As a child, I remember many sunny summer afternoons sitting on the porch shelling more than my fair share of peas and butter beans in the deep dark heart of the old south. There were other vegetables we grew in our summer gardens that had to be picked and stored for winter but the peas and butter beans always seemed to take the most time and attention and are one of the things I sorely miss having left my home in the south for much cooler climes. One thing though, has never gotten away from me and that is the deep and abiding love I have for the smell of freshly plowed soil and the taste of vegetables fresh from the garden.
I point out the fact that my childhood favorite summer garden vegetables only seem to flourish in the south to drive home the fact that you really will need to research the vegetables you plant in your summer garden as they relate to the specific area in which you live. Not all vegetable plants are created equal in their tolerance for temperature or rainfall (or lack thereof), which could greatly impact their suitability for your particular vegetable summer garden depending of course, on where you are located.
Some great plants to include in your summer vegetable garden should of course be dictated by those vegetables that you enjoy eating as well as those vegetables and herbs that use a good deal when cooking. If you use peppers a lot in your cooking then peppers are probably an excellent choice for your summer garden. If you don’t like peppers, then they are not likely to be a good choice, as they will probably be wasted. My children will eat green peppers off the vine so they make an excellent choice for our garden. Tomatoes are another popular favorite for summer gardens. Some have even gotten creative and created hanging tomato plants in which the tomatoes literally grow upside down. If space is limited in your summer garden this may be a great way to have your tomatoes and grow them too-without taking up valuable real estate within your vegetable garden.
For those who love their greens summer gardens provide an excellent atmosphere for growing greens such as broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage. Collard greens, mustard greens, and turnip greens are also good summer garden inclusions. I also have strong memories of boiling huge vats of greens to be frozen for winter when the full force of the harvest was upon us. There was always something to be done with the vegetables as winter approached and during those lean winter months we were so grateful for the hard work and effort we had made to insure these great vegetables would sustain us during the months they weren’t so readily available.
Having a summer garden filled with vegetables is a satisfying pursuit in many ways. First of all you are producing something that is useful to you and your family. Second, you are providing a way for you and your family to enjoy the vegetables you love most throughout the year. Finally, you are able to produce vegetables that are fit for consumption and enjoyment at a much lower cost than you would pay for these vegetables at the local supermarket. This helps save money for some of the more important and more entertaining things most of us would like to do with our families.
As with any summer garden you will need to plan carefully the placement of your vegetables and do some research on individual watering and shade requirements. It helps to plant those that need partial sunlight in the shadow of those plants that will grow taller and provide shade for the smaller plants. It also helps to keep the thirstier plants closer together and further away from those plants that require less water to sustain them. You should also take care to be realistic in your planting and avoid planting more than you can comfortable consume or harvest, as that will be wasted time and effort on your part.