Anyone who has been gardening in Florida for a few years has probably planted a few different heirloom varieties with varying degrees of success. That's part of the fun with heirloom vegetables, each one has its unique characteristics unlike the boring, yet consistent hybrid varieties. But heirlooms aren't just a fun experiment to add to the garden, heirloom vegetables can be the mainstay of any home or market garden.
The challenge with heirlooms is to find the right one for the right time and place. And since growing in Florida has enough special challenges, its best to do a little research and save yourself the head and heart ache of another small harvest. There are plenty of heirlooms that thrive in Florida's climate. Below there are over 100 heirloom seeds that have been tested by the University of Florida and proved themselves superior.
Florida´s warm climate allows for year-round gardening, the main problems come from too much sun and heat. So special attention must be paid to which varieties are planted and when they are put in the ground. We have collected over 100 heirloom vegetable varieties that have proven themselves productive in the warm Florida sun. Take special note of the planting dates for each variety to ensure a successful harvest.
Zone 8: Mar-Apr, Aug-Sep Zone 9: Feb-Apr, Sep Zone 10: Sep-AprOrganic Bush Blue Lake - reliability, huge yields, disease resistance and its ability to bear all at once making canning...read more
Organic Contender - pods are 6" long, stringless, medium sized, and slightly curved. Plants grow 12-22" tall, earliest producing bean at an amazing...read more
Roma II - wide, meaty, tender,smooth flat pods that are stringless. Excellent flavor. Resistant to mosaic and mildew mosaic...read more
Organic Provider - Pods round to heart-shaped, straight, 5-1/4", fleshy, low fiber, tender, stringless, and medium dark green...read more
"Horticultural - This pre-1800 heirloom is a great producer with purple splashed beans that are oval, large and contained in 5-6" pods. Much earlier than..."read more
Organic Red Kidney - classic and diverse, pods contains 5 large, red kidney shaped beans. Once dry, these beans will store for a long time! A perfect winter food...read more
Heirloom Pole Bean Seeds- Will require some form of support for vines. May be grown with corn for vine support.
Zone 8: Mar-Apr, Aug-Sep Zone 9: Feb-Apr, Aug-Sep Zone 10: Aug-AprOrganic Kentucky Wonder - an American heirloom since the 1850s has 7-10" pods, reaches only 4'-5' for easy harvest, and is a heavy producer born in clusters over an extended season...read more
Organic Blue Lake - world famous for reliability, disease resistance, flavor and high yields, beans are straight and reach up to 7"...read more
Heirloom Lima Bean Seeds- Provide trellis support for pole varieties. Control stinkbugs that injure seeds in pods. Fordhook is large-seeded; Henderson is "butterbean” type.
Zone 8: Mar-Aug Zone 9: Feb-Apr, Sep Zone 10: Aug-AprFordhook 242 - dense foliage reaching 16"-24". Pods are thick, meaty and contain 3-5 lima beans. Known for its almost nutty flavor...read more
Henderson - an American heirloom from the late 1800s, bush is very erect, reliable and produces 3-4 beans per pod. Continues to set until first frost...read more
Organic Jackson Wonder - an heirloom seed from the antebellum south, contain 3-4 beans that are speckled with a purple-brown color. Thrives in hot weather conditions...read more
Early Thorogreen- earliest producing of all the lima beans, considered a baby lima with a delicious buttery taste. It is a bush type that reaches 18" tall...read more
Heirloom Beet Seeds- Beets require ample moisture at seeding or poor germination results. Leaves are edible.
Zone 8: Sep-Mar Zone 9: Oct-Mar Zone 10: Oct-FebEarly Wonder - an heirloom from the turn of the 20th century, these beets have three inch roots, are smooth, half-flat, bright red and grow to about 3" in diameter...read more
Detroit Dark Red - a beet heirloom from 1892, produces 3" round beets perfect for canning or table use. This beet has a truly sweet flavor with a fine grade texture...read more
Cylindra - heirloom beet from the 1880s, this beet almost resembles the size and shape of a small sweet potato. leaves are sweeter and make excellent greens...read more
Heirloom Broccoli Seeds- Harvest small multiple side shoots that develop after main central head is cut. Broccoli Raab is not related to broccoli.
Zone 8: Aug-Feb Zone 9: Aug-Jan Zone 10: Sept-JanGreen Sprouting/Calabrese - VERY frost tolerant, Harvest the central head then lay the plant over on its side for an explosion of side shoots...read more
Waltham - produces uniform high yields, with Main heads 4-8", good color, cold resistance, dwarf compact plant, and big side shoots...read more
De Cicco - an Italian heirloom broccoli dating from 1890 is very vigorous, emerald green, producing nice central heads 3-5" wide making a long harvest season...read more
Broccoli Raab (Rapini) - doesn't have a central head, but rather it is treasured for its cluster of yellow buds that along with the tender green leaves are sauteed or used in salads...read more
Zone 8: Sep-Feb Zone 9: Sep-Jan Zone 10: Sep-JanFlat Dutch - a Dutch heirloom with excellent flavor. Keeps very well for processing, heads form up to 12 inches and weigh as on an average around 12 pounds...read more
Round Dutch - has solid uniform, oval heads that weigh 2-5 lbs with Small, short-stemmed, short core, good wrapper leaves and slow to bolt...read more
Early Jersey Wakefield - an heirloom cabbage first release in 1868, forms a compact, somewhat conical head with glaucous-green leaves...read more
Charleston Wakefield - an heirloom cabbage introduced in 1892, produces a larger head than other Wakefield Cabbages, with each head weighing about 4 to 6 pounds...read more
Copenhagen Market - a Danish heirloom cabbage produces a heavy yield of 4 to 5 pound, 7 inch round heads of cabbage. This well formed head helps to get far more cabbages...read more
Perfection Drumhead Savoy - a large drumhead-type cabbage that has finely-wrinkled, savoyed leaves that are mild and sweet in flavor and lacks the sulfur like smell...read more
Red Acre - produces shocking reddish-purple, globe shaped, heads that reach up 6 to 7 inches in diameter and typically weigh approximately 3 pounds...read more
Heirloom Catalope Seeds- Bees needed for pollination. Mulch to reduce fruit-rot and salmonella. Harvest when the fruit cleanly separates from the vine with light pressure.
Zone 8: Mar-Apr Zone 9: Feb-Apr Zone 10: Aug-Sep, Feb-MarGalia (green flesh) - Dating back to the late 1800’s this heirloom melon is about 3-4 pounds, juicy and are extremely sweet. They have a wonderful green tinged rind when cut open.read more
Heirloom Carrot SeedsGrow carrots on a raised bed for best results. Sow seeds shallow and thin seedlings to recommended spacing.
Zone 8: Sep-Mar Zone 9: Oct-Mar Zone 10: Oct-FebImperator - is 9" long and 1 1/2 wide of sweet and tender carrot. Smooth, large, fine-grained, long, tapered roots; standard long, thin type carrot...read more
Nantes - an American heirloom carrot with bright orange, slightly tapered, 6 inch roots; crisp, tender and flavorful; standard for high quality carrots...read more
Danvers - s a heat tolerant carrot variety that will also work in a wide range of soils. 6-7" long and about 2" at the shoulder this is a premier storage carrot...read more
Chantenay - A Golden orange carrot that is 5"-7" long and 2" in diameter. Chantenay red cored is known for its ability to handle relatively heavy soils and still produce...read more
Heirloom Cauliflower Seeds- Tie leaves around the head when it is 2-3 inches to prevent discoloration. Brocoverde is green-headed.
Zone 8: Jan-Feb, Aug-Oct Zone 9: Oct-Jan Zone 10: Oct-JanOrganic Snowball Y - Tasty snow white 6", dense, heavy, heads are tucked away amongst silvery-green leaves. self blanching, the leaves curl around heads protecting them from sun...read more
Heirloom Celery Seeds- Celery requires very high soil moisture during seeding/seedling stage.
Zone 8: Jan-Mar Zone 9: Aug-Feb Zone 10: Oct-JanOrganic Utah 5270 Tall Improved - celery that grows taller, with longer ribs, deeper green color and sweeter than the original Utah...read more
Heirloom Chinese Cabbage Seeds- Bok Choy is open-leaf type, while Michihili and Napa form tighter heads.
Zone 8: Oct-Feb Zone 9: Oct-Jan Zone 10: Nov-JanMichihili - produces a tall, cylindrical, leafy head of 17" long and 6" across. Light green leaves are very tender and delicious, excellent for stir-fry and pickling...read more
Pak-choi - a non-heading leaf type Chinese cabbage that produces large, succulent, nearly round, smooth, glossy green leaves with snow white stalks. Pak Choi is crisp, tender and mild tasting...read more
Heirloom Collard Green Seeds- Tolerates more heat than most other brassicas. Harvest lower leaves.
