Florida’s weather is marked by a pronounced winter dry season and a summer wet season. The dry season usually begins in mid-October and ends at the end of May. The wet season lasts from early June to mid-October. The dry season can really be dry with April and May causing great stress to plantings. New growth is in full swing with no rainfall to prevent wilting and dieback. These two months are the most critical for supplementary watering. The summer wet season coincides with the hurricane season, when these tropical systems bring some of the rainy weather.
Annual rainfall averages 50-65 inches over the southern peninsula. Inland areas typically receive 10-15 inches more rainfall than coastal areas. Storms build up over the central part of the state and generally move west toward the Gulf coast. The summer wind pattern is generally east to west while winter wind patterns are west to east. We are under tropical influences during the summer and temperate conditions in the winter.
Freezes are not common in south Florida but can occur in any year. The Keys are frost free. Frost/freeze damage is possible between December and mid-March. If a freeze is expected pull mulch away from plantings and water thoroughly the night the cold front is expected. The soil will release heat in the air and can create a warm area near the plants. Bring tender potted plants inside. Cover tender outside plants with a sheet or light blanket. Do not use plastic to cover plants.
Water has a warming effect and can protect plants from freezing. The southeast coast of Lake Okeechobee is noticeably warmer than other parts of the lakes shore. In Broward county and other areas on the southeast coast the gulf stream has a noticeable warming effect. Be careful when using tropical plants inland as they can be frozen or killed by freezes or frosts.
One basic thing to remember is that spring is fall and fall is spring. We plant vegetables and annuals in October and they finish off in April-May. Evergreen leaves fall off in the spring which is leaf raking time.
Soil types vary but generally soils are alkaline with some acid pockets as one progresses northward in the state. Coastal soils are generally sandy with organic muck type soils in central parts of the state. Some coastal areas have marl soils which are similar to clay soils up north and have excellent moisture retention. The Redlands in Dade County also have properties similar to clay. South Dade county has rock soils which are almost impossible to plant directly in. Planting holes need to be augered in. Many gardeners used raised beds in these areas.