Some folks might be surprised to learn we can garden in the “colder” months down here in Florida. In fact, the further South you are in our fair state, the better for your veggies and annuals (which can become “perennials” when it doesn’t freeze hard) surviving the Winter.
It goes without saying that one of my favorite Winter garden plants is Strawberries. I’ve already written quite a bit about them, such as this article about growing Strawberries in Containers and another about the Basics of Strawberry Gardening, so I’m not including them here.
Instead, I’d like to highlight some other plants that do well in our mild Florida Winter weather so that I can help your planning process for the coming planting season (which basically can be after your Fall garden stops producing, or in December, or both!). These plants below love cool weather, and handle a bit of light frost with little to no issues. Here we go!
Florida Winter Garden Pick #1 – Kale
A leafy green that comes in many varieties, Kale is your friend in Winter gardens. From leaves with hues of blue-grey, to bright green, to red, purple, and almost black, and leaf forms from flat to curly, Kale is high in nutrients and also high in fiber. It also makes everything more colorful.
Baby Kale is great in salads, and the giant leaves that often happen when you ignore them for 5 seconds (honestly, they’re so prolific) are great wilted in stir fry and soups, and also substituted for lettuce in lettuce wraps!
Harvesting your salad from your backyard is convenient, not to mention much less expensive than driving to the market. Plus you know what you’ve put in and on them, so you don’t have to worry about not knowing what you’re putting into your body.
In this second picture here you can see Kale performing really well in some Winter Earthbox plantings from Mr. Shell’s garden last year! We had so much kale we were giving it away to friends and neighbors. By the way, those Earthboxes are over 25 years old and still growing strong! They’re a fantastic investment.
Florida Winter Garden Pick #2 – Broccoli
If you’ve ever tried growing Broccoli in the Spring, you might have found that by the time it’s ready to set heads, the plant just gives up and wilts in the heat. Planting Broccoli in the Winter is the best bet for getting full luxurious heads of Broccoli (and really any veg that has a head on it like this, e.g. cauliflower).
Broccoli is traditionally a “cool crop” in that it does best when the weather is lower than 90 degrees. There are those that have good luck with them in the heat, but they know more magical gardening tricks than I do (one friend grows them under shade cloth – that’s brilliant!).
Broccoli is a very versatile veggie – you can eat it raw, or bake it, roast it, boil it, steam it, stir-fry it…(it’s like Shrimp in Forrest Gump). Try it out! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Recently, cauliflower, a broccoli relative, began to show up in colors like yellow, lime green, and purple – they are all delicious!
Florida Winter Garden Pick #3 – Cabbage
OK, maybe I cheated a little on this one. Cabbage is like Kale and Broccoli had a lovechild and made a beautiful, gloriously-round baby. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Cabbage as a contender for Winter gardening because it comes in so many varieties and colors. From light green (almost white!), to silvery, to bright green and purple too, cabbage is a delicious addition to the dinner table. And it’s so easy to grow!
The most famous use of cabbage, arguably, is Cole Slaw. You can use any color of cabbage to make this dish, along with some carrots for color. I’ve had grilled cabbage, boiled cabbage (corned beef and cabbage anyone?), fermented cabbage (sauerkraut is awesome!), and raw cabbage leaves used in wraps (so good).
Cabbage has a lot of sulphur compounds in it, which makes it a bit smelly when boiled for long periods of time. I usually do my cabbage boiling outside.
Some cabbage relatives are good to grow too, like bak (pak, bok) choi, and kohlrabi, so make sure you add some of those in.
Did you know you can also grow ornamental cabbage? It’s lovely!
Florida Winter Garden Pick #4 – Carrots
Do you ever have a particular plant that there seems to be some sort of cosmic force keeping you from getting to harvest? For me, it’s carrots (and orchids…that’s a story for another day). BUT – I’ve had the most success in Winter gardening for this little underground vitamin-filled wonder root.
Some folks don’t bother to grow carrots anyway – they’re inexpensive enough at the store that you can get by purchasing them. But I like to grow the varieties that you can’t find in the store – the whites, yellows, purples, reds, etc.
Carrots are picky about their soil, and can overall be a pain in the patootie (in my opinion). They need really loose loamy soil in order for the root to expand down into the soil (making lengthy carrots) and our native Florida sand isn’t naturally loose. That doesn’t make our soil bad.
You can amend the soil with organic matter and compost to make it easier for the carrots to lengthen. It will be worth the extra effort when you get to eat a them, in all their crazy colors! That satisfying crunch and sweetness makes it all worthwhile for sure.
Additional thought here: When I do get to harvest carrots, I’ve not found my carrots to grow exceedingly large here in my gardens, and I’m ok with that. When they’re small they are great for roasting, or dipping in hummus and crunching away. Yum!
Florida Winter Garden Pick #5 – Onions
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention members of the allium family here. Onions are extremely tolerant to hot and cold weather, and we have both here. Every Fall we have a pre-order for Vidalia onion transplants where our customers can order sweet, delicious Vidalia onion plants to grow in their gardens. Straight out of Georgia, these onions do really well down here, and actually our order for them just arrived at the store. We usually don’t have many extras, so if you want some, get in and see us quick!
We also have onion sets for white, yellow, and purple onions, as well as the Super-Sweet variety and Shallots too. You can plant Onion sets pretty much anytime through the Fall, Winter, and early Spring too – check out my article on that here: “Set”ting up for Success. Many people make several plantings over time so that they don’t have one huge harvest (it’s called Succession Planting).
Onions are an indispensable flavor in the kitchen, used in so many dishes to impart flavor, both in the greens and bulbs, that I can’t imagine a garden without them.
If you’re looking for some more ideas on what you can do in the garden this Winter, you can check out my previous article, Top 5 Winter Gardening Ideas, which highlights some things to do that take advantage of the cooler weather while implementing in the garden.
No matter what you decide to do for your garden, we wish you every success with it.
We are truly grateful for your business and your support. The only reason we’ve been here 57 years is because of you.