5 Veggies for Raised Beds and Hot Summers

The growing season here in Georgia is super long & super hot for summer veggies. April through November yields lots of produce.

Few memories of mine are more pleasant than those of my childhood in the garden with Dad, with salt shaker in hand. We would spend hours out there. Fresh, homegrown, heirloom tomato plucked off the vine, and then devoured with a sprinkle of salt is as good as it gets.

In small spaces, I have grown some fantastic produce. I’d like to share 5 of my favorites discovered over the past seven years, chosen for best growth in small spaces, tastiness of produce, and quantity of yields.

#1. Tomato- top two varieties

Best Cherry Tomato Award goes to

Husky Cherry Red Tomato

These indeterminate plants are super sturdy and aptly named as “husky’ They are tall and strong vines that need minimal support and just keep producing the most delicious little 1 inch delights. I am instantly transported back to being a kid in the garden, with all the possibilities of the world ahead of me when I eat a fresh , homegrown tomato plucked from the vine.

While I don’t have the huge, in ground gardens Dad & Mom always made, I do have three, 3′ x 8′ x 1′ foot raised wooden beds, a collection of containers, and a small in ground veggie growing area out back.

Best sandwich slicing Tomato award goes to

Parks Whopper Improved Tomato

My brother Johnny asked me a few weeks ago while chatting on the phone, “oh you’re growing ‘tomatoes’ in your garden, or are you growing ‘tumadas’?” I laughed hard, realizing I had said the word too proper for my brother’s taste, cause I’ve been away from the mountains of western NC for too long.

#2 . Peppers Please!

Chili Pie Peppers

Chili Pie Pepper

All American Selection Chili Pie Pepper is a fabulous slightly hot, mini bell shaped pepper that reddens as it ages. These plants produce loads of peppers. They need a bit of support as they spread a little wide. There are somewhat shorter plants however and are well suited to raised beds.

Jalapeno

I could go on for hours about my love of Jalapenos. But, I already have many times on this blog before. So, I will just say they are tall and beautiful plants that produce an incredible amount of peppers in one season. A Bonnie Plants link 6 pack grown in my raised beds in about 10 square feet of bed produced over 200 peppers last year!

#3. Herbs

My two favorite herbs, 1 perennial and 1 annual

Annual-Basil

Oregano

Perennial Oregano is a fantastic drying herb, and gives lots of leaves for many years from one plant.

I dry oregano every year and we use it so many things we cook. I bought one plant 7 years ago when I first began blogging and raised bed gardening. I harvest it and prune it back in the early spring before new growth. It is beautiful and very good for you. Oregano has been used for many thousands of years to enhance flavor and is touted for its herbal medicinal qualities as well.

#4. Beautiful Beans -Two Varieties

Cherokee Wax

Pole Bean Kentucky Wonder

was my Dads favorite and also one of mine. Check out this UGA publication on best home garden green beans for Georgia.

#5. Crunchy Cucumber

Arkansas Little Leaf

is a fantastic pickling cucumber. Vines are very productive, with delicious firm cucumbers.

Quick Link to my Best Raised Bed Construction post & Also to Espoma Fertilizer -my favorite fertilizer.

Ga Native: Woodland Sunflower

Now, for a touch of summer sunshine to warm up these cold, grey days of winter. It took a good bit of searching online to finally identify this particular sunflower growing under one of my huge white oaks as, Woodland Sunflower or ‘Helianthus Divaricatus’. I knew it was some type of sunflower or aster, but wasn’t sure exactly which. I was able to identify it thanks to the multi branching blooms, the size of the plant,  the appearance of the blooms and leaves, and photos of different varieties online at the USDA’s plant ID website. 

This plant has a spreading habitat, and fills the shady area under the great oak. It does get some afternoon sun here, and the plant seems happy to take over the whole area. The long lasting summer blooms make the lackluster foliage as it dies back bearable. This sunshine yellow perennial returns early every year, and since it grows about 2-3 feet tall it makes a great plant for height at the back of a shady bed or border.

I saw many of these native Woodland Sunflowers while visiting the mountains at Black Rock Mountain State Park, in Mountain City, GA. I will write more about that amazing adventure in an upcoming post. I visited 10 state parks in Georgia in 2018, and am working on articles about hikes at those parks, and the plants I found along the way.

GA Native Oakleaf Hydrangea, ‘Hydrangea Quercifolia’

I found this Georgia native plant at the  Night Song Native Plant Nursery plant sale. This is the second year I’ve gone to the plant sale/open house/farmer’s market in Cherokee County, Georgia.

I finally put the Oakleaf Hydrangea in the ground a few weeks ago. This post focuses on the challenges and triumphs of the process-including finding the right location, extreme summer drought and heat, and a little history of the plant.

I have written about William Bartram in previous posts, like my Finding Buffalo Creek project. He was the first to “discover”, and write about the Hydrangea Quercifolia (and many other native plants), in the 1700’s. I also wrote previously about another of the Bartram plants I brought home last year, one of them is known as the Ben Franklin Tree, aka ‘Franklinia Altamaha’.

