Georgia is known for long summers. And we don't always view that as a good thing.
When it comes to growing a summer garden full of flavorful produce, it's a very good thing. Our long summer means a long growing season that gives us weeks of fresh tomatoes and items like okra that need the long, hot weeks.
Today we are sharing some of our favorite summer veggies and a few tips for growing each.
Home Grown Tomatoes
For many of us, this is what we wait for all year. At the Farmer's Market, we see customers asking weekly for the first tomatoes. (Hint, it's usually late June or early July before locally grown tomatoes are ready in North Georgia.)
The good news is tomatoes usually love our red Georgia clay. The natural acidity is good for them. You can plant them directly in the ground or grow in raised beds or even large pots or 5 gallon buckets.
Tomatoes need lots of sun! At least 8 hours to produce juicy tomatoes.
You want to have a small plant to go in the ground (don't try to start these directly by seed in the garden). The absolute earliest to plant is mid-April, but you need to watch the weather carefully for late frost or strong storms.
We aim for early May and typically have tomatoes the same time as all the other local farmers.
Small tomatoes, like cherry tomatoes, will ripen first. Larger tomatoes will take a little longer.
There are tons of articles and information on how to fertilize tomatoes. For beginning growers, I recommend Dr. Earth Organic Tomato Fertilizer. It has a mixture of minerals needed by the plants and is easy to apply.
Tomatoes will need support as they grow. You can purchase tomato cages from local hardware stores that are easy to use and can be reused each year.
With sun, regular water and a little fertilizer, you will be on your way to delicious homegrown tomatoes!
Squash and Zucchini
I'm grouping these together because they are in the same growing family.
Yellow squash, pattypan squash and zucchini are all easy to grow in North Georgia.
These plants branch out and don't require any support. Start them by seed directly in your garden.
Create a small hill of dirt and place 2 - 3 seeds in the hill. The hill helps with drainage so the plants don't sit in water after a big rainfall.
You will need to keep an eye out for squash vine borers. These are moths that lay eggs under the leaves. The larvae eat the vines and kill the plant.
If you have several plants, you won't need to worry as much since they don't usually impact all of the plants.
You can also purchase squash vine borer traps that attract and trap the moths to keep them from laying eggs.
Harvest the yellow squash and zucchini before they get too large (keep an eye on them because they can double in size almost overnight!)
These will produce for several weeks throughout the summer.
These are another easy to grow veggie that you can start directly with seed in the garden.
You can either plant bush beans that do not need support or runner beans that will need a trellis of some sort.
It's personal preference on which you choose.
It's easy to find "stringless" beans that area easier to prepare before cooking.
The leaves of bean plants can be a draw for Japanese beetles. Japanese beetle traps can help keep down the number of pests.
Once these start producing, you will need to harvest at least every other day.
This is a true southern staple. Fried okra is my favorite way to eat it, but it's also great for soups, gumbos, roasted or pickled.
Okra loves the heat! Start the seeds directly in the ground and let them grown. You can begin harvesting later in July and they will go through September.
The stalks will continue to grown taller as you harvest the okra. Make sure you pick it when it's about 3" long. If it gets too large, they get woody and tough.
What is your favorite Summer veggie or one you want to try in your garden?
Pleasant Union Farm is a family owned wedding venue in North Georgia, about an hour north of Atlanta.