The plants may be too tall (5 to 10 feet) for some small gardens. But a sweet corn such as ‘Kandy Korn’, ‘Sweet Symphony’, and ‘Silver Queen’ is worth growing in a sunny plot―you’ll never find a sweeter corn in markets.
Good enough to eