Southern Gardening: Veggie gardens thrive despite summer heat


Canning produce for later consumption and giving it away are both good uses for a plentiful garden harvest.

Canning produce for later consumption and giving it away are both good uses for a plentiful garden harvest. Photo by: Gary Bachman/MSU Extension


Gary Bachman



Each year as we approach Independence Day, my landscape and garden begin a transition to what I like to call "second summer." This is due to the heat and humidity that set in anywhere from late April to mid-May.


But before I move on and start replanting, I want to share the good performers I've enjoyed in my vegetable garden so far this year. And let me start by saying my vegetable garden has been phenomenal!


For the first time in many years, I decided to grow cucumbers. Since my wife and I don't like regular cucumber, I grew pickling cucumbers and lots of them. I selected three varieties: Burpee Pickler, Ferry-Morse Garden Bush Pickle Hybrid and Burpee Picklebush.



Because I didn't want them sprawling all over the ground and wanted to make picking easier, I grew these cucumber plants on trellises.


Now, let me tell you about my tomatoes.


I've shared in the past about my interest in growing heirloom tomatoes. I'm often asked about heirloom tomatoes as if there is just one kind, but there are hundreds and maybe even thousands of heirloom tomato varieties. They come in all different sizes from cherry to behemoths weighing 2 pounds and more.


The color range is astonishing, from bright red, orange and yellow to mahogany brown. Many have stripes, bumps and lumps. Often, they are called ugly tomatoes, but I call them mystical garden creatures.


An outstanding variety this year was BHN968. While this is not a very descriptive name, I marveled at how the 1-inch fruit ripened and produced gorgeous clusters of tomatoes. Along with the other 15 varieties I grew in my garden this year, the harvest has been phenomenal.


I already have my second summer plants started and in their proper places. I'll share more about that later this summer.


I really do love to grow a plentiful vegetable garden, and my wife and I are committed to sharing and preserving the harvest.


To date, we have canned more than 150 pints of dill, Kosher dill, and bread and butter pickles. I'm even trying to make fermented dill pickles. We have also canned more than 90 pints of whole tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato juice for enjoying true homegrown Bloody Marys.


We routinely give transplants and freshly harvested vegetables to friends and neighbors, and we have a small planting bed near the sidewalk where we grow herbs and vegetables for neighbors to pick as they need or desire. We even put out a sign when there are veggies available, kind of like the "HOT" sign at Krispy Kreme.


In this time when we are dealing with COVID-19, I've been unable to visit and speak to groups as I usually do. Instead, I'm sharing how I treat and take care of my home garden and landscape with social media videos, called the Daily Dose of Hort. Visit the Southern Gardening Facebook page to join in on my garden happenings.


Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi and hosts Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at [email protected]




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