Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Maria-Jose Subiria

It is still possible to grow, and maintain, a garden in the hot summer sun, according to Frank Hancock, an agent of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service's Henry County office.

While most with green thumbs begin their gardens around Good Friday, the summer weather is still suitable for plants, flowers and vegetables, according to Hancock.

Before planting, a sample of the soil should be tested at a local extension office, Hancock said. The soil analysis will tell a gardener about the soil's acidity and nutrient levels, and will also indicate which fertilizer to use, he said.

"If you don't start off with good, quality soil ... it's hard to grow," Hancock said.

Hancock said deer and rabbits often intrude upon gardens, so it is advisable to fence them in.

Vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, peas, squash, cucumbers and okra, are suitable to grow during the summer season, Hancock said.

Hancock said most starting their gardens during the summer purchase vegetable transplants, which are grown from seeds and purchased by consumers once they have sprouted. Transplants may be purchased at plant nurseries or home-improvement stores, Hancock said.

According to him, if individuals choose to grow vegetables, flowers or plants from seeds at this time, they may risk running into August and September, when the weather is more dry.

Depending on the type of plant, it may take 90 to 120 days to grow from a seed, he said.

Hancock said one should water a garden at least once a week, with about an inch and a half of water.

"If it rains, you want to stop that week," Hancock said. "The root system needs to have a little oxygen to function properly."

Hancock said he advises gardeners to plant near their homes, because it's more convenient to check on and to pick the vegetables.

Wildflowers, such as black-eyed Susans and purple coneflowers, are great to include in a summer garden, because they are heat resistant and attract pollinators, such as butterflies, hummingbirds and honey bees, according to Stephanie Berens, preserve manager at the William H. Reynolds Nature Preserve in Morrow.

"You need pollinators," she said.

Berens said plants such as garlic and chives are fit to grow in the summer season, and that aside from their uses in the kitchen, they grow delicate flowers, which also attract pollinators.

Winston Eason, agriculture and natural resources agent for the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service in Clayton County, said fertilization is important for flowers and plants.

To provide flowers with high fertility, a flower bedding consisting of soil mixed with organic matter such as pine straw and wood chips, is recommended, Eason said. One should top it off with mulch, which helps retain moisture.

"Soil structure and texture is very, very important for a plant," Eason said.