Summer Vegetable Gardening Options

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Perhaps you were part of the large group of folks that took the opportunity this spring to put in a vegetable garden and have been enjoying the fruits of your efforts.

But if those efforts didn’t yield a great return or if you are seeing your vegetables play out in the heat and dryness of the coming summer, I urge you to realize that you can still plant vegetables as we enter the summer.

First are southern peas. You may know them by their varieties such as purple-hull peas, zipper creams, crowders, and black-eyed peas. Southern peas are a bean and they will build up the soil as they are a legume. They are not a bush but more of a vining plant. True, you will see larger fields of them planted in rows, but in a garden, you should feel free to give them some structure to grow on.

Okra, long known as the summer heat tolerant vegetable, is one of the most productive plants in the summer garden. It is becoming more popular as folks learn how to cook it. In addition to the edible pods are the wonderfully attractive blooms.

Perhaps you may have heard of the Clemson spineless. It is the most well know of all varieties across the nation. Step out and try some of the many other varieties on the market.

Some new varieties of okra are dwarf and semi-dwarf. A chest high variety called Bulldog is ornamental with red leaves as well as pods that are reported to be very good tasting.

Okra is very susceptible to nematodes. If you pull up the roots and see nematode symptoms, be sure to plant in another location next year.

Purslane is yet another vegetable. Known primarily as an ornamental, the vegetable varieties of purslane have thick leaves that can be harvested for its tangy-lemon flavor and are full of vitamins. Some gardeners know purslane as a weed, but if you get an improved variety, it could be an interesting addition to a summer garden.

Another “weed” that has tamed varieties is amaranth. Yes, amaranth is the same thing as Pigweed! The vegetable varieties of amaranth are grown for their wonderful, nutritious leaves.

A new summer vegetable to me is water spinach. This can be invasive in waterways, but growing in a similar fashion to a sweet potato, is grown for its leaves.

Yet another relatively unknown is molokhia. It is middle Eastern green that grows like crazy in our summers.

Pidgeon peas can be planted in spring or summer. They take 85 days until harvest. They make a large plant that will take longer to reach harvest and need lots of space due to their large size at maturity.

Winter squash should be planted now so that they will be ready for harvest in the fall. Pumpkins are the most well-known winter squash. Other types include butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash. A whole host of varieties is available but remember they are called “winter” squash because they can be stored for winter consumption. Like any other squash, they require warm weather to grow.

Tomatoes have not been mentioned above because they really do not bear fruit well in the hot summer months. Warming evenings where the temperatures get above 70 degrees will greatly inhibit their pollination. Grape or cherry type tomatoes will do better in setting fruit in the heat than slicing tomatoes. You can keep your tomatoes alive through the summer for a second harvest in the fall or you could start new plants in mid to late summer for a wonderful harvest.

Summer gardens need more water and will absolutely benefit from much to inhibit weeds. Give them a try if you are new to gardening.