Let me point out, it's hot here. It's really hot. Even the nights are hot. And it doesn't rain much from late June to mid September, aside from a stray hurricane or tropical storm that straggles up from the gulf coast. So it behooves the serious gardener to consider the benefits of tried and true garden plantings -- that date here in the south before interstates and even railroads facilitated cross country distribution of produce. Our culinary and gardening heritage here in the south is a mixture of European influences, made unique with heavy doses of Africa and the indiginous Native American cultures of the Southeast (Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Cherokee).
So, with all that in mind I decided to have a southern "roots" or "heritage" garden, grown in a kind of traditional indigenous or African style -- that is, garden beds containing a mixture of plants that mimic the canopy, lower under growth, and ground cover of the woods, so to speak -- a mixed vegetative planting that work together creating a more beneficial diverse environment.
In this mixed bed I have one eggplant (old world), and a self seeded tomato growing (new world), along with a pepper plant (new world), constituting the lower or middle growth. Ultimately creating an upper story to protect the plants below from the searing heat and sun are several okra plants (brought to the south by African slaves). Although they aren't very tall now, within a few weeks they will be taller than the eggplant and peppers, and showy with their hibiscus like flowers. The hotter it gets, the faster and better okra grows! Creating a ground cover to shade the roots and cool the soil are several sweet potatoes scattered through the bed. Sweet potatoes take heat, neglect, and are traditionally a "first" crop planted here, because they break up our clay soil improving it for later crops. Okra, sweet potatoes, peppers -- favored plants by agricultural laborers who put in long hours on other people's property and grown on the poorer left-over land, tended in left-over hours -- productive with little care. I also have some malabar spinach planted, a vining green whose leaves can be used like spinach but can take our heat in the summer, unlike most greens. There is also some squash planted here, also cooling the soil and roots with its leaves and providing some protection to the other plants with its prickly stems.
The bottom line is, I know that even if the squash succumbs to borers and disease, if the tomato doesn't set fruit and likewise succumbs, if the pepper drops all of its leaves and buds (as they sometimes do in our drought/deluge rain pattern -- I can count on the okra, the sweet potatoes, and the malabar spinach to give a good harvest with next to no effort on my part other than the planting and the harvesting.
posting on Tuesday Garden Party .