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Month by Month in North Florida: What to Plant in July

July is a month of anticipation in North Florida, because most of our fall/winter crops are planted in August. There are only a few veggies you can start from seed in July, but there is still time to put larger plants in the ground. You can usually find veggies such as peppers and tomatoes in sizes from 3-inch to 1 gallon pots, or sometimes even larger at nurseries and big box stores.

Time to Start Pumpkins and Cucumbers

Early July (before the 15th) is the time to start your pumpkin. Plant them directly into the ground, because squash family plants do not like to be moved. For the smaller decorative or personal pumpkins, save space by growing them up a strong trellis. This will also keep soil-borne insects from attacking them.

Cucumbers can also be started in July, and again, I would suggest planting directly into the ground and trellising them. You can also wait and plant them in August, but it never hurts to have an early start, so if they don't grow well, you still have time to replant.

Starting Tomatoes for Fall

Tomato seeds should be started indoors now for fall planting. Keep them indoors until they are around 4 weeks old, acclimating them slowly outdoors for a few hours a day. I always start putting mine in shade first, then semi-shade, then morning sun before exposing them to the harsh summer sun. It should take about 2 weeks to acclimate them.

Southern Peas

There is still time for one more planting of Southern peas, also called cowpeas or field peas. There are many varieties of these easy-to-grow nitrogen fixing legumes, so try a few new ones if you have space. If you're growing okra, plant some of the climbing varieties underneath them for nitrogen fixing and free trellising. These are great companion plants for heavy feeders such as eggplant.

Planting from Starts 

Eggplant and peppers are best planted from starts if you want a late summer crop; however, you can now start pepper seeds indoors to plant out in the fall. I usually start my bell peppers indoors in July and move them into 3-inch pots once they have their second set of leaves. This will keep them going until you plant them out or move them up to larger pots in August.

Cherry tomatoes will also do well from starts, the bigger the better. I suggest either buying small starts and putting them into containers or buying 1-gallon or larger starts to put directly into the ground.

Watch out for Everglades tomatoes starting to fail in the heat, and be sure to gather seeds, which you can start now for a fall crop. I like to just squirt the seeds out into a 1 gallon pot, where they will come up and start growing again. You don't have to take great pains to get these plants to grow.

Ornamentals to Plant in North Florida in July

There aren't a lot of annuals that will stand being planted or transplanted during the July heat. It's best just to keep your present annuals watered well and look forward to planting more in the fall.

Bulbs of butterfly lily, gladiolus and society garlic can be planted in July.

Preparing the Garden for Fall Planting

Late July is a good time to start preparing the garden for fall planting, especially if you have solarized, planted a cover crop or left it fallow over the summer. Although the heat is oppressive, I usually work very early in the morning or later in the evening (be sure to wear mosquito repellent) to get things done, sometimes just 10 minutes at a time.

Pull weeds and turn more organic matter into the soil. Check the pH and adjust accordingly with whatever amendments are necessary. If you aren't going to plant right away, it's a good idea to place cardboard over the garden to keep weeds from growing back.

July is a tough, hot month for North Florida gardening, but there are still things to plant and things to do, so don't give up on the garden yet!

Happy Gardening!

Month-by-Month in North Florida: What to Plant in May (Updated 2021)

May is when the heat usually hits North Florida, and we consider it the beginning of summer. Not much will grow from seed this time of year, in fact this year (2017) has been so hot that my pepper seeds I planted last month never sprouted.

Vegetables to Plant in North Florida in May 

Fried Okra Is an Old Southern FavoriteImage Credit Lahti 213 CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

There is still time to plant these three vegetables from seed, which have so many different varieties, if you like them, you could fill your garden with only these. If you don't plant to do any summer gardening, plant some southern peas as a cover crop. They are great nitrogen fixers, practically grow themselves, and you can harvest the dried peas and turn the plants into your fall garden soil for organic matter.

Okra Southern Peas Swiss Chard

Veggies You Can Still Grow from Starter Plants

There are a wide variety of eggplants you can grow in your summer garden.

Even though not many standard veggies will grow from seed this month, there are still plenty of opportunites to start a summer garden with starter plants from your local garden center or big box store. I have a Ichiban eggplant I planted last week in a container, and already have a frut on it.

Veggies you can grow from starter plants are:

Peppers Cherry Tomatoes Eggplants

I suggest planting sweet peppers in a spot shaded from the afternoon sun, or you're likely to get sunburned fruit. Many hot peppers are also ornamental, so mix them in and amongst your ornamental plants.

