Heat-tolerant vegetables perfect for summer planting

Published 8:15 am Sunday, July 22, 2012

Vegetables that can be planted during these hot, rainy days of summer and will give you some excellent results are our heat-tolerant types. Listed is a short description of some of the more popular crops that will give an abundance of production.

Watermelons: The production of watermelons has been very good this year and yes, we still have watermelons. We want you to continue to support our producers and the economy of the parish by purchasing Washington Parish watermelons because they are great!

Okra: Native to tropical Africa, it never gets too hot for okra to thrive here. Direct-seeded into the garden now, okra will come into production in late August or early September (even sooner if you plant transplants) and produce until the weather cools down in late October or early November.

Reliable okra varieties include Clemson Spineless, Cajun Delight, Louisiana Green Velvet, Emerald and Burgundy.

A common mistake gardeners make is growing okra plants too close together. Once the okra seedlings are a few inches tall they should be thinned to provide 12 inches of space between plants.

When the plants are about knee high to waist high they begin to produce their pale yellow, hibiscus-like flowers. Harvest okra pods frequently when they reach a length of about 3 inches for best quality, although some varieties stay tender if harvested when the pods are larger.

Eggplant: Unlike their relatives, tomatoes, eggplants thrive in the heat of mid- to late summer, and you can purchase transplants to plant into the garden now.

I generally have found the Oriental types, such as Ichiban or Tycoon with long, narrow fruit, are especially productive during stressful summer weather. Large-fruited cultivars such as Blackbell, Classic, Midnight and Florida Hi Bush, as well as green, white, lavender and pink cultivars also are recommended.

Plant eggplant transplants 18 inches to 24 inches apart in well-prepared beds. Production should begin in early September and increase through late Oc-tober or early November.

Do not go by the size of the fruit when harvesting eggplants. Eggplants are eaten immature and should not be allowed to become old and bitter before harvest. The skin should be shiny and tender. Once the skin starts to dull you should harvest the eggplant immediately — no matter what the size — because that indicates it is getting past its prime.

Peppers: Bell peppers often produce poorly during high temperatures, but hot peppers and sweet peppers such as Sweet Banana, Gypsy and Pimento produce very well despite the heat. Plant transplants now spaced about 18 inches apart. Bell pepper transplants also can be planted now through August for production this fall when the weather cools down.

Fall Tomatoes: Transplant fall tomatoes in July to mid-August. Be prepared to spray with insecticides and fungicides; insect and disease pressure is usually worse in the fall than in the spring. The heat-set varieties that have produced well in recent trials are Sun Leaper, Florida 91, Sun Chaser, Solar Set and Heat Wave. These varieties have the ability to set fruit in high temperatures. Now, I am not saying that some traditional or standard varieties cannot be planted. Some that do well are Bingo, Merced, Pelican, Fantastic, Mountain Pride and Hawaiian N65. Remember to plant your fall tomatoes deep, about 6 inches. This deep-set planting will take advantage of the lower soil temperature and good soil moisture at this level.


Blueberries: Blueberry plants will put on a second flush of growth in August through October, so a final fertilizer application is needed now. Use 2 ounces of ammonium nitrate per year of age up to a maximum of 8 ounces per plant. Use urea at a 1-ounce rate per year of age on soils with pH of 5 or less. Be sure to distribute the fertilizer evenly, at least 10 to 12 inches from the base of the plant.

Blueberry Pruning: Rabbiteye blueberries are vigorous growers and can reach 6 to 8 feet in a few years. Prune back to 48 inches after harvest. Plants will have ample time to produce more fruiting wood before frost. Old, unproductive canes can be removed to ground level, leaving a maximum of six to eight vigorous canes. Plants need to be pruned right after harvest for best results. Dormant pruning of plants during winter months removes fruiting wood and reduces yields.

I’ve received calls about figs and foliage on the trees during this time of year, but especially after the crop. There are three fungus diseases that attack figs. They are:

1. Fig Rust: Small, yellow-orange spots on leaves. Can cause complete defoliation, resulting in a ragged appearance.

2. Cecospora Leaf Spots: Reddish-brown angular spots. The spots develop a tan center and a dark brown margin. Severe infection can cause heavy fruit drop.

3. Web Bight: With all the rain and heat, we may see more of this disease because it occurs under these conditions. This disease can be carried over in the winter. Look for foliage with a covering like a spider web/tan threads.

Use the following fungicide after fig production: A spraying of copper will help suppress some infection. Sanitation, removing fallen leaves, will help.