12 Best Vegetables to Grow in Florida

Kate Mitchell

February 28, 2023

At some point, most gardeners will think about growing their own vegetables. It's a hobby that's tasty, healthy and good for the environment - and it could even save you some money!

However, the humidity and heat that we experience here in Florida can make growing vegetables more daunting than it might be otherwise.

How to Start a Vegetable Garden

An irrigation system sprays water onto a vegetable garden

If you haven't grown veggies before, you might need to do some preparation before you get started. The main thing is to choose a suitable location in your yard for your new vegetable garden.

Most vegetable plants need plenty of direct sunlight. Luckily that's not too difficult for us here in Florida! It's also very important that your plants get enough water, so try to choose a spot that's close to your water source.

It's a good idea to begin by improving the soil with compost or natural fertilizer. Checking your soil type (more info on that here) and, if necessary, making adjustments can help to make sure your plants will thrive. You can also set yourself up for success by making sure to select varieties that thrive in the soil type you have.

Planning your Central Florida Veggie Garden

Now for the fun part: it's time to choose which veggies you'd like to grow!

If you're interested in creating a vegetable garden in Central Florida, this list of ideas will help you out.

If you're in North or South Florida, most of these popular plants will also be happy growing there, but you could also check out this article from Life in the USA for more suggestions.

1. Broccoli

Knobbly green broccoli on a wooden surface

Broccoli is a nutritious vegetable that provides plenty of vitamins and minerals. This brassica, which is related to plants like cabbage and cauliflower, is delicious raw, roasted or steamed.

The cooler months of fall and winter are the best times to plant broccoli here in Florida, as hot weather can mean the head (the part we eat) doesn't develop properly. Plant your broccoli where it will get four to six hours of sunlight per day and make sure to give it plenty of water.

2. Cabbage

Cabbage, a relative of broccoli, is another great choice for Florida's veggie gardens. It too needs cooler temperatures: spring or fall is a good time to plant cabbage.

Whilst cabbage plants can survive a frost, the leaves could be damaged. That's the part you'll be eating, so use a frost cloth to protect your vegetables if the temperature drops.

Make sure you look out for insect attacks and other garden pests as they are big fans of cabbage leaves! 

3. Collards

Dark green collard leaves

Collards are one of the most popular varieties of greens to grow in Florida. They look, and taste, a little like cabbage, with big, green, glossy leaves.

Collards can be planted August through February. If it's too late for this year, you could try Swiss Chard instead as this can be planted until May.

It will take 40 to 80 days for your collards to be mature. Insects are the biggest threat to greens like collards, so look out for them. The University of Florida has some suggestions on integrated pest management to help you avoid any problems.

4. Corn

Corn is a delicious, versatile veggie that goes with everything - even the kids will agree! It's also a favorite among backyard gardeners as it's easy to grow.

However, before you plant corn, make sure you have enough space: corn plants can grow up to eight feet tall, so make sure you plan for that in your landscaping!

Plant your corn in February to March for a spring harvest, or August to September for it to mature in the fall. It can be a good idea to stagger your planting so that you have a supply of home-grown corn for longer, as it's best eaten within a couple of days after harvesting.

5. Beets

Muddy, freshly-picked beets on an upturned crate

Beets are a crop that is usually grown in cold weather, but they can also tolerate some warmer temperatures. In Central Florida you can plant them September through February. They make for a fairly quick harvest, ready in 45-60 days.

With these root crops it's important to thin them out after planting, as multiple beets will sprout from a single seed. They need thinning out so they have room to grow nice and big.

As with corn, it can be a good idea to plant a few one week, then a few more the next, so they won't all be ready at the same time.

6. Carrots

Carrots are a great vegetable to add a bit of crunch and color to your salad bowl. They can be challenging to grow in Florida because they need so much moisture when the root crop is growing and expanding.

However, if planted at the correct time, they can do well here. In Central and North Florida, you'll want to plant your carrots between August and March. If you're in South Florida it's best to wait until September.

Make sure your vegetable garden is close to a source of water so it's easy to give these popular vegetables all they need!

7. Kale

Curly kale leaves in a variety of green shades

Kale needs a lot of sunshine, so it's a great choice for your Florida veggie garden. However, it's still best to stick to the cooler months as hot weather can cause kale to bolt. This is when it starts to grow flowers rather than leaves, so the harvest will be over.

It takes 50 to 60 days for kale to be ready to harvest, so make sure to plant it in time for it to be mature before the hot summer months. You can start planting in August in North Florida; the end of planting season for kale is February.

The large leaves of this popular crop look so pretty when growing that there are ornamental varieties as well as edible ones!

8. Cucumbers

A nice cool cucumber can be a delicious addition to your plate on a hot day. These refreshing green vegetables grow very well in Central Florida, especially if planted in February or March.

You can also plant in September for a fall harvest. However, don't leave it too late, as cool weather can lead to a bitter taste in your cucumbers.

Encouraging beneficial insects such as honeybees in your garden can help your cucumbers to self-pollinate.

As well as cucumber, you could consider growing cucamelons. These cute, grape-sized fruits look like tiny watermelons but taste like sweet cucumbers!

9. Cauliflower

A hand holds out a pink cauliflower against a green garden background

Cauliflower, a brassica plant like broccoli, needs full sunshine but is a cool season vegetable. Plant from September through January in South and Central Florida to allow time for the crop to mature before the summer heat comes in.

You can grow cauliflower from seed, but the easiest way is to start with transplants. There are several popular varieties, some with orange, green or purple heads as well as the more traditional white.

Cauliflower needs a little care as it can be susceptible to pests and diseases.

10. Onions

Onions are so popular and versatile that, if you plant them in your veggie garden, you'll be sure to use them quickly once they're ready to harvest. Be aware, though, that home-grown onions don't always taste the same as the ones you get from the grocery store, as the soil they grow in affects their flavor.

September through December is the correct time to plant onions in Central Florida. As with other vegetables, they need plenty of sun. They can take up to 140 days to mature if grown from seed; a quicker method is to purchase and transplant the small bulbs.

11. Turnips

An array of purple turnips with white stalks and green leaves

Turnips are a relatively hardy vegetable which can tolerate cool weather and even some freezing temperatures. You can plant them September through February in Central Florida.

Just like most other vegetables, turnips need plenty of direct sunlight and water. They will mature in as little as 60 days.

12. Potatoes

Potatoes, like onions, need cool weather and plenty of direct sunlight. Because the winter and spring are drier times of year, you'll need to make sure your potato plants are irrigated properly so they get enough water.

However, avoid making your soil too wet, as this can lead to decay. Over-watering can also wash away the nutrients needed by the plant.

The best time to plant potatoes is January; you can also plant in February in North and Central Florida. Look out for any very cold weather: although potatoes need cool weather, they cannot tolerate freezing temperatures. If very cold weather is predicted, protect your potato plants by covering them with soil or frost blankets.

Even in Florida's tricky climate, there are plenty of delicious vegetables for you to grow in your backyard. Why not get started today? 

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