If you're anything like me and live in a warm climate, by the time summer hits you'll just want to give your veggie patch all away. The summer garden means the bugs move in. If it's dry, keeping up with the watering is a full time job and things get suffer from severe sun stress OR on the other end of the scale it non stop rains and everything gets waterlogged and covered with fungal diseases.
In warm climates, summer can be the equivalent of those who experience extreme low temperatures in the depths of winter. You just give up and go inside (in front of the air con instead of by the fireplace).
Whilst a good solution in your garden beds is to rest them, do a green manure crop and prepare for your autumn plantings, sometimes you do still need to put food on the table.
What to plant in your summer garden?
Over the years I've discovered a few things that will grow so it doesn't seem like such a waste of space. Here are my top picks.
Some people are on the fence about the value of a old faithful eggplant, I love them because they are so versatile. Chuck them in a curry, use them as replacement pasta sheets in a lasagne or grill them on a BBQ. In our climate (sub tropical) I find them so easy to grow and somehow seem to be resilient to the good old fruit fly that we experience here in South East Queensland, Australia. Best of all these guys are perfect in pots - so if you're limited on space they will work wonderfully and still product an abundance of fruit. The only main issue I get with these guys is a bit of scale, the odd leaf hopper and occasionally mite damage, which mostly can be dealt with a bit of dishwashing liquid and a high pressure hose (or rub them off with your fingers).
My favourite varieties are the Ping Tung (long skinny) as they are easy to just slice up and throw into dishes (they are also milder in flavour). I am also partial to the some of the varieties that you don't get in the shops such as the Greek Tsakoniki eggplant (pictured below).
Over the years my corn has been a bit hit and miss, depending on when the rain comes (rain on the flowers puts a damper on things). If you're lacking on space it's not going to be the best choice as you need at least 9 plants to successfully pollinate (16 is better) and hence create the corn kernels. When the husk forms and the silks spill out, every single piece of silk needs to receive some pollen, which means you need a lot planted next to each other and hope they all flower at once and it's dry enough for the pollen to drop onto the silks.
Whilst these guys are safe from fruit fly, you do need to look out for the odd caterpillar who will bore his way through and eat all your corn cobs. Sometimes you wont even know until you pick the corn.
We're yet to find an heirloom sweet corn that we love, so often we just grow hybrid for the table. For fun we do grow Glass Gem and our favourite popping corn is the mini blue. If we start early spring, we will get 3 harvests of corn over the warm months, just note that if you grow multiple varieties at once they will cross pollinate and you'll end up with some weird results, so wait for the flowering to finish before you plant a new variety.
If you like a bit of spice in your life, you can't go past a good chilli plant. We plant heaps of these guys in our summer garden as they do handle the heat extremely well.
As for fruit fly though, like capsicums, they are an easy target so keep them covered or prepare to pick your chillis green.
Like the eggplant these are perfect for pots.
I usually let my main summer garden bed go with the sweet potato. It seriously just takes over and by the end of summer you dig it all up and receive a bounty of goodies. You can see our super successful sweet potato harvest in this YouTube Clip here. Bonus points for this one is the leaves are edible too - they make a great addition to a stir fry!
I've had epidemics of caterpillars on the leaves and the odd orange shield bug but it has never seemed to affect the end harvest. Usually the next year I'll get another crop from left over potatoes that I failed to find.
Traditional bush beans I admit I don't have much luck with in my summer garden. They tend to fall prey to a host of diseases (rust in particular) due to our humidity. We are however having a good year with the Cherokee wax though.
Snake beans on the other hand are amazing. They are resilient to most pests, even the dreaded bean fly (they can still get them when young). If you love traditional beans, just make sure you pick these early.
Madagascar Climbing Beans
There I so much to love about the Madagascar Climbing Beans, it looks amazing, it's a perennial, and it's so prolific! A great staple bean to have when not much else grows. They are super resilient and avoid a lot of the issues that other beans get (no bean fly!!).
Blue Butterfly Peas
These are one of our best sellers in the shop, and rightly so, another perennial that will give you that hit of pea flavour in their flowers. The flowers are also used as a natural blue food colouring and it's used in a lot of Malaysian cooking. Not many flowers make it back to our kitchen as our kids always steal them before they get there.
I'd love to know, what you grow in Summer that survives. Leave a comment below!