Zone 8: Feb-Apr, Aug-Nov Zone 9: Aug-Mar Zone 10: Aug-FebGeorgia Southern - an heirloom first released in 1880, is a slow to bolt, non-heading type of collard that grows 2-3 feet. Leaves are tasty, tender, mild and juicy...read more
Vates - 2" tall, silvery green, succulent and very slow to bolt. Best planted early like most brassicas they don't like extreme heat...read more
Heirloom Cucumber Seeds- Pickling types can also be used fresh. Liberty Hybrid and Sweet Success are burpless types. Many new hybrids are gynoecious (female flowering), which means more fruit set. Bees required for pollination
Zone 8: Feb-Apr, Aug-Sep Zone 9: Feb-Mar, Sep Zone 10: Sep-MarPoinsett - One of the best slicing cucumbers for salads. Longer, blocky straight cucumbers that are perfect for market. 6-8" long cucumbers are born on very disease resistant vines...read more
Ashley - These productive vines produce 7-8", dark green cucumbers. Ashley is an excellent slicing variety that is intermediate resistance to Downy Mildew...read more
MarketMore 76 - a good yielding mid season slicing cucumber for the home gardener. 8-9" very dark green when mature. Nice flavor, smooth, straight and perfect for salads...read more
Straight Eight - an heirloom cucmber variety that are extremely dependable at producing a crop, Eight inches of perfect straight cucumber slicing excellence...read more
Space Master - Produces 7-8" delicious cucumbers even though the vines are so small. It is almost a daily ritual to keep them picked, since they grow rapidly...read more
Boston Pickling - an heirloom cucmber first documented in 1877, produces heavy yields of small 6" cucumbers down right perfect for pickling...read more
Zone 8: Feb-Jul Zone 9: Jan-Mar, Aug-Sep Zone 10: Dec-Feb, Aug-OctBlack Beauty - large, jet-black fruits that are egg-shaped. Between 4-6 inches. Fruits set freely and quickly, so that the entire crop can be gathered before the frost...read more
Heirloom Endive / Escarole Seeds- Excellent ingredient in tossed salads. Escarole is a selection of endive also known as Batavian endive.
Zone 8: Feb-Mar, Sep Zone 9: Jan-Feb, Sep Zone 10: Sep-JanGreen Curled Ruffec - 12- to 18-inch-diameter plants produce finely cut, dark-green, curled leaves with green midribs and full hearts that blanch creamy white...read more
Zone 8: Sep-Feb Zone 9: Sep-Jan Zone 10: Sep-JanDwarf Blue Curled - A Dutch heirloom kale first documented around 1863 is an early kale that produces blue-green leaves that are finely curled reaching 12-15" in high, and spread to 20-35" in width...read more
Heirloom Kohlrabi Seeds- Both red and green varieties are easy to grow. Use fresh or cooked. Leaves are edible.
