The North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide

The North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide

As you garden this fall, check our the North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide, compiled by UF/IFAS Leon County Extension.

As you garden this fall, check out the North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide, compiled by UF/IFAS Leon County Extension.


Getting into vegetable gardening, but don’t know where to start?

Even experienced gardeners know there’s always more to learn. To help both beginners and advanced gardeners find answers to their questions, the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Office put together the North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide. It incorporates multiple resources, including articles, planting calendars, photos, and UF/IFAS EDIS publications.

The North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide covers the many aspects of vegetable gardening, including how to get started, site selection, insects and biodiversity in the garden, soil testing, composting, cover crops in the garden, irrigation, and more.

You can click here to view the digital version of the guidebook. We also have physical copies of the guide available at the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Office (615 Paul Russell Rd., Tallahassee, FL 32301).

Happy fall gardening!

Plant Preparation for Changing Seasons!

Plant Preparation for Changing Seasons!

As October gets by us and November quickly approaches, I would like to include the preparation on What to Plant? And What to Do? Some great annual plant choices are digitalis (foxglove), petunias, and Shasta daisy. There are many daffodil bulb varieties for North Florida including the following: Carlton, Fortune, Silver Charms, Thalia, and Sweetness. We will be getting into more of the cooler days, so this is a good time to start bulb onions and salad crops such as arugula, lettuce, and spinach. Dill, fennel, oregano, and sage are all herbs that can be planted throughout the fall months.

Start preparing now so your fall garden will be full of dark leafy greens, multi-colored lettuces, and root vegetables of all shapes and sizes. Photo by Molly Jameson.

In lawns there are a few key things that can be done in October. It is possible to control winter weeds before they appear. This is the time to use preemergent herbicides when nighttime temperatures are between 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit for four to five days in a row. If a green lawn is desired, you can overseed with annual ryegrass when the daytime temperatures are in the low 70s. Remember, the lawn will still need to be watered and mowed to maintain a healthy ryegrass. Watch for fungus like brown patch and large patch disease. This can become active when the soil temperature is between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hollies also attract bees to the landscape.
Credit: Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

And last but not least as you prepare for winter around the corner you can plant evergreen hollies that will make it through the cold and provide a splash of color with red berries. Gather pine needles that are dropping and use as a natural mulch, and this is the last month that strawberry plants can be established in a bed or a large container.

Should Pepper Seeds Be Saved?

Should Pepper Seeds Be Saved?

There seems to be a lot of interest in being sustainable and saving seeds is one way to be food sustainable.  Should you save seeds from your garden?  When it comes to peppers and a number of other vegetables in your garden…it depends.

Wakulla Master Gardener Bill Osborne shows off some of the peppers he grew.

Hybrid vs. Open-pollinated

If you plan to save seed from your peppers, you first need to determine whether you planted open pollinated or hybrid peppers.  Hybrid varieties are produced from two distinct pepper varieties and are often designated by “F1” appearing after the variety name.  The seed from hybrid varieties is not usually saved because it does not produce plants and fruit that are true to the original variety.  Open-pollinated varieties are developed from inbreeding plants for multiple generations to develop a stable genetic make-up.  Seeds saved from these varieties will produce plants and fruit that are true to type.

How to Save Seed

To save seed of a known variety, it is important to isolate flowers or plants to ensure cross pollination from other varieties does not occur.  There are four common ways to isolate flower/plants.

  1. Isolate plants from pollinizer insects by growing them indoors or in a greenhouse.
  2. Cover individual plants with insect exclusion netting.
  3. Separate different varieties by at least 400 feet.
  4. Put a small bag over an emerging flower until it has self-pollinated.  Then remove the bag for fruit development.

The options above will help ensure your plants produce seed true to type.  A fun experiment would be to save seed from plants/fruit that are not isolated and planted near other pepper varieties.  There are endless possibilities on the peppers your new varieties would produce and you may end up developing your own named cultivar.  You could also choose one of the isolation techniques listed to selectively cross different pepper plants.  One misconception about growing peppers is that hot peppers planted near sweet peppers will influence the flavor of the sweet peppers.  As you may have gathered from the information about crossing varieties, the flavor of the next generation will be influenced by hot and sweet pepper being allowed to cross pollinate.

