Some places are just easier than others for growing vegetables. Vegetable gardening in the really hot areas of the United States can be challenging, especially if you don’t take your specific climate into account. Vegetable gardening is all about becoming attuned to the environment around you and learning about how plants interact with your climate. If you are used to a more temperate climate, or you have been taking your inspiration from gardeners further from the equator, there may be an adjustment while you learn what your climate will support and what is won’t. Don’t be discouraged! But do your research and you will be rewarded for your efforts. It is absolutely possible to have a great garden, even in really hot places, if you plan accordingly.
Vegetable gardening is all about becoming attuned to the environment around you and learning about how plants interact with your climate. If you are used to a more temperate climate, or you have been taking your inspiration from gardeners further from the equator, there may be an adjustment while you learn what hot areas support really well and what they don’t. Don’t be discouraged! But do your research and you will be rewarded for your efforts.
Things to consider when you are gardening in warm and hot climates
While plants need sunlight to grow, sunlight also causes water to evaporate, and lots of direct, intense sunlight causes water to evaporate very quickly. You will need to find a balance between getting ample sunlight, consistent water, and not overwatering.
When gardening in hot areas, think about these five things:
- Your watering schedule
- Mulch (retaining moisture)
- Wind and,
- The vegetables you want to grow
In hot climates it is crucial to water your garden at least twice a day. It is best to do this morning and evening. Watering in the middle of the day is fine, but it is less efficient as so much of it evaporates before it gets to your plants. Be aware that it is still possible to overwater. Overwatering can cause mold, rot, or just literally “water down” the flavor of some vegetables like tomatoes and melons.
I don't usually recommend using mulch with a Seedsheet garden, but I would make an exception for very hot climates, as long as you are careful not to cover delicate seedlings. It is good to wait until your seedlings are well established, approximately 4-6 inches tall. Using a mulch helps you improve water retention. It also blocks weeds, keeps the soil cool, and makes your garden look nice. The Seedsheet sheet is in fact already a mulch. I like to apply up to an inch of straw, shredded leaves or compost over the Seedsheet, leaving an opening for each plant to grow.
If you find that your garden is in an inhospitable environment, you can modify it to make it more welcoming to your plants.
If your plants are getting too much direct sun, you can create a shade using row covers you would find in a gardening store, or use existing shade like a tree or an awning. If your planters are small enough to lift, you can move your garden to take in more sun or shade as you need it.
Another factor that increases evaporation is wind. If your garden is exposed to wind, you might consider adding a wind baffle, any structure that will shelter your plants and soil from the breeze will help them retain moisture. We also suggest securing your sheet with additional weights, such as heavy rocks or bricks, to prevent your sheet from blowing away in a wind storm.
Vegetables that work well in warmer climates
Some vegetables thrive in hot weather and in fact, vegetables such as corn, tomatoes, some peppers, eggplant, squash and melons will not grow well unless they have at least a month of 80 to 90° weather. These vegetables tend to require lots of water, so maintain a consistent watering schedule or use a soaker hose to make sure they get the moisture they need.
Tomatoes will do fine up to about 90℉. You can grow them hotter than that, but there are a few things you should know. It helps to mulch tomatoes to keep the roots from drying out. Weeding is also useful because weeds will compete with your tomatoes for moisture. Be careful of overwatering, because tomato roots can drown in the extra water, and don’t fertilize. Fertilization will encourage the leafy parts of the plant to overdevelop rather than growing more fruit. Finally, tomatoes in hot weather will not get as red, so go ahead and pick them while they are orange and let them finish ripening on the window sill.
Peppers need consistently warm temperatures in order to produce well, and they thrive even in hardiness zones 9-11. But excessive temperatures can cause these plants to struggle. Avoid giving the plants too much water, but if they start to wilt, it’s ok to immediately pour a gallon of water on each plant.
Cucumbers love full sun and thrive in hot summer weather. Their ideal growing temperature is between 50 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. If it gets particularly hot, mulching is key, along with maintaining consistent moisture, allowing no more than two inches of dry soil at the surface.
French beans, the ones you are most likely to find in the grocery store, are well suited to warm weather. They require full sun and warm temperatures to reach their full glory.
Many herbs thrive in extreme weather. You can find sage and rosemary poking through the rocks in the desert! Basil, chives, cilantro, mint and dill are all hardy and useful to have at hand.
Vegetables that do well even in really hot climates
If you are gardening in really, really hot climates like Southern Florida, Texas or Arizona, you might want to focus on vegetables that do well in extremely hot weather. Vegetables like corn, okra, eggplant, hot peppers, tomatillos, and even though they aren’t vegetables, melons like watermelons and cantaloupes.
Corn originated as a tropical grass. It does best between 77 and 90℉, but corn can handle temperatures as high as 112℉ for short periods of time.
Okra is a true hot weather vegetable, originating in Egypt, Western Africa or possibly South East Asia. Okra is easy to grow and delicious as long as you harvest it before it starts to get woody!
Does great in the heat and does especially well in warm climates with long growing seasons.
You can have a lot of fun with hot peppers in hot climates. There is endless variety and many of them will do much better in hot weather than their milder cousin, the bell pepper. And, spicy food helps you feel cool.
These little fruits, sometimes called husk tomatoes, are popular in Mexican foods like salsa verde. And they are healthy, too! Tomatillos are a good source of niacin, potassium, and manganese and are rich in antioxidants.
Try making our Avocado Salsa Verde recipe, featuring fresh tomatillos.
Hot Climate Seedsheet Gardens:
Here's some inspiration to design your own Heat Tolerant Vegetable Garden.
Family Size Garden (30" Round):
Container Garden (12" Round):