Zone 8: Sep-Mar Zone 9: Oct-Mar Zone 10: Oct-FebOrganic Early White Vienna - an heirloom variety since before the cival war, this variety has a light green skinned exterior, white interior, and a bit smaller but slightly faster growth rate...read more
Organic Purple Vienna - introduced before the cival war, this variety has a purple skinned exterior, greenish white interior, and a bit larger than the White Vienna Kohlrabi... read more
Zone 8: Feb-Mar, Sep-Oct Zone 9: Sep-Mar Zone 10: Sep-JanOrganic Great Lakes - large crisp heads of lettuce that have been a farming standard for over 60 years now. Excellent early spring and late fall lettuce...read more
Organic Bibb - an heirloom lettuce developed by Lt. John B. Bibb who served in the War of 1812, its a fabulous tasting lettuce that is crisp, clean and easy to grow...read more
Organic Tom Thumb - an old heirloom lettuce from the 1850s, small, round head with delicate leaves. About the size of a baseball. Perfect for one-person salad...read more
Organic Buttercrunch - produces a nice head of mild buttery flavored 6-8" in height, thick, juicy, slightly crumpled dark green leaves and white-yellow heart...read more
Organic Simpson Lettuce - An old reliable lettuce that is heat resistant, slow to bolt and very dependable. Leaves are large, but lightly crispy and ruffled...read more
Organic Red Salad Bowl - Red salad bowl is deeply lobed, burgundy red and delicious. Grown as a baby lettuce as well as full size. Slow to bolt...read more
Parris Island Cos - resistance to tipburn, slow to bolt and tolerance to mosaic virus. forms upright 10-12" heads that are uniform, medium green, slightly savoyed with a creamy white heart...read more
Zone 8: Sep-Mar Zone 9: Sep-Mar Zone 10: Sep-MarSouthern Giant Curled - Leafy large green leaves are frilled and prolific. Southern giant has an excellent flavor packed full of vitamins A, B, and C! Slow to bolt...read moreread more
Florida Broad Leaf - Florida Broadleaf mustard produces dark green leaves 16-22" tall that are a favorite of florida gardeners and dinner tables alike...read more
Tendergreen - thick, smooth upright leaves. It is much milder in flavor than regular mustard greens. It is both heat and cold tolerant, but when it does go to flower you will have an extra treat...read more
Organic Red Giant Mustard Seed - hails from the orient. Exotic, spicy and unique in its flavor. It's baby leaves are very popular in mixed green salads, but is also...read more
Green Wave - grows up to two feet, is dark green, spinless, deeply fringed and has been a long standing American favorite. The flavor is spicy and is commonly used in salad mixes as well as...read more
Zone 8: Mar-Jul Zone 9: Mar-Aug Zone 10: Aug-SepClemson Spineless - longer pods, a more open form and LESS prickly spines, so important when harvesting. Produces earlier with real heavy yields. Pods are tastiest around 3"...read more
Emerald - this okra is an early variety that you can actually let grow out past 3" to about 8", a Cajun cooks dream...read more
Heirloom Onion Seeds- Plant short-day bulbing varieties. Bulbing onions may be seeded in the fall, then transplanted in Jan-Feb. For bunching onions, insert sets upright for straight stems. Divide and reset multipliers.
Zone 8: Aug-Mar Zone 9: Aug-Mar Zone 10: Sep-MarEvergreen Bunching - produces clusters of 5-9 long, tall, crisp, silvery white stalks. With amazing flavor that is slow to go to seed. Good for spring or fall planting...read more
White Lisbon Bunching - Very fast growing scallions that are ready in 40-60 days. Stands up to the heat. Delicious 14-18" long stalks with white silvery flesh...read more
American Flag Leek - an heirloom leek that originated around 1870. Stems grow 10-15" long and about 2-3" in diameter. Leeks like long sunny days to grow big...read more
Zone 8: Mar-Aug Zone 9: Mar-Sep Zone 10: Aug-AprWando - It was released in 1943 with much fanfare because unlike many peas it tolerates heat. Not as sweet as some other varities, but consistantly performs. Reliable homestead pea...read more
Green Arrow - An English heirloom pea, Green Arrow grows 24 to 30 inches tall and have 4 to 5 inch pods, each packed with 8 to 11 petite, emerald green peas...read more
Sugar Snap - one of the best early snap peas. No need to support Sugar Ann pea. Dwarf vines only reach 2', but are loaded with sweet, crisp, 2 1/2" peas. Perfect for those with limited planting space...read more
Oregon Sugarpod II - this edible-pod snow pea is not only extra sweet, but an extremely heavy yielder. Pea pods are 4-5", thick and tasty. Vines 24"-34"...read more
Heirloom Pepper Seeds- Mulching especially beneficial. Will often produce into summer. Most small-fruited varieties are hot. Pepper heat is measured in Scoville units. Habaneros average 259,000 Scovilles; Caribbean Reds are a little over 445,000 Scovilles. In comparison, Jalapenos rank 2,500-10,000 Scovilles, depending on the variety.
