Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
April, 2009
Regional Report

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This vegetable type amaranth called 'Red Stripe Leaf' provides fresh greens from the garden despite summer heat and humidity.

Summer Greens

My garden's cool-season greens are quickly shutting down for the season. The lettuce is bolting as is the cress and the spinach. My last planting of arugula is still okay for the time being but will soon go the way of the first planting with bloom stalks waving high like a white flag of surrender.

While we still have sometime to enjoy the Russian kale, as well as a few other greens, the arrival of longer days and warmer temperatures mean it is time for the cool-season greens to make way for the summer greens.

Most gardeners are not aware that we have greens that will grow through the summer season providing a harvest of fresh or cooked greens. Here are a few of my favorites:

Vegetable amaranth is a super performer in hot weather. If I tell you that it is basically an improved form of that dastardly southern nemesis pigweed you'll know for sure how up to the task this plant is for thriving in hot weather. Repeat plantings every four weeks to ensure plenty of tender young leaves for the kitchen. I like to use them lightly steamed.

Speaking of weeds, purslane is both a common weed and an ornamental. Well, add another entry to its resume as edible garden plant. I have a batch of the variety Goldgelber growing right now out where a late broccoli crop recently left for the compost pile.

Malabar, often called Malabar spinach, can take the hottest, most humid summer days in stride. I prefer to leave the "spinach" part out of its name since it is nothing like spinach. Malabar leaves are thick and fleshy. The young leaves and tender stem ends are good fresh or cooked. The plant forms a vigorous vine but I usually pinch mine back forcing it to form more side shoots and into more of a bush-like form.

Molokhia is a middle eastern green used fresh, in soups or stir-fries. This uncommon green is easy to grow and the vigorous, upright plants can reach 3 feet tall. It is popular with rice and lamb dishes but also works very well in soups.

I should also add Swiss chard to this summer greens list. My Swiss chard from last fall is still going strong and will continue to grow on through much of summer. I have in the past cut the plants back to a few inches high and then transplanted the stumps into an area with late day shade. They resprouted and keep on going!

This not a complete list of the greens we can grow in the summer garden. There are several other species including some unique ethic greens. Some are great for fresh eating or salads while others are more of a seasoning or garnish.

Provide these greens a sunny spot and moderately moist soil. Fertilize them lightly every 2 to 4 weeks to maintain fresh new growth and they'll provide a continued harvest of greens for the summer kitchen.

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