23 Heat Resistant Summer Vegetables For Hot Climates
Looking for a heat resistant vegetable for your hot climate garden? The good news is, there's plenty of vegetables to pick from! Gardening expert and former organic farmer Sarah Hyde has 10 years experience growing crops in the heat of the Arizona high desert summers. In this article, she shares her favorite heat resistant vegetables.
If you live in a warm climate and want to plant some veggies this season, it’s important to start off with the right plants. There are certain vegetables that are more heat tolerant than others. And with these heat tolerant veggies, you’ll also find certain varieties within them that have been specifically cultivated to withstand periods of more aggressive heat.
When you start planning, keep an eye out for “heat-loving” or “heat-tolerant” crops. You will often see these words in the seed catalog descriptions. These varieties have been field-tested and have been shown to perform best in hot conditions. Keep in mind, even heat-tolerant crops need plenty of water to perform best, so consider your garden’s watering system before planting.
So, if you’ve decided to plant some veggies in your garden this season, but need to make sure they can withstand the heat, you are in the right place! I’ve hand picked some of my favorite veggies that can beat the heat this season! Let’s dig in and take a deeper look!
Okra loves the heat, and people who love okra know how incredible fresh picked okra tastes. It is a member of the mallow family and is related to hibiscus, cotton, and hollyhocks. The medium-size, showy yellow flowers on tall, leafy plants will add beauty to your garden.
Okra produces consistently for a long time with the right fertilizer. Just make sure it is well watered and picked regularly. Okra is not frost tolerant, so plant seeds after the danger of spring frost has passed.
Sweet peppers include bell peppers, round Hungarian peppers, Shishitos, and elongated Italian sweet peppers. Grow a rainbow of colors and shapes to keep your summer kitchen interesting.
Sweet peppers are slow to start and should be planted out as transplants 16”-24” apart after all frost has passed. Start seeds about 8 weeks before you plan to transplant them. Be sure to provide sufficient heat when germinating the seeds, since soil temps of 80-90 degrees farenheit will help the seeds germinate quickly.
Provide proper fertilizer and adequate water as the plants grow. Water-stressed plants may produce peppers early, but the fruit will be small and thin-walled. Peppers, like most garden plants, appreciate infrequent, deep watering over shallow drinks of water.
Sweet peppers love the heat. In fact, they will not grow quickly or produce prolifically if temperatures are too cold, especially night temperatures. You will see new pepper production start to fall as autumn night temperatures drop. Harvest all peppers before a hard frost in the fall, since the plants will die and the fruits will turn to mush if they are frozen.
Hot peppers include jalapenos, chilies, cayenne, poblanos, and lantern-shaped types such as padron and habanero. Most types of hot pepper come in a vast array of colors, heat, and uses.
They love the heat, and thrive in hot conditions with adequate water. Growing hot peppers is very similar to growing sweet peppers. Small-fruited hot pepper plants tend to be more compact than bell pepper plants, though some can grow tall and large like poblano plants.
A few considerations for growing hot and sweet peppers together is to mark the plants well with their variety names so there is no confusion. Also know that if you plan on saving seed from your peppers, the varieties will cross readily. This means you’ll end up with hot bell peppers next year! So, only grow one variety for seed at a time or isolate the plants.
Eggplant loves the heat and is easy to grow. Eggplant is delicious grilled and makes an excellent, easy side dish for summer hotdogs and burgers.
Growing eggplant is very similar to growing peppers, so plan to start them by seed 8 weeks prior to setting out, or purchase transplants. Plants can be spaced 16” to 24” apart. Eggplant is similar to tomatoes in that too much nitrogen fertilizer will produce a leafy plant and few, small fruit.
Eggplant leaves are prone to flea beetles in late spring and early summer, and can be protected using row covers. Most flea beetle damage is mild enough that the eggplant will grow out of it without impacting the fruit. Few other pests and diseases affect eggplant.
Use tomato cages or stakes and garden twine to support the branches, especially under the heavy weight of large-fruited Italian varieties. Pruning eggplant is possible, though rarely necessary. Be sure to pick off any over-ripe or sun scalded fruits to encourage new fruit set all season long.
Tomatillos are essential for summer salsa, and roasting them lends sweet and complex-flavors to many dishes. Tomatillos thrive in hot weather and are fast-growing, large, branched plants with light green leaves.
