Veggies that don’t fry in 103 degree heat…

Jun 28, 2009

So if you live in Dallas, DFW, you're probably wondering right about now why you thought trying to maintain a vegetable garden here in the summer was a good idea! But really, there are a number of crops that can not only make it through these unbearable rain-free heat waves, but actually thrive.

While your spring planted tomatoes are most likely starting to go into heat-delay (meaning the fruit they've already set is going to be what you get at this point) other plants like peppers, okra and cucumbers often won't start fruiting until temperatures warm up. Now is the time to direct seed a second round of crops like squash, zucchini, bush beans, black eyed peas...and you can plant a second round of transplants of tomatoes, eggplant, okra and peppers right now. There are even a couple of greens that will make it through the summer here and continue producing long after your regular salad greens bit the dust. Swiss chard and sorrel are probably the two best.

Cucumbers...are happy and vigorous even in the heat. These cucumbers were seeded in late March.

Cucumberbed Cucumbersclose 

What do do with all those cucumbers? Well, cucumber sandwiches everyday of course, not to mention you must stock your fridge with a continuous supply of cucumber water. Here I used some of the lemon cucumbers I'm growing...yum...


Peppers and Okra are in full gear...the hotter the better...

Okra_clemson_spinless Pepper_banana

And while we can't manage summer crops of most salad greens here, we can hang on to some Swiss chard and even a bit of sorrel. Thanks to the giant beet-like tap roots on Swiss chard, it's able to make it through the tough summer heat. Now it's not going to look its absolute best come July and August, but keep it watered and it will continue producing for you. If you're not crazy about spinach or other large greens, give Swiss chard a try. It has a milder sweeter flavor and the stems are also edible. Julie's resurrected sorrel, still going strong. Showing a bit of heat stress, but hanging in there nonetheless...

Swiss _chard_summer Sorrel_summer

There are 13 comments for this entry

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Jun 28, 2009
4:40 pm

Thank you.  This helps and is encouraging.  This is my second summer in the Dallas area and I had begun to feel a bit bitter; I’ve been accusing Dallas of pulling a bait and switch on me.  Last summer was nothing like this and I thought it was wonderful! I lived in Houston where I wouldn’t consider gardening. Last summer here convinced me it was possible.

I have had a hard time finding information on heat tolerance of veggies, all the sources are for northern gardens.  The seed catalogs discuss how cold hardy things are! Why should I care?  Tell me if you have a tomato that sets fruit above 95 degrees and you will get my attention. I tried a summer crop of summer lettuce; what a joke. The packet says heat tolerant, maybe we need a qualifier TEXAS heat tolerant? 
I read somewhere that a test of a master gardener in Texas is to have a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers from their garden _at the same time_!  Is that even possible? 

I love your blog.  Love your chickens!  Jealous of your garden.  tongue wink

Leslie Finical Halleck
Jun 28, 2009
5:00 pm

Thanks! Well, just realize that every year is different here..there is no consistency, other than the inconsistency!

With tomatoes, the key is to get the spring crop in the ground on time before night temperatures get high like they are now. This is why we have to plant two separate crops of tomatoes.

If you live close enough to visit us at North Haven Gardens you should. We give lots of classes on vegetable gardening and have a veggie demo garden at the nursery. I’ll probably be doing a veggie gardening 101 class in August, and we just had a fall veggie garden program yesterday.

Jun 28, 2009
11:52 pm

I’m so glad you posted this - we have two 5’ tomato plants in our back yard that are dropping blooms all over the place, but there are four tomatoes on it. My question for you is this - what do we do with the tomato plants? I have a relatively small garden and the tomatoes are in the prime sunshine spot. Will they fruit again in the fall or are they done for?

Thanks for your help and your wonderful blog!

