Plant your summer vegetables when the frosts are gone, the air and soil are warm

You can enjoy a harvest of summer vegetables; corn, peppers, tomatoes, okra, squash, beans, eggplant and cucumbers during the warm summer months.

  • Have the peace and security of knowing you don't have to depend on the supermarket for all your vegetables.

Watermelon, cantaloupe and honey dew melons need warm weather. We won't be covering melons on this page, but they definitely are a summer crop.

growing summer vegetables

  • Summer vegetables thrive in full sun and warm weather.

  • The air should be warm and the soil warmed to at least 60 degrees.

  • Plant your warm weather vegetables in the spring, two weeks or more after the last spring frost.

Veggies that take a little longer to grow, may be started by seed earlier. Transplant the seedlings the garden 2 weeks after the last spring frost.

growing corn

Summer vegetables: Growing corn one of America's favorite home garden crops.Corn is one of America's favorite summer vegetables
Image by Bru-nO from Pixabay

Corn is an all American vegetable. Corn was growing in Mexico over 7,000 years ago. Its culture spread throughout North and South America.

We know it was one of the main vegetables grown by the American Indians. American pilgrims planted and ate corn from their gardens. 

  • Field corn is dried on the stalk, harvested and stored for later use. It is sometimes called dent corn because each kernel has a dent on the top.

  • Sweet corn is harvested while the kernels are still moist. Corn on the cob, canned and frozen corn are sweet corn.

corn culture

  • Corn takes 60-95 days to harvest.

  • Corn will grow in most any soil, but it prefers a rich soil with good drainage.

planting corn

Corn does not transplant well. Plant the seeds directly in your garden 2 weeks after the last spring frost.

  • The wind pollinates corn, so plant it in blocks of 3 or 4 short rows instead of a long single row. Space the rows 30"-40" apart.

Corn is a heavy feeder. Incorporate plenty or rotted manure or compost into the planting area.

If you don't have any, before planting dig a trench 3" deep. Sprinkle a 10-10-10 fertilizer in the bottom of the trench. Cover the fertilizer with soil and plant the seeds.

  • Plant the seeds 1" deep, 4-6" apart. When the seedlings are up and growing well thin them to 12"-15" apart.
  • Plant sweet corn away from field corn and popcorn because they will cross pollinate.

taking care of corn

  • Water regularly an inch of water per week. It may require more water during hot, windy weather.

  • Corn is a heavy feeder. Apply a side dressing of fertilizer every 2-3 week.

  • Keep the weeds down, but don't hoe close to the plants because they have shallow roots.

harvesting sweet corn

Your corn will be ready to harvest when the silks are dry, about 20 days after they first appear.

  • Gently peel back the husk to see if the kernels have formed all the way to the end of the ear.

  • Pierce a kernel, milky juice means the corn is ready to harvest. Watery juice means it's not ready, yet. Close the husk to keep bugs from getting inside. You may close it with a bread tie.

Pick the corn by bending it down toward the stalk.

Use the corn soon after harvest. When the ear is picked, the sugar starts turning to starch. If you can't use the corn immediately, leave the husks on and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. 

corn varieties

  • Early Season, 60-70 days; Spring Gold, Explorer, Early Sun Glow, Seneca Horizon, Earlivee, Trinity, Welcome
  • Mid-season, 70-80 days; Sundance, Wonderful, Gold Cup, Northern Bell, Gold Cross Bantam, Honey n Cream,
  • Late Season, 85-95 days; Seneca Chief, Honey Cross, Silver Queen, Country Gentleman, Butter n Sugar, Stowell’s

Plant early, mid-season and late season varieties for an extended harvest.

growing peppers

Grow the productive green peppersGrow the productive green peppers
Image by pixel2013 from Pixabay

Peppers are a popular summer vegetable grown as an annual. Pepper plants are perennials. They will overwinter in warm areas of the country for a harvest the next year.

Sweet and hot peppers are grown basically the same.

  • Sweet peppers can be green, red, yellow or purple. We use them in salads, cooking or dried.

  • Hot peppers are also used in cooking, canning, pickling and dried.


Most peppers make a fairly small plant from 18"-24". You may grow pepper plants in containers at least 12" in diameter.

Peppers produce in 60-90 days from the time the seeds are planted.

  • They are sensitive to cold weather and cold soil.

The soil needs to be a minimum of 60 degrees before you plant. In cold areas, help the soil warm faster by covering it with black plastic.

  • They like a rich, well-draining soil. Mix aged manure or compost into the soil before planting.

planting and growing peppers

Start your seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before planting time. Or wait and purchase young pepper plants ready for the garden.

  • When the soil is warm, plant the peppers 18"-24" apart in rows 2'-3' apart.

  • Keep the peppers watered, but not soggy.

  • Fertilize once or twice with a soluble fertilizer or side-dress with a commercial fertilizer once or twice before the fruit sets.

Keep the pepper plants weeded. They appreciate some mulch.

harvesting peppers

  • Sweet peppers may be harvested at any size, starting at 3"-4". If you leave the peppers on the plant, they will ripen and turn red or yellow. Their taste will get sweeter.

  • Hot peppers are left on the plant until they are fully ripe. The flesh will be firm. Jalapeno peppers will turn dark green, but most hot peppers turn red when they are ripe.

  • Cut the peppers from the plant with pruning or kitchen shears.

pepper varieties

  • Sweet peppers; Tokyo Bell, Bellboy, Yolo wonder, and California Wonder

  • Hot Peppers; Red Cayenne, Hot Portugal, Hungarian Wax Pepper, Hot Jalapeno, Fresno Chili Grande, Anaheim

  • Mexican cooking; Ancho, Mulato and Padilla

growing okra

How to grow okra a popular garden vegetable in the south.Okra has showy flowers.
Image by dyeth from Pixabay

Okra is a perennial summer vegetable in the Malvacae family. It is related to hibiscus, hollyhocks and the rose of Sharon. Originally from Africa, okra it is now grown, as an annual in our summer vegetable gardens.

  • Okra is a tropical looking plant with large hibiscus type flowers. It may be used as an ornamental plant. The red-leaved varieties Red River and Burgundy make a nice accent in the landscape.

  • Okra is a popular vegetable in southern gardens. The edible seed pod is good fried or cooked in soups, etc.

It is so productive that growing just one plant is worthwhile. You can see all the little seed pods in the photo above.

okra culture

Just like other summer vegetables, okra needs warm weather.

  • The warmer it is, the better your okra will grow.

It likes fertile, well-drained soil. So mix organic matter into the soil before planting.

planting okra

For faster germination, soak the seeds 12-24 hrs. before planting.

Plant the seeds 3/4"-1" deep, 2" apart in rows 30" apart. When the seedlings are 4"-6", thin them to 6". Later thin to the strongest plants 12"-18" apart.

Or plant indoors in peat pots 8-10 weeks before garden time. Their roots are sensitive, so it's good to use peat pots.

okra care

Okra is drought tolerant, but it produces better with regular irrigation, about 1" per week.

Side-dress with a balanced fertilizer after the first harvest.

harvesting okra

  • It is important to harvest okra every 2-3 days for continued production.

  • Cut the pods when they are 2"-7" long. Older pods get tough.

okra varieties

Read the plant tags and seed packets. Some okra can get quite tall.

  • Clemson Spineless is the most popular okra variety at 4'.

  • Compact varieties; Annie Oakley, Jambalaya and Blondy

  • Other varieties; Cajun Delight, Emerald, Lee, Louisiana Green, Stewart's Zeebest (Heirloom), and Velvet

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