Give the plants enough space in your garden, as they grow quickly and are large and branching. Prune and corral their sprawling branches with tomato cages or stakes and garden twine. Do not be shy about pruning back unwieldy branches, since tomatillos will continue to produce new shoots.
Tomatillos can be prone to pests, including tomato hornworms and striped and spotted potato beetles on the leaves, as well as tomato fruitworms (corn earworm) on the fruit. Tomatillos generally grow so prolifically that slight to medium beetle damage on the leaves in spring do not affect the plant’s maturity.
Tomato fruit worms and hornworms can be an issue if they are aggressively eating the fruit, and their holes create perfect environments for mold and rot, leaving you with a paltry harvest. Scout early and often for worm presence on tomatillos. For garden-scale plantings, regularly handpicking worms and destroying them is effective and safe.
Ground Cherry or Husk Cherry
A bit of a tomato, a bit of a tomatillo, with a citrusy spin, encased in a papery husk, ground cherries are highly tolerant of heat, drought, and poor soils. They look like cherry tomatoes with a tomatillo husk and grow similarly to tomatoes and tomatillos on large, branching plants.
Grow them the same as tomatillos, and expect similar pest issues. The plants are a bit slower growing than tomatillos and are more bushy. Prolific ripe ground cherry fruits will drop to the ground, hence the name. Eat them fresh or dried, canned, or cooked in desserts.
Tomatoes are the classic summer fruit and for good reason, since they thrive in hot weather and are adaptable to many climates and growing conditions. They are excellent for container growing and can produce an ongoing abundance of fruit in a small space.
Though tomato plants are tough and can withstand hot temperatures, extreme hot temperatures will cause the flowers to not set fruit. When the heat passes, and ideal fruit-set temperatures return (between 55-85 degrees fahrenheit) the flowers will start to set fruit again.
If the heat is relentless, modify the microclimate around your plants by increasing airflow. You can also mulch with organic light-colored mulch, and/or setting up shade cloth to reduce temperatures. Planting tomatoes where they will get morning sun exposure rather than an excess of hot afternoon sun will help keep temperatures lower. This will also help the fruit to set consistently.
Tomatoes are prone to tomato hornworms, similar to tomatillos described above. Check plants regularly and thoroughly to find and handpick tomato hornworms. One caveat is if you are lucky enough to find a tomato hornworm covered in what look like grains of rice – let it live.
Though you can remove the worm from actively eating your tomato plants, the rice are actually eggs of a parasitic wasp. These wasps are beneficial to gardeners since it eats tomato hornworms.
Cucumbers thrive in the heat. In fact, they will grow extremely slowly or not at all when days are still cool in the spring. They are not frost tolerant at all. So, be sure to plant the seeds or set out transplants once all threat of frost has passed.
In summer, once temperatures warm and humidity sets in, expect your cucumbers to take off. They need plenty of water and sufficient fertilizer to produce a healthy crop.
One consideration for growing cucumbers in extreme heat is that the fruits can become bitter when they grow big. Make sure the plants have plenty of water and keep up on harvesting when the fruits are small.
In the heat of summer, harvest plants every day to stay ahead of over-mature, bitter fruits. If extreme temperatures are unavoidable in your garden, try growing Armenian cucumbers, a cucumber that is closely related to melons and tends to not get bitter at large sizes.
To get an extra boost from your yield, consider growing cucumbers with peppers or other heat friendly companion plants where there’s minimal nutrient competition in your soil.
Onions can withstand the heat of summer, can be eaten at any stage of maturity, and have a place in almost any meal, so they are a good choice for your summer garden. Choose varieties that state they have good “bolting tolerance” or “heat tolerance.”
Sweet types tend to do better in hot climates than storage types, but both can be grown most anywhere. If you have a short frost-free growing season, buy transplants or start your own indoors early in spring. Plant them out when spring has warmed and frost is unlikely.
One challenge many gardeners face with onions and hot weather is bolting. Bolting refers to when a plant sends up a flower stalk. Onions are biennials, meaning they should flower on year two of growth.
The biggest reason onions bolt prematurely in summer is that the transplants were planted out too early and were exposed to enough chilling to make them think they went through winter. Avoid transplanting onions out too early in spring to limit bolting.
