Us Floridians are pretty lucky… While the rest of the country is buttoned up tight against freezing weather we rarely get cold enough to cover our tropical plants. While it may FEEL frigid to us, many plants are actually in their prime in these cool temperatures. I am going to cover a smorgasbord of plants that will thrive if started now, Yes in February!
Salad greens:This includes lettuces, spinach, endive, etc. Our summers are way to hot here for salad greens. Late fall through early spring is our small window of opportunity for planting outdoors so take advantage of it! Sow seeds in small rows and plant every two weeks to get a continuous crop of crisp tasty greens. I suggest trying out Tatsoi, an oriental green, that is similar to spinach but with a peppery taste. Delicious sauteed or mixed in salads!
Root Veggies: Including beets, carrots, radishes, and parsnip.
Radishes are the quickest and easiest to grow while carrots are very slow to mature. I like to plant a row of carrots with the radishes mixed in so that by the time you are harvesting the radishes, the carrots are just starting to germinate. It saves room in the garden bed and reduces watering. Beets are also one of my FAVORITE veggies! After my disastrous first attempt at cooking fresh beets following a magazine recipe, I swore them off. Then my aunt showed me how to cook them and it couldn’t be easier. Chop off the green tops and drop them in a pot of boiling water (don’t even bother rinsing them off). Cook from 30 minutes to an hour or more depending on size. When they poke easily with a fork (think potatoes) then they are done. Drain the water and rub the skin of with a paper towel. The skins will slip right off, slice, and garnish as you prefer!
Kale: A member of the cabbage family that has been bred over the years to produce large loose leaves that keep a nice crunchy texture even when cooked. They actually need a little cold spell to get the best flavor from them. Dinosaur kale is a popular Tuscan heirloom that is super flavorful. I love chopping up fresh kale and drizzling EVOO and lemon juice on it then letting it marinate. After an hour or two sprinkle seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc) on it and chow down. Its addictive!
Swiss Chard: A part of the beet family that is grown for its leaves instead of its roots. Although chard comes in several species of green I just cant help planting rainbow chard every time. Its bright stems that come in red, purple, orange, and yellow look absolutely gorgeous growing in the garden and on the plate! It is very mild in flavor, so you might even be able to convince your kids its not really a veggie pack full of vitamins : )
Peas: All peas, from sugar snap peas to garden peas, are cool weather crops. You can usually start planting them in late fall (if were lucky) and plant 2 or 3 times over the winter to have a bountiful and continuous crop. Peas are very easy to grow from seed and have a fairly short time till harvest. Almost all of them need something to climb so plant next to supports. Make sure to pick the pods as soon as they are ready to encourage heavier production.
There are a plethora of veggies that do great in this weather. So grab your seeds, maybe a scarf for us natives, and get to planting!