According to the Florida USDA/NASS field office, rain was plentiful during early October in several areas of the state. Many southern counties received 2 inches or more in the first week of October. Despite previous delays from surplus moisture, the planting of vegetables continued throughout Florida.
Several counties reported that the crops already in the ground looked good. Okra, tomato, cucumbers, and avocado harvesting remained active. By the second week of October significant showers fell, especially in the northern and central regions. Some fields received over 3 inches. Some producers in Hendry County reported concern of disease due to recent rains. A few growers reported root rot in Hernando County. Growers continued to prepare land and plant vegetables. Cabbage was planted in Flagler, Putnam, and St. Johns counties.
Precipitation let up mid-month, only to return in late October. Strawberry planting was almost complete in Hillsborough County and picking of grape tomatoes had begun. Land preparations were under way for potatoes in St. Johns County as well. Soils in some southern fields dried out which helped keep disease down. Bradford County planted strawberries and onions.
Unusually cool temperatures were seen late in the month causing the season’s first frosts and freezes in the northern third of the state.
Major cities ranged from 5 to 10 degrees below normal. Producers in Union County lost a significant amount of eggplant and snap beans due to a heavy freeze. Seminole County producers reported little damage from frost. Squash, eggplant, and snap beans were moving through the market by the end of the month.
Conditions in November were dry and cool early in the month. Planting and harvesting continued. Dade County began harvesting snap beans while Gadsden County continued harvesting tomatoes. Immokalee reported a light harvest of squash and cucumbers.
Cabbage and broccoli were planted in St. Johns, Putnam, and Flagler counties. Farmers irrigated strawberry plants in Hillsborough County. Other vegetables marketed were sweet corn, eggplant, okra, peppers, greens, radishes, and avocados. Growers reported that fields remained dry despite scattered showers in mid November. The dry conditions allowed harvesting to progress and disease pressure to lessen. Growers in southern areas irrigated tomatoes, greens, and turnips. Some producers in Collier County reported problems with deer. The production of cucumbers, melons, and squash in the central Peninsula slowed due to cold weather.
Columbia County reported a hard freeze that killed all tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers; growers won’t replant until spring.
Charlotte County producers began preparing land for watermelons. Late in the month, rain aided many north and central fields.
Vegetables were reported as looking good, but cool weather and frost slowed growth.
During December, fields continued to need water as vegetable harvests increased. Some crops were put behind schedule due to cool temperatures and frost. Some broccoli and cabbage crops were damaged by frost in Columbia County and worms in Duval County.
Cabbage was about 70 percent planted in Flagler County. Harvesting of tomatoes, snap beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplants, greens, peppers, radishes, squash, endive, escarole, and okra remained active. Avocados were still marketed, but shipments declined seasonally. Light volumes of strawberries began moving through the market.
Vegetables were stressed in Union County due to lack of moisture. Strawberries looked good in Bradford County, but harvest was delayed a couple weeks in Hillsborough County due to the unseasonably cold weather. The vegetable crop in Collier and Lee counties lagged behind due to continued cool weather.
During the second week of December growers in the Panhandle and southern Peninsula welcomed rains of up to 8 inches. Around mid-month traces of rain fell across the state. With warmer temperatures and clear skies, crop growth and harvesting conditions were favorable for the upcoming holiday season demand. Light volumes of cabbage were harvested and the okra market declined seasonally. Soils became drier as the month came to an end with most locations receiving less than a tenth of an inch of precipitation.
Temperatures remained warm benefiting vegetables in southern Florida. Growers continued to irrigate crops. Light blight was found in isolated areas among tomato and potato crops. Other vegetables marketed in December included celery, lettuce, and specialty crops.
SNAP BEANS: Florida’s area for harvest is forecast at 11,600 acres; down 14 percent from last winter’s acreage. Freezing temperatures in November caused some growers to lose significant acreage. December’s cold weather put some fields behind schedule.
CABBAGE: Florida producers expect to harvest 4,900 acres through March, down 2 percent from last year. Plantings were slightly behind schedule due to excess moisture from Tropical Storm Fay. Unusually cool temperatures in November and December caused light damage.
SWEET CORN: Florida harvested area is forecast at 8,400 acres; 9 percent below last winter. Favorable weather during October, November, and December kept planting on schedule. Light harvest began in mid-November. Cold temperatures in early December hindered some plant growth.
BELL PEPPERS: Winter area for harvest in Florida is forecast at 6,800 acres, up 6 percent from last year. Mostly dry conditions allowed planting to progress on schedule.
STRAWBERRIES: The expected area harvested is forecast at 7,200 acres, up 300 acres from last winter’s acreage. Planting took place in October and early November. Growers irrigated plants due to dry conditions. Harvest was delayed for some growers due to cold weather. Strawberries were marketed by early December.
TOMATOES: Florida winter tomato harvested area is forecast at 9,300 acres; up 200 acres or 2 percent from last year’s acreage of 9,100. Favorable weather kept planting on schedule.