Zone 8: Feb-Apr, Jul-Aug Zone 9: Jan-Mar, Aug-Sep Zone 10: Aug-MarCalifornia Wonder - introduced in 1928, 2 ft tall plants bear prolific fruits that are 4-5" long and almost the same width across, as a crisp, thick flesh has a mild, pleasant flavor...read more
Sweet Banana - Bright yellow fruits are sweet, crunchy and about 4-6" long. eat them right out of the garden, but they are delicious pickled as well. Banana peppers get sweeter as they ripen...read more
Giant Marconi - a prolific old Italian heirloom prized for its huge, crisp, sweet red 3-lobed fruits. Delicious 10-12" long peppers are excellent eaten fresh or fried...read more
Cubanelle - Sweet frying pepper, 4.5-6 inches long x 2-2.5 inches in diameter, 3 lobes, tapers to a blunt end, slightly irregular and roughened, medium-thick waxy flesh, yellow-green to red...read more
Early Jalapeno - A hot pepper that grows on a sturdy, busy 2' plant. Produces thick walled 2"-3" peppers in profusion. Early Jalapeno is know to set fruits...read more
Jalapeno M - Jalapeno M Pepper is probably the most well known of all the Jalapenos, The reason they are so popular is the thick walls, dark green color and only 5,000 scoville units...read more
Hungarian Hot Wax - shaped like a carrot, they taper to a rounded point and averages about 6" in length and about 1 1/2" wide. an early pepper that produces excellent yields on a 24" plant...read more
Ancho (Poblano) - upright 24' tall plants with fruits that are 4-5" long. One of the most popular peppers grown, when dried it’s most often used for chile powder...read more
Thai Culinary - aka Thai Dragon Pepper. mound-shaped 8 inch plants, covered with extremely hot inch green and red peppers held upright, about 35,000-40,000 Scoville Units...read more
Anaheim Chile - a California heirloom that are prolific bearers, of long thin fruits about 6" long. Mildly hot. Organic plants grow 20-30" and bear late in the season...Anaheim Chile
Long Cayenne - truly an heirloom as the Cayenne is known to be Pre-Columbian in origin, A hot, zesty and pungent organic pepper that is 6" long, but only a 1/2" wide...read more
Organge Habanero - Very rare. Unlike the more famous red, this orange habanero originated in the Caribbean region. Habanero Orange produces heavy yields of 1 1/2" long by 1" wide HOT peppers...read more
Heirloom Pumpkin Seeds- Bees required for pollination. Foliage diseases and fruit-rot are common.
Zone 8: Mar-Apr, Aug Zone 9: Feb-Mar, Aug Zone 10: Jan-Feb, Aug-SepOrganic Big Max - really big, commonly producing giant 100 lb bright orange pumpkins. Scrumptious bright yellow-orange fine-grained flesh. The skin can be as thick as 3-4"...read more
Connecticut Field - Introduced prior to 1700, produces nice yields of 15 to 25 lb. globe shaped deep orange yellow pumpkins. Flesh is yellow, thick, coarse and stringy...read more
Jack Be Little - the perfect little pumpkin for Halloween decorations. It fits right in the palm of your hand. The down right cutest little pumpkin you have ever seen...Jack Be Little
Jack O Lantern - these pumpkins are 8" x 10", round to oblong fruits that weigh around 10 lbs. each. The rind is a ribbed bright orange with orange-yellow and thick flesh...read more
Zone 8: Sep-Mar Zone 9: Sep-Mar Zone 10: Oct-MarOrganic Cherry Belle - Originally from Holland, this heirloom radish a round, crunchy, crisp bright cherry red radish with an outstanding flavor...read more
White Icicle - The roots are 5-6"s long, tapered and about an 1" in diameter. pure white flesh with a spice that warms the tongue, but doesn't bite back...read more
Organic Sparkler - Choice early variety, small round roots, 1 1/4" in diameter, with bright scarlet top, and small, slender tap-root. Pure white flesh...read more
Organic Champion - This radish dosen't get hot or woody when they reach maturity like other radishes can. This radish retains a crunchy snow white interior that is sure to please...read more
Daikon - thought to have originated in the Mediterranean and brought to China for cultivation around 500 B.C. Roots are large, often 2 to 4 inches in diameter and 6 to 20 inches long...read more
Zone 8: Oct-Nov Zone 9: Oct-Nov Zone 10: Oct-JanOrganic Bloomsdale Longstanding - Introduced around 1880, glossy, dark green savoyed leaves are sweet, tender, fleshy and have a rich flavor. stands well in warm weather...read more
New Zealand spinach - documented in seed catalogs as early as 1877, Produces leaves in abundance throughout the summer; may be raised in heat and transplanted...read more
Heirloom Squash Seeds- Summer squash are usually bush type; winter squash have vining habit. Both male and female flowers on same plant. Bees required. Common fruit rot/drop caused by fungus and incomplete pollination. Crossing occurs but results not seen unless seeds are saved. Winter types store longest. Calabaza is a heat-resistant, disease-resistant, vining, hard-shelled squash, similar to a butternut or acorn in taste.