I especially love cherry tomatoes, but with so little space, I only grow one variety most years: Everglades. Despite being a native tomato, Everglades fades pretty quickly once the temperatures get too high, so I always have a few clones going. This year I had one seedling live from some "fancy" salad tomatoes I bought at the store, and I'm growing it to see what it turns out to be. I think it's a grape-looking tomato that is red and black, but we'll see if it survives. 

The Cherokee Purples I plant every year actually have tomatoes on them this year -- or at least one large one does, and one clone that I haven't put into a larger pot yet. the one with the tomatoes on it has some sort of virus, so I don't think it will be growing much more. The one that is healthy was getting too tall, so I cut it back, and I don't think those flowers will get pollinated unless I do it by hand. It's still cool enough at  night right now for it to pollinate, but they usually don't past May 1.

Cloning Tomatoes

Speaking of clones, this is an excellent time to start clones of your regular tomatoes for planting in the fall. Simply snip or snap out suckers (shoots that come out from above a leaf) about 6 inches tall, stick them in a jar of water indoors, or bury them deeply in a pot in a shady space outdoors, and you will have all the tomatoes you need for fall planting. I already have my Cherokee Purple clones stuck and growing.

Annuals to plant in May in North Florida

Salvias and Sages are some of the best flowering plants for your summer garden.
There are not a lot of annuals that can take the summer heat, and this late, it is better to use starter plants. Fortunately for gardeners wanting lots of color in their summer gardens, salvias and sages are plants that come in a myriad of colors, sizes and shapes, and it loves our hot summers.

Salvia Angelonia Wax Begonia Ornamental Peppers

Bulbs to plant in May in North Florida:

This is the month to plant daylilies. These plants have come a long way since the days when they grew wild in ditches along the roadways (thus the name "ditch lily"). Did you know that the species plants, the original ditch lilies, are edible? Yes, every part of the plant is edible; buds, leaves, and roots. The hybrids are also edible, but most don't taste too good; trust me, I've tried.

Happy Gardening!

What Does Permaculture Mean to You?

Beginnings of the South Facing Garden, 2015

When I moved here, I had NO money and the soil was horrid -- pure sand.  People told me I couldn't do permaculture in this tiny space, but I didn't listen. I did what I could, using what I had, and what I had was leaves. With lots of large trees around the complex, I started raking and piling them up on the beds in the winter, nothing else, just leaves. I would literally go back to the woods behind the complex and trim the weeds and bushes for chop-and-drop in the warmer months, because there was no room for a compost pile. Earthworms came, ate the leaves and left lots of worm poop. It took awhile before I had a bed where I didn't have to fertilize anything at all, but now I have three, and I still pile leaves on them every year.

My friend came to dig some bulbs the other day, and she kept talking about how great the soil was. If she could have seen it 5 years ago, she would have said it was hopeless. 

I have one area where I tossed all my kitchen scraps all year, and leaves in the fall/winter. My banana grows there. I never fertilize it because it's literally growing in compost. Someone came to dig a pup and asked if he could take a few of the earthworms. I wasn't paying attention, but I looked down and there were literally BALLS of them around that plant. Of course, I shared.

Don't let people tell you what you can't do. Maybe you can't plant a food forest, or build large compost piles, or do Hugelkultur, but if you look at what Mother Nature does, how plants grow in the wild, how the leaves fall to cover the ground and protect the roots and how the earthworms, soil critters and mushrooms all work together to decompose the leaves and dead foliage to feed the trees and other plants, you'll see that if you are patient, you don't need loads of money. Nature provides everything you need.

Below are pictures of that same South Facing garden from 2019. I no longer have to fertilize it. The earthworms and a network of mushroom mycelium take care of that. All I do is water as needed, which isn't very often.  In the background, you can see that banana that only gets fed kitchen scraps.

This is what permaculture means to me. I just mimic nature, like my grandmother taught me, and with patience, all things come together. I think that's what most new gardeners are missing -- patience. Nature works at her own pace. You can rush her with chemicals and poisons, but you do harm that takes years to undo.

This year, I'm taking out most of the south-facing bed because it has gotten out of control, but I won't have to amend the soil for the new seeds and plants I'll grow there. My earthworms have been chomping on leaves all winter and they are ready to go to work.