The Official Site of the Bartram Trail Conference Library page provides further reading links on John and William Bartram. I also consulted the Georgia Native Plant Society.

Today, and the plant already looks greener! Hoping it will acclimate before it gets colder, and be back next year bigger and better.

I am excited to see what happens with this beautiful native plant. Fingers crossed the deer don’t find it there, and that it makes it through the winter into next season. Maybe it will bloom next year. Also, I think the leaves should change from green to red this fall-which hasn’t happened yet. Looking forward to changes, and new growth in the future!

Lobelia Cardinalis, GA native

lobelia Cardinalis, Ga native plants, Zone 7b, blooming in August

Let’s start off the New Year with a remembrance of the brilliant red fireworks of summer’s celebratory blooms. This stunning (and aptly named) Lobelia Cardinalis was a super special find from the Nightsong Native Plant Nursery sale last spring. Most of the pics are from blooming time which was mid August to nearly October.

Blooms just kept opening, marching up the ever growing stalk. I waited a while to transplant into the ground. I brought it home at the end of April, and planted in ground in mid July. Seemed to be growing nicely in the pot , so I waited. I dug a hole a bit deeper and wider than the current container, added some organic compost from my Earth Machine composter, and soil from my organic raised beds to fill the hole. Plentiful watering required during the super drought we had this summer and fall.

lobelia cardinalis, Ga native plants, Zone 7b, planting time July
Lobelia at planting time in July

Lobelia Cardinalis, Ga native plants, Zone 7b, Blooming in August,
Mature Lobelia-over 3 ft tall!

Lobelia Cardinalis, Praying Mantis, Ga Native plants, Zone 7b,
Mantis Stalker

The mantis reminded me that there is an entire forest ecosystem at work right here in my own backyard garden. The link above takes you to an amazing paper prepared by Rachel G. Schneider about Georgia’s Forest Ecosystems. The mantis, butterfly, bee, and hummingbird love this plant; so do I, and even the cats (due to increased bird and butterfly activity).

It grew to over 3 feet tall, and I was awed and impressed by this amazing plant. This native to Georgia wildflower grows so well here, and I am thrilled to have in my backyard just under the overhanging shade of the oaks and hickories. It gets mostly full sun, with a touch of late afternoon shade in the worst heat of the summer sun. On some of the blazing hot days, it looked a little wilted in the direct sun, but quickly recovered.

Lobelia Cardinalis, Ga native plants, Zone 7b
Baby Lobelia

This plant became the center of a flourishing ecosystem, in one season. I’m writing an article about the Tallassee Forest (my extended backyard). This area was sacred & special to the Native Americans, and has an interesting history. Many native plant and animal species thrive here – some only here. I’m so fortunate and excited to be able to experience this great state of Georgia, and to write about the native plants and ecosystems in my area!

How to Grow Veggies & Herbs in Raised Beds

I planted only two raised beds this year due to time constraints. Some of the pics are from April at planting time, and I am including new pictures from the end of June to show how much growth has happened over the last month and half.

Repair and planting of the beds April 20th 2019

I planted some Bonnie plants from six packs along with some seeds that I bought, or already had. Bed #1 has Bonnie Jalapeno, Bonnie Homestead Toms, and Bonnie Yellow Bell Peppers. See links to those three below. I also planted for the first time Jalafuego plants from Papa Joe’s Naturally Grown line from Sunbelt Greenhouses in Douglas, GA.

I did a soil test and realized I was totally nitrogen deficient in the beds. I fertilized with an Organic fertilizer from Espoma called PlantTone about a week ago, and am seeing very good results. Updates to follow soon.

Next post will be about planting my Dad’s Memorial Garden in North Carolina.

Oct-Dec & still gardening! Peppers & Peas Please

It was warmer than usual, longer than usual in fall of 2017. I harvested peppers and peas until Dec. 8th. It was a great garden year, and it was fun trying new seeds and plants for the first time. New garden beds, seeds, plants, and new adventures to follow for 2018!

Peppers everywhere this year! I grew Tabasco peppers and Early Jalapenos from seed, from Lake Valley Seed Company. The Tabascos took a long time, but we had many, many Jalapenos all year long!

I harvested green bells, orange baby bells, and absolutely no Poblanos. The Poblano bloomed many times, but no peppers.

Beautiful Pea Bloom

My first time growing peas, and I planted late Sept/early Oct. It was hot all fall, so they had trouble getting started, but continued to produce peas until December.

I grew two varieties of Burpee brand peas from seed for the first time- Sugar Daddy and Super Sugar Snap. I learned about the types of peas, Snap vs. Garden. With Garden Peas, the peas inside the pod are the edible part, and you discard the pod. Snap Peas have tender, edible pods. The peas are tiny and tender, and you eat the whole thing pod and all!

I have a small, metal frame greenhouse on the porch for the first time this winter. I put plants from the raised beds in the greenhouse before the first frost, and everything is still alive.  My next post will be about the greenhouse, and the new seeds I’m planting for my 2018 garden!