The unsung hero of the allium family, leeks contribute a sweet, rich onion flavor without the bite to classic dishes. Leeks are easy to grow and do not mind the heat, especially if they are well mulched, which is essential to having long-shanked leeks.
Plant leek seedlings at the same time as you plant out onions, in late spring when the chance of hard frost has passed. Planting leek seedlings extra deep will give you a head start on balancing the shanks.
As the leeks grow, be sure to fertilize them regularly and hill soil or straw up around their shanks. Regular hilling creates beautiful, delicate flavored leeks with long white shanks. Leeks hold well in the ground and can be harvested all season long. Mature leeks are even frost-tolerant, and can be harvested into late fall.
Scallions are easy to grow and super handy to have in the garden, since they compliment meals in a wide range of dishes. They are slow to germinate and grow. Planting transplants can be beneficial to give the scallions a “leg-up” if weeds are a problem in your garden.
However, once scallions are at mature size, they “hold” in the garden for a long time, even through a few fall frosts, making for a long harvest window.
Heat doesn’t bother scallions. They have few garden pests and require little to no maintenance other than keeping them weed-free and sufficiently watered. Harvest scallions when they are as thick as a pencil until they freeze in late fall.
Zucchini is a heat resistant vegetable that thrives in warm weather, pumping out fruit all summer. Some varieties of zucchini can be so prolific that you will probably have more than you can eat, which makes it great to share with friends.
Every gardener’s challenge is to keep up on harvesting zucchini fruit when it is small. In the heat of the summer zucchini fruits grow inches overnight. The ideal size for flavorful zucchini is under 10” in length, with glossy skin. Large, overgrown fruits turn dull and dark green and are not prime for fresh eating or cooking. Large fruits can be excellent for making breads, cookies, or other processing.
Zucchini is an easy-to-grow crop, though be sure to allot a large space for the leafy, sprawling plants and provide sufficient water. Common challenges for growing zucchini are powdery mildew and squash bugs.
Both pests are to be expected and preventative practice is important. Plant powdery mildew resistant varieties and avoid working in the plants when they are wet from morning dew or watering to lessen the spread. Keep an eye out in your garden for other plants that also are susceptible to powdery mildew, such as lilac bushes and carrot tops, which will then spread to your squash plants.
Squash bugs are relentless, and early scouting and hand removal of the adults and eggs is a safe way to keep on top of them. Do not plant zucchini where other cucurbits grew the prior year, and always clean up cucurbit family plants at the end of the season to remove over-winter habitat for squash bugs.
Winter squash is a heat-resistant crop whose rewards you can enjoy in the depths of winter. Winter squash seeds can be directly sown after spring frost has passed. Be sure to give each plant lots of space to spread and vine, at least 3 feet of space in every direction. Keep the weeds under control until the leaves begin to shade out the soil. Supply adequate water, and amend the soil with compost prior to planting.
Try growing different types of winter squash to have variety in the kitchen. Butternuts are easy to grow, great keepers, and reliable producers of fruit whose smooth, bright orange flesh is used in a multitude of hearty dishes.
Buttercups and kabocha squash have deep green, edible skin and light orange flesh with a grainy, potato-like texture. Delicata squash is a short-term storage squash with small, striped fruits that can be roasted for a super sweet, perfectly fall side dish. Spaghetti squash has bright yellow oval shaped fruit with stringy flesh that makes a fabulous gluten-free pasta substitute.
Harvest all winter squash before a hard fall freeze. Freeze damage on the fruits will reduce storage potential, and most likely rot. Many varieties mature earlier than frost and can be harvested when the stem turns brown. Allow squash to cure in a warm, well ventilated area for a few days after harvest, then store the squash in a cool, dry location that will not freeze.
Growing pumpkins is almost identical to growing winter squash, with the only difference that most pumpkin vines are immensely sprawling and need wider spacing when planted.
If you intend to use the pumpkins for eating, be sure to choose a pie pumpkin variety for best flavor and texture. Decorative pumpkins are usually edible, but not particularly tasty or easy to process due to their thick skin.
Pumpkins should be harvested when the stem has browned where it touches the fruit. Most pumpkins can be field cured and thick-skinned varieties like jack-o-lantern types can usually stand up to a light fall frost or two without serious damage.