Summer Squash - Zone 8: Mar-Apr, Aug-Sep Zone 9: Feb-Mar, Aug-Sep Zone 10: Jan-Mar, Sep-Oct
Winter Squash - Zone 8: Mar, Aug Zone 9: Feb-Mar, Aug Zone 10: Jan-Feb, SepOrganic Early Prolific Straightneck - produces high yields of lemon-yellow slightly club shaped squash. Tastiest harvested when squash are 7" long or smaller...read more
Organic Summer Crookneck - a bush type plant produces copious yields of buttery-yellow squash with narrow curved neck. This squash is very tender and full of flavor...read more
Early White Scallop - heirloom squash seen New York in 1835, Flying saucer shaped fruits that bear all summer long if picked. Creamy, tasty texture...read more
Organic Spaghetti - this heirloom originated in the 1890s, spaghetti like strands that come out of it once cooked. Spaghetti squash is from Japan...read more
Organic Table King - the finest winter acorn squash. Here is a squash that will produce loads of fruit on compact bush with beautiful glossy gray green leaves...read more
OrganicTable Queen - Introduced by the Iowa Seed Company in 1913, weighs about 2-3 pounds when mature and are about seven inches in diameter. Produces a bush...read more Organic Waltham - more uniform in shape and size, with fewer crooknecks. Excellent interior texture and color. Typically grows 8"x4" and can weigh up to 6 lbs...read more
Organic Cocozelle Zucchini - an Italian heirloom introduced prior to 1885, bush type squash with long cylindrical, dark green, very firm greenish-cream colored flesh growing to about 10-12"...read more
Organic Black Beauty - wonderful dark-green turning to nearly black when fully mature. Best harvested at 8". Semi-spineless with an open growing habit. Good freezing...read more
Heirloom Swiss Chard Seeds- Can be grown nearly year-round in Florida. An excellent alternative green for warm weather. Organic Rainbow - an heirloom success story, introduced in the 70s in the US but soon lost. Later recovered by growers in Australia and reintroduced...read more
Fordhook Giant - a vigorous variety is noted for its dark green deeply savoyed leaves and thick white stems. 22-27 inches tall and extremely wide...read more
Lucullus - Introduced about 1914, grows as large as rhubarb, the white midrib is very broad and heavy, and the leaf is heavily crumpled...read more
Organic Red Ruby - corvette red stems that extend into bright green leaves. This tasty, low in oxalic acid heirloom chard grows 18-24" tall...read more
Zone 8: Feb-Apr, Aug Zone 9: Jan-Mar, Sep Zone 10: Aug-MarGreen Zebra - an unusual heirloom tomato, it matures into a light green/yellow with deep green stripes and light green interior flesh...read more
Organic Cherokee Purple - a native american heirloom tomato, beefsteak in style, with green "shoulders" across the top...read more
Eva Purple Ball - a Germany heirloom from the late 1800s, Eva Purple Ball is about 2 1/2" long and 3 3/4" wide, weighs around 9 ounces...read more
Organic Brandywine - classic heirloom tomato, produces yields of 1 to 2 lb pink colored beefsteak tomatoes. deep, rich tomato flavor...read more
Mortgage Lifter - an heirloom tomato with a history M.C. Bylesof Logan, West Virginia created this tomato and he paid his mortgage off in six years...read more
Heirloom Turnip Seeds- Grow for roots and tops (greens). Broadcast seed in wide-row system or single file.
