The summer garden season is here, and we can’t wait to bite into some fresh, home grown produce! The variety of vegetables that can be grown in the summer garden is what keeps many gardeners growing and what entices new gardeners to try their hand at growing. The combination of hot weather and (hopefully) occasional rain makes summer a perfect time to grow.
While two of the most popular summer garden favorites are tomatoes and cucumbers, there are many other vegetables and fruits that can round out the summer garden. They can help you enjoy an organic, nutrient-rich, low-cost diet all summer. In fact, during our garden bed installations this spring, I was very surprised at the number of people who didn’t like tomatoes. And if you don’t like the taste of something, you certainly shouldn’t grow it! Instead, plant some of these other easy-to-grow summer garden foods.
Summer Garden Favorites
There are many varieties of bean to choose from, green beans (aka string beans or snap beans) are the most popular. Select a bush variety to grow in containers or small garden spaces. Runners or pole beans to grow well in gardens that have space for trellises or teepees. (Find out how to construct a bean teepee in 5 minutes!) Beans are also perfect for getting kids into the garden. They love to harvest beans and eat them on the spot.
So easy to grow and prepare, corn grows on tall stalks but require very little vertical space. Corn will produce two ears per stalk, and the ears are great for grilling or boiling. And though you may be used to seeing corn grown in fields and row gardens, they are just as happy to grow in a raised bed or container!
Though not a plant you’d start and grow in a raised bed, blueberries in the summer garden add a burst of color and taste of tart sweetness. Blueberry bushes can be grown in-ground (like a flower bed) or in containers. They prefer moist, acidic soil and a location that offers them a little shade from the afternoon sun. Plant different varieties that ripen at different times so you can enjoy fresh blueberries all summer. (Try these blueberry covers for keeping birds and other blueberry lovers at bay.)
The star of several Italian recipes, eggplant is easy to grow and will add color to both your summer garden and your plate. Plant in a sunny location (in-ground or in a container) but not in the same location as it was grown in last year. If you live in a warmer climate, eggplant will continue to grow into the fall, so don’t take it up too quickly!
What is summer without slices of juicy watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew? It’s a great choice to plant and grow with kids as a summer gardening project. Choose a variety based on the amount of garden space you have. Compact plants won’t require as much growing space as traditional varieties, but will produce the same juicy melons. We grow our melons in a south-facing flower bed. This gives them plenty of room to spread out, and they run underneath our blueberry bushes, so they’re not in the way.
Here’s a heat loving vegetable that thrives in a summer garden. Upright plants don’t take up much space and produce large yellow flowers before producing okra pods. Harvest when pods are 4-5 inches long and add to soups, stews and gumbo. Slice crosswise, dredge in cornmeal and fry until golden brown for a southern favorite. Okra is also incredibly easy to freeze for later use.
Peppers not only produce flavorful heat, they grow best in the hot summer. The hotter the better, making them ideal for a summer garden. Easy care plants grow equally well in-ground or in containers.
So take up what is no longer producing from your early spring garden, and get some of these fresh summer veggies growing. These heat loving plants should take your garden into the early fall (if you live in a warmer climate). I’d love to know what you enjoy growing in the summer garden! Have a great week and happy gardening!