Published on 03/26/09

Georgia’s best summer vegetables to plant at home

By Caroline Coarsey
University of Georgia

Spring has arrived, and it’s time to start working on the summer vegetable garden.

To have a successful garden, select a location where plants can receive 7 to 8 hours of sunlight, said Bob Westerfield, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturist.

Make sure the soil is well amended and well drained. When the plants are in the ground, water them regularly using a drip or soaker hose.

“Aside from that, it is wise to visit your garden frequently to find disease and insects and to check for water stress,” he said.

To help Georgians get started on choosing which vegetables to grow this season, Westerfield offers his top eight picks for the tastiest and simplest vegetables to grow.

Green beans can be planted in the early spring in cooler soils. Harvest them when they are young. They’ll be tender and less stringy.

Squash come in many shapes and sizes and are easy to grow. Allow a lot of space between each plant because squash is a wide-growing crop. Germinate squash from seeds, which Westerfield recommends, or buy them as a transplant. Also, winter squash should be seeded in late spring.

Tomato plants can be started indoors from seeds or gardeners can buy them as transplants from a local nursery. Stake tomato plants, and allow plenty of space for air circulation. “If you want weekly fresh tomatoes for steak and salad, I recommend cherry tomatoes,” Westerfield said.

Sweet corn is primarily wind pollinated. Planting in rows provides a higher chance of pollination. Corn requires a good deal of fertilizer and water to survive. “I like it best because if you harvest the sweet corn, the flavor and taste is different than what you buy in the store,” he said.

Eggplant is a unique vegetable that adds shape to your garden. There are multiple varieties of eggplant, but black beauty is the most common. Be wary of flea beetles that tend to riddle the plants with holes, making plants weak, he said.

Bell peppers grow best as transplants and can be harvested from summer to the first frost. Most can be grown without staking. They are great for cooking or fresh eating.

Cucumbers are relatively simple to grow. Because they spread out as they grow on a vine, it’s best to grow them on a trellis or fence to get them off the ground. They require water or they will become bitter as they near harvest time, he said.

Okra should be the last vegetable planted in a spring garden. It starts slow, but takes off like a weed on hot, muggy days. It sets pods fast, so stay up with its harvest. Pods that are left on the plant too long become woody and do not taste very good.

(Caroline Coarsey is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Caroline Coarsey is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.