Some say we’re crazy, others say we are backward but January really is time to plant certain vegetable crops in Florida! True Floridians know we are the luckiest people in good ole USA because of our mild winters and the fact that our January is a very busy gardening month. Compare it to May in the northern climates. Its definitely time to plant some cold hardy varieties now. Its also time to plant those crops that don’t do well during our humid and scorching summer heat. And be sure to cover those frost tender veggies to get them thru the few days of very cold weather that we may have. Picking tomatoes and citrus before a freeze will prevent loss due to cold temps.
January is time to plant seeds
According to the Osceola County Ag extension office, January is time to plant seeds and seedlings of broccoli, cauliflower, beets, Swiss chard, celery, cabbage, carrots, Chinese cabbage, collards, endive, escarole, lettuce, mustard, kale, radish, parsley, onions, English peas, sugar snap peas, peppers both sweet and hot, potatoes, strawberries and turnips. Also mentioned are eggplant and watermelon now but be sure you provide cover during frost and freeze warnings for these tender types.
Pick delicate fruits and veggies before a freeze
Perhaps you have some green tomatoes on the vine? It may be a very good idea to pick for a batch of Fried Green Tomatoes as they do not like to be refrigerated whether in the house or outside. If temps go below 40F, there is a chance the texture of the tomatoes will become undesirable. Yes, they are gorgeous, huge, and just need a few more days of sunshine to ripen, but its not going to happen if we get a freeze. Chances for ripening are much better on the kitchen countertop should we be threatened with frost or a freeze. Bring them in! Really. You will be glad you did.
Pick citrus before a freeze
The end of December and beginning of January is peak season for many varieties of citrus. They are of mature color and sweetness. If your county is facing frost or freeze warnings, go ahead and pick them. Pick them all. They will be ruined on the tree if left overnight during a freeze. Many good recipes are available for using all of that citrus from making wine to fruit salads and juicing them. Citrus is loaded with sunshine and vitamin C and allowing them to be wasted during one cold night would be a crying shame. Citrus will last a week or longer in a basket in a warm corner of the kitchen and are beautiful to look at and smell. Watch for fruit that are starting to mold. Mold can spread within the entire basket full of fruit while you are not watching! Juicing citrus and placing the juice in a very clean five gallon bucket with a couple pounds of sugar, boiled water, and a package of wine yeast will yield a delightful citrus wine by Easter. For further instructions consult a good wine making guide or the link below.
January is a busy time for Florida gardening. Planting is of primary importance right now to get those seeds started and seedlings planted to ensure a good harvest before the summer heat comes along. Have good protection on hand from the few frosts and freezes we may have, making sure the draping cloth touches the ground. The trapped ground heat will keep plants warm enough.
Get those wonderful oranges, tangerines, navels, grapefruit off the tree if freeze is knocking on the door. Try not to be disappointed while picking your largest green tomatoes. Tomatoes will ripen on the counter and turn red or are wonderful fried up.
For more information:
Osceola County Ag Extension, Making citrus wine, Fried Green Tomato recipe, Suzanne’s other gardening articles