Gardening in Florida presents some unique challenges, including oppressive heat and humidity, shallow sandy soils and large insect populations, due to the frost free climate. As any good gardener knows, it's helpful to know your local conditions and how to work with them, rather than struggle against them.
Know your planting calendar
For gardeners in Florida, this means knowing your seasonal planting calendar. In general, Florida has a humid, subtropical climate to tropical climate, which is markedly different from many parts of the country. High heat and humidity dominate the majority of the year and the brief winter is generally mild and frost free. Gardeners in this climate are wise to research local varieties that are adapted to such an environment.
Rain and Wildfire
Florida's rainy season which lasts from May to October offers many inches of rainfall, but often without reliability. The natural environment in Florida relies on periodic wildfire to maintain healthy forests and ecosystems. These wildfires are preceded by extended periods of drought and ignited by summertime thunderstorms. Heat building up during the day causes afternoon thunderstorms to form and these storms can be sometimes be violent, with thunder and lightning and pouring rain.
The rainfall and constant humidity fuels many mildews, molds, and fungal competitors, which can be very difficult to control in the garden. Again, gardeners are advised to seek out local varieties that are suited to the high humidity and heat and to tailor planting calendars to minimize damage to crops.
Unique native insect population
Anyone who has spent any time at all in Florida is well acquainted with its native insect population. Many common North American insects can be found in Florida and some unique species as well. While the cockroach and mosquito are completely ubiquitous, gardeners are more often focused on insects that feast on the roots, stems, leaves and fruit in our gardens. Pests, such as cutworms, mole crickets, and aphids are easily seen on our plants, but there are also pests which reside in the sandy soil. Nematodes, which are a type of roundworm, can quite destructive in gardens. While some nematodes are beneficial in the garden, there are also parasitic nematodes, which feed on living plant tissues. Soil pest issues, of which Florida has many, can be difficult to diagnose.
Soil in Florida
This brings us to the very foundation of our garden, which is the soil. Since Florida is essentially hundreds of miles of sand bar, surrounded by ocean, It is common to find thin, sandy soil. Often, this soil lacks significant amounts of organic matter, which provides structure and water retention, and provides the humic catalyst for soil life. Adding organic mulches and amendments is The best way to build soil over time, but consistency is key, as the hot and humid climate breaks down the organic matter quickly and this matter must be replaced.
Gardening in Florida is certainly not without obstacles, but still provides many rewards to the wizened gardener. And as every gardener knows, there is nothing like a homegrown, healthy crops!
If you grow in Florida, ask us any questions in the comments below and we'll respond. Thanks for reading!