German Sandoya (left) examining seed samples in a lab at the Everglades Research and Education Center. Photo University of Florida/IFAS

Harvesting and Processing Seed

Peppers should be allowed to mature before seed is harvested.  In fact, germination rates are higher when peppers are allowed to dry for at least one month before seeds are harvested.  Make sure that no mold or disease is on the peppers, because this could affect germination rates.  To harvest the seeds, simply remove them from the pepper and remove any flesh from the pepper.  If the seed was harvested from fresh peppers, rinse the seed thoroughly and allow to dry before placing in a sealable bag or container.  If the peppers were allowed to dry before seed harvest, then the rinse step can probably be skipped.  Store the seed in a cool, dark, and dry location such as a refrigerator.

Spring to Fall Bounty

Spring to Fall Bounty

By Matthew Orwat and Judy Corbus

Cayenne Peppers growing this summer. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF / IFAS Extension Washington County

Cayenne Peppers growing this summer. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF / IFAS Extension Washington County

As fall begins we often begin to think about the successes and failures of our vegetable gardens. Two of my successes this past summer have been pepper and basil.

A variety of peppers work great as transplants in mid to late spring. This spring a large variety of peppers were planted including Cayenne, Bell, Cubanelle, Habanero, Poblano, Anaheim, Cajun Belle, Havasau, Serrano, Jalapeno, and Banana.  A loose, rich media was used containing coconut coir and composted organic humus to provide an excellent well-drained location which also retained moisture. Finding this delicate balance is difficult but can be achieved by using coconut coir and organic matter based garden soil mixtures.  After the peppers were planted, they were side-dressed twice with a standard bagged 8-8-8 fertilizer blend containing micronutrients and once with an organic fertilizer. During the heat of the summer it was important to water the peppers at least every other day. Need for watering decreased as the fall weather approached, but was still necessary.

Bountiful Pepper Harvest. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF / IFAS Extension Washington County

Bountiful Pepper Harvest. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF / IFAS Extension Washington County

Sage and Basil Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF / IFAS Extension Washington County

Sage and Basil Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF / IFAS Extension Washington County

In fall, many gardeners think it might be a good time to remove their peppers plants, but they can be encouraged to produce peppers until frost and maybe a little later with protection.  Oftentimes it is more practical to start or transplant new pepper plants the following spring, but it is possible to pot up and overwinter peppers in a sheltered area or greenhouse.

In addition to peppers, basil was especially bountiful this year. To save my basil bounty for the winter I have options to dry, blanch or make pesto. This should be done before the first frost, since basil is very sensitive to freezing temperatures.  Other herbs that will usually overwinter well in the garden include thyme, chives and rosemary. They will need little to no protection. Additionally, sage might come back the following year if it is in a protected area.  Herbs such as cilantro and parsley will thrive in our North Florida winters and should be planted now.


To preserve the bounty of your harvest for later use, you may can, pickle, or freeze peppers. Follow these USDA-approved guidelines from the National Center for Home Food Preservation:


Credit : National Center for Home Food Preservation

Credit : National Center for Home Food Preservation




Fall Preparation in the Garden!

Fall Preparation in the Garden!

Carrots need enough space so as not to compete for light, nutrients, or moisture. Photo by Full Earth Farm.

Photo by Full Earth Farm.

Yes, that’s right! We made it through the hottest part of the year and we are looking ahead to fall just around the corner!  I am excited to be discussing September and what we can do to prepare for fall in the garden.  As the nighttime temperatures start to cool down, we are given many more options.

For annual color plantings in September, try Ageratum, Celosia, Zinnias, and Wax Begonia to add fall color to your landscape.  Bulbs will also add color, texture, and pattern to a bed.   If you have some extra space, a variety of elephant ears could really accent a bed or you could always go with the classic calla, narcissus or zephyr lily.  Popular vegetables to plant in North Florida in September are broccoli, carrot, cabbage, and collards. See Vegetable Gardening in Florida This is also the time of year to establish strawberry plants.  Some great herbs to get started are Mexican tarragon, mint, rosemary, and basil.

Strawberries growing on "plastic" to protect them from water splashed fungal spores found in soil. Image Credit: Matthew Orwat UF/IFAS Extension Washington County

Image Credit: Matthew Orwat UF/IFAS Extension Washington County

There are many things that can be done in your lawn during September.  Monitoring your lawn for its health and potential insect pests is important this time of year.  Common insects to scout for are fall armyworms, chinch bugs, mole crickets, and sod webworms.  The last fertilizer application should be done by the middle to end of September.  Make sure you choose a fertilizer with little to no phosphorus unless a soil test shows differently.  To maintain a healthy lawn, avoid weed and feed products and only apply herbicides in areas with high infestations of weeds. Weed and feed products are not recommended because the timing of when to fertilize and the timing of the weed killer is not always the same. The best management practice is to use a separate treatment for weeds and when possible spot treat weeds.

