Contrary to popular opinion, long hot summers do not necessarily mean long growing periods for vegetable gardens.
Some vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and squash don’t do well when the weather is extremely hot for long periods. There are also many varieties which are resistant to common tomato diseases.
Vegetable gardeners who live in areas with long, hot summers should plant early maturing varieties of tomatoes.
In fact, starting them indoors before last frost date, and then planting them in the garden after any threat of frost, will give the gardener a little more growing time, and allow the plants to set fruit before the weather gets too warm.
Many heirloom and older variety tomatoes have longer growing seasons. Tomato varieties which mature and fruit in less than 60 days are the ideal ones to use in warm areas.
Here are some tomato varieties which have shorter maturity and fruiting dates:
- Bush Early Girl – 54 days
- Early Girl – 52 days
- Early Wonder- 55 days
- Glacier – 58 days
- Buckbees New 50 Day – 55 days
- Oregon Spring – 58 days
- Northern Lights- 56 days
- Siletz – 52 days
While some of these varieties have been bred for colder climates, they are all short-season maturing. Bush Early Girl, Early Girl and Early Wonder tend to do best in warmer climates.
While cucumbers and squash need warm weather, they produce fruit in short seasons, usually 55 to 65 days.
Both vegetables should be planted in hills or mounds. Build mounds about a foot high and four to six feet apart. (The mounds allow excess water to drain away, which is what the plant prefers.) Plant four or five seeds in the top of each mound and cover with about an inch of soil.
Starting the seeds indoors, like tomatoes, when the weather is colder, and then transplanting into the garden after danger of frost has passed can extend the growing season.
Cucumber varieties with shorter growing periods include:
- Armada – 54 days
- Armenian – 65 days
- Blitz – 51 days
- Carolina – 52 days
- Calypso – 51 days
- Explorer – 52 days
- Pioneer Hybrid Pickling – 51 days
- Pot Luck – 55 days
- Early Pride – 55 days
- Straight Eight – 58 days
- Sweet Success – 54 days
Summer squash includes crookneck, straight neck, scallop and zucchini types. Interestingly, many gardeners have the mindset of “the bigger the better.” However, when it comes to squash, think the opposite.
In fact, gardeners usually pick summer squash when it is too large or overmature. Squash has a very short maturing time and grow very quickly. They usually reach maturity within four to eight days after flowering.
Squash should be picked when small and tender. Elongated varieties like zucchini should be harvested when about two inches in diameter and six to eight inches long.