If you’re reading this in Michigan, you probably think I’m nuts right now. But where I sit here in sunny Florida, last year at Christmas is was 80 degress outside. So guess what? Gardening happens in Winter here too!
That means fresh produce from the garden year round. And that’s great for people who love that fresh-from-the-backyard-harvested-5-minutes-ago taste.
But there are some mistakes you can make in the garden in Florida Winter. Let’s talk about a few so you’re prepared.
Mistake #1: There’s a surprise freeze and you don’t have anything to cover your prized petunias.
This one is pretty simple to avoid — what’s that old Boy Scout motto? Be Prepared!
For Surprise freezes, it’s important to have something on hand and ready to go. I recommend N-Sulate is an awesome product for protecting your crops from the light freezes we may get here (some years we have none, other years we have several, and everything in between).
When used as directed, it is more effective than using old towels and bedsheets, AND it is light enough that it won’t crush young or sensitive plants. So, definitely get some. We have it for you, ready and waiting for you to pick up. And we can make sure you understand how to use this product so that you have the best chances of avoiding frost damage.
Mistake #2: You have no protected place to move your container plants if we do have a freeze.
Trying to move your potted palm into your living room when there’s a freeze coming could present quite a problem, and a mess, for you. But you ran out of room in the garage and don’t know what else to do.
Don’t let that be you!
It’s so important to have an area that you know you can move some of your container plants into in the event of a freeze.
Whether it’s the garage, or a porch, or a greenhouse, make sure there’s a protected space you can put some pots if there’s a freeze coming.
And while you’re at it, secure some help beforehand too, maybe a neighbor where you can make a deal, “I’ll help you move yours if you help me move mine.” No sense in breaking backs, right?
Also, your neighbor might have extra room they’d be willing to let you borrow, you know, for a nice bottle of wine or that awesome appetizer you make with your tomatoes, basil, and some fresh mozzarella. Never be above bartering for help!
So, have a place to put your plants for a freeze. Just in case. You never know when Old Man Winter will take a swipe at us.
Mistake #3: You’ve decided to grow sun-hungry plants this Winter.
Ah, yes, this is a good one!
So, you love tomatoes. You really LOVE them. That’s great, we all need a favorite food (it’s one of mine too).
But did you know that most tomatoes will only reach optimal production with 8+ hours per day of sun? With the shortened amount of daylight in the Winter, as well as the decreased angle of the sun (it’s not high overhead like it is during the summer, it’s more to the South in Winter), your sunlight prospects are usually quite limited during Winter.
Most sun-hungry plants don’t get enough sun in Winter to do much fruiting. That’s why the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Science doesn’t list them as a Winter crop, mainly (the temperature too, but lately, it’s been warm enough).
Now, these sun-hungry WILL grow nice strong stalks and leaves, albeit more slowly, and (BONUS!) with the cooler weather there’s less pests and fungus to contend with.
Many folks have luck planting tomatoes and other plants like it such as eggplants and bell peppers in Winter and then letting them grow strong stems, then they’re ready to start fruiting as we come into Spring when others are just getting their seedlings in the ground.
Of course, you’re gambling with the possibility of a freeze…but hey…worth the risk, right? (And, see #1 and #2 above for help with that).
Just know that those kinds of plants don’t fruit as well this time of year.
There’s the top 3 mistakes we at Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply see Florida Gardeners make in the Winter growing season.
Do you want to know more about what you SHOULD plant this Winter in Florida?
This “What to Plant in Your Florida Garden” series is a quarterly class I do seasonally to help people who want to garden in Florida but haven’t quite gotten the hang of what to plant when, and it’s our #1 asked question at Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply by our customers. It’s a fun class!
If you moved to Florida but had a great garden up North, this is the class for you. If you’re a Floridian but you were taught to garden by a Northerner, this is also a great class for you.
I hope to see you there!
Until then…keep growing!
P.S. You can always get great gardening tips in my blog, or also from the UF IFAS web resource. Here’s a couple of links for you:
EDIS Gardening Guide: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021
Florida Gardening Calendar: https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/lawn-and-garden/florida-gardening-calendar/