Peak summer garden installations (June through September) focus on raised beds planted with cover crop seeds or covered with straw to protect the soil until planting time in the Fall. This is also a good time to plant fruit trees, native plants and butterfly gardens.
During the peak of summer we install raised bed gardens, but we don't fill them with edible plants. Instead we plant them with a cover crop. Cover crops are plants that are sown from seed and are meant to grow quickly and thickly in order to protect your soil from extreme temperatures, erosion and pests. Cover crops are widely used by organic farms to protect and sustain their soil during the "off-season". The off-season refers to the months of the year when most vegetables are not in season, hence it is the time of year when farmers and gardeners can give their soil a break and work on renewing nutrients and soil microscopic life. The most common cover crops for our climate are sunn hemp and buckwheat. These plants will grow in your garden for a few months, protecting your soil and keeping pests away until planting time in the Fall.
Between June and September we highly recommend that new garden clients let us install their garden beds and plant them with cover crop seeds. This means you wont be harvesting herbs or veggies for a while, but it also means that come Fall when all of your favorite veggies are back in season you'll be perfectly situated to make an appointment with us to plant your new garden.
Let us paint a picture of what the Fall season looks like. We start most of our seeds the first week of September. By the end of October those plants are ready to start going into clients gardens. We give priority to existing clients before we can start installing brand new garden beds. That means that we usually don't start installing new gardens until the end of November.
If you'd like to be one of the people who gets a veggie garden going early in the Fall to take full advantage of the growing season we encourage you to be one of the people who gets a cover crop garden during the summer!
Further reading about cover crops
Fall/Winter/Spring garden installations (October through April) tend to be the most rewarding for people in South Florida. This is when the majority of common vegetables are in season.
In the gardening world these three seasons are generally referred to as the Fall growing season. We are lucky to have a 7 month growing season in South Florida! This time of year we stock the widest variety of plants for retail plant sales and for garden installations. You can expect to find pretty much everything you'd find at the grocery store in our inventory. Garden installations are planted with lettuces, heirloom tomatoes, kale, arugula, cucumbers and so many other veggies we are all used to eating on a regular basis. Fall veggies are quick growing and produce food in as little as 2-3 weeks from the day they are installed. That also means that a lot of Fall veggies need to be replanted as often as once per month. Garden clients often return to our nursery to restock on plants on a regular basis or they have us do garden maintenance visits on a regular basis.
Shoulder season garden installations (September and May) can go in many different directions. In May we usually plant gardens with a mix of late Fall crops like hardy herbs and some very tropical crops like ginger, cranberry hibiscus and chili peppers.
Shoulder seasons are the times of the year that exist between marked seasons. As you probably know, the seasons don't change from one day to the next. Shoulder seasons refers to the months when the seasons are in full transition and it neither one or the other. Shoulder seasons vary every year and as gardeners we have to be flexible and open minded during these times. For example, in May we might install a new garden and plant things that are almost out of season, but not quite yet. The person getting those plants needs to know that those plants will have a relatively short time to produce food and that their success with those plants will greatly depend on the weather that year. You can get lucky and grow a beautiful crop of arugula in May, or not so much if it happens to rain excessively that particular May.
Understanding shoulder seasons has a lot to do with understanding our local climate in South Florida. We don't have 4 marked seasons here, we have 2 seasons. Our Fall, Winter and Spring are essentially one season defined by cooler temperatures, low rain fall and low humidity. From late October through early April we can grow pretty much any vegetable you can think of; all of the typical things you can find at the grocery store any given day. Our summer season begins to show it's true colors around May and keeps it up into the beginning of October. You can use hurricane season as a guide. Hurricane seasons is from June 1st to November 30th, but the most likely time for us to be hit is during the peak of the Cape Verde season which is mid-August through the end of September. Summer in South Florida is a monsoon season; we have violent storms, heavy rain fall, warm nights with sustained humidity 24/7. Those conditions are not suitable for growing most of the veggies Americans consider "normal".