Anya McCoy's Miami Garden Almanac


January is a busy  growing season in South Florida. Seeds for beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collards, sweetcorn, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, escarole, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, bunching onions, peas, southern peas, peppers, pumpkins, radishes, spinach, summer AND winter squash, tomatoes, turnips and watermelons can be started now.  Many of these veggies have been growing since September or October, so succession plantings of items like beans, lettuce, peas, squash, radishes are filling in bare spots in the garden.  We’ve been harvesting tomatoes, all kinds of greens and herbs for 3 or 4 months, and still have 3 or 4 months of prime growing season left.

Annual flowers to brighten up the garden, such as impatiens, zinnias, alyssum, petunias and ageratum can be used to fill in color spots in the garden.  Don’t forget to check the rainfall pattern now, and irrigate to insure that the established plants get at least one inch of water per week, and that the new seedlings get a little water each day.  Mulching heavily will help conserve water during this dry season.

 February is the month that you  need to be most vigilant in  protecting your crops from cold snaps.  Keeping them well-irrigated helps them to resist the cold, and keeps production high.  Since this is the dry season, make sure you’re supplying at least an inch of water a week.  It is preferable to water in the morning to ensure that the roots have a ready supply of water to absorb from the sandy soil.

 You will still be able to plant all of the winter crops and expect a harvest before  hot, humid weather hits.  Make sure you try new varieties of  beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, collards, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, okra, bunching onions, peas, southern peas, peppers, pumpkins, radishes, summer spinach, summer and winter squash, tomatoes, turnips, and watermelons.  You also have a little time left to plant strawberries.

 Pick your guavas from the tree or as soon as they hit the ground, otherwise the nasty caribbean fruit fly may lay its eggs through the softened skin, resulting in icky little larvae in the seed cavity.  If you do get the larvae, just scoop them out, they’re harmless, but not nice to look at, for sure!

 Be vigilant about applying the protozoa that will control the cricket stage of the Lubber grasshopper.  If you miss the February emergent stage, come June your garden will be victimized by these giant plant chompers.

 Our subtropical seasons are slowly changing from the winter growing season, to the more limited spring/summer quiet time in the garden., and March is the last month to plant your final crops of cantaloupe, corn, cucumber, mustard, bunching onion, pepper, radish, summer squash, tomato and watermelon seeds in the ground. Some of your favorite crops are coming to the end of their growing seasons, so clean up the garden after you notice them declining.
Add the plant matter to your compost pile.

 Keep a close eye on the rainfall frequency and amounts.  Irrigate at least weekly, and mulch to conserve moisture. Don’t forget bananas need constant moisture and fertilization.  Many just bury their nightly kitchen scraps in the rootzone, bypassing the compost pile.  Really works!

 Don’t forget to work LOTS of organic matter and compost into the planting beds for your summer annuals. Caladiums in particular will benefit greatly fromt he enriched soil, and the huge colorful leaves will be the envy of your neighbors come summer. Start your marigold seeds for summer golds and yellows in your flowerbeds.

 Alas, our South Florida days and nights are now so hot and humid that the last of the lettuce, mustard greens, kales, etc, have given up the ghost.  Not to worry, they make great additions to the compost pile. Harvests is really ending for all the cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage and kohlrabi.  Cantaloupes, carrots, celery,   collards, sweet corn (early varieties), cucumbers, eggplant, , kale, early okra, onions, peas, early potatoes, early pumpkins, radishes, spinach, squash, strawberries, tomatoes, turnips, and watermelons will be yielding their goodies now.
 The traditional soft-leaved European herbs like parsley, dill, chervil and salad burnet will start to wilt and/or bolt now.  Check local nurseries or friends for plants of lemongrass, Cuban Oregano,
Vietnamese coriander (really a Polygonum) and hot peppers, which will do well now.

 May is the time to get the true Southern garden planted.  Okra, black-eyed peas, Southern peas,   and sweet potatoes, planted now signal the start of the quietest growing time in South Florida vegetable gardens.
 Make sure nothing is planted in any “wet” spots in the garden, because torrential drenching summer rains can rot vegetables, from the roots up.  Many herbs, like thyme, basil and curry leaf may show signs of mildew, so make a spray of one Tablespoon of baking soda to a gallon of water, and spray every few days.

 Finish harvesting your spring vegetables, and add the plant material to the compost pile. Make sure your summer flowering perennials such as hibiscus and ixora and fast-growing bananas are well fertilized with compost at this time to encourage and help the fast growth and blooming they will be putting forth now.

 Look for signs of anthrachnose on mangoes, now beginning to mature in size in anticipation of July-September harvests, depending on the variety.  To defeat anthrachnose, make sure all debris is cleaned from under the tree, and spray with a copper spray if necessary. Also, consider planting anthrachnose-resistant varieties.