Carrots will be just fine under the soil during the hottest days of summer. Be diligent in keeping them well weeded when they are small and the weather warms – weeds can quickly out compete slow growing baby carrots. Also, do not let their soil dry out completely, which can happen easily in the hot summer days.
Make sure the seeds get planted during the cool days of spring while the soil is still cool. Carrot seeds will not germinate reliably when the soil is hot in mid summer. Wait until a cooler stretch of weather to seed a fall batch of carrots in July. Use burlap or row cover on the soil to help it retain moisture and stay cool to help the seeds germinate in warmer weather.
When harvesting carrots in the summer, it is best to water a day or two ahead of your planned harvest, since slightly damp but not sopping wet soil is best for harvesting carrots. Pick carrots in the cool morning hours before the heat of the day for best crispness. If you have to harvest them in the hot part of the day, cool them immediately after harvest by washing and refrigerating.
Beets can take the heat, provided they are established before the heat of summer takes hold. Beet seeds need cooler soil temperatures to germinate, so plant them early in the spring. If you want to sow successive batches during the summer heat, try transplanting them so you can provide the ideal soil germination temperature inside.
Beets will withstand the hot days of summer when you provide them plenty of water. Water deeply and regularly to have evenly-formed roots with less banding (tough rings that show when the beet is cut crosswise).
Beets are double-duty crop that yield edible, delicious greens that are similar to Swiss chard in flavor, with less bitterness and thin ribs. The greens are best eaten when young and tender. When the heat of summer arrives, the greens tend to be more susceptible to insect and disease damage.
All beans love the heat, and are not frost-tolerant at all. Beans grow in green, yellow, purple, and striped varieties and include bush beans, pole beans, filet beans, and flat-podded types. Choose the type best suited to your garden based on whether or not you want to trellis them, and what you plan to use them for. Beans appreciate well-drained soil and have less disease problems when there is sufficient air circulation on their leaves.
Bush beans are self-supporting, knee-high plants that do not need a trellis. Read the seed catalog description to choose a bush bean that is best for your kitchen goals. Pole beans need a trellis or structure to climb on, which you should plan to install at or before planting time.
Filet beans, sometimes called French Beans, are delicate, thin-podded beans that are best for cooking and fresh eating rather than canning. Flat-podded beans (aka Roma-type) have hearty textured bean pods with deep vegetable flavor.
Plant bean seeds in spring around the time of your last frost, and then once a month through the beginning of July for continuous fresh, tender beans. Choose seeds that are powdery mildew or bean mosaic virus resistant varieties if those are known problems in your garden. Avoid harvesting beans when the leaves are wet to reduce spreading disease amongst your plants.
Once you taste homegrown dry beans you may never go back to supermarket dry beans that may have been grown in seasons past and spent months on the shelf. Growing your own dry beans also opens a world of possibilities for flavors, colors, textures, best culinary uses, and marvelous back stories of the seed heritage.
Dry beans are excellent for the summer heat, and many heirloom varieties boast good drought tolerance. They tend to be a low-maintenance crop, with few pests or diseases, though their success is largely dependent on the weather. Cold, wet weather will promote leafy growth and disease and usually poor crops. Warm, dry weather with regular rainfall or irrigation will produce the best bean crops.
Dry bean culture is very similar to fresh beans. The main difference is time, which dry beans need more frost-free time in the growing season to fully mature and dry in the field before harvesting. Make sure your growing season provides enough days to maturity listed on the seed packet for your dry beans. Dry bean plants also may be larger and more sprawling than bush bean plants.
Nothing screams summer like sweet corn. Corn plants love the heat, provided they have plenty of water and rich, well drained soil. Fresh sweet corn is a treat, and a bounty of sweet corn is great for the freezer.
Be sure to allocate lots of space in your garden for corn. Corn is wind pollinated and corn plants need at least a 10’x10’ plot to ensure proper pollination. A smaller plot, or a 1’x 100’ row will not result in adequate pollination. Under-pollinated corn will have sparsely filled out ears.
Ambitious gardeners with lots of space can try succession planting sweet corn every few weeks from early spring to early summer. Succession planting will allow you to enjoy fresh sweet corn for a longer period.
