South Florida is a very unique and beautiful place to live. We are very lucky to enjoy a subtropical climate and very mild winters. This makes it a great place to grow all types of vegetables, fruits, and flowers!
While most of the United States is getting ready for winter and has stopped growing, we are just getting started! Since our summers are extremely hot and humid, we typically don’t grow a lot of crops during this season. However, winter is the perfect time to start growing some of the crops that require cooler weather.
Being a beekeeper and home gardener, I love growing food for myself and for my bees. My garden is always filled with flowers for the bees. During the cooler months, I incorporate a few vegetables for myself! There are endless possibilities for growing vegetables and flowers in South Florida and one of my missions is to inspire others to grow as well.
In this post, I’ll go over the basics of growing your own flowers and vegetables in our unique climate. Whether you have an entire yard or a small balcony, you can grow in South Florida!
The first step to growing your own flowers and vegetables is finding the correct spot. The area should receive at least 6 hours of light every day and should have good drainage. In other words, make sure the area doesn’t get flooded during rain showers. If your area doesn’t receive sunlight for 6 hours, don’t fret. You can probably still grow! It might just take a little longer than usual and you should stick to crops that don’t need full sun.
The next step is acquiring good quality soil. Since most of South Florida is limestone, we do not have a lot of soil. The soil we do have also has a very high pH. I think it’s important to buy and place new soil for your garden.
Healthy and rich soil will grow healthy and strong crops. You can get good organic soil at any home improvement store. Some of my favorite brands are Kellogg and Dr. Earth. The soil I use in my garden is Pro-Mix BX Mycorrhizae, which you can purchase online. It contains a nice blend of ingredients to create a well-balanced soil.
Once you’ve obtained your spot and soil, it’s time to decide what you’ll be using to grow in! If you have space, raised beds will add an attractive look to any yard. Some create raised beds using affordable and durable cinder blocks, but you can also create them using wood. However, if you don’t have a ton of space, don’t worry, you can grow in pots! My garden has a small raised bed using cinder blocks and the rest is filled with easy to move fabric pots.
Now that you have your garden set up, you can start the real fun part; growing! I like to grow all my plants from seed. I purchase most of my seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and Johnny’s Selected Seeds.
Since South Florida has such a unique climate, it’s important to pick plant varieties that do well in heat and humidity. My favorite easy to grow flowers are Celosia, Zinnia’s, and Sunflowers. Any variety will do well but my favorites are Ruby Parfait Celosia, Benary’s Giant Zinnia’s, and Autumn Beauty Sunflowers.
There are many different easy to grow vegetable options for beginners. My personal favorites are Green Beans, Radish, Okra, Kale, and Broccoli. Southern Exposure Seed has varieties that are well suited for our climate.
If you’re really tight on space and only have a small balcony or windowsill, you can easily grow herbs. Rosemary, Basil, Parsley, and Sage are some of the easiest to grow herbs. Plus, if you’re growing them indoors, you don’t have to worry about our climate.
My garden area is very small and holds many beehives but I’m still able to grow a ton of flowers and vegetables. The space is mainly used as a giant pollinator garden, providing resources for my bees as well as butterflies and hummingbirds.
Pollinator gardens are a great option if you’re interested in helping the environment. Honey bees alone are responsible for 1/3 of our food, which is most of our fruits, vegetables, and nuts. However, native bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and even some species of bat all help pollinate! There are some great plant species you can add to help pollinators in South Florida. You can learn about my favorites, as well as other ways you can help pollinators by checking out this post.
Once your garden is finished, it’s time to maintain it. It might seem daunting and time-consuming but spending just a few minutes every day in the garden is more than enough time. I like to have my morning coffee in the garden and I’ll take the time to water at that time. However, if my morning is very busy, I’ll just water when I get home in the afternoon.
Since we have such a unique climate, sometimes pests can be an issue. There are many easy ways you can combat them though. Neem Oil is a great organic option in the garden that helps with unruly insects as well as fungus. It’s important to note that neem oil can still harm bees, so make sure to only spray it on your plants once the sunsets and never spray directly on flowers, only the leaves.
Creating a small eco-system in your garden is another great way to combat pests. If you plan on growing vegetables, make sure to incorporate flowers as well. Add a wide variety of plants to attract ladybugs and other beneficial insects. I like adding native plants to attract insects as well as birds. Some of my favorites are Firebush, Lantana, Wild Coffee, and Milkweed.
Gardening is my favorite pastime. It gives me a moment of zen between live bee removals and tending to my own beehives. I love sharing this hobby with the world and my wish is for more people to try it. Find a space, plant something, and enjoy! I’ll end this post with one of my favorite quotes from Audry Hepburn, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”.
Tasha Trujillo is the Co-Founder and CEO of Palm Pike Apiary, a sustainable apiary, committed to having the least impact on the environment. They are advocates for rescuing wild bees from extermination, and specialize in live bee removal.