Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
June, 2011
Regional Report

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This purple amaranth is a heat tolerant vegetable for these hot summer months.

Vegetable Gardening Between Spring and Fall

When summer arrives in the South, the heat drives many gardeners indoors, and as a result, our vegetable garden season often amounts to a spring garden that gives way to the summer heat followed by a fall garden that begins in mid to late summer.

I've been out in the garden this week looking over the various crops. Many of the things that were producing well in spring have gone by the wayside. Lettuce, cilantro, and spinach took the extended day-lengths as their cue to bolt and make their exit. After leaving them for a while to save some seed, I pulled them, much to the delight of our chickens in the mobile chicken tractor.

We just pulled out some broccoli, much to the disappointment of the few harlequin bugs that have survived my month-long vendetta against them. There are some other plants like kale and sorrel that have been declining under the infernal summer sun. I am talking them into extending their stay by providing a little overhead shade to make out southern clime a bit more hospitable!

Being out in the garden during most of the day is now equivalent to taking one's life into your own hands. Just writing about it makes me sweat! But there are some great gardening hours to be enjoyed early and late in the day. Just because it is summer doesn't mean that planting season is over either. There are several crops well suited to summer planting and we are busy filling our garden space with more edible bounty.

Summer and greens are seldom used in the same sentence, but there are several greens that are well suited to the heat and help extend the time when we can enjoy fresh greens in the kitchen. Amaranth and purslane grow fast and don't mind the heat. Chard can also take the summer heat, but appreciates a little mid to late day shade.

Malabar is another good summer green. It is sometimes called Malabar spinach. Why we have to add spinach to the name of every green we are not familiar with puzzles me. Other than true spinach, nothing else called spinach is spinach! But I'll avoid that soapbox.

Last week we seeded out some okra after soaking it overnight to help speed germination. The new seedlings are up and on their way. Although squash prefers milder temperatures, we have recently established some new yellow and zucchini squash. I didn't plant any winter squashes this spring so those will likely go in sometime this month. Their days-to-harvest range from around 70 days to well over 100 days, so planting now means harvest should begin around September.

Black-eyed peas and those other southern favorites crowder, purple hull, and cream peas, can take the heat and are worth growing if you have some space. I don't have good luck with sweet potatoes in my garden due to the sweet potato weevil. If your area is relatively weevil free, visit a neighbor who planted sweet potatoes early and get some vine tip cuttings to start your own patch.

We have some new muskmelon seedlings that are starting to vine. I should mention that these are what we call cantaloupes in the South, but true cantaloupes are much less common in our area. Since my garden is almost full now I have used a section of livestock panel to grow the muskmelons vertically. Other types of wire fencing will work as an alternative to the livestock panels.

Watermelons are another summer planting option and we included a few down the trellis from the muskmelons. Next year I'd like to try orienting the melon trellis in such a way that it provides some mid to late day shade for some lower growing vegetables that are not as summer-tough.

Don't let the summer sun prevent you from keeping the produce coming in for tasty, healthy meals. Take advantage of the early and late day hours to enjoy some time out in the garden.

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