Tips for Growing Vegetables in Summer

Summer is the most exciting time to be a vegetable and herb gardener, with abundant produce ready to harvest. But it can also be the most challenging. Once the hard labor like installing beds, amending soil, seed starting, and transplanting is done, all you need to do is keep the weeds down and make sure everything’s watered, right? Think again. As temperatures soar, you may face issues with pests, excessive heat, and drought. This guide will help you manage these challenges to ensure a successful summer garden.

Water Management

Vegetable gardens need at least an inch of water a week to survive the summer, even more if temperatures are unusually hot. Water early in the morning for the best results. If you’re under drought restrictions, follow municipal guidelines and learn more about using rain barrels and drip irrigation.

Optimal Watering Techniques:

  • Morning Watering: Reduces evaporation and allows plants to absorb moisture.
  • Rain Barrels: Collect rainwater for a sustainable watering source.
  • Drip Irrigation: Provides consistent moisture directly to plant roots.
  • Hose Timers: Automate watering schedules to ensure regular hydration.

Mulching for Moisture Retention

A 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch in your vegetable garden will suppress weeds, cool the soil, and hold in moisture. The weeds won’t have a chance to compete for water, and the mulch slows evaporation.

Types of Mulch:

  • Organic Mulch: Such as straw, leaves, or grass clippings.
  • Wood Mulch: Free of additives or dyes.


  • Spread mulch evenly around plants.
  • Keep mulch a few inches away from plant stems to prevent rot.

Pest Management

The best first step in pest management is prevention. Scout your garden daily to identify potential problems early. Observe your plants and look under leaves where insects lay their eggs.

Scouting for Pests

Regular inspections help you detect pest issues early. Look for signs like chewed leaves, discolored spots, or insect eggs.

Identifying Good and Bad Insects

Only 3 percent of bugs are harmful; the rest are beneficial or benign. Beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings, help control pest populations.

Beneficial Insects:

  • Ladybugs: Eat aphids and other pests.
  • Lacewings: Consume aphids and caterpillars.
  • Hoverflies: Larvae feed on pests.

Managing Caterpillars and Hornworms

For aggressive caterpillars like the tomato hornworm, hand-pick them and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. Attract natural predators like ladybugs and lacewings to help control these pests.

Dealing with Four-Legged Pests

Animals like deer, squirrels, and rabbits can damage your garden. Use barriers such as fencing, garden enclosures, and animal repellents. Consider scent-based repellents and electronic deterrents for additional protection.

Problems with Tomato Plants

Tomatoes are popular but can be challenging to grow in summer heat. Issues like sunscald and blossom end rot are common.

Sunscald and Blossom End Rot:

  • Sunscald: Prevent with shade cloth.
  • Blossom End Rot: Caused by calcium deficiency and irregular watering. Add organic matter and water consistently.

Heat Stress in Tomatoes

High temperatures can halt tomato production. Use fresh mulch, shade cloth, and sufficient irrigation to help plants cool off. Look for heat-resistant varieties like Heatmaster and Solar Fire.

Watering Tips:

  • Water in the early morning.
  • Water at the base of the plant if watering during the day.
  • Ensure consistent moisture to prevent cracking and bolting.

Succession Planting

Succession planting involves planting small amounts of seeds over time to extend the harvest. Lettuce, radishes, and carrots are ideal for this method. In cooler climates, succession planting can continue throughout summer. In hotter climates, take a break during the peak heat and resume planting for fall.

Decide on a Garden Size

Starting with a small garden allows you to manage it effectively and gain confidence. A 4 by 8 feet plot is ideal for beginners. Use deep planters for vegetables and window boxes or pots for herbs.

Choosing the Right Plants

Select a few vegetables and herbs to start with and focus on growing them well. Good choices for beginners include cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and squash. Basil, thyme, and oregano are hardy herbs that grow easily.

Providing Enough Light

Most fruit-bearing vegetables need at least eight hours of sunlight per day. Choose a sunny spot in your yard for your garden beds. If full sun is not available, opt for leafy greens and herbs that can thrive with four hours of light.

Maintaining Healthy Soil

Healthy soil is crucial for vegetable gardening. Test your soil’s fertility and pH to find the right fertilizers or amendments. Adding compost mid-season restores nutrients and promotes healthy plant growth.

Using Compost and Fertilizers

Combine compost with slow-release fertilizers to provide a steady supply of nutrients. Avoid over-fertilizing, which can harm plants and reduce yield.

Adding Mulch for Soil Health

Mulch helps maintain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate temperature. Use organic mulch without additives or dyes to avoid introducing harmful substances.

Minimizing Fertilizer Use

Too much fertilizer can lead to lush foliage but fewer vegetables. Balance fertilization with compost to provide the right amount of nutrients.


Growing vegetables in summer can be challenging but also highly rewarding. With proper water management, pest control, and soil maintenance, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest. Start small, choose the right plants, and gradually expand your garden as you gain experience. Happy gardening!

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