Summer may be thought of as gardening season, but for certain vegetables, midsummer is just too hot. Veggies like broccoli, spinach, and lettuce, as well as herbs such as cilantro and parsley, love the cool, short days of spring and fall. By midsummer, cool season vegetables stop producing well or bolt (produce flowers) and become bitter. However, some of your favorite vegetables thrive in the heat – if you haven’t planted already, it’s not too late!
Best Vegetables to Grow in the Heat
Grown from transplants called slips, sweet potatoes love hot weather but do require a long growing season. Sweet potato vines are great groundcovers. You can even grow them in your regular landscape beds. In the heat, they’ll produce long vines, so be sure to give them plenty of space in the garden! If the vines grow “out of bounds,” just snip off the ends or wind them back into the beds to keep them contained.
Growing your own sweet potatoes can give you access to a greater variety than you’ll find at the grocery store. Some are starchy, while others are sweet, and the “finished product” comes in several colors including orange, white, and even purple.
Thanks to Maryland’s warm, long summer, some pepper varieties can be set out as late as July. They thrive in hot temperatures, and just a few plants can produce a surprising bounty of peppers perfect for pizza toppings or homemade salsa. Just two jalapeno plants will give you enough peppers for anything you could ever need. These are some of the easiest veggies to grow.
Great for pollinators, these incredible flowers come in all shapes and sizes, and grow well in the heat. For cut flowers, you can find colorful varieties like “Evening Sun” that produce multiple heads. (Cut varieties don’t produce edible seeds, usually.) For sunflower seeds to snack on, plant “Mammoth.” The towering plants sometimes reach 12 feet in height and produce tons of seeds. If you don’t want to eat the seeds, leave the plants standing in the garden to attract birds.
Many greens will bolt and turn bitter when hot weather arrives, but not Swiss chard. This mild green can be harvested small for use in salads, eaten lightly sautéed, or used in place of spinach in a number of dishes. For extra color, opt for “Rainbow” chard that has dark green leaves and red, pink, white, yellow, and orange stems.
Okra is one of those vegetables that people either love or hate. If you’re an okra fan, it’s an excellent choice for when the temperatures soar. It can be direct sown until July, and is great for making classics like fried okra and gumbo, or adding to your own soups and stews. Harvest pods when they are no longer than 3-4 inches long for a tender bite.
Zucchini & Summer Squash
Zucchini and summer squashes like “Yellow Straight Neck” and “Patty Pan” are some of the most productive plants you can grow, and they love hot weather. Sow just a few plants at a time, every few weeks throughout the summer, to avoid being overwhelmed by the harvest. Harvest when fruits are still small for the best flavor.
Green beans tolerate heat well and they’re quick to mature, making them ideal for succession planting. Varieties like “Royalty Purple Pod” are fun, especially if you’ve got young children. If you’re limited on space, look for bush types to sow directly into the garden. For an edible groundcover, or to cover a trellis, plant “pole bean” types.
If you love eggplant parmesan, adding a few plants to your garden might be a great choice. Eggplants are actually much more productive in hot weather and are amazingly easy to grow. Provide full sun and plenty of water.
Cucumbers are cool and refreshing to eat on a hot summer day and, thankfully, the plants don’t mind the heat. Plant cucumbers in your garden for fresh eating or to make your own pickles. There are bush types that are perfect for container gardening and vining types that will cover a trellis or study support.
Sweet Corn is one of the best plants at handling hot, dry weather. For thousands of years, it was a staple food for many Native American cultures — even in places like the desert southwest. Plant in 4 foot by 4-foot squares to ensure cross-pollination by wind, or plant multiple rows next to each other. For extra fun, grow a popcorn type. (It has the same growing requirements as sweet corn, but you’ll harvest later.)
Just because hot weather has arrived doesn’t mean you have to stop planting. Try growing some of these heat-loving vegetables to extend your harvest season.
For more vegetable gardening tips, read our From Garden to Table: Salad Gardens blog or visit one of our locations and speak to an expert for more information.