 Make sure to protect seedlings from summer rains, as seeds of pole and lima beans, Cantaloupes, collards, sweet corn, eggplant, okra, southern peas, peppers, tomatoes and watermelon can be started now.
 Passionfruit  vines are very susceptible to caterpillar attack, so daily inspection of the vines, and spraying with BT when necessary will ensure harvest mid-summer through early-winter. Mulch heavily, cover fallow areas of the garden with clear plastic for a few months to “solarize” the soil. so you can organically kill nematodes, soil organisms, and weed seeds.  Compost piles need consideration now, because you will be using their bounty soon to prepare our sandy soil for fall plantings.  Roses are blooming wildly now.  Continue maintenance to control black spot and powdery mildew.  You can plant collards, eggplant, mustard, okra, cowpeas, and cherry or Roma type tomatoes.

 Wait until mid to late August to set seedling plants out in the garden, especially the tomatoes. Protect the seedlings from the blazing summer sun by shading them with palmetto leaves or rigged shade material. Unless you’re planting heat-tolerant tomato varieties, such as Heatwave cherry, or Roma, the night temperatures will be too high for fruit set.
 Carnation, hollyhock, pansy,  and petunia seeds can be started in late August for later planting.  Keep blooms pinched off chrysanthemums to encourage new blossoms.  Impatiens in shady parts of the garden will still be flowering,
and look bright and beautiful in the foreground of Monstera deliciosa leaves.
 You can remove the plastic covers from the solarized garden areas, and, when the hot, humid weather permits, start to work compost into the soil in anticipation of  next month’s plantings.

 Inspect all drip irrigation lines and repair as necessary in anticipation of the upcoming growing season.  Dig in compost, remove any of the last summer-rain induced weeds, and lay down weed mat and mulch.
 September is the time to field sow beans, cantaloupes, corn, cucumbers, okra, bulb and bunching onions, potatoes, summer squash and watermelons.  Start seeds of  beets, broccoli, cabbage, collards, eggplant, endive,kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard,  and peppers.  Watch for infestations of caterpillars in your lawn. Damage will appear as brown patches, so spray with BT.

 Wait until October to start seeds of beets, carrots, cauliflower, celery, radishes, spinach and turnips.  Plant them out in the garden by the end of October, and continue succession plantings of all of the above vegetables until April or March.  October is the month that our garden centers fill with herb plants, so plan to replenish your anise, basil, chervil, chives, thyme,  and others at this time.  Interplanting herbs with vegetables helps repel insects from the veggie patch.
 Rain supply may start to taper off now, so watch your young seedlings carefully, and irrigate as necessary, making sure that the baby seedlings receive a little water each day, and that the entire garden gets at least one inch of water a week. Mulch to conserve moisture.

 South Florida gardeners are entering the busiest garden time of the year, coinciding with the busiest holiday season.  Fresh squash, tomatoes, lettuce, peas, cucumbers, carrots, melons and a myriad of other veggies and herbs find their way to the holiday tables. Weeds aren’t too much of a problem, due to the lessening rainfall, and sidedressings of compost and drenches of manure tea will keep the succession plantings growing strongly.

 Poinsettias are blooming, perfect for holiday decorations.  Wonderful fruit harvests of calamondin, grapefruit, kumquats, lemons, limes, macadamia nuts, tangelos,  and tangerines are making South Floridians happy they live here now.  If you aren’t sure when your citrus fruit is ripe, harvest one, sample it, and if it is still sour, chop up the fruit and use it to marinade fish or chicken. Constant clean up of overripe fruit drop in the garden is necessary, so rodents and other pests won’t be attracted.  Roses are blooming profusely now, and canna lilies, carnations, daylilies  and impatiens (which take full sun in South Florida in the winter) are providing a riot of color for the holiday season.

 Weather is usually perfect for growing this month, 70s during the day, and 60s at night, but watch for freezes, and be prepared to protect your plants.  Make sure plants are well-irrigated, as water in their cells helps protect them from freezes.  Veggies that you can keep planting include: beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collards, endive, escarole, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, onion seeds and sets,
peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, strawberries, swiss chard, turnips.

 Don’t forget the need for splashes of color in the veggie garden or borders, and plant alyssum, begonias, calendulas, carnations, dianthus, gaillardia, gerbera, hollyhocks, larkspur, nasturtium, nicotiana, pansys, pentunas, salvias, snapdragons, stocks, sweet peas and violas.

 Herb harvest is in full swing now, and many of the fragrant goodies can be transformed into Christmas gifts in the form of oils, vinegars and flavoring agents for relishes and chutneys that are the gifts from your veggie garden.


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