Vegetables love extended, direct sunlight right? Well, as my garden and I discovered following a period of temps over 105 degrees fahrenheit, that’s not always true. Sound familiar?

If you live in a climate with scorching summers, don’t despair! Rather than give up on the season and leave your garden to go dormant, experiment with these hardy, heat-tolerant fruits and veggies.

Considerations for growing food in high heat and intense sunlight

  • Shade Cloth is your best friend and the first tool to turn to when the forecast shows a heat wave. Use proper greenhouse shade cloth to create a mobile, partial shade environment wherever needed. Greenhouse shade cloths come in a variety of strengths (meaning, what percent of sunlight it effectively blocks) so you can utilize them without completely shading out your plants.
  • Water your garden in the cooler parts of the day to avoid burning your plants. The water on leaves and stalks can magnify damaging effects of the sun’s rays.
  • Have a strategy for water retention. Many of the fruits and veggies on this list will not tolerate or thrive with periods of dry soil followed by heavy watering. Use mulch to keep the soil moist with less effort.
  • Make like a permaculturist and don’t waste the under-canopy! Remember that taller, heat-tolerant plants create a protected environment underneath for shorter, less sun-hungry ones.
  • Purchase varieties from areas of the world with hot climates. This is a great way to plant the food you actually want to eat and an extra opportunity to experiment with new flavors!

Best 10 fruits and vegetables to grow in summer sun and heat

  1. Malabar Spinach - Are you lamenting the lack of fresh spinach for your summer salads? Swap in Malabar Spinach, a beautiful vining plant that’s easy to grow and loves the heat.
  2. Sweet Corn - A terrific option that often goes underutilized by the home gardener. Possibly due to the intimidating height and space requirements? In any case, sweet corn is a strong contender for your summer garden that can be companion planted with edamame or other beans. Keep the soil moist for a delicious harvest.
  3. Tomatoes - If you haven’t tried growing tomatoes in extremely hot conditions, you may be surprised to find they actually struggle or fail to fruit. To combat this, utilize shade cloth or partial shade areas and research varieties that better tolerate high temperatures like Juan Flamme.
  4. Tomatillo - If you haven’t tried growing tomatillos, do yourself a favor and experiment with this addition to the summer garden!
  5. Cucumber - One of my favorite veggies to grow for its versatility in the kitchen also happens to do well in the heat. It’s also super-productive and a great plant to bolster small harvests from other areas of the garden.
  6. Amaranth - Yep, that plant you know as a weed comes in cultivated varieties that produce tasty leafy greens.
  7. Japanese Sweet Potatoes - Sweet potatoes in general are both heat and drought tolerant (relatively) and we recommend trying out the Japanese variety for a fun twist.
  8. Edamame - Continuing with the Japanese plant recommendations, edamame is an easy option to recommend as they’re hardy, like full-sun, and do well in the heat. You might find yourself planting a new crop of edamame on rotation after your first round gets you hooked on this delightful legume.
  9. Fruit Trees - My personal favorite category of food-bearing plants that love the heat may not be on your radar. If so, let me be the first to tell you that growing lots of fruit trees even in a small space is eminently doable. Oh, and many fruit trees adore the heavy sun! Beware that few gardeners can stop at just one fruit tree…
  10. Pollinator Favorite Flowers - Ok, so our final entry isn’t actually an edible plant. But I implore you to consider them anyway! Beneficial insect pollinators are absolutely critical to producing abundant crops and they are much more likely to visit your garden with heat-tolerant flowering plants like lavender, zinnias, and sunflowers present.

Stay cool out there!