Many of us are still spending most of our time at home these days and perhaps thinking about how we can be just a bit more self-sustaining. Growing food not only fits that bill, but it’s an excuse to get outside and breathe fresh air, engage with the natural world, and teach our children a useful skill they can use throughout their lives.
We’re well into spring here in Kansas and May is the perfect time to plant warm season vegetable transplants outside into gardens and containers. Warm season veggies usually perform much better if they are planted once the threat of nighttime frost diminishes and the soil temperature is around 60 degrees. An added bonus for these “late bloomers” is that they tend to be extremely productive and well worth the effort we put in to caring for them.
Five Warm Season Veggies To Plant Now
There are endless choices when it comes to choosing tomato varieties, so here are a couple simple pointers to help break it down:
- Decide what size of tomatoes you’re after. There are large slicer types, roma types ideal for sauces, and bite-sized (both cherry and grape) types perfect for snacking.
- Tomatoes varieties are usually either heirloom or hybrid. Heirlooms are grown from seeds that are passed down from season to season. They are known for exceptional flavor, but lack in storage longevity and are less resistant to insect and disease issues. Hybrids on the other hand are cultivated varieties that are made by cross-pollinating two species (Hybrids are not GMO’s). Hybrids usually bear more fruit, have a more tidy growth habit, and have improved disease resistance. The flavor of hybrids might not be quite as exquisite as that of their heirloom cousins.
- Tomatoes have two growth types – determinate and indeterminate. Determinate types have smaller, more compact habits that are better suited to containers or raised beds. They produce fruit over a shorter period of time. Indeterminate types are larger plants overall and can continue to produce fruit until the first frosts of fall. Both benefit from cages or some kind of staking, but it is more necessary for indeterminate types.
Favorite Varieties: Jet Star, Fourth of July (slicers), San Marzano (roma), Super Sweet 100, Sungold, Juliet (bite-sized)
This summertime staple is so extremely versatile and can be downright prolific in the garden. When fresh, zucchini can be enjoyed countless ways including spiralized into “zoodles”, shredded into oatmeal, cut into fries, hollowed out and stuffed, or simply sautéed with a little garlic salt and parmesan. Zucchini can be sliced and frozen too and this version is excellent added to smoothies (it makes a smoothie thick and creamy without any added taste), soups, and sauces.
Favorite Variety: Black Beauty
Like tomatoes, there are a bazillion varieties of peppers. These plants thrive in hot weather and often won’t start producing harvestable fruit until July or August. There are varying degrees of hot peppers, chili peppers, snackable sweet peppers, and the more traditional bell peppers. Pepper plants are another option that work wonderfully in limited spaces and are well suited to containers.
Favorite Varieties: Tricked You Mild Jalapeño, Lunchbox Sweet Minis, Better Belle
It probably isn’t surprising to learn that there are different kinds of cucumbers too! This crisp, refreshing summer veggie comes in miniature types, burpless types, pickling types, English, Japanese, Armenian, and more. The characteristics of some of these are broken down below:
- Miniature types, as the name suggests, are intended to be harvested when 4-6″ long. These are a favorite of kids.
- Burpless cucumbers are seedless and are often, let’s say, easier to digest.
- Pickling types typically have a crunchier texture that holds up best during the canning process.
- English and Japanese cucumbers are pretty similar and their defining characteristics are nice, thin skins that don’t need to be peeled and very small seeds.
- Armenian cucumbers are a lovely shade of light green and have a mild, sweet flavor.
Favorite Varieties: Green Fingers (miniature), Diva (burpless), Homemade Pickles (pickling), Tasty Jade (Japanese), Striped Armenian (Armenian)
It’s not all that common to find green bean transplants, but luckily they are fast and easy to grow from seed. Fresh, tender homegrown green beans are truly a delight and are so much tastier than their grocery store counterparts. Bush type green beans grow well in a variety of settings: in-ground beds, containers, raised beds, etc. Green beans are extremely productive and, depending on how many are planted, can produce enough for a family to enjoy fresh while in season and can also be pressure-canned to stock the pantry for the rest of the year.
Favorite Variety: Mascotte
For more garden guidance, check out my previous article titled How To Get Started Gardening With Your Kids This Spring.