Hot Weather Veggies

Hot Weather Veggies

Written by Ingrid Hoff

Perhaps it just me, but it seems like the summers are getting hotter each year. And I’m finding that because of this I’m starting to change what I grow in my veggie plot. Spring and fall are great for the cool weather lettuce, spinach and radishes but as the temperature starts to heat up, I’m counting on my hot weather veggies to get me through the summer without having to spend all my time pampering my plants. 

Just in case you’re not familiar with the idea of cool and warm weather veggies, some veggies grow better in cooler weather and some veggies, well… they like it hot. This is because the veggies we grow in our gardens are not necessary native to our climate. Some come from similar climates (the cool weather veggies) and some from much warmer climates so they are naturally adapted to grow in hotter conditions. Knowing which are which and what kind of conditions you have in your veggie patch is fundamental to having success growing your own food. 

When I start to talk about hot weather veggies most people’s thoughts immediately go to tomatoes. While it’s true they need a good amount of hot sun to produce fruit you can still manage to get a decent crop with moderate heat. Peppers on the other hand will not produce without a good amount of “baking” in the sun. Peppers to me are the ultimate hot weather veggie, and personally I love to grow hot peppers because you can grow such a variety that you’d never find in the local grocery store. 

Peppers 

Peppers, be they bell or spicy chilies, come from Central and South America and Mexico. They require a long and hot growing season to produce fruit. Which makes sense considering the climate in South America, they have lots of warm season to take their time. But that is not the case in our northern climes. Don’t even think about growing them from seed in our climate unless you plan on starting them inside in February, get yourself a transplant that someone else started back in February. They have the reputation of being difficult to grow but that mostly comes from people trying to grow them in spots that just aren’t warm and sunny enough. If you can give them what they need they are pretty easy to grow, there are just a few things you should watch. While they aren’t as fussy as their relatives the tomatoes when it comes water, they still need some care to have consistent moisture and can be susceptible to blossom end rot (a nutrient deficiency that is exacerbated by inconsistent watering). To combat this, make sure to use some Cal-Mag fertilizer. Peppers are also not going to produce well if you let them dry out so make sure to mulch (some gardeners swear by plastic mulch as it amps up the soil temperatures while maintaining soil moisture). A mulch will help make sure you are not a slave to the watering hose all summer. Fertilize peppers only lightly and try to avoid too much nitrogen, peppers that are over-fed will produce lots of green leaves but little fruit. 

But there are more than peppers that appreciate a hot site, here is a list of some of my favourites. 

Other Hot Weather Crops Worth Growing 

  • Tomatillos, slightly tart and tangy tasting the papery covered fruits can be eaten raw or used in cooking (salsa verde, chutney, or even a tomatillo mojito anyone?). Hailing originally from Mexico, they can be grown in a container and can ever tolerate moderate drought conditions. Make sure to harvest them when the husk turns brown, before the fruit turns yellow. 

  • Melons, native to Africa and Southwest/Central Asia they need both heat and space. If you have these conditions then get yourself some melon vines. Make sure to give them lots of water except during the final weeks of ripening when excess water can actually dilute the developing sugars. Consider using a plastic mulch if you are concerned about ensuring high soil temperatures. 

  • Okra, an easy plant to grow from seed if you have a nice warm spot, but as with most heat loving veggies you may want to consider planting transplants to get a jump on the season. Believed to have originated from Africa, the attractive flowers are almost enough to warrant space for this plant. 

  • Malabar spinach, the succulent leaves and purple stems of this plant (which is in no way related to spinach) are attractive and delicious. Native to tropical Asia and Africa this is climbing vine so be sure to give it some support. 

  • Corn, native to Mexico, will grow fine but will not develop cobs unless the plant has been exposed to enough heat in the growing season. Seeds can be directly sown in June. It’s better to plant corn in a dense block of at least four rows rather than a single row, this helps with pollination (by wind in corn) and can provide support to help prevent breakages. 

  • Squash, believe to have originated in Central America it is now cultivated worldwide. Make sure to plant yours in warm soil either from starts or direct sowing and make sure they get full sun (minimum 6 hours each day). Also, make sure to give them room, they like to sprawl. 

  • Eggplant, native to southwest Asia, another member of the nightshade family (just like peppers and tomatoes). It stands to reason that it also needs a long growing season with lots of heat. Start seeds indoors in March/April or transplant when the soil warms up (June). Most importantly give them heat and sun. 

So, if Mother Nature's turns up the thermostat this summer be prepared and celebrate by planting something that will thrive in all that heat. Just find a shady spot to enjoy the “fruits of your labour” and don’t forget to wear your sunscreen. 

Tags: