Deep South summer heat can be a challenge, but there are a few veggies you can get started in July for a fall harvest. Providing shade or netting to protect from the hot sun and insects can also help get these new plantings established. With some pampering in the summer heat and intentional caring you can have an abundant early fall garden to enjoy.
Start with some early season producers that can start setting fruit when temps drop back down to the mid 80's at night. Also plan to give them some frost protection. That first frost might hit mid November, but if you can get them through that brief spell you could be picking tomatoes into January. Also consider unripe green tomatoes, a Southern favorite. Varieties we like to grow in the fall: Early Girl, Azchyoka, Glacier and Sugar Baby
You can start new peppers or cut back the ones you have been growing and give them some shade and frost protection and you will have peppers into January. Some early varieties that mature in 60+ days to consider include Rainbow Bell Peppers, Roumanian Rainbow, North Star, Corno Di Toro, Biscayne, Cubanelle, Spanish Spice, Giant Marconi, and of course, nothing producers earlier than our family heirloom DeFino Pepper.
Okra loves the heat and can produce in 55 days! Clemson Spineless, Zeebest, Hill Country Red and Beck's Big Okra are some of our favorites. Direct seed and water them in. They tend to be mostly pest resistant, but watch for aphids.
Direct seed green beans and you will have a harvest up to the first freeze. Bush Provider is our go to, but any beans can be reseeded for an early fall crop. Keep in mind some beans will need trellising.
SUMMER SQUASH & ZUCCHINI
Direct seed and protect with an insect netting until they first bloom. Choose early season varieties like Early Prolific and Cookneck, Spineless Beauty Zucchini and scallop squash varieties will set fruit in 45 to 55 days.
Direct seed and succession planting every 2 weeks will give you a steady supply of cucumbers. With a little frost protection and shade to get established, cukes can produce for weeks after that first frost. Diva, Muncher, Early Prince, Straight Eight and Marketmore all produce in 60 days.
Start your seeds indoors or in a shaded greenhouse to get a head start on the season. Key to Brassicas in the South is to get them hardened off and planted early. Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts all need to be in the ground transplanted by mid Sept. Feed them heavy with nitrogen and get them off to an early start.
CHINESE CABBAGE AND BOK CHOI
We love to grow Chinese cabbage, mibuna, mizuna and bok choi. They do best in the fall as they get hit hard with the turnip beetle larva in the spring, so fall is your only window to grow in the deep south. So many varieties to choose from. Start your seed indoors or in a shaded greenhouse. After hardening off, have your transplants ready for mid Sept and give them a generous amount of organic fertilizer.
Start indoors or in a shaded greenhouse. Collards, Kale, Arugula, Swiss Chard and lettuce (choose varieties not to bolt) all do great with an early planting. Help get them established with shade fabric if needed, and with early frost protection you will have beautiful greens late into the winter.
You have time to get another early crop of basil before the first frost. Cilantro, parsley, lovage, sorrel, nasturtiums and cutting celery will all overwinter with an early harvest beginning early fall.
The key to remember for July planting is providing a little shade can really help brassicas and greens to get established better in the heat. Also, be prepared for some light frost protection. We always seem to get that first frost mid November. If we can get them through that first chilly night, we may not have another frost until late December, giving us another month or two for tomatoes and peppers. Fall really is our favorite season to grow, and it seems like we can't get there soon enough after our hot southern summer. It's something we look forward to, when the nights cool back down and the end of a brutal dry season.
Brad and Jenny have been professional growers for over 30 years. They raised their family homesteading in Texas and are considered "pioneers in the local food movement". They started from scratch and created the first and largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm serving Houston, TX. MORE ABOUT US >>