• Alicia Crisp

Summer is Coming

Spring is easy. The days are warm and sunny, the nights are cool, and the gentle rains are just enough to keep your plants hydrated. While you are enjoying your spring harvests though, is the time to make your plans for summer.

Sure, you could just let your garden beds go to weed until fall when things get easy again, but you shouldn’t. Weeds are the breeding grounds for all the pests you don’t want next season. In addition, mature weeds drop seed, which also spells more work for you later. The best plan is to continue to maintain your garden through the summer both for better soil health and for the additional food it provides.

The simplest plan is to plant a fast growing, sprawling cover crop and leave it alone. It will fill your beds, crowd out weeds, and attract good bugs. My favorite choices are sweet potato and peanut. The peanut comes up first and is a nitrogen fixer, meaning it adds nitrogen to the soil, thereby improving it. As it matures in the mid to late summer, the advancing sweet potato foliage fills in the space. Both are deliciously edible. Being root crops, they provide even more benefit as harvesting them tills your bed for you, making it all ready for your fall plantings.

But you can add even more, An active summer garden requires a bit more planning as you are limited by what can tolerate both the extreme heat and the constant rain, but there are probably a lot more options available than you might have thought.

For easy greens you have collards, roselle,  and Okinawa spinach. You can also harvest sweet potato leaves, and the leaves of pumpkins or squash. Switch your green beans out for a tougher yard long bean and they will grow nicely. Add pigeon pea as a protein source. Okra, eggplant and hot peppers are some more heat loving vegetables along with the heartier squashes like North Georgia Candy Roaster and the Seminole Pumpkin.

A few of the fruits you can harvest are: pineapple, Florida cranberry, papaya, banana, cactus fruit, star fruit, figs, pomegranate, limes, and lemons.

So make plans to maintain your garden all summer and reap the benefits of fewer pests, better soil, less work in the fall, and homegrown fresh picked produce all year long.

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