Zone 8: Jan-Apr, Aug-Oct Zone 9: Jan-Mar, Sep-Nov Zone 10: Oct-FebOrganic Purple Top White Globe - an old heirloom turnip 1881 D.M. Ferry Catalog says "A variety of the purple top flat turnip...read more
Organic Seven Top - are known not for their roots, but for their succulent, tender and high quality greens...read more
Shogoin - produces quality white, globe shaped turnips with fine grained flesh. It is grown for both its mild green tops and excellent roots...read more
Zone 8: Mar-Apr, Jul-Aug Zone 9: Jan-Mar, Aug Zone 10: Jan-Mar, Aug-SepFlorida Giant - sweet and delicious. A real favorite in the south for summer picnics because these guys get big, like 50 lbs big...read more
Crimson Sweet - a southern heirloom with a high sugar content around 12%! This mouth watering watermelon produces 20-25# fruits with juicy red flesh...read more
Charleston Grey - produces fruits that are large, light greenish gray, 28-35 lbs., cylindrical-shaped, 22" long by 10 in. across...read more
Organic Sugar Baby - an early watermelon for those limited on space, has only 3-4' vines and bears two 12 lb melons per plant...read more
This information was collected from the document SP 103, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date December 1999. Revised December 2010. Reviewed February 2012. Found Here
Why start from Heirloom Seeds
Every delicious heirloom vegetable on your plate had its start somewhere, why not from heirloom seeds in your own backyard. Starting your garden from seeds gives more options then buying seedlings from the local nursery. Some heirloom seed companies carry over 1400 different heirloom varieties. If you want to plant something different this year, starting from heirloom seeds is the way to go.
Also, some vegetables have aren't happy when transplanted so direct seeding is your only option. And why not take more care of the more transplant tolerate heirloom by bringing them up inside where you can ensure they get the attention they require. There's just something tastier about eating the heirloom you brought up from seed.
Start with quality Heirloom Seeds
Not all seeds from the same variety or even the same lot number are created equal. Long term storage facilities vary widely from company to company and so can the germination rates of the "same" seeds. High quality heirloom seeds can make all the difference towards a bountiful harvest. Do your research and buy heirloom seeds only from reliable dealers. The closer relationship between dealer and seed grower the higher the seed quality .
For most small home gardeners collecting seeds from you own plants can be impractical although a valuable learning experience. Some heirloom seeds are easier to gather than others like those difficult grains. So most home gardeners will simply buy heirloom seeds year after year, exploring and enjoying the large variety. It is important to note that seeds collected from hybrid varieties will not come true to form while heirloom seeds will stay true generation to generation.
What can I grow?
This is perhaps the most common question, especially when new and old gardeners alike start to browse through catalogs of over 1400 heirloom seeds. The top factor in what you can grow is where do you live. To make things easier and more standardized the USDA creates a Plant Hardiness Zone Map which basically maps the average low temperatures for a given area. Florida has zones 8a - 11a which means the average temperatures are relatively high. Once you know what zone you can restrict your search to heirlooms that do well in your climate.
Another good resource to find out what you can grow, is your state university or extension office. They have planted seeds from hundreds of varieties and studied how the plants responded to local climate as well as pests and diseases. We have reviewed the University of Florida's most recent recommendations and found direct links to over 100 heirloom seeds that have proven themselves to be great Florida heirloom crops.
Planting Heirloom Seeds
You've done all the preparation and purchased good quality heirloom seeds that should do well in your region. Now just toss them in the ground and hope for the best, right? Well, there's a lot you can do to improve your chances. The seed is an ancient system that has proven itself effective. Good soil contains all the water and nutrients that seeds need to grow. But planted too deeply and a young plant might not have all the energy required to reach to surface and start receiving sunlight. Too shallow and it may get exposed to elements of rain and hungry critters.
In general, small seeds should be planted fairly shallow about a 1/4 inch while larger seeds can be planted about 3/4 inches deep. For best results be sure to follow the instructions on the seed packet. The are many approaches that could be used for actually getting the seeds in the ground. For smaller seeds like lettuce you may use a broadcast method which is also good for square-foot gardening. But planting larger seeds like corn in row will produce better results using a furrow method. Be sure to cover your seeds gently with soil ensure good contact with the seed without applying too much pressure.
Location, Location, LocationGet to know your property before you finalize your garden's location. Where does the sun hit throughout the year? Where does the water drain to in those heavy Florida rains? Pick a place where with good drainage but keep it close to a water source. Remember a vegetable garden will need at least six hours of direct sunlight. If you have a lot of property consider moving your garden around to reduce pests and allow the soil to regenerate.
Make a Garden PlanConsider what you want out of your garden before making a major decisions. Florida's climate is suitable to many plants but check out these recommendations to find the ones that really thrive. Draw up a garden plan that includes the types of heirloom vegetables with their locations and planting dates. Remember to order your heirloom seeds early from a reputable dealer.