Purple Coneflower

The summer garden work is over, and this crazy fall heat wave has broken. Now, I have time to catch up on writing about the plants that bloomed for the first time this year.

Georgia Native Plant, Zone 7b, Echinacea Purpurea, Giant Purple Coneflower,
‘Echinacea Purpurea’

One of the spectacular native plants I bought at NightSong Native Plant Nursery’s Plant Sale last year, the Giant Purple Coneflower or ‘Echinacea Purpurea’, bloomed from June through August. There were five blooms total, and I recently cut off the dried seed heads to save for planting next year. I planted it in a 6 inch container last year, and am transplanting to in ground location today! (October 12th, 2018)

I found some fascinating info at my favorite wildflower site, US Wildflowers. The photos on this site are fabulous, and this site is an incredible free resource for plant identification.

Also, Southern Living has a great article by Gene B. Bussell on Purple Coneflower, detailing new hybrids being created, along with their uses in the southern garden.

I moved the plant from the container to the in ground location, where it will get good southern sun exposure. I will also be able to see the blooms through the deck railing. I transplanted on October 12th. All the leaves are gone now, but hopefully it will return next spring! I sprinkled one seed head all around the base of the plant, and saved the other four for planting next spring.

Organic Raised Bed Veggies

The three raised beds have produced more this year than I hoped! I harvested many beans, peppers, and herbs. I will give descriptions & details, with links, for all plants soon. Here are a few photo galleries & brief info for each month from June through August, 2018.

June

July

August

I planted new fall & winter seeds the week of Sept 19. See my previous post for detailed information about the raised bed building process, seed starting, and garden harvests from earlier this year. Also, my next post will feature some of the gorgeous, Georgia native plants that finally bloomed in my garden this year!

Organic Veggies* Feb-May

Most seeds this year were started in the mini greenhouse on Feb 22. I had lettuces and radishes growing since January in the greenhouse.

Kentucky Wonder Bean Blossom

Below is the link to my chart of the seeds I planted this year, and how many of each, and the date planted.

Seed Planting Master Chart 2018

All the seeds I planted this year came from my favorite seed company that has the best organic, non-gmo seeds- Lake Valley Seed Company.

Some of the seeds also came from Burpee.

Garden Beans

  1. Cherokee Wax 2. Italian Flat 3. Kentucky Wonder

Tomatoes-Yellow Pear, Okra, Baby Sugar Pie Pumpkins,
Peppers- better pictures of later harvests to follow in my next post which will cover the progress from June-Aug.

1. Jalapeno 2.Habanero 3. Sweet Italian 4.Tabasco

Herbs-

Basil- 3 varieties 1.Thai 2. Cinnamon 3. Genovese

1st Basil Harvest. Many more to follow!

Borage, Dill, Fennel, Caraway, Cucumbers. Details to follow in next post.

I moved the Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Oregano from Raised Bed #1 to in ground locations very early in the spring, because I wanted to make room for more veggies in the bed, and those herbs are perennials which survive the winter here.

February

The garden area in early August! So much growth this year.

March

April-May

I really needed a new third bed, given how many seeds I started this year. I finally got it built in mid April-, but then didn’t get it filled and planted, until first week of May.

I’ve been needing a large Strawberry Pot, and I finally found the perfect one at

Cofer’s – my absolute favorite garden center of all time!

Below is a link to my transcription of my handwritten, in a hurry seed starting notes. Not very interesting, but I’m trying to record my data to improve my yields and timing for the future.

Seed starting notes 2018

First Dill Harvest

I will post the details of the garden progress from the months of June, July & August very soon. I have already harvested many beans, herbs and peppers! The garden work finally slowed down enough, and the weather is too hot to be outside working much anyway, so I am finally catching up posting.

Growing Peas in Georgia

I planted pea seeds of several different types this year- Snow Peas, Oregon Sugar Pod, Sugar Daddy, and Super Sugar Snap Peas, in Raised Organic Garden Bed #2, on March 2nd, 2018-

The Snow Peas produced the best this time. I harvested the 1st peas on May 10th. It was 69 days till harvest, and the packages said 68. Even with the weather being so dry and warmer than usual, they still produced a gallon size freezer bag full so far. The snow peas produced a few more pods over the last weeks of May, but very few compared to earlier in the season.

I harvested Snow Peas that I planted from seeds sold by Lake Valley Seed Company.  Every other day or so over a couple weeks I harvested pods, and added them to a freezer bag in the fridge crisper, lying on a paper towel. Then, I blanched them for about 2 minutes, drained, and put in the freezer.

Then, I ate them a few weeks later, because I could’t resist. They stayed so vibrantly green, and sweet and tasty! Love them!

I had a huge slug infestation this year; I spent a great deal of time cursing & pulling slugs off my plants-mostly the peppers and peas, but there were still plenty left for us to enjoy. It was extremely wet the last few months, and the slugs seemed to have moved on now because of the drier, warmer conditions.

I knew nothing of the history of peas. Turns out they are the longest cultivated crop in history! I found some very useful info about the history of peas at

The New World Encyclopedia.org.