Plan and Plant Your Spring Vegetable Garden
Start your spring vegetable garden this month. North and Central Floridians may still plant cool-season vegetables, and all gardeners can enjoy crops like tomatoes and watermelon if they hurry. Prepare the soil, take stock of planting times, and get certain plants in the ground right away.
Mild March temperatures make this time of year a pleasant one in Florida and the best time for planting a spring vegetable garden. Although summer comes quickly in Florida, starting now means you can enjoy crops that won’t withstand the high heat of July and August, like tomatoes and watermelon. Even as we look toward summer, Central and North Florida homeowners may still plant some cool-weather crops.
Soil Preparation is Key
The first thing to do is make sure your planting site is appropriate. Choose a spot that drains well, is near a water source, and receives at least six hours of direct sunlight a day.
If you haven’t done so already, prepare the soil now. There should be at least a few weeks between soil preparation and planting or transplanting.
- As far in advance as possible: test the pH of the soil. The ideal pH for sandy soil (most of Florida) is 5.8 to 6.3. If your soil pH is lower than 5.5, raise the pH with an application of dolomitic limestone, per the recommendations of your area soil testing lab. Lime can be applied one to two weeks before planting, but optimal timing is two to three months before planting.
- At least four weeks before seeding: mix un-composted organics, like grass clippings and leaves, into the soil.
- At least three weeks before planting: spade or plow the soil.
- Before planting: test soil for nutrients to determine the best fertilizer. Most areas will do well with common 10-10-10 fertilizers, but some soil in Florida has plenty of phosphorus and needs a different fertilizer.
- At planting time: work composted organics into the dirt, smooth out the soil, and spread fertilizer over the plot.
As you can see, it’s not the end of the world if you haven’t planned months ahead. There are quick options, like using composted instead of un-composted organics. This is an overall timing guideline that can be applied to your summer garden, too.
Plan Your Garden ASAP
We find a little planning goes a long way. Before you go to your local garden center, draw out a garden plan with the names and locations of the vegetables you want to grow. Mark planting dates and note whether you’ll need to plant transplants or sow seeds directly in the soil. Use this information to determine whether you should grow transplants indoors or purchase them.
Our Favorite Vegetables to Plant Now
Now is the time for warm-season veggies. However, gardeners in North and Central Florida can plant cool-season crops – like beets, lettuce, kohlrabi, cabbage, carrots, and collards – if they make haste.
Certain warm-season crops need to be planted as soon as possible, as they can’t take Florida’s intense summer heat. North Florida gardeners have a bit more leeway, but not by much. March is your last chance to grow these plants if you’re in South Florida. Get these in the ground now: cantaloupe, corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, and watermelon.
Start planning your hot-weather vegetables now. Many should be planted in April, which will arrive before we know it. These include sweet potato, okra, Southern peas, and calabaza squash.