When spring comes, your thoughts may turn to planting a flower garden. The fall is the best time for South Florida vegetable gardening. And the summer, with its heat, humidity and tropical storms, is no time to grow tomatoes.
Landscaping and plants to use in South Florida during the summer
Wondering what to plant in summer in Florida? Look for trees and ornamental landscaping, because the rains of summer will water your new plantings and keep you from having to irrigate. You may be used to four seasons, but from a plant's perspective, Florida has two seasons: dry (winter) and wet (summer).
Where to learn about gardening in Southern Florida
Welcome to Miami and the subtropical lifestyle. It's time to forget most of what you knew about gardening and start over. Miami is in the subtropics, which puts it in United States Department of Agriculture zone 10B. Many plants thrive in this environment, but it's important to know which ones are best suited. There is a reason you're seeing palm trees and not maples in the landscape.
Luckily, there are lots of places to learn about South Florida gardening, including the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension service, both online and through helpful local workshops.
The wonderful thing about gardening in South Florida is that, in our subtropical climate, plants grow quickly and lushly. That's a satisfying experience, though you also need to plan. That Schefflera you struggled to keep alive in a pot in your old apartment up north can quickly grow taller than a house in the South Florida landscape.
If you like to garden, it's time for some education. Luckily, you have ample opportunities to learn about South Florida landscaping and plants:
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
This 83-acre oasis in the center of Miami-Dade County offers lectures, workshops and weekend festivals at which you can learn about South Florida plants, as well as beautiful gardens that grow in the South Florida landscape. The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden website also has information about home gardening.
Miami Beach Botanical Garden
The 2.6-acre Miami Beach Botanical Garden is a welcome tropical respite in the city. Admission is always free, and you can learn about South Florida plant life by taking a tour or attending a workshop.
The University of Florida extension service office in Miami provides workshops, seminars and lots of online information for Florida home gardeners, including a guide to vegetable gardening and a month-by-month gardening calendar.
Miami-Dade Public Library
The various library branches periodically provide gardening talks or workshops, plus there are books and online resources available.
Florida Native Plant Society
This organization encourages residents to use landscape plants that are native to Florida. The Miami chapter holds meetings, workshops and plant sales throughout the year, with all sorts of South Florida landscaping ideas.
Planting the right home landscape and maintaining it properly is part of protecting Florida's environment. The University of Florida also offers information on maintaining a Florida-Friendly Yard. Even if your yard doesn't qualify for certification, there are many things you can do to make it more environmentally friendly.
Environmental factors to consider when landscaping in Southern Florida
One thing that may surprise you about Miami is that, despite the hurricanes and torrential rainstorms, South Florida actually suffers from drought. That's important because our drinking water comes from underground, in the Biscayne Aquifer, and if more water is withdrawn than is replaced, it creates an opportunity for saltwater from the ocean to intrude, rendering the underground water undrinkable.
In many Florida communities, there are restrictions on when and how often you can water your lawn and landscaping, though some make an exception for new landscaping. Watering during the heat of the day is never a good idea because you lose too much water to evaporation. The best times to water are in the early morning and in the evening. Check with your city or county for the rules where you live. You can also build your own rain barrel, which enables you to capture rain when it falls and use it on your lawn as needed.
How often you really need to water gardens in South Florida depends on what you're growing and how much shade you have, to start. Most Florida lawns are St. Augustine grass, which is well suited to the Miami climate.
But grass, while the cheapest landscape to maintain, is not the most environmentally friendly. The Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program provides information on how to use native plants or those that are well-adapted to Florida's environment, to create a landscape that looks good and needs less water. You may also want to consider creating a landscape that uses fewer pesticides and less fertilizer, both to protect native species and to limit the chemical runoff into waterways.
Many Florida plants also are attractive to butterflies. If you want more butterflies in your landscape, you should grow the plants they like, including many Florida native specimens. A butterfly-friendly garden will also attract hummingbirds and good bugs.
While growing roses in South Florida takes a lot of work, it can be done—provided you plant the right varieties and cultivate them carefully. If you primarily use native plants, you can always spice up your garden with a few non-native favorites.
No matter what you plant, proper landscaping requires the right equipment, and you can book South Florida storage units for gardening storage when you're not in peak planting season.