If you already have bulbs in your landscape from previous growing seasons, this is the time to divide and replant those that are big.  You can also add organic matter to new planting areas. Continue working on your vegetable plants and prepare them for either transplants for a fast start, or plants seeds for more variety.  Throughout your landscape, it is important that plants are getting the right amount of water as we go in and out of wet and dry weather this time of year.

October will be here before we know it in just a couple of weeks. Look out for the next article to come.  We will be getting into the cooler nights and more options for planting vegetables and herbs!

Landscape  Q & A

Landscape Q & A

On August 12, 2021, our panel answered questions on a wide variety of landscape topics. Maybe you are asking the same questions, so read on!

Ideas on choosing plants

What are some perennials that can be planted this late in the summer but will still bloom through the cooler months into fall?

Duranta erecta ‘Sapphire Showers’ or ‘Gold Mound’, firespike, Senna bicapsularis, shrimp plant, lion’s ear

Where can native plants be obtained?

Dune sunflower, Helianthus debilis. Photo credit: Mary Salinas UF/IFAS Extension.

Gardening Solutions: Florida Native Plants  – see link to FANN:

What are some evergreen groundcover options for our area?

Mondo grass, Japanese plum yew, shore juniper, ajuga, ferns such as autumn fern.

What are some ideas for partial morning sun butterfly attracting tall flowers to plant now?

Milkweed, salt and pepper plant, swamp sunflower, dune sunflower, ironweed, porterweed, and salt bush.

I’m interested in moving away from a monoculture lawn. What are some suggestions for alternatives?

Perennial peanut, powderpuff mimosa, and frogfruit.

We are new to Florida and have questions about everything in our landscape.

Florida-Friendly-Landscaping TM Program and FFL Web Apps:

UF IFAS Gardening Solutions:

What are some of the top trends in landscaping today?

Houseplants, edible gardens, native plants, food forests, attracting wildlife, container gardening, and zoysiagrass lawns


Artwork broccoli is a variety that produces small heads. Photo credit: Mary Salinas UF/IFAS Extension.

What vegetables are suitable for fall/winter gardening?

Cool Season Vegetables:

North Florida Gardening Calendar:

Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide:

How can I add herbs to my landscape?

Herbs in the Florida Garden:

My figs are green and hard. When do they ripen?

Why Won’t My Figs Ripen:

What is best soil for raised bed vegetable gardens?

Gardening in Raised Beds:

And there are always questions about weeds

How can I eradicate cogongrass?

Chamber bitter is a troublesome warm season weed in our region. Photo credit: Brantlee Spakes Richter, University of Florida,


Is it okay to use cardboard for weed control?

The Cardboard Controversy:

What is the best way to control weeds in grass and landscape beds?

Weed Management Guide for Florida Lawns:

Improving Weed Control in Landscape Planting Beds:

Landscape practices

Can ground water be brackish and stunt plants?

Reclaimed Water Use in the Landscape:

How can I prevent erosion from rainwater runoff? 

Stormwater Runoff Control – NRCS:

Rain Gardens:


What is the best time of the year to propagate flowering trees in zone 8B?

Landscape Plant Propagation Information Page – UF/IFAS Env. Hort:

Which type of mulch works best on slopes greater than 3 percent?

Landscape Mulches: How Quickly do they Settle?:

When should bulbs be fertilized?

Bulbs and More – UI Extension:

Should I cut the spent blooms of agapanthus?

Agapanthus, extending the bloom time:

Plant questions

Monarch caterpillar munching on our native sandhill milkweed, Asclepias humistrata. Photo credit: Mary Salinas, UF IFAS Extension.

I planted native milkweed and have many monarch caterpillars. Should I protect them or leave them in nature?

It’s best to leave them in place. Featured Creatures: Monarch Butterfly:

How does Vinca (periwinkle) do in direct sun? Will it make it through one of our panhandle summers? Can I plant in late August?

Periwinkles  and  No more fail with Cora series:,rot%20if%20irrigated%20too%20frequently.

Insect and disease pests

What to do if you get termites in your raised bed?

The Facts About Termites and Mulch:

How to combat fungus?

Guidelines for ID and Management of Plant Disease Problems:

Are there preventative measures to prevent diseases when the humidity is very high and it is hot?

Fungi in Your Landscape by Maxine Hunter:


If you missed an episode, check out our playlist on YouTube