If one word had to be picked to describe the current status of vegetable and fruit crops in southern Florida, it would be “confused.” That’s because weather conditions over past few months have caused many crops to develop erratically. Forecast projections for the period from November through January went wrong immediately: November was predicted to be cooler than normal, but, in fact, readings below 60 degrees were recorded just once the entire month. Rainfall was seasonally scant until the last 10 days of the month, when a series of showers began drenching the area. December has been warmer than average almost every day.
Several anomalies have appeared as a result of the warm weather. Some plants have benefitted from the abnormally high temperatures. For example, the fruiting season for jackfruit should have ended in October; instead, the trees are continuing to bear. The idea that jackfruit will be ripening sometime during mid-winter is almost unheard of. On the other hand, development of large-fruited varieties of tomato was delayed by the heat. The big tomatoes generally set fruit best when nighttime temperatures are in the 60s. In November, low readings in the farming area near Miami were 70 degrees or higher on some 21 nights; the average low for the month is 64 degrees. Consequently, fruit set on tomatoes has been inhibited.
While tomato production has only been slowed, a far more ominous fate is likely for lychees, which need cool weather to trigger flowering. Because of the paucity of significant cold fronts capable of dropping minimum temperatures below 55 degrees, most lychee trees will not produce significant crops in 2014. And so far, for the same reason, as well as the late-November rainfall, early-bearing varieties of mango have not begun to flower.
Fortunately for Richard Lyons’ Nursery and its customers, lots of crops are ready! Plan to take a drive out to the farm, and you will find ripe collard greens, Swiss chard, green beans, romaine lettuce, daikon radish, cilantro, Malabar spinach, jujube, carambola, avocado, and cherry tomatoes. These versatile crops can make your holiday meal plans varied and delicious.