In most of the country, October or November signals the end of gardening for the year, especially with the arrival of the frost. In the southernmost part of the country, however, winter care for warm climate gardens is just the opposite. This can be the most productive time available in your garden, if you live in USDA zones 8-11.
The weather is still warm for most of the winter but not too hot, the sun’s rays are weaker so they won’t burn tender seedlings, and there are fewer insects to deal with. Gardeners in the warmest parts of the country can grow year round gardens, simply splitting up the planting duties into cool weather and warm weather crops.
Year Round Gardens
Winter gardening in warm climates is almost upside down from what northern gardeners are used to. Instead of taking a break from planting during the dead of winter, gardeners in the warmest regions are worried about protecting their plants in the middle of summer. Weeks on end of 100-degree (38 C.) heat can endanger the toughest of vegetables, and those that are used to cooler weather simply won’t grow at all.
Most gardeners split the season into two planting times, allowing the spring plants to grow through the summer and the fall plants to grow over the winter. When northern gardeners are pulling dead vines and putting their garden beds to sleep for the winter, gardeners in Zone 8-11 are adding compost and putting out a new set of transplants.
What will grow in a warm winter garden? If you would have planted it in the early spring in the north, it will thrive over the new year in a southern winter garden. The warmer temperatures encourage the plants to grow quicker, but as the year draws to a close the sun isn’t hot enough to affect cool weather plants like lettuce, peas, and spinach.
When looking for mild winter gardening tips, look to spring gardening tips for northern climates. If it works in April and May in Michigan or Wisconsin, it will do even better in Florida or southern California in November.
You’ll probably have to protect the plants through the end of January and parts of February if you have a rare frosty morning, but the plants should grow until early March when it’s time to put out the tomatoes and peppers.