The Q&A Archives: Planning a Heat-Loving Summer Garden

Question: I'm a college student and I want a garden during the summer at my home in upstate SC. I'll have 3 months (June-August), and a week and a half there in late March. I'd like to grow some summer squash, beans, and flowers (morning glories, sunflowers, poppies (iceland and oriental), and violets). Are there any vegetables and flowers that you would recommend (or suggest that I avoid) for my short-term, hot-weather garden in heavy red clay soil? Also, what do you recommend for year-round screen plantings? Would pussy-willows block a poor view? Sarah K. Bell Spartanburg, SC

Answer: Since you'll be growing in the hottest part of the summer, choose heat-loving plants. Tomatoes, peppers, melons, beans, and squash should be OK; avoid spinach, lettuce, peas, broccoli, and cauliflower. If you have time in March, prepare your beds by tilling, adding in as much organic matter as you can find (leaves, compost, well-rotted manure, grass clippings). You might want to avoid planting root crops -- carrots, beets, etc. -- this first year, and wait until you've had more time to improve your soil. Rather than try to plant in March -- when you return you may have a jungle of weeds -- you might want to plan to purchase transplants from a garden center, especially for tomatoes and peppers. Regarding screen plants: Rhododendrons, boxwood, holly, viburnum, privet, and cypress are possible choices for a screen planting. Pussy willows can grow to a height of 20 to 25 feet, and lower branches may not be dense enough to adequately screen. They also need a consistently moist soil.

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