The next Florida veggie garden season is sneaking up on us. It’s hard to imagine right now that it will ever be cooler, however if you want to get transplants ready for fall harvest, better break out the seeds now! Starting transplants is beneficial for many reasons. You can transplant the biggest and best plants (and share your leftovers with someone who didn’t plan ahead). You get a head start on harvest, more yield and less chance of early frost damage ruining things. You can protect your seedlings and they will be stronger when finally planted. If you have germination problems, there is still time to spare. Some plants do better than others as transplants and some should only be sown directly in garden beds. We’ll cover that too. This guide can’t be completely comprehensive, but hopefully it will cover the most common selections. For a more detailed list, the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide is indispensable. Everyone who grows vegetables should look it over.
You may like to start small with only one or two of your favorite vegetables. If you plant more, staggering seed starts will give you a better progression of fresh produce and not overwhelm you with a harvest all at once. Companion planting can help with pests or to supply nutrients, so think about planning your bed with that in mind. For small seeds you may want to try making SEED TAPE. While your transplants are growing, don’t forget to start getting your beds ready, too. Decide on more conservative container gardens, raised beds, row or block beds. Test for soil pH, if you’ve never done so. Check irrigation lines, clear the weeds, add amendments as needed, apply compost and put down some mulch. If you’ve never tried growing veggies, here are some useful instructions for the most common types. Remember, this is merely a planting guide and not absolute. Here’s a run down of when to start seeds for transplants and when they typically are planted (or started in the soil).
Start transplants for: Broccoli, collards, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes at the beginning of July. Celery and watermelons and can be started now. Pole beans, pumpkins, squashes, watermelon direct sow now to August.
August planting for: broccoli, collards, celery, eggplant, melons, peppers, pumpkins, squashes (winter & summer).
Start transplants for: cabbage, kale, leeks, onions in August. Direct sow lettuce and Swiss Chard in mid August; Corn, cucumber and onions southern peas and turnips direct sow mid August to September.
Start transplants for: beets, carrots (transplant with care), cauliflower, spinach in September. Beans (bush and lima), carrots, cucumbers, radish direct sow September.
September planting for: cabbage, kale, leeks, lettuce, onions, Swiss chard, tomatoes.
October planting for: beets, carrots, spinach, cauliflower.
When transplanting tomatoes, you’ll get better results if you remove the lower leaves and bury 3/4 of the stem in the ground. The stem will grow roots and it will be a much stronger plant. It’s the same with peppers, however you should only bury about half of the plant. To prevent disease, it is important not to wet tomato leaves when watering. Drip irrigation, perforated pvc pipe (planted vertically with the plant), or this homemade bottle irrigation are all options. Heavy watering or rain can cause tomato splitting. To prevent ruined tomatoes, pick the ones that are starting to ripen and let them finish on the counter (room temperature). Too much water, too fast is the main reason they split.
To give you an idea of plant yields, just look at what your garden can produce.
Plantings and Yields
1. Tomatoes – A single tomato plant will yield anything from a
few pounds up to 100 pounds or more. You can reckon on about 20 pounds
per plant over the season 15-20 per plant
2. Cucumbers – if you use a trellis, a 25-foot long trellis will
yield over 100 pounds of cucumbers depending on the variety. About 50
3. Beans – One green bean plant can produce hundreds of beans.
4. Sweet Peppers – 12 peppers on average per day for months
5. Eggplant – black beauty 5-6, Japanese eggplant average two dozen eggplant
6. Scallion onions – one per seed
7. Potatoes – 6-8 potatoes each plant
8. Squash – 10-15 per vine
9. cantaloupe 4 per vine
10. cauliflower 1 per seed
11. summer squash 10 – 15 per vine
12. cherry tomatoes 300 per plant
13. pickling cucumbers 50 per vine
14. carrots 1 per seed
15. lettuce 1 per seed
16. Iroquois melons 4-5 per vine
17. butternut squash 4-5 per vine