Summer Vegetable Gardening by Karla Basallaje, Master Gardener.
Hot Texas summers do not necessarily signal the end of our time in the garden. There are a variety of vegetables that can be sown from April through early May for harvest in the summer. In addition, some of these vegetables can be planted on a staggered schedule to reap a continuous harvest throughout the summer. The goal is to keep your garden growing and producing fresh harvests. Planting different varieties of the same vegetable can also help make the most of the growing season because they mature at different intervals thereby extending the harvest season.
It is preferable to plant summer vegetables early rather than late so that the crop can reach maturity before the heat becomes too intense. Most warm weather vegetables germinate successfully at soil temperatures of 70 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, they require 6-8 hours of full sun, well-drained soil as well as adequate amounts of water. Remember to keep the soil evenly moist and to mulch to conserve moisture.
Summer garden staples include: beans – also referred to as green beans, snap beans, string beans, they are a favorite and versatile warm weather crop. Sow every 7-10 days to produce a continual bean crop. Harvest beans before they grow too big as they become stringy and tough. Beans are also a favorite as they fix nitrogen levels in the soil. Early August would be the last practical sowing date for beans.
Peppers and hot peppers are another favorite summer vegetable, most commonly transplanted, but also sown from seed. Summer squash, such as zucchini are planted in March and April for harvesting in May through June. Cucumbers, a native vegetable of India can be sown from March through May 1st both the slicing variety and the pickling kind.
Okra cannot be left off the list of favorite summer vegetables. Okra is a large plant and needs plenty of space to grow and also night temperatures must reach an average of above 50 degrees for the okra to grow properly usually 3 to 4 weeks after the last spring frost. Okra needs to be harvested in a timely manner; it matures quickly generally 4 days after flowering. Harvest pods before they become too tough.
Finally, don’t forget to try something new! Bittermelon is an excellent summer vegetable, a super-food with purported blood-sugar regulating capabilities. It is actually a member of the squash family and also a native to India. It is used in curries and stews also very popular in Chinese and other Asian cuisine. Planted from seed, it is a hardy plant and a prodigious producer. If you have never tasted it, sample it first. They are widely available at Asian grocery stores. To temper the bitterness, it is sometimes cut and cored, and sprinkled with salt or soaked in water for 30 minutes before cooking.
For more detailed information on the vegetable you would like to plant visit the Aggie Horticulture website at htttp://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu, and look for the “Easy Gardening Fact Sheets’ for commonly planted vegetables and herbs.