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Read this carefully and see what new ideas you can use here in SoCal! I’ve added a few comments in brackets for our local gardeners….

WHAT TO GROW THROUGH VERY HOT SUMMERS by Lisa Dermer

“Heat-tolerant” and “drought-tolerant” are phrases to look for when selecting the best varieties to grow where summers are very hot. Humidity, especially warm, humid nights, leads to fungal diseases, so it’s also good to look for fungal disease resistance.

Some plants continue producing even during periods of extreme heat and humidity or heat and drought. Here are some of our recommendations:

Heat Lovers Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Dermer

Beans: If you want green beans and shelling beans throughout the summer, it’s best to expand your repertoire to a few different species. The common green bean, Phaseola vulgaris, doesn’t handle drought or high temperatures. But lots of classic Southern beans love our high-heat summers! Try growing Southern Peas (Cowpeas) like Whippoorwill, White Acre, and Pink Eye Purple Hull. Asparagus Beans (Yard Long Beans) also love heat and humidity – they’re slightly firmer than green beans and quite a bit longer. They’re commonly used in Thai curries. Green Pod Red Seed is the classic, reliable heirloom. If you’re in the Deep South, Chinese Red Noodle takes advantage of the long season and is more heat tolerant. Lima Beans (Butterbeans) are generally very reliable in heat, humidity, and drought. [In Santa Barbara area Rattlesnake beans, aka Preacher Bean, produce fabulously in 100 degree weather!]

Tomatoes: Look for tomatoes that come from the Deep South, especially those bred by the universities. The large red slicer Tropic VFN (from the University of Florida) produces through very hot summers. Ozark Pink VF (from the University of Arkansas) is highly recommended for very hot climates. These blemish-free medium-sized tomatoes have very bright, crisp flavor. For market growers looking for reliability in heat and humidity, Neptune (also from the University of Florida) is a great choice. This medium-large red slicer recently did very well in trials conducted at the University of Georgia. [Try these, but in SoCal, cherry tomatoes are often your best choice.]

Eggplant: Take advantage of your summer heat by growing an eggplant that requires it: the flavorful French/Italian heirloom Listada de Gandia thrives in hot weather.  The better known heirloom Black Beauty is also dependable in the South. The long, narrow Asian eggplants like Ping Tung Long also produce well through intense heat. [Long eggplant does better in cool coastal areas because it takes less time to develop. Terra Sol Garden Center in Goleta has been carrying Ping Tung Longs!]

Peppers: Nematode resistant bell peppers are the best choices for Southern gardeners. Carolina Wonder and Charleston Belle are both excellent. Hot peppers generally thrive in heat and humidity. (Lots of hot places use hot peppers in their cuisines – perhaps because these plants grow so well in hot climates!) Sweet, spicy Aji Dulce peppers have an unusual, complex flavor, with just a hint of heat. They’re generally unaffected by pests and diseases, but they take a little longer to mature than most peppers.

Cucumbers:   Find out which diseases are problems in your area and use the resistance codes to help you choose what to grow. Little Leaf H-19 (from the University of Arkansas) has excellent disease resistance and is well adapted to very hot summers. It’s classified as a pickler, but it’s also very tasty sliced and in salads. Ashley is a slicer particularly recommended where disease is a problem, but my favorite choice for a heat-loving slicer is Suyo Long (the long, slender fruits are best grown on trellises). [Island Seed & Feed in Goleta is growing Suyo Longs!]

Summer Squash and Zucchini: We recommend growing Moschata type summer squash if you have trouble growing summer squash and zucchini in your hot climate. The Moschata types have better pest and disease tolerance and produce well straight through very hot summers.Tromboncino summer squash has the extra advantage of also making excellent squash blossoms for stuffing. Waltham Butternut winter squash can be harvested small (3-5”) for eating like summer squash.  (Moschata types need nights above 60 degrees F to grow well.) You might also try edible Luffa gourds. When harvested small, they’re a great summer squash alternative.

Winter Squash and Pumpkins: As with summer squash, we recommend choosing moschata types when growing winter squash and pumpkins in the South. (Avoid pepo and maxima types.) Pretty much any moschata will thrive through hot summers, but particularly productive varieties are Seminole Pumpkin, Waltham Butternut, and Tan Cheese. Green-Striped Cushaw is from another type of squash altogether (argyrosperma or mixta). We know Southern gardeners who won’t grow anything but Cushaws: they’re super productive through our summers and their seeds are very large and tasty. The flesh tastes a little different than most winter squash and not as sweet, but it can be used in pies if you add extra sweetener.

Melons: Top Mark, Sweet Passion, and Kansas all have extra disease and/or pest tolerances.Edisto 47 is particularly recommended for hot, humid summers where fungal disease is an issue. Missouri Gold produces well through droughty conditions. [If you live in SoCal coastal foothills, plant away. If you are in the cooler beach areas, if you think we will have a HOT summer, take a chance, plant if you have room! It’s recommended to wait until May to plant cantaloupe.]

Watermelon: Crimson Sweet and Strawberry watermelon are good choices where heat and humidity make fungal diseases a problem.

Okra: Choose older and heirloom varieties of okra with deeper root systems. The deep roots give these plants resistance to nematodes and improved drought and heat tolerance, but these varieties also usually take longer to mature. Gold Coast is a variety particularly noted for its deep roots, but Stewart Zeebest and Beck’s Big Buck also are excellent heirlooms for the Deep South.

