By Emily Murphy
Make the most of warm summer days by growing sun-loving vegetables that offer high yields with little effort. Start with the veggies you love most, planting with your favorite recipes in mind and throwing in a few, new-to-you varieties for fun. Here is a short list of tried and true summer edibles to get you on your way.
Cucumbers are both prolific producers and perfect for eating straight off the vine, tossing into salads, or pickling. Look to traditional, burpless, or varieties that are hard to find at the store. Persian cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, or cucamelons (above) are all wonderful. Cucamelons, which are actually a gherkin, are not true cucumbers but are grown as such. Both are hardy and adorable and pack extra crunch thanks to their tiny size. Cucumbers can be trained to climb an a-frame trellis, while cucumelons will even climb an arbor. Plant in spring for summer-long harvests.
What would a summer garden be without tomatoes? For me, the two go hand-in-hand. Grow salad tomatoes like ‘Sun Gold’ and ‘Sweet 100’s’ for picking and eating. Beef steak tomatoes are perfect for slicing. While tomatoes like Romas and heirloom ‘Black Vernissage’ are best for roasting, sauces and soups. Tomatoes generally need a long growing season with plenty of heat and full sun. Some patio and bush tomatoes have shorter growing seasons. As a rule of thumb, it’s always best to plant tomatoes as soon as weather warms in spring to ensure a bumper crop by August.
Peppers can be grown side-by-side with tomatoes as well as eggplants because they have similar growing requirements. They prefer full sun, rich soil, and consistent deep watering. To help keep your peppers well-watered, use an elevated garden sprinkler, a bubbler, or even a Thumb Control Watering Nozzle. Make sure to water near soil level whenever possible to prevent soil borne diseases from splashing up onto lower leaves. Grow patio varieties, sweet, or hot peppers to add to pizzas, salsas, or for roasting.
There is a variety of summer and winter squash for everyone. Delicata, Crookneck, Cousa, Pattypans, and Zucchini are all wonderful places to start. Try growing Cinderella pumpkins for both eating and carving. When you’re tired of eating squash, at some point in the summer try breading and frying the flowers. They’re delicious! Squash, like tomatoes, have a long growing season. Plant them early from seeds or starts, give them plenty of sun, and consistent deep watering using an elevated garden sprinkler or spray nozzle like the Thumb Control Watering Nozzle.
Sorrels, like this French red veined variety known as ‘Raspberry Dressing’, are cold hardy perennials offering greens throughout the hottest days of summer. They’re gorgeous in the garden and have a refreshing, tangy flavor perfect in salads and soups. Give them a spot in the garden or in a container where they can come back year after year. Place plantings strategically so you can enjoy their striking foliage.
Pole beans, runner beans, and bush beans are wonderful because, once fruiting, there are always a few (or a colander full) to pick nearly every day. Grow wax beans, purple podded beans like ‘Royal Burgundy,’ and Borlotti beans for their fun red and white calico color. Consider rotating where you plant them in your garden so you can reap the benefits of their nitrogen fixing abilities. Thanks to the symbiotic relationship with rhizobium bacteria, they replenish the soil with nitrogen as they grow. Like with cucumbers, you can grow them up instead of out, giving you freedom to maximize space in your garden.
Heat tolerant greens, like these ‘Miz America’ Mizuna, make summer salads easy. Sow them successionally throughout the summer every 3 to 5 weeks, depending on how much garden space you have on hand. Pair Mizuna with brighter greens like chard or sorrel to contrast colors for beautiful container arrangements. Water them with a Thumb Control Watering Nozzle and remember to give them a little extra water on the hottest summer days.
Berries are not a vegetable, but they’re easy to grow and wonderful to add to salads. There are a host of new varieties designed to thrive in containers, making them easy to care for and perfect for potted gardens. Look for varieties like ‘Raspberry Shortcake,’ and ‘Blackberry Baby Cakes’ for patio plantings.
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