September Planting: Fall Gardening in the South

September heralds the beginning of the main gardening season in the South — at least for Florida. The temperature finally tapers off enough that cool-weather plants can survive the heat of midday. And bonus points: it’s still fine enough for warm-season crops. Fall gardening is the prime reason Floridians can garden at all.

What to Plant in September in the Southern Garden

If you’re wondering what to plant this September, don’t tarry when it comes to sowing summer vegetables. It’s still not too late to start tomatoes, eggplant, summer squashes, and tropical spinaches, like Okinawa spinach.

Depending on your zone, if you can get these warm-season vegetables well established before your first cold snap, you can usually overwinter them by covering them whenever nights drop below 35°F.

With night temperatures in the 70s, you can also start planting those brassicas, which is a relief. Some, like broccoli and cauliflower, take quite a long time to grow, so the earlier you start them, the better.

I’ve found a lot of success with the Piracicaba broccoli, which is a heat-tolerant, non-heading variety. I’ve grown it as late as May, here in 10a, and unless you really feel the need for big broccoli heads, the flavor and quality are superb. Best of all, these guys really deliver! They can take some time to start producing, but once they do, you’ll get tiny little broccoli heads for months and months and months.

Piracicaba broccoli and tomato harves

Speaking of Strawberries

Halfway through September is when you should decide whether or not to grow strawberries this year. Summer has not been kind to last spring’s plants, and I only have myself to blame.

I’m normally a lot more attendant on helping my strawberry plants get through the Florida summer. I use organic fungicides and relocate them to keep them from scorching. But this year, with the addition of the nursery and the chickens, they fell to the bottom of the priority list.

Many nurseries will have bare roots on sale, and some will even have starter plants as well. Check back later in October, as I’m sure I’ll have some on offer this year. And if I don’t, there are many local nurseries near you that can assist.

Grow ALL the Veg!

A quick list of veggies you can start in September includes cabbages, both the Asian cabbages like bok choi and Napa, and the boring old round-head types.

You can also start some of the sturdier leafy greens, like mustards, arugula, kale, and chard. Depending on your zone and microclimate, it may still be a tad too hot for lettuces, except for those bred specifically for hot climates, like the Hawai’ian Manoa and Israeli Jericho Romaine.

It may be worth the risk if your family eats a lot of lettuce, as mine does. Especially if you do loose-leaf types with a cut-and-come-again approach, including succession sowing.

fall gardening vegetables like beans and cabbage

Fall Gardening in Florida Offers So Much

Along with both cool and warm-season vegetables, the fall gardening season is also an amazing time to plant flowers.

Why flowers?

They’re pretty, they add color, they offer charm and beauty.

They’re also a critical boost to local wildlife, likes bees and butterflies, wasps and other beneficial insects.

lady bug on squash leaf looking for aphids to eat