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February is a big month for planting in Florida. While there is still a slight chance for freezing temperatures, most vegetables need to be started this month if they are to produce before the summer heat and humidity kills them.
I’m still starting lettuce seeds even though they aren’t technically listed in the “Use Seeds” row. They’re such a fast growing crop that they can pretty much be started all spring as long as our nights stay cool. Even if they don’t reach full maturity, they can be eaten as baby greens in salads. Starting tomato and pepper seeds this late may be pushing it, but I’m doing it anyway. They should still have enough time to produce before it gets too hot, but they may not get a full crop. Ideally, their seeds should have been started in January, at least for Central Florida. I have had cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, and eggplants survive the summer heat, but they were established before the heat set in. After a certain point, don’t expect them to set fruit because of the heat and humidity, but they should pick back up when it cools down in the fall.
You should also start your squashes, pumpkins, and watermelons now. I know, crazy right? These hollow vine plants are very susceptible to powdery mildew and vines bore beetles as the temperatures rise, so you want them to get started and established before it gets too hot. I’ll try to get some posts up later about how to combat each of these issues because I always struggle with them every year. I’m hoping to stay on top of it this year.
If you happen to have sweet potato slips this early, you can go ahead and transplant them now, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I’m just starting my slips. Sweet potatoes love the hot Florida summers and are one of the four vegetables that I’ve found to grow through the summer heat. I’m just starting my slips for transplanting next month. If you’re going to grow regular potatoes, I would start your seed potatoes right now. Choose varieties that have very short growing seasons, like Yukon Golds and Reddales. Potatoes do not like the heat of summer and need to be done by June at the latest. It really limits the potatoes that we can grow in Florida.
Also, I would go ahead and start your beet, carrot, and radish seeds. I do not recommend trying to transplant any root vegetables. Someone recently described transplanting root vegetables as “convincing them that they haven’t been transplanted” and I couldn’t have put it better. Any disturbance or damage to the root and your long, slender carrot will become a short, fat dud. Like I said, I recommend directly sowing them in the ground. This will be the first time growing carrots with my no-till method, but I’ve heard that it works well.
Good luck and happy gardening!