Greens: Lettuce is very difficult to grow outside when it’s hot, and spinach is pretty much impossible, but don’t give up on summer salads and cooked greens. [In coastal Santa Barbara we successfully grow heat tolerant Romaines – Sierra, Nevada, Jericho are some.]

For cooked greens, Swiss chard and turnip greens are the best choices in the South. These plants are biennials, which means they usually won’t bolt (go to seed) until they’ve gone through their first winter. So they stay tender and mild all summer. [In Santa Barbara the chard suffers so from the heat I can’t bear it. I compost it and plant again in the fall.] Sweet potato greens, New Zealand summer spinach, and the young leaves and shoot tips of squash can all be used for cooking greens.

For salads, buckwheat leaves add an unusual nutty flavor. Grain amaranths like Mayo Indian are very productive in high heat and humidity. Many heat-loving herbs add flavor to salads, including roselle, anise-hyssop, dill, & basil.

We strongly recommend Red Malabar summer spinach to anyone who hasn’t tried growing it yet. The crisp, slightly succulent leaves stay mild in high heat and maintain healthy growth all summer. The gorgeous red vines need to be trellised or caged, but this keeps the leaves clean. They’re excellent as cooking greens and in salad mixes.

See their Growing Guides & Library, remembering that planting times may vary from their location in Mineral VA and yours! Support them by buying seeds from them! Thank you!

I highly recommend subscribing to their blog for more super tips on growing your favorite veggies and trying some new ones!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

See the entire April GBC Newsletter

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Cucumber Flowers

June is another grand month for planting, more heat, fast growth.  Plant in spots that have already finished; plant for succession, a continued harvest of your favorites!  If you couldn’t take advantage of April or May, step up to it now!  Seeds are good, transplants are faster if your summer palate is salivating!  Hotties like corn, cucs, beans, jicama, melons, okra, peppers, pumpkins, New Zealand spinach, all squashes!  I’ve planted corn in August and got great October corn!  Plant tasty year-rounds – beets, carrots, chard, cilantro, radish, turnips.  Tomatoes with basils now and next month.  More tomatoes if you will be dehydrating for camping, winter stews, snacks.   Try something new –maybe something you can’t get at the store!

Why are we discussing okra in June? Because it is time to plant okra seed for fall gardens. Depending on the variety, first pods are ready for harvest about 2 months after planting. If you plant in mid-June, you will not harvest until mid-August. If you wait until later, cool nights will decrease production. Of course, many gardeners have okra already growing that will continue to produce until frost. If these plants are too tall, they should now be cut back to a height of 4 feet so that re-branching and production will occur before cool weather arrives.  If you are an okra lover, it’s double your pleasure because it is in the hibiscus/hollyhock family and makes breathtakingly lovely flowers!  Okra is like little stars in a salad; you cut it in thin slices across the raw pod.  Or cook it traditionally, steamed, in stew, jambalaya over rice, or deep fried.  If you are driving through Mojave, there’s a restaurant on the main drag that fries it to perfection!  Perhaps the most important thing to know is okra has to be harvested while small to medium, while tender.  Otherwise, you end up with an unchewable tough monster.  Big is not better, trust me.

Biodiversity really works!  Mix it up, spread out your plantings.  Solid blocks (except for corn for pollination) of one plant or overplanting same kind plants in leaf touching rows are particularly susceptible to pest and disease spread, gopher loss.  Lose one, lose ‘em all.  To further confuse pests, pop in some herbs, basil with tomatoes, marigolds, as an understory in the between spaces!  Grow arugula and lettuces in the shade of your mighty corn!

Two on one trellis!  Check out the good size dark cucumbers hanging, and the ‘hammock’ supported melons!

Enjoy your luscious harvests!

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Carpenter Bee - Male, AKA Teddy Bear Bee!

April 15, 2011 I had my first encounter with a huge male carpenter bee – see image! Awesome! They are all fuzzy and yellow (not all black like the females), sometimes called Teddy Bear Bees, and I could totally see why! They hover closely and look you right in the eye, buzz off and come back for another look! They are the largest bees found in California, don’t sting. What a pollinator!

Magic May, Mama Earth’s Bounty Month, It’s Cantaloupe Time!!

Keep planting your summer veggies and year-arounds! If you haven’t put in the summer heat lovers, do it NOW! That’s peppers, eggplant, okra, melons. Absolutely get winter squash in now. It takes time to mature and harden. Beans, beets, carrots, chayote, corn, cucs, summer lettuce varieties, pumpkins, radish, zuchs, chard, tomatoes, more tomatoes, turnips! Omigod, I’m hungry!

Harvesting is like pruning, no? So eat! Keep your plant producing by steady picking and plucking, no storing on the vine! Otherwise, it thinks it did its job, made those seeds, and folds up camp! Keep your broccoli harvested. If you see flower stalks, cut them off ASAP, back to where new shoots can come. If you are getting too many sprouts, cut them back further to slow them down. Eat those bitty zuchs, flowers and all! Use those herbs you planted – basils, thyme, sage, oregano. Just a few of their leaves rubbed, mashed, steeped, chopped, can add luscious flavors! Make pretty bouquet garni for giveaways! Parsley is SO good for you, and beautiful in your garden! Its second year it goes to seed, a biennial. Pull and cook the tasty roots in your soup, or let a plant or two go to seed to feed beneficial insects and reseed your patch.

Oh yes, and, of course, plant cosmos, marigolds, petunias, sunflowers, sweet alyssum, your favorite summer flowers!

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