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Publication #HS1228

Veggies and Herbs Made in the Shade: A Growing Season Calendar for North Florida1

Daniel K. Fenneman, Robert C. Hochmuth, Wanda L. Laughlin, and Sean R. McCoy2

The importance of using an open shade structure for hydroponic crop culture in Florida has recently increased. Prior to the turn of the century, hydroponic culture in Florida was done inside a greenhouse structure, but it has now expanded to several other types of structures. In addition to greenhouses, production now exists in high tunnels, insect screens or net houses, and open shade-covered structures. In southern parts of Florida, outdoor hydroponic systems without any structure are becoming more common. In those cases, many operations use a polypropylene cover for freeze protection. Diversifying structures stems from growers’ desires to extend the season to meet consumer demand for a longer time period. The purpose of this publication is to indicate what crops have been successfully grown under shade in northern Florida at various times of the year (Table 1).

Figure 1. 

Vertical cultures are used to grow herbs under shade.


Credit:

UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

In attempts to extend the growing season into warmer weather, shade structures have become more popular. Because of northern Florida’s extremely high summer temperatures, however, production inside greenhouses or high tunnels is very difficult, even with fully operational ventilation systems. Wanting to prolong the season, small growers began using open shade-covered structures to combat the summer heat. Research trials at the Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center near Live Oak, Florida, have been conducted yearly since 2003 to evaluate various crops’ and cultivars’ production success in an open shade system.

Figure 2. 

Mixed vegetable crops under an open shade system.


Credit:

UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 3. 

Specialty leafy greens grown under shade.


Credit:

UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Research suggests that several crops can be successfully produced during the summer months under a 30-45% shade cloth. Most research has been conducted on bell peppers, and several cultivars of peppers have successfully grown from transplanting in early April to termination in late November. (For more information about growing bell peppers under open shade structures, visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs368.)

Figure 4. 

Peppers are grown using shaded plots with a two-stem trellis system.


Credit:

UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

However, trials growing tomatoes, for instance, posed a much greater challenge in the summer months. Tomato cultivars grown in the summer need the “hot set” trait, so flowers will set fruit under higher temperatures than most standard or heirloom cultivars. The other consideration for summer- and fall-grown tomatoes is to choose cultivars resistant to the whitefly-vectored tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), which distorts and turns the plant’s new leaves yellow and essentially stops further growth above that point.

Figure 5. 

Tomatoes grown under a 45% shade cloth.


Credit:

UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Once growers implement a shade-production system, they often determine what diverse crops can grow year round, even in North Florida. By using various protected agricultural structures for producing crops during different seasons, growers can increase their profit nearly every month. For example, crops expected to grow during winter months would be considered cold-tolerant. If extremely cold temperatures (mid 20’s) are expected, however, then those crops will probably need temporary protection using a polypropylene row cover. Growers need to evaluate the performance of cultivars within each crop because not all cultivars are equally well adapted to shade culture. This is an area for future research to be conducted and reported as it becomes available.

Figure 6. 

Mustard greens grown under shade during the winter in northern Florida.


Credit:

UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Many growers considering diversified crops and protected culture also take part in direct-marketing avenues. Providing product year round is essential for maintaining customer relationships in the marketing environment. The risk-management advantage that comes with diversifying available products is equally important. For example, if the market price is not desirable or if one crop fails but others perform above average, this lessens the operation’s risk, depending on volumes. Diversifying crops also allows growers to sort products into “value-added” offerings that offer all the needed produce in one dish like a stew. Ultimately, the entrepreneurial grower can reap marketing and risk-management advantages when he or she diversifies crops.

Figure 7. 

Vegetables and herbs grown in various soilless production systems under shade during the summer in northern Florida.


Credit:

UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Tables

Table 1. 

Growing Season Calendar for Vegetables and Herbs under Shade in North Florida

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Chives

                       

Lemon balm

                       

Mints

                       

Oregano

                       

Rosemary

                       

Swiss chard

                       

Thyme

                       

Beets

                       

Kale

                       

Lettuce

                       

Mustard

                       

Radish

                       

Sage

                       

Spinach

                       

Bok choy

                       

Broccoli

                       

Carrots

                       

Celery (cutting)

                       

Collard

                       

Parsley

                       

Turnip

                       

Water cress

                       

Cabbage

                       

Cauliflower

                       

Cilantro

                       

Squash

                       

Tomato (most types)

                       

Tomatoes (hot set)

                       

Peppers (all types)

                       

Eggplant

                       

Cucumber

                       

Basil

                       

Amaranth

                       

Footnotes

1.

This document is HS1228, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 2013. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Daniel K. Fenneman, Extension agent, Madison County; Robert C. Hochmuth, multi-county Extension agent, Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center; Wanda L. Laughlin, greenhouse manager, Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center; and Sean R. McCoy, regional specialized Extension agent, Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.