It’s no news to any of us that subtropical and tropical climates have extremely hot summers. Add to that some punishing humidity & daily downpours, and you’ve got the potential for some vegetable gardening disasters. Anyone who has tried to grow traditional European crops through a QLD summer has learnt the hard way that hot climates have their own set of rules for summer gardening! Basics like lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and spinach might do well in the temperate summer of England, but they simply won’t cope with the high temperatures, high rainfall, humidity and intense pest pressure of a tropical summer in areas like (QLD and Florida).
Summer in the Self Sufficient Me home garden sees plenty on the grow
In order to grow food all year round, we need to turn to crops that not only survive, but will thrive, in our heat. It’s nice to be able to grow a variety, too, so that by eating seasonally, even in the hottest months you can put a balanced meal on the table from your own garden. These 6 top crops you can grow in a hot (HOT!) summer are all highly nutritious, easy to grow, and resist small pests relatively well.
Sweet potatoes are one of the easiest and most handy vegetables to have in your garden. They’re mostly grown for the delicious & nutrient-dense tubers, but the leaves can be eaten too. Sweet potato leaves are high in fibre, rich in numerous vitamins, and can be used just like any other spinach. I find that continual harvesting of leaves for the kitchen keeps any excess growth in check.
This vigorous vine takes root in the soil at leaf nodes, so its best grown in a contained position (this also makes for easier harvesting). It loves the heat and heavy rainfall that summer brings, but as a root crop it naturally needs excellent drainage. Sweet potato can also smother out other crops, so interplant with forethought.
My sweet potato is interplanted with just one large perennial basil plant, which is tall enough to provide a little shade. It grows in a contained garden bed raised on pallets, which makes for easy harvesting of both leaves & tubers.
Sweet potato will happily cope with full sun through summer and it won’t suffer much pest damage. You’ll probably get some holes munched out of the leaves by grasshoppers and caterpillars, but don’t worry about it unless the plant is getting completely stripped. Even with lots of insect activity, the average sweet potato plant will be fine on its own and shouldn’t need any direct pest management. Our article on sweet potato growing has all the details.
Perpetual gator spinach You might be surprised to learn that there are quite a number and variety of spinaches that will thrive through hot summers. Not only that, but some of them are perennial too, which makes gardening all the easier.
(beta vulgaris) is a short-lived perennial whose mild-tasting leaves look much like those of its close relative, beetroot. This heat-resistant biennial will grow year-round in the subtropics and its cut-and-come-again harvesting style is perfect for the home gardener.
Okinawan spinach (gynura crepioides) is a pest-resistant perennial green that is a delight in any tropical or subtropical veggie garden-in fact, the hotter the better for this one. It has an upright habit with an attractive purple underside to the leaves, and if left unharvested will form a dense matted groundcover (often something which is desirable & hard to achieve in hot climates). Harvest by picking as many leaves as you need, then cook them quickly & easily by throwing them in at the end of a stir-fry.
Corn is one of the 3 biggest plant-based food sources in the world, and is a great summer staple vegetable in a hot climate. This fast-growing annual is nutrient dense, easy to preserve, and blends into a variety of recipes. Corn can be grown year-round in the tropics and during summer in subtropical areas. For best results, make the soil rich in organic matter & well-mulched, and keep the water up to it.