Mid to late summer can be a challenging time to grow veggies. The days are long, the sun is hot, and the rain is scarce. The heat can cause the plants to wilt, and the lack of water can stunt their growth.
By midsummer, most gardeners have already harvested their early crops of lettuce, spinach, and radishes. But plenty of vegetables still thrive in the heat of late summer, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and squash.
However, with some care and attention, it is possible to grow a bountiful crop of vegetables during this time of year.
Opt for Heat-Tolerant Varieties
Many vegetables have been bred to withstand the heat of summer. Look for varieties with “heat tolerant” or “summer” in their name. Heat-loving vegetables are typically classified as “short-season” or “long-season” varieties.
Short-season varieties are those that can be harvested in 60 days or less. This includes crops like lettuce, spinach, and radishes. Long-season varieties take longer to mature but can withstand the heat better. These include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and squash.
Some heat-tolerant vegetables include:
- Tomatoes – Early Girl, Big Beef, and Sunmaster
- Peppers – Anaheim, Jalapeño, and Habanero
- Eggplants – Black Beauty and Ichiban
- Squash – Yellow Crookneck and Zucchini
Choose the Right Location
When choosing a spot to plant your vegetables, it is important to consider the sun and heat they will be exposed to. If possible, select an area that receives partial shade during the hottest part of the day.
It is also vital to ensure that the area you choose has good drainage. Vegetables will not thrive in soggy soil. If your garden is prone to flooding, consider planting vegetables in raised beds.
Provide Extra Shading
If possible, provide extra shading for your plants during periods of extreme heat. Some vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach, do not tolerate the heat well. If you want to grow these crops during the summer, it is best to provide some extra shading.
You can do this by erecting a shade cloth over the garden bed or using large pots or other objects to create a makeshift canopy. You can also consider using a floating row cover to provide shade and protect the plants from pests.
Water Early and Often
Watering early in the day will allow the plants to take up moisture before the heat of the day sets in. This will help to prevent wilting and keep the plants healthy. If possible, water with a soaker hose or drip irrigation system.
These watering methods are more efficient than using a sprinkler and will help reduce water loss due to evaporation during the heat of the day.
Regularly check the soil to see if it is dry. Vegetables need about an inch of water per week. If you are not getting enough rain, you will likely need water more frequently.
Mulch to Retain Moisture
Mulching your plants will help to retain moisture and keep the roots cool. Use a layer of straw, hay, or shredded leaves around the base of the plants. Be sure to leave a few inches between the mulch and the plant stems to prevent rotting.
You can also add a layer of fabric or plastic mulch. This will help reflect the heat and keep the soil moist for a longer time.
During periods of heat and drought, it is important to monitor the soil’s moisture level. The best way to do this is to use a soil moisture meter. These devices can be inserted into the soil to measure the amount of water present—this will help you know when to water your plants.
Harvest in the Early Morning or in the Cool of the Evening
It is best to harvest your vegetables early in the day before the day’s heat sets in or in the cool of the evening to avoid wilting. This is especially important for leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach.
If you must harvest during the heat of the day, use a sharp knife or pruning shears. This will prevent the plants from being damaged and reduce the time they are exposed to the heat.
The Bottom Lines
Summertime is a great time to get your hands dirty in the garden and grow vegetables. Don’t let the heat deter you!
Following these tips can help your plants thrive in the heat and produce a bountiful harvest.