Summer Survival Gardening to Beat the Heat

summer survival gardening in the summer sunSummer heat announces the summer survival gardening season.

While many people view the summer equinox as the official start of their summer vacation season, survival gardeners, like you, know it’s the last day to plant fruits/vegetables that will yield a late harvest of home-grown food for you and your family. But growing food for a late harvest means working with the summer heat.

Let’s take a look at some tips to help your garden succeed even in the heat.

When to plant

Plant summer fruit/vegetables in the early spring AFTER the last frost day in your area.

Warm-weather fruits/vegetables need temps between 65 and 90 degrees to grow. Frost will certainly kill your crops. Planting before the earth is warm enough for seeds to bud is a waste of time, energy and money.

In some areas on the East Coast the last frost day was a lot later than normal. Pay close attention to not just estimated frost dates, including the last frost, but the actual weather forecast.

If you want to extend your summer growing season as long as possible, start your garden indoors and be prepared to transfer plants outdoors as soon as your local weather allows. This approach gives you a first harvest while time is still left for that warm-weather planting for the second harvest.

How to plant

To beat the heat and conserve water, plant in a block layout instead of rows. This limits evaporation while creating a micro-climate and shade.

Plant crops with similar water needs together.

Don’t plant without knowing at what developmental stage crops need the most water to survive. This will reduce chances of over-watering. You will know when the plants need more (or less) water.


Whether you live in drought-prone areas or want a low-maintenance summer garden, it all starts with the soil. For a soil that traps in water add biochar (charcoal that is stored in the soil).

Remember to mulch. Having a deep layer of mulch reduces weeds that fight your fruits/vegetables for nutrients and water.

Plants grown in a pot will require more frequent watering than those grown in the ground.

Watering popular summer fruits/vegetables

  1. Beans – Check plants before watering. Opt for a large soaking rather than frequent small baths for best results.
  2. Peppers – It’s normal for pepper plants to wilt during the day when temps are 95 degrees or above. Over-watering will rinse away nutrients and kill the plants.
  3. Tomatoes– Water only when the plants are thirsty. In dry climates, make sure your plants receive two inches of water per week.
  4. Cucumbers – Water just enough to keep the soil moist at all times. This will vary on where you live and the type of soil you use.
  5. Eggplants – These grow best using a water-drip system that provides the necessary water but doesn’t leave the soil soggy.
  6. Summer squash – Water once a week when there is no rainfall. To determine if you need to water, check the soil about four inches down for moisture. If it’s dry, water.
  7. Watermelon – Like peppers, these plants will wilt under the midday summer sun. TIP: they thrive when watered in the early morning.

Over-watering is a serious problem. Plants don’t thrive and roots don’t grow deep when too much water is in the soil. If possible, use a drip irrigation system to reduce the likelihood of over-watering. Remember, look at past rainfall accumulation or drought conditions for guidance. But adjust your behavior based on your local current conditions.


Planting the right combination of crops before the dog days of summer gives them roots to thrive during lengthy hot/dry periods. Paying attention to what the plants need as they grow instead of aut0-watering on some schedule will also promote deep roots to help them through the dry spells.

And the reward for all this attention is a good harvest – perhaps your second (late) harvest of the year.

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About Bret Smith

I am a long-time lover of all things outdoors. Whether hunting, shooting, fishing or just hiking and camping, I take every opportunity to enjoy nature and share it with others.

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