A Guide to Late Summer Gardening

A long growing season along the Gulf Coast means gardeners who know how to beat the August heat can plant two entire summer seasons’ worth of veggies.

Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

With an exceptionally long growing season in the Deep South — one that some even argue lasts 365 days — a second, late summer planting is possible if you know what you’re doing. Procrastinators around the Gulf Coast, rejoice! If you missed the early summer growing season, it is not too late to reap a small bounty from your garden soil. Start with small seedlings instead of seeds, and try using pots for maximum mobility to help hardy vegetables thrive in the sweltering lower Alabama climate. Take a hint from some local experts for what to plant now and how to best care for them to guarantee a second harvest in the heat of summer.

So what can we plant now?

Michelle Forland, a fourth-generation farmer from Loxley, suggests tomatoes, peppers, okra and eggplant for late summer gardens. Also try your hand at some tried-and-true Southern peas: pink eye peas, crowder peas, lady peas and zipper peas.

How to beat the heat

George Roussos of Panagia Farms in Spring Hill gives MB some innovative tips for successful late-season planting.

1. Use shade
If you’re in an urban environment, use shade to your advantage.
• Arrange potted plants on the side of your house to maximize shade
• Store pots under a carport or awning to drop the temperature

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2. Monitor water
Heavy summer rains bring too much water, causing mold and fungus.
• Drape plastic over garden plants exposed to too much rain
• Bring potted plants indoors or onto porches during storms

3. Plan the timing
Do your digging early in the morning and late in the evening.
• Shade, hydration and breezes make the beginning and end of the day the best time to work — for you and for the plants

4. Look forward
Think ahead to the next season.
• Germinate seedlings indoors now for plants to sow in the fall
• Allow the air conditioner to prime seedlings for cooler fall temperatures

Not a gardener? Find produce from Panagia Farms every Saturday in Cathedral Square, or shop Michelle’s locally grown produce at Loxley Farm Market, 5201 South Hickory Street in Loxley.

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