Leslie Finical Halleck
Jun 29, 2009
12:02 am

Christina…what type of tomatoes are they - do you know the variety names? Typically, your determinate spring planted tomatoes have set most or all of the fruit they’ll set for summer and now you’ll just harvest them as they ripen - then the plants are done. Indeterminate types and cherry tomatoes can continue producing, but again with day/night temps so high, the flowers often will just abort. Starting now through mid-July you can plant your second crop of fall tomatoes. It usually doesn’t work to keep your spring planted tomatoes through July and August and hope they’ll fruit again in fall…summer just really shuts them down. I’d recommend harvesting the tomatoes you have, putting the plants in the compost and planting fresh transplants.

Jun 29, 2009
12:42 pm

thanks, Leslie! I think they’re both some kind of beefsteak tomatoes, which my neighbor informed me wouldn’t fruit due to the heat (of course like 3 weeks after I planted them) Into the compost pile they will go…

Jim J.
Jun 30, 2009
12:53 pm

Hi Leslie!  I live northwest of you guys in Wichita Falls and am thrilled to find a garden blog that’s not in the Northeast or on the West Coast! 

Following up on the heat-tolerant tomatoes questions, I have two cherry tomato plants which have set a ton of fruit but don’t seem to be ripening.  This may be a ridiculous question but, will the heat keep tomatoes from ripening on the vine?  Also, does any special care need to be taken of pepper transplants going into the ground at this time of year? 

This is my first year to have a backyard garden so everything is new for me!  Thanks for the wonderful blog and I, like Karen, am VERY jealous of your garden!

Leslie Finical Halleck
Jun 30, 2009
2:20 pm

Hi Jim!
Ok, while tomatoes are probably the most popular fruit gardeners grow in the veggie garden, they are not the easiest! They have a lot of quirks and are very sensitive to environmental conditions.

You know, rather than doing this in a comment, why don’t I do a more detailed post on tomatoes and temperature? I’ll get that up here shortly…

Paul Riddell
Jul 02, 2009
6:37 pm

Leslie, as I discovered the hard way, be careful about some varieties of Swiss chard.  Standard white or “Rhubarb” do well in the heat, but I’ve had horrible problems with “Bright Lights”.  It’s great for fall crops, as the plants will sometimes keep producing all winter if they’re sheltered from the north wind, but “Bright Lights” simply can’t handle the worst of July and August heat.  I’ve tried for five years, and finally gave up, because the poor plants go into the usual shock of losing more water from transpiration than they can pull in via their roots.  On the other hand, I have some of the “Rhubarb” that’s continued to produce for nearly three years, and in a container to boot.

Leslie Finical Halleck
Jul 02, 2009
6:53 pm

Really…I always plant ‘Bright Lights’ and have good success with it. I think the key is planting them the previous fall, so they have a nice big tap root on them by the time you get around to summer. I had a monsterous plant I pulled out from my ornamental beds last August that was still kicking along fine…I only pulled it out because I wanted to plant something else in that spot. But, it had a huge tap root. Spring planted crops will most likely not do as well through summer. Like I said, none of them will look their best in July/August and require extra water. And some may just kick the bucket no matter what you do.

Everyone’s individual garden has it’s own little climant quirks so what works in one garden may not in the next…

Jul 31, 2009
11:49 am

I’m swearing by your planting guidelines, thank you so much for posting those! In just a month they’re already written all over and starting to crinkle I’ve used them so much.  I wonder if you have something similar for herbs?  I thought I posted a comment asking about it and can’t seem to find it, so forgive me if I’ve already asked!

Leslie Finical Halleck
Jul 31, 2009
12:47 pm

Hey Emily! I’ll put up a larger post soon on herbs for you. But quickly, right now there are a lot of herbs you can plant. Specifically the heat loving types such as Basil, Sage, Oregano, Rosemary, French Tarragon, just to name a few. You can also plant a variety of Mints in places with full shade or afternoon shade (mint does not like the hot afternoon sun). But take care, Mint will take over like a groundcover! But it’s a must have for Mojitos. Definitely get some Basil in the ground or in pots if you haven’t already so you can start making fresh homeade pesto!!

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