Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.
I just harvested my first ever zucchini from my own backyard garden, and I need you to know it was the best tasting zucchini I have ever had in my life. I started my zucchini plants weeks ago, but lucky for you it’s not too late to channel your own inner farmer!
Here are three plants that are easy to grow, whether you’re digging up your backyard, planting a raised bed, or you just have room for a container or two on your patio. All three love the heat and the sun--perfect if you live here in Austin, like me!
1. Oh My Zinnia
Zinnias are amazing. They love hot summers and tons of sun, grow like weeds, can be planted almost anywhere--small or large containers, garden beds, landscape borders, and probably even the side of the road.
The really amazing thing about Zinnias, however, is that they can be cut for bouquets. In fact, the more you cut them, the more they’ll bloom! The varieties are endless and the colors Instagram-worthy. I’ve already gotten a few mini-bouquets and can’t wait to start handing some off to some friends.
How to grow: grow Zinnias from seeds in containers or garden soil. Space seeds several inches apart on the soil or potting mix, and sprinkle another thin layer of soil on top. Mist with water twice a day until they’ve sprouted and are large and proud--then you can reduce watering to about twice a week (you’ll have to water more in Austin, because it’s so hot and dry).
2. Zucchini For the Win
Zucchini love our long, hot summers and while I’ve heard you can grow certain varieties in containers, most types are so large they really need to be in the ground. You’ll need a 3’x3’ square for each plant, but they’ll reward you by needing almost zero maintenance. Just keep them watered and try to keep up with your zucchini bumper crop!
How to grow: in your garden bed that gets full sun, make a 1’x’1x1’ mound with a deep depression in the center. Add a cup of worm castings (optional) into the bottom of the depression, and plant your zucchini seed directly in the center. Cover gently with soil, and mist a few times a day until the seed sprouts and your plant gets a few inches tall. The depression will keep water near the zucchini’s roots, helping to conserve water.
3. Can’t Spell Garden Without Tomatoes
Tomatoes definitely need to be started from transplants, but the good news is that you can grow tomatoes in containers or in the ground! When you’re choosing your plants, you’ll need to decide if you want a determinate variety (“bush”-like plants that are more compact) or an indeterminate variety (vining plants that need lots of support and can grow upwards of six feet tall).
You’ll need to learn how to prune your tomato plant, and they’ll need some kind of support to grow on, but there may be nothing more quintessentially summer than popping a sun-warmed cherry tomato off the vine and into your mouth.
How to grow: if you’re planting in the ground, dig a hole that’s slightly wider than your tomato plant, and add a cup of worm castings into the bottom. Soak the ground well with water, water your transplant, and then gently ease it out of its pot. Set it in the ground, and carefully tamp the dirt around it so there’s a small depression by the base of the plant. Water daily until it’s established.