Prepare your SoilMost soil in Florida is quite sandy meaning it is well drained but generally lacks organic matter. Adding either compost (hopefully from your own composter), animal manure or other organics will increase the productivity of your garden. The heavy seasonal rains in Florida, especially the south, can lead to heavy erosion that washes out the soil. In response, a cover crop could be used to prevent erosion and add vital nutrients back to the earth.
It is also import to remember to keep your soils pH to between 5.8 and 6.3, this range is ideal for growing vegetables in Florida's sandy soil. If your soil is acidic, lime is a simple solution but must be done months before planting. If your soil is too basic, try using either granular sulfur or a fertilizer rich in micronutrients.
Compost and CompostingEvery avid gardener is an avid composter, if you are not composting yet start immediately. Nearly everything organic can be composted or broken down by microorganisms. Compost is a perfect additive for sandy and clay soils, which are very common in Florida. Composting is simply helping are little invisible friends breakdown material into more easily accessible form to use for our plant friends. It is basically simple but there is some science behind it. For more information, check out what the smart people at the University of Florida have to say. Composting Tips for the Home Gardener
Organic FertilizerFertilizing is generally needed in most Florida soils, unless a large amount of soil additives like compost and manure have been used. Don't even think about using a non-organic fertilizer, for a small home garden the cost difference doesn't come close to the cost of spraying poison all around your home. It is always a good idea to get a soil test done before purchasing additives for your garden.
Watering and DrainageAll heirloom vegetables need soil moisture to survive and thrive but are heavy Florida rains make drainage equally important. Most Florida soil is sandy and drains well but watch for pooling or heavy runoff. Seedlings and young plants will require more frequent but smaller waterings while the older plants will want more water but less often. Drip irrigation and similar techniques can be quite convenient after the original overhead of installation is complete. Various mulching techniques also keep more moisture in the roots of the plants where it belongs.
Garden Pests and DiseaseFlorida's tropic climate does support a lot of pests and diseases but proper preventive practices can keep most disease and pest problems under control at least enough not to require chemical warfare. Such preventative practices as crop rotation, manual weed removal (frequently in the beginning), use of row covers and picking resistant heirloom strains will cut down on the need for more reactive measures. Also, attracting beneficial insects by planting flowers they enjoy nearby will help natural curb the population of pests. If you must use a pesticide do your research and follow the instructions carefully. For more information from the University of Florida on pest and disease management, see the External Links section
Plant Hardiness Zones
Plant Hardiness Zones are geographic areas in which certain plants can grow. The main factor being the ability of a plant to withstand the minimum average temperatures in that area. As can be seen on the map below, Florida is comprised of zones 8a - 11a (with the Keys actually being 11b.) This is really good news, this means Florida gardeners can grow hundreds of different heirloom varieties. Consult this map to find out what zone your home is in. Then check out our recommended heirloom seeds section where every seed listed has been proven successful in Florida.Source: Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture 2012, found here.
In fact the main problem for Florida gardeners is not the average minimum temperature but the average high. Therefore it is important to pay attention to planting dates which we have listed in our recommended heirloom seeds section. Check the map for your zone and you'll be able to find out when is the best time to plant your new heirloom seeds
Pests and Diseases
Many Floridian gardeners have had the heartbreak of a beautiful garden destroyed by pests and diseases. The same wonderful Florida climate that allows for year-round gardening is also enjoyed by bacteria, fungus and other tiny things that can wreck our hard work. Unfortunately, many heirloom varieties may be more prone to these problems than conventionals or hybrids so an heirloom gardener in Florida must be ever diligent. Fortunately, the University of Florida has done extensive work on these garden pests and most of that information is available online. Some of these links are below:Diseases in Florida Vegetable Garden: Beans and Peas
Diseases in Florida Vegetable Garden: Tomatoes
Additoinal "Diseases in Florida Vegetable Garden Series available here.
Insect Management in Florida Home Gardens
Florida Gardening Calendar
When gardening in Florida, it always seems like there is something to do. Here are some great gardening calendars that will help keep you organized. Each month has categories for What to Plant and What to Do furthermore there are specific calendars for each of Florida's three growing regions.
More Florida Gardening Information
FloridaPlants.com - tons of information on Florida landscapes, Florida native plants, and Florida gardening in general and specific.
FloridaYards.org - in depth information on Florida landscaping, Florida native plants and a great interactive design tools
Florida and Heirloom Videos