by Erin Marissa Russell
Some of the most rewarding plants in the garden are the ones that produce an edible crop. There’s nothing like gathering part of your dinner from the garden or cooking with your own homegrown veggies. One of the best feelings as a gardener comes from sitting down to a meal that your own garden contributed to. Then you can really reap the rewards of the time and care you’ve put into your plants. In this article, we’ll recommend some of our favorite edible crops you can grow during the warm season.
One of the most fragrant herbs you can grow is basil. There’s nothing like the feeling of cooking a marinara sauce or pesto that relies on your own homegrown basil. You’ll even find yourself adding it to rice dishes or roasted vegetables in addition to the standard Italian fare.
Basil depends on good drainage to grow well. It does best in sandy soils but can be coerced to grow in other types, especially if they’ve had compost added to the soil and drain well. As far as soil pH level, basil will thrive in the range from 5.5 to 8.
Basil is somewhat sensitive to the hot summer sun, and it’s common for basil to wilt and droop during the day, only to recover in the cool of the evening. Unless your basil is drooping even when well watered and does not recover as the day cools down, don’t be concerned about its dramatic behavior. Basil does benefit from some shade to protect it in the heat of the afternoon.
Keep your basil well watered and well fertilized. However, you should not fertilize basil plants when the temperature dips below 60 degrees.
Find out more about growing basil in our article How to Grow Basil.
Whether you want to grow bush beans or pole beans, there are lots of hot weather options to choose from. Beans are known for fixing nitrogen in the soil, making them an excellent companion plant for many partners. You can also grow beans to fix nitrogen in an area that will be home to a nitrogen-loving crop next.
If you choose climbing beans, they’ll need support in the form of stakes, a fence, or a trellis so they can really sprawl out. Bush beans don’t need staking.
Beans love hot weather and won’t tolerate cold. Most varieties should be planted one to two weeks after the last freeze in your region. You should also wait to plant your beans until the soil has warmed up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The beans will not grow if you plant them in cold soil.
Plant in full sun. That means your beans will need more than six hours of direct sunlight each day. They also love soil with a pH level that’s slightly alkaline to neutral.
Find out more about growing beans in our article How to Grow Bush Beans and Climbing Beans.
Homegrown blackberries are such a treat fresh from the garden that you may find it’s hard to keep any behind to use in the kitchen. But the promise of blackberry cobbler, blackberry pie, or homemade blackberry ice cream may be enough to convince your family to save some blackberries for baking.
While blackberries can handle a bit of shade, they’re happiest in spots where they’ll get full sun (at least six hours of direct sunshine each day). They grow best in spots that offer plenty of drainage and have rich, fertile soil. They’re happiest when planted in soil that’s just a bit acidic, so your soil should have a pH level from 6.0 to 7.0 to keep blackberries happy.
Find out more about growing blackberries in our article How to Grow Blackberries.
Cilantro is a beloved summer herb among gardeners, and for good reason. Take good care of your cilantro plants, and you’ll be harvesting fistfuls to use on tacos or in salsa.
Cilantro can thrive in most soil types, although it’s happiest in rich soil that’s fluffy and offers good drainage. It particularly loves sandy soil for the drainage it provides.
Find a spot for your cilantro that gets full sun. That’s six or more hours of direct sunshine every day. Your cilantro will grow well as long as the temperature stays between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. At 80 or above, the plants will start to bolt.
Find out more in our article How to Grow Cilantro in Your Garden.
Everyone loves garden fresh cucumber, whether it’s sliced into salad or onto a sandwich, whipped into tzatziki, or made into pickles. Plant some cucumber this season, and you’ll be amazed at just how much your plants can produce.
Cucumbers thrive when planted in full sun where they’ll get at least six hours of sunlight each day. Find a spot where their vines can sprawl. You’ll need nine square feet of space for each cucumber you’ll be growing. There are upright varieties that won’t require as much of your garden space, though.
Cucumbers yield the best crops when planted in clay soil, but they’ll produce earlier in sandy soil. They are versatile to a variety of soil types. For best results, grow cucumbers in soil that has a pH level between 5.5 and 7.0.
Find out more about growing cucumbers in our article How to Grow Cucumbers.
These gorgeous fruits with their midnight-dark skin are one of the most underused vegetables out there. Some people think they don’t like eggplant simply because they’ve never had one grown fresh and prepared correctly.
Start eggplant seeds indoors and transplant the seedlings outdoors. You’ll know it’s time to transplant them when all danger of frost has passed in your region and the soil has warmed up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a good idea to harden off the plants before moving them outdoors permanently by spending a little more time outdoors each day.
Find out more about growing eggplants in our article Growing Eggplants From Seedlings to Harvest.
From gumbo to hot pickled okra, this versatile veggie is a whole different animal when it’s grown fresh. If you’ve never had garden fresh okra, put away any thoughts you may be having about a slimy texture.
Okra is versatile enough to thrive in most soil types, though it does need full sunlight (at least six hours of direct sunshine every day). They do best in soil that’s slightly acidic, with a pH between 5.8 and 7.0. Those in cool climates should start okra seeds indoors before transplanting them into the garden.
Find out more about growing okra in our article How to Grow Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus).
There really is a pepper to please just about everyone, from tiny sweet peppers to seriously spicy ones. There are so many varieties to choose from, you’re bound to find a few that your family will love.
Peppers need slightly acidic soil and plenty of sunshine to grow healthy and strong. Pepper plants are very sensitive to frost, so those north of Tennessee should start their seeds indoors in March and move them outside to the garden in April or the beginning of May.
Give them soil with a pH level between 5.5 and 7.0, adding sulfur by placing a few teaspoons of Epsom salts into each spot where you will plant a pepper. Mulch is a good way to keep the soil where peppers are growing warm and moist, and the mulch will also help keep weeds at bay.
Find out more about growing peppers in our article Growing a Plethora of Peppers.
These pale green fruits in their papery husks may not be the first vegetable people think of for the warm season, but they should be. Fresh tomatillos can be made into a delicious verde salsa, enchilada sauce, or stirred into green posole soup.
If you live somewhere that’s warm enough for there to be no chance of frost when it’s time to plant your tomatillos, you can grow them outdoors. Gardeners in cooler regions will need to start their tomatillo seeds indoors six to eight weeks before moving them outside.
Choose a location for your tomatillos where the soil has plenty of drainage. The plants also need full sun to flourish, so make sure they get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
Find out more about growing tomatillos in our article How to Grow Tomatillos.
Tomatoes are perhaps the most popular warm season edible crop. Everyone loves to grow tomatoes, and more importantly, everyone loves to eat tomatoes fresh from the garden. They’re a whole different flavor experience from the ones you can find at the grocery store.
Tomatoes do best when they get at least eight hours of sunshine each day. They also require soil that will drain well. If your garden doesn’t have a spot with enough drainage, you may consider installing a raised bed to grow your tomatoes in.
Find out more about growing tomatoes in our article How to Grow Tomatoes: The Complete Guide.
With these warm season edibles, your garden will become an extension of your pantry and kitchen. Imagine how proud you’ll feel sitting down to a plate full of delicious fruits, vegetables, and herbs you grew yourself.