In late spring, the weather warms up and you can start your vegetable garden. But what garden plants should you grow? Here is a list of six must-have warm weather plants for your vegetable garden.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber adds, "If you live in a cool climate, black plastic used as a mulch will help to warm the soil. Also choosing short-season varieties will improve your success."
Peppers are great plants to grow in your garden. They are easy to grow, have few pests and are versatile in the kitchen. There are many varieties, some are hot while others are sweet. They come in beautiful colors including green, red, orange, yellow and even purple. Sweet peppers can be eaten straight from the garden as a snack. (Be careful of eating hot peppers straight from the garden, they may be very hot!)
Peppers are easily stored for later use. Banana and Bell peppers can be cut into 1-inch pieces and frozen for later use. Hot peppers can be dried through traditional methods such as tying up, much like herbs. The peppers can then be ground up into spices. Both types of peppers can be slow roasted on low heat in the oven for a few hours and used immediately or stored for later use.
Peppers are easy to grow even if you have a short growing season. Hot peppers tend to take a little longer than the sweet peppers (such as banana and bell peppers)
TIP: Karen suggests, "In short growing seasons it is best to start seeds inside 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost, or purchase transplants from a local garden center."
They are similar to tomatoes in growth and likes and dislikes. Not many pests affect peppers, as the leaves and stems are quite nasty and are toxic to most creatures when ingested. Peppers require full sun, moderately fertile well drained soil that is high in organic matter, regular watering and warm soils.
There is nothing like a ripe, red, juicy tomato, or a few cherry tomatoes. Red is the traditional color everyone thinks of when they hear about tomatoes, but they come in many other colors including; green and yellow, even shades of purple. There are tens of thousands of varieties of tomatoes to choose from.
TIP: Karen adds, "Hybird tomatoes have been bred to bring out specific qualities like color and disease resistance, while old fashioned heirloom tomatoes have an incomparable flavor."
Tomatoes are quite easy to grow. There are many types of tomatoes that grow well in shorter season climates such as the northern United States. In most cases, starting the seeds inside under grow lights or buying transplants is the way to grow the best tomatoes. Tomatoes like warm climates and do not tolerate frost well even when well established.
Cherry tomatoes are a fun tomato to grow. About 1-inch in size, they are small and usually very sweet. They grow well in containers, and great to use in salads or as a healthy snack for the kids.
The term summer squash includes a wide variety of plants, like crookneck, straightneck, scallop and zucchini. Seed catalogs offer the widest selection and it is worth spending some time checking them out.
All summer squash is harvested while the skin is still tender and should be eaten relatively fresh. They will store about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
TIP: Karen adds, "In addition to the fruit, summer squash produces beautiful editable blossoms. They can be eaten raw or cooked. Harvest only the male blossom, so as not to reduce your harvest of squash. You can tell you have a male blossoms by checking the stem of the blossom. Male blossom stems are thin, while female blossom stems are wider and a developing fruit can be see below the petals."
Summer squash thrive in warm weather and do not tolerate frost. They prefer a sandy loam soil with rich organic matter and a pH of 6-6.5 Squash require well drained soil and will be unhappy if planted in an area with standing water.
Fresh cucumbers from the garden are a wonderful addition to your salad, sandwich or just as they are fresh from the garden. They are similar to squash in that they love warm weather.
There are two main types of cucumbers, the vining ones and the bush types. The vining cucumbers will vigorously produce in the best conditions. They can produce all summer long. They might also need some sort of trellis to grow on or a long piece of yard since they vine out everywhere.
TIP: Karen wants you to know, "If you want straight cucumbers they need to be trellised."
The bush type cucumbers grow low to the ground, 6 to 8 inches high and produce fruit earlier than the vining varieties. These cucumbers are great for container gardening or if you don’t have a lot of space.
Beans are easy to grow and there is so much flavor in fresh beans. There are many varieties.
Pole beans can grow quite tall and get out of hand if you are not ready for their vigorous vining growth. They need some sort of support. A pole bean tower is recommended. This tower is a 6 foot (or higher) tower that allows the beans to climb up the tower in a smaller area. It makes it easier to harvest the beans and keeps them off the ground, leaving them cleaner and easier to harvest.
Bush beans aren't as prolific as their pole bean counterparts, but they can produce just as much if the conditions are right. Bush beans are great for containers and smaller areas. Bush beans grow to 1.5 to 2 feet tall and about equal width.
While green beans are the most popular, beans do come in many shapes and sizes, even colors. Harvest regularly to get the most out of beans. They will be ready to harvest in as little as 60 days from planting. If you want smaller yet extended harvests of the beans, then succession planting is recommended. Succession planting is planting a row, then waiting about two to three weeks, and planting another row. That way, the rows will mature and produce at different times, giving an extended harvest.
Corn can be planted in late spring if the temperature stays above freezing. As long as there isn't a chance of frost, it can be grown. The ground should be warm though because germination rates are much higher in warmer temperatures.
Corn is planted by seed usually in rows. It has better pollination rates if a lot is planted. At least a 5-foot plot is recommended to get the best harvest. Corn self-pollinates, but it is vital to have several rows of corn to increase the pollen in the general area, therefore, improving pollination rates.
TIP: Karen cautions you, "Corn readily cross-pollinates, so it is important to choose ONLY one variety to grow. If you grow two different types of corn, for example, sweet corn and popcorn, Your sweet corn will have some kernels that are popcorn."
Corn growth is dictated by large amounts of space, but there is corn that is better for smaller spaces. This corn doesn’t grow quite as tall or long as the other varieties.
Push the corn seed at least a 1/2-inch into the ground. Cover the seeds and make sure the corn is kept watered. Don't let it dry out. Plant the seeds at least 6 inches apart in the row with the rows about 18 to 24 inches apart. Be sure to read the recommendations on the seed packet, spacing can vary. In a more controllable environment such as a container, however, the rows and plants can be sown closer together.
TIP: Karen advises, "Yields from container-grown corn will be significantly lower than field-grown corn."