Corn can also be a big attractant of animals who come to enjoy the feast. Raccoons, crows, deer and even wild pigs in some parts of the United States can cause major damage. If critters are a problem in your area, it is best to install a fence or hot wire before planting.
Harvest sweet corn when the tassels start to dry and the kernels feel plump under the husks. Know the days to maturity of your variety, and start observing the ears carefully as the maturity date nears.
Pick one that feels representative of the batch and husk it to check for ripeness. The kernels should be firm and glossy, and sweet in taste. Starchy, milky kernels indicate the corn is past its prime and the sugars in the kernels are turning to starch. The corn is still edible at this point, though the flavor and texture are duller and thicker.
Known for their love of heat, sweet potatoes can thrive even in the hottest summer days, since they are derived from wild ancestors native to the tropics. Plant out sweet potato slips in early summer after all threat of frost has passed. Sweet potatoes will thrive in the summer heat, though make sure to provide plenty of water.
The delicious leaves are edible, fresh or cooked, and are one of the few greens available during the hottest days of summer. Sweet potato leaves can be used in place of spinach in cooking.
The mild-flavored leaves are also highly attractive to animals, especially deer and rabbits. Have a plan before planting of how to keep critters out of your sweet potato patch. If you live in an area with wild hogs or javelina, they can uproot a patch of mature sweet potatoes overnight, so definitely plant sweet potatoes in a fenced-in area.
Sweet potatoes are ready to harvest right before fall frost, and should be dug before soil temperatures drop. Gently brush back the dirt to see the mature tubers if you are unsure. Sweet potatoes should ideally be dug before frost hits.
Fall frost can sneak up on a gardener, so if there is frost damage on sweet potato leaves it will eventually travel to the roots – so dig them immediately. Cure dug sweet potatoes unwashed in a warm, humid area with good ventilation for a week. After curing, store the tubers in a cool, dry place and enjoy them all winter long.
Potatoes can withstand the summer heat, though they will need plenty of water and mulching helps them be more comfortable. Try planting a mix of short, mid, and long season potatoes to have freshly dug potatoes for months.
The complex, earthy taste of a freshly dug potato is a special experience not found in grocery store potatoes. “Early” potatoes are simply potatoes harvested before they are to mature size.
Potatoes can be affected by potato beetles and blister beetles – both of which can cause lots of damage to the leaves. Scout early and often for these pests. Blister beetles can defoliate a small potato patch in hours. Potato beetles tend to devour potato leaves more slowly and persistently, and can be a vector for disease.
Not technically a vegetable, basil is an essential herb in the summer garden. Basil loves the heat and is any cook’s must-have, since it pairs well with most summer vegetables. It’s also an excellent companion plant to many other hot-weather crops such as tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers.
Basil loves the heat, but appreciates a spot with warm morning sun and dappled or partial afternoon shade when the sun is the hottest. Extremely hot, direct sun can cause sunburn on basil, which appears as dark black spots similar-looking as frost damage.
Start basil seeds 8 weeks before you plan to set them out. Plant out basil transplants after all threat of frost has passed, as tender basil is the first garden crop to die with freezing or even near-freezing temperatures.
You may have success sowing more than one batch of basil during the growing season. While basil loves the heat, very hot weather or water stress can encourage basil to start flowering, which reduces leaf production. Sowing multiple batches of basil ensures you will have big, lush leaves all summer long.
One of the more unique vegetables on this list, Malabar Spinach can add beauty and utility to your summer garden. It is not a true spinach, rather a vining leafy green with spinach-shaped leaves and red stems. The flavor is mild with notes of spice and citrus, which dissipate when cooked. Note that cooked Malabar spinach has a gooey texture, which is reminiscent of cooked okra.
Malabar spinach loves the heat and grows quickly during hot summer days. Provide plenty of water and be sure to provide a trellis or support for the vines, as that will help the leaves stay cleaner and easier to harvest. Harvest leaves when they are about the size of your palm and enjoy them until frost hits.
When the summer days heat up, your garden can be happy and healthy if you try planting any of these heat resistant summer vegetables. Seek out heat-tolerant varieties that have been shown to perform best in hot conditions.
Most vegetable crops need minimum 1” of water per week, more in hot weather where transpiration rates are high. During hot weather, harvest in the cool morning hours for peak flavor and quality, before the heat has transferred to your plants. Happy summer growing!