Connecticut Garden Journal: Heat-Tolerant Crops | Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut Garden Journal: Heat-Tolerant Crops

Jul 4, 2019

Gardeners love the idea of being independent of the seasons to grow crops whenever we like. For example, I love greens and would love to grow spinach, arugula and lettuce all summer, but I know the heat will cause them to bolt and get bitter. However, there are greens that can tolerate the heat and shine all summer.

Malabar spinach is an attractive, vining annual that has purple-red stems and dark green, succulent leaves. In spite of its name, it's not in the spinach family. Malabar spinach loves the heat and vines strongly so it needs a good support. It's best eaten sautéed or steamed for a nutrient-dense summer side dish.

Another international green that loves heat is New Zealand spinach. Again, not truly a spinach, this nutritious green has light green leaves and grows slowly into a small bushy plant. Like Malabar spinach, it's best cooked or used raw to make green shakes.

Mustard greens and Swiss chard have good heat tolerance and will stay healthy through the worst heat wave -- as long as they stay well-watered.

Of course, you can grow lettuce in summer. You just have to be choosy about what varieties. Look for lettuce varieties with thicker leaves for summer growing.  Sierra, Oakleaf, and Red New Fire are varieties that can take the heat and not get bitter or bolt. I like to plant them under floating row covers that provide some shade and help keep the soil moist. Transplant seedlings that started indoors into the garden instead of sowing seeds into the beds.