We’re excited to welcome back Janice Brown, founder of Hobby-area business Girl on the Grow and local expert of all things gardening, as a community contributor. After many years as an educator, Janice shifted her focus to sharing the joy of gardening with children, adults and corporate companies. Learn more about Girl on the Grow and connect with Janice to schedule garden coaching or a private gardening party.
For northern states, summer is prime gardening season, however, due to the extreme heat, here in Houston it can get a little dicey. Still, with a little know-how and hard work, your backyard garden in the Hobby Area can provide you with nutritious vegetables all summer long. Here’s how you can make the best of summer in my home and community gardens which are both in the Hobby area.
What to Plant
Most of our summer garden crops should be planted in early to mid-spring to get production going before summer, but sweet potatoes, okra, cantaloupe, watermelon, black-eyed peas, peppers, and eggplant love the summer heat and can be planted in June.
For summer consumption okra and black-eyed peas are quick-growing crops that are high producers—especially okra, which produces big, 5-7 ft plants and can be harvested daily. When picking okra, 3-4 inches is the optimum pod size. Pods can get up to 6 or 7 inches but are too hard to eat once they reach this size, so be diligent in harvesting.
Watermelon and cantaloupe take longer to produce but are worth the wait. Expect to get 1-3 cantaloupes per vine and 1-2 watermelons per vine during the summer. These plants do take up lots of space in the garden so plan accordingly.
Peppers and eggplants are also fairly quick and prolific. Expect regular harvests to begin about 5 weeks after planting small transplants.
Finally, sweet potatoes make a great cover crop of edible leaves. While the potatoes mature in the ground, the vining tops produce a mass of leaves that can be cooked like spinach and are high in nutritional value. Along with pumpkins, it takes 3-4 months before sweet potatoes are ready to harvest, but they are worth the wait.
Squash and cucumbers are generally planted in spring, but because they are fast growers and quick to produce crops, you can still plant them in June to get a few summer harvests. Cucumber vines do not do well in high temperatures, but the Suyo long cucumber is a great variety that can withstand the heat. You can find Suyo seeds in specialty garden centers.
The key to all summer crops is biweekly feeding with quality organic food to keep plants healthy and strong. Additionally, deep watering 2-3 times a week keeps plants producing in the heat.
With the right crops and a little care, Hobby-area residents can enjoy a robust summer garden for cooking and grilling. For more garden coaching, please schedule a session with Girl on the Grow.