We are gearing up for Fall growing season here in Florida. If you’ve been following our social media then you know that to be true. August is Fall Seed planting month, so if you want some tips for seed planting in fall, take a look at last week’s blog: Florida Fall Gardening Starts NOW! for more on that.
This week, while you might be making your garden plans, I thought it would be fun to mention Five Fun Florida Fall Crops to consider planting this year, in no particular order.
Fun Florida Fall Crop #1: Winter Squash
Winter Squash comes in many shapes, sizes and colors, and here in Florida the fall is a great time to plant them. As the weather cools down you’re going to want to have these lovely squash on hand to roast for dinner, to make soups (see my Butternut Squash soup recipe in this blog post: Delish Dishes From The Backyard).
Winter squash is, in my opinion, easier to grow in the cooler months, because there’s a lessening threat to the vines from insects. You still have to watch for cutworms and other such beasties but when it does finally cool off, they usually go dormant.
Since I mentioned vines, most of the winter squash varieties do grow on vines, so having some sort of trellis system is very important for these lovely things. If you want some guidance on some trellis-like structures, take a look at the blog from about a month ago on structures you can build in the garden: Useful Garden Structures You Can Build. I specifically dream of a hoop trellis that I can walk under and pick these lovelies from a comfortable position – standing!
Fun Florida Fall Crop #2: Broccoli/Broccolini/Broccoli Raab
Broccoli is so delicious. I eat it as much as possible. When I grow it myself it’s an extra special treat!
There are several different varieties of veggies from the broccoli family, and all of them are exciting and delicious. Everyone has had the large heads of broccoli from the grocery store, but have you had the ones that are kinda like broccoli and asparagus had a baby? Long and thin stalks, with broccoli flowers at the ends, broccoli raab and broccolini are delicious and nutritious too. In many ways, they’re easier to cook too!
All of the broccolis like cooler weather, so we can plant them in Fall, Winter, and very early Spring here in Florida. Right now, they will germinate fast in the warmer weather, but as they get around to creating their flowers (the broccoli heads that you eat are actually lots of little flowers buds!) it will be cool enough that they won’t bolt too quickly (the yellow flowers bloom).
Did you know that broccoli is in the same family as cauliflower, cabbage, canola (aka rapeseed), kale, bok choy, kohlrabi, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts? Family Brassicaeae is the Cruciferous vegetables! Such an important family for vitamins and minerals, as well as the sulphur compounds they contain which have widely been found to be preventative in diseases such as cancer.
Fun Florida Fall Crop #3: Heirloom Tomatoes
I think that Fall is a great time to plant your Heirloom Tomatoes. I think of Fall as the time when pests will be diminishing as we reach the colder months, and heirloom tomatoes have a better chance of survival to fruiting when there are less pests. This is because they don’t have the benefits of hybridization to give them disease-thwarting characteristics like blight and virus resistance. I also find that bugs LOVE my heirlooms, and there are less bugs in the Fall.
I guess it goes without saying that the more tomatoes I can eat, as many seasons of the year that I can grow them, I’m going to do so. Do you feel the same way about tomatoes as I do?
Fun Florida Fall Crop #4: Kale
Planting Kale is so rewarding. So many nutritious types out there for you to experiment with, including decorative ones! Kale is one of those plants that can be edible AND beautiful, and for that reason alone they will always have a place in my Fall, Winter, and Spring gardens.
Red Russian Kale has beautiful hues of reds and pinks as well as green. Lacinto (Dino) Kale come up dark green with a blue hue, Curly-leaf Kale (like Scots) and Blue Vates that make really fun kale chips and the younger leaves are awesome for wraps or boats (think a leafy taco).
Then there’s the kale that looks like pretty frilly cabbage heads in bright white with green fringe and dusky lavender centers with green fringe; these ornamental kale are usually used along sidewalks to define garden borders with bright beautiful and interesting color for Fall and Winter flower beds and also as the “Chiller” in the “Thriller, Chiller, Spiller” formula of container plantings this time of year.
Fun Florida Fall Crop #5: Rutabagas & Turnips
OK, I cheated here…I put two into one category. But I did it for a reason – mainly because they are so very similar to grow, and to eat. They’re so good! And pretty easy to grow too.
These are cool season root vegetables that can be started in Fall. They’re a direct-sow for the most part. Like most root vegetables, you don’t want to damage the root system by transplanting. Luckily they’re quite easy to sow, and they even space themselves out so you don’t have to do too much thinning. They literally just push themselves apart as they grow (unlike carrots, which you have to thin or they won’t do much – they’re much more delicate).
Rutabaga and turnips are a great low calorie substitute for potato dishes, with lots of fiber. You can mash them, fry them, bake them. I absolutely love making rutabaga and turnip “french fries” in the oven – oil, salt, pepper (or try your fav salt-based steak seasoning!) and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until edges are brown and crispy and the centers are soft. Flip them about halfway through for even browning (it’s not necessary but it can help for presentation if you’re looking to impress). They have a slightly sweet taste but it’s not overpowering, it compliments the salt and pepper very nicely.
OK, there’s my Five Fun Florida Food Crops recommendation to try this year. How many of these made YOUR garden list this year?
Until next time, Keep Growing!