Who doesn’t love the idea of having fresh greens in salads. Are you worried about your spinach, kale or lettuce bolting as soon as the warm weather kicks in? Here are a few varieties of greens that thrives well in heat which will produce throughout the summer. They need heat to grow well and can’t tolerate frost. In this article we will discuss about heat tolerant greens that are easy to grow and care for in summer. I will also give a few examples of heat tolerant greens for summer gardens.
Why regular spinach is not suited for summer garden?
Some of the greens grows well in early spring or during late fall. When the warmer weather picks up in summer, the plants tend to bolt (flowering stage). Depending on your summer weather, the plants may bolt in June or in July. Once the plant is bolted, the leaf production will stop. This process also turns the existing leaves bitter and chewy. This is a good time to discard cool season greens and move to summer greens.
What are heat tolerant greens?
A heat tolerant green will thrive even during the peak summer without turning the leaves bitter. They will continue to produce abundant leaves. These plants cannot tolerate any frost, therefore they cannot survive winter unless you live in frost free zone. These plants need a minimum high temperature of 70 F (21 C) to thrive well. Any temperature less than that, the plants wont grow much and will go dormant.
Why do we need heat tolerant greens
A typical household tends to use greens as a major part of dietary menu. For some families, some type of greens is a must have in their daily food intake. The greens are boasted for their nutritional values. So the only way to include fresh greens in your diet during summer is to grow these plants. As summer heats up, having a variety of heat tolerant greens will ensure that you get continued supply.
Benefits of Heat tolerant greens
- These plants are easy to grow and establish well as annuals in short period of time
- Low maintenance. They don’t need any special attention. Just treat them like any other plants in your garden.
- Most of them are drought tolerant with good disease resistance.
- You will get fresh greens in summer
- In frost free zone they can be grown as perennials
Easy to grow heat tolerant greens
My top picks when it comes to heat tolerant greens for summer garden is:
Katuk (Sauropus androgynus)
This plant grows well in sun and tolerate shade as well. The leaves are the edible part and is used for cooking. They can easily grow to about 5 feet (1.5 m) tall. These plants are not invasive and you don’t have to worry about them taking over the garden. It is recommended to cook the leaves before consumption. Stir-fry with butter tastes good.
Here is my detailed guide on how to grow katuk in your garden as well as a couple of tips on how to cook them.
Malabar spinach (Basella alba)
This is another prolific grower as well as a good heat tolerant plant. It comes in two colors: red and green. The red color looks more ornamental. If you are a vertical gardener with limited space, this is a good news for you. These plants loves to climb; a great plant to train on a pergola. The leaves are edible, when cooked it may taste a bit slimy depending on your taste bud.
Here is my detailed guide on growing malabar spinach in your garden.
Moringa (Moringa oleifera)
Moringa a.ka. drumstick tree is a fast growing drought tolerant plant. The leaves, flowers and pods are edible. This plant will easily grow over 10 feet. A fresh bout of rain will trigger the growth of this plant. The branches are fragile and heavy winds will easily break them. But the plants are so forgiving. Tender leaves tastes good. The leaves can also be dried for future use.
Here is my detailed guide on growing moringa in your garden space
This plant comes in different varieties as well. My personal favorite is the red Amaranth. Some varieties of amaranth has showy flower heads. Amaranth grows well in fertile soil. So fertilize the plants once or twice during the season. Some of the varieties are drought tolerant. For tender tasty leaves water them regularly as the droughts will slow down the leaf production.
Portulaca is a fast-growing annual and almost looks like a succulent. This is the only edible plant that I have seen growing as a weed in north east US. These plants grow only a few inches long and are easy to grow in containers. This also helps to control the plants popping up in vegetable beds as weeds. The young leaves and shoots can be used in salads.
Here is my detailed guide on growing Purslane in your backyard garden.
How to care for heat tolerant greens
The heat tolerant greens are generally easy to care for. Most of them are drought tolerant after they are established. They don’t need any specialized fertilizer mix or pruning. The pests don’t seem bother them. You may have to keep an watch for caterpillars as they tend to eat the tender leaves.
In winter you can over winterize the plants if you have the space. Moringa is a fairly large tree and difficult plant to fit into any green house. Once the season ends, trim the tall branches to fit inside the greenhouse. Amaranth, Purslane and Malabar spinach seeds can be collected to be grown next year. But katuck is difficult to grow from seeds. If you are interested in seed collection, do checkout my guide on collecting seeds from your garden.
A few disadvantages of these greens
While it is easy to grow heat tolerant summer greens it does come with a pros and cons.
- A lot of these greens can’t be eaten raw. You have to saute or blanch them before eating.
- You can have only a moderate consumption for a few of these plants
- Most of these plants love tropical weather, if you are in a colder climate you will have to plan for over wintering them.
- Some of these plants are difficult to overwinter because of their size, they need more space.
There are also a lot of other greens that grows well in summer. But I have listed only a few which will suit general gardeners need. What are your favorite heat tolerant greens to grow in your garden?