As someone who has grown vegetables through the summer in Northeast Florida for the past decade, I can tell you from experience: if you haven’t already planted your warm season garden, April is the month to get a move on.

Growing a vegetable garden in Florida during the warm season months can be brutal. Here are some essential tips on how to get started on a vegetable garden that will provide you bounty through the dog days of summer, and even into early fall if you are lucky!

1. Plant in raised beds.
Between weeds and hungry bugs, the best bet to ease your workload is to build a raised bed garden. It can be as big or as small as you like. A raised bed can be a box waist-high, or a box on the ground that is lined with landscaping fabric. Either way, building a bed from scratch with fresh soil and compost is going to make your overall experience a thousand times more enjoyable. It will dramatically decrease the amount of weeds and pests that love to thrive in warm, wet Florida gardens.

FCM_WarmGarden22. Know when to start from seed, and when not to.
Some plants grow well from seed, and some plants are best purchased young and transplanted. Plants like tomatoes, while are easy to start from seed, they can take awhile to fruit. The same goes for herbs, like basil. It takes a lot of basil to make a little pesto, so if you don’t want to wait, buying young plants is an easy way to get a jumpstart. Just be sure to know your nursery and the quality of the plants they sell, particularly if you are dedicated to organic gardening.

FCM_WarmGarden33. Get the most bang for your buck.
Not all vegetables are cut out for the smothering heat of a First Coast summer. If you are looking for plants that are going to produce large quantities with low maintenance go for: bush beans, eggplant, okra, and peppers of any variety.

FCM_WarmGarden44. Water, and then water some more.
A simple drip irrigation or sprinkler on a timer twice a day is the easiest way to be sure your thirsty garden gets the water it needs in the summer sun. Water in the morning, and then water again in the evening to give your garden nice wet soil to settle into overnight.

FCM_WarmGarden55. Harvest regularly.
Bugs love vegetables and fruits, particularly when they are over ripe. Research when and how to harvest each the fruits of your labor, and stay on top of it. You don’t want all that hard work to go to waste!

Are you growing a vegetable garden on the First Coast this year? Take a photo and be sure to tag us on Instagram at #firstcoastmag. Share a tip or two if you would like as well. The best dirt on regional gardening always comes from folks who are in the field!