Fastest Growing, Sun-Loving Vegetables and Herbs

Record heat is coming to Sacramento, starting with an estimated 104 degrees today.  And a possible 110 degrees tomorrow.  Other than slathering on the sunscreen, avoiding the sun and retreating to an air-conditioned home, I still welcome the heat.  Sacramento valley heat makes the summer crops grow, and here are my suggestions for the fastest growing, sun-loving vegetables and herbs for your summer garden.

Even in retirement, I find a lot of joy and satisfaction in gardening.  This year, I started planting in late April, and I am already harvesting tomatoes, herbs and zucchini for my kitchen.  There is nothing like growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs because you know what it took to grow them.  Who wouldn’t want the taste of homegrown in your cooking?

Ask for help

I’ve seen many of my retired neighbors take on gardening after retirement.  Don’t wait for retirement to experiment.  Get your hands dirty now.  Join a gardening group, latch onto a Master Gardener or ask your family and friends who garden for advice.  There is nothing wrong with asking for help. 

To any new gardener, a garden may seem overwhelming.  The secret to gardening is growing what interests you.  When you grow sun-loving vegetables and herbs, grow what you, your family and friends will eat.  I don’t know of any gardener who will not share her gardening tips and harvest.

A winning combination of healthy plants, sun, fertilizer, compost,Image and water 

Once my plants are established, I only check them most mornings and evenings.  Since California almost always seems to be in a state of drought, I follow the rules set by Sacramento County and water only on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.  If I know that a three-digit day is coming, I will give my plants an extra soaking.

Fastest Growing, Sun-Loving Vegetables and Herbs

My summer garden is based on the success with that I’ve grown in the past.  I don’t like surprises.  I would not live in a region where I cannot grow tomatoes and peppers.  The presence of heat is how I base my summer garden.

1)  Tomatoes

If you’ve got heat over the summer, take advantage of it.  Tomatoes win hands-down as a summer crop.  Fresh salsa in the summertime and roasted cherry tomatoes cannot be beat. I am already eating cherry tomatoes off the vine.  I have a feeling they will never make it to my kitchen.

2)  Zucchini

Zucchini tends to sneak up and grow during the summer.  This morning, I found three ready for harvest.  You can’t go wrong with zucchini.  A very versatile veggie, you can also use it in breads, cupcakes and cookies.

3)  Lemon Cucumbers

Lemon cucumbers are still an oddity to me and my husband, but they are quite popular in home gardens around Sacramento.  Sold in most nurseries and big box stores, they disappear quickly in the spring.  They are round, the color of lemons and are tasty in salads and sandwiches.  Dip slices in cool rice vinegar with a little salt for easy pickles.

4)  Potatoes

I tried growing potatoes in old tires this year, and I like the greenery and the hint of flowers. The potatoes will be ready in the fall–after the greenery dies off.

5)  Peppers

I like growing peppers because they do well in the heat.  Last year, we had bell peppers and jalapenos.  This year, already have jalapenos to add to our salsa.  We don’t care for store-bought once we started growing these.

6)  Herbs for Cooking 

I have rosemary growing all year round.  I grow cilantro and basil all summer.  The next time I’m near a nursery, I will pick up some parsley and other fresh herbs.  I try to avoid buying the packets of expensive “fresh herbs” sold in the supermarket.

Replace plants that died from neglect

A summer garden has its rewards.  Be proud of your efforts–no matter what happens.

If your have plants that die of neglect, some kind of fungus, bug invasion or animal/human problems, simply replace them.  Learn from the experience.  You have the rest of the summer to enjoy your garden.

Who knows?  You may extend your summer garden experience to fall and winter!






  1. ChgoJohn · June 7, 2013

    Very good advice.

    • Arlene Poma · June 8, 2013

      ChgoJohn, I would love to have a kitchen garden with nothing but herbs. And maybe a lemon tree and a lime tree? It is such a joyful experience to be cooking away–knowing that fresh herbs and produce are only steps away from your own kitchen!

  2. marlenebertrand · June 8, 2013

    My gardening experience has expanded since moving to the country. I started out light, then every time I went to the gardening center, I discovered more vegetables to grow. It hadn’t hit me hard until now – that I should set up my garden based on seasons. You always have such good advice and enlightening tips. And, yes, fresh is 100 times better than store-bought every time.

    • Arlene Poma · June 8, 2013

      Marlene, my father was a carnivore, so by growing my own vegetables, I am coaxed into eating them. I do love watching plants grow. All of my tomato seedlings died because I did not have the proper equipment (grow lights and all that) to keep them alive. So we cheat and buy young plants from the nursery. Nothing wrong with that. There used to be a time when I was good with seeds, but for right now, I don’t have the patience.

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