There are a few options for your summer garden. Most of us are worn out from working in the heat, and the plants are too. Some plants however thrive in this humid, hot weather. The Edible Plant Project can help you select perennial plants that will thrive in our climate. Best part is that perennials generally require less maintenance, and can take a bit of summer neglect.
If you have annual beds that are fading out, the best thing is to remove struggling plants before they become a problem. The last thing you need is disease and pests building up in stressed out plants. Yank them now and consider the following summer options.
1. Cover crops are a great way to add biomass and nutrition back to the soil. Read here for more info on cover crops for Florida. You can go to the feed store and ask for black-eyed peas in bulk, they’re inexpensive and great at fixing nitrogen. They grow readily with little care. Be sure to cut them down BEFORE they produce peas and you’re tempted to harvest, otherwise all the nitrogen goes to the pea rather than the plant material you’ll be incorporating back into the soil. If you’ve never grown legumes in your garden, or have had trouble growing them in the past, consider using inoculant. It helps the roots establish the microbial community needed to fix nitrogen. Yields will be much better with inoculant. Hancock Seeds in south Florida sells the stuff, as does Johnny’s, just make sure you are getting the right strain for the type of seed you’re using.
2. Solarizing is a good option if you’ve had serious weed and pest issues and want to get ahead of them without chemicals or labor. The trick is taking advantage of the hottest months (June-August), using clear plastic that is well sealed to the ground. Read here for instructions on how to solarize properly. Don’t do this if you have no weed/pest/disease problems as it cooks everything in the soil. You will have to replenish your cooked soil with fresh compost to re-introduce microbes and biomass.
3. If you don’t want to do either of these things, be sure to pull out all plant matter to prevent it from becoming weakened and attracting pests and disease. Be aggressive; there is no need to nurse along a sickly looking tomato plant giving minimal yields. Cover the soil with cardboard or mulch to prevent weeds from taking hold this summer. You may also add fresh manure, giving it ample time to rot and be safe for planting by fall.
Fall gardening starts around August-October. Some gardeners like to get a late tomato and pepper crop by planting in August. However the true cool season crops (i.e. leafy greens and root crops) need cool weather to thrive, so late September and October are ideal times to plant. If you haven’t already, consider joining the seed library for unlimited access to garden seeds all year.