Florida gardens are unique in that many growers have their off-season in the summer. Florida’s summer sun takes a toll on traditional crops familiar in more northern gardens. Some of following crops, however, can withstand the heat and keep your vegetable garden productive.
For summer gardens to be successful, crops need a good start that enables them to stand up to disease and insect pressure in the humid, hot weather. To learn how to prepare and care for your garden, see our information on vegetable gardening.
Some of these crops require earlier planting, but will keep producing in summer heat. Others can be planted and established right in the middle of hot weather. (The dates listed are outdoor planting dates.)
Recommended varieties: Fordhook 242, Henderson, Jackson Wonder, Dixie (Speckled) Butterpea, Early Thorogreen
North: plant through the summer until September; Central: plant until May; South: plant until May.
Recommended varieties: Black Beauty, Dusky, Long, Ichiban, Cloud Nine
North: plant until August; Central: plant until April; South: plant until March.
Recommended varieties: Clemson Spineless, Emerald, Annie Oakley II, Cajun Delight
North: plant until August; Central: plant through the summer until September; South: plant starting in August.
Southern Peas (Field Peas, Cow Peas)
Recommended varieties: California Blackeye No. 5, Pinkeye Purple Hull, Texas Cream
North: plant through the summer until September; Central: plant through the summer until October; South: plant starting in August.
Recommended varieties: Bell: California Wonder, Red Knight; Sweet: Sweet Banana, Mariachi, Cubanelle; Hot: Jalapeño M, Cherry Bomb, Hungarian Hot Wax, Long Cayenne, Habañero
North: plant until May, then again starting in July; Central: plant until April; South: plant starting in August.
Recommended varieties: Centennial, Beauregard, Vardaman
North: plant until July; Central: plant until July; South: plant until July.
Recommended varieties: Jubilee (Florida Giant), Crimson Sweet, Sugar Baby, Mickey Lee
North: plant until May, then again starting in July; Central: plant until April; South: plant until April.
New gardeners in Florida are often frustrated by garden failures in the summer. Good summer crops in Florida have to keep producing and thrive in muggy heat. Choosing appropriate crops and adapted varieties is the first step in ensuring a successful harvest.
If you are looking for new or alternative ideas, generally crops and varieties from Southeast Asia, another humid subtropical zone, will do well in Florida’s climate. Also look to tropical varieties from Caribbean countries to the south.
One hurdle gardeners face is the desire for the summertime tomato. Tomatoes are not considered a summer crop in Florida, mainly because of physiological limitations — tomatoes will not set fruit if nighttime temperatures are above 70°F. Cherry tomatoes will sometimes keep producing in the summer.
If you would prefer to not grow a garden during the summer, take advantage of the heat by solarizing your garden soil to kill weeds, pathogens, and nematodes in preparation for fall planting.
If you have questions about vegetable varieties for your area or cultural recommendations for different crops, contact your local Extension agent.
Adapted and excerpted from:
S. Park Brown, et al, "Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide" (SP 103), Horticultural Sciences Department (rev. 02/2012).
“The Summer Vegetable Garden,” UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology (accessed 05/2013).