground, water and fertilize, and then harvest the head a couple of months later. If holes appear in the leaves, spray for worms with Thuricide or a general vegetable garden pesticide. Starter plants will be available locally through about mid October.

Cauliflower is a bit more sensitive to the cold than its broccoli cousin. Plant it by mid October to give it the best chance to mature before an early freeze.

When setting starter plants in the garden, I just dig a hole about two to three times the size of the starter plant’s container, mix in some compost with the soil I removed (about a 50/50 mixture), partially fill the hole with the manure/soil mixture, mix in some fertilizer, then plant the seedling and back fill with the amended soil, making sure to firm the ground around the plant well.

Collards, cabbage and Brussels sprouts are planted and cared for pretty much like broccoli. Plant about 18” to 24” apart in rows separated by about 30”.

Spinach and leaf lettuce will produce tasty, healthy greens and flavor-packed salads through the winter.

Onions and leeks may be grown from seed or starter plants. Bulb onions may also be started from onion sets. Bulb onions are planted in the fall and harvested in the spring. Plant short-day varieties for best results. Green onions may be harvested along the way.

Given how easy cool weather vegetables are to grow and care for, and the price for them at the grocery store, it’s a wonder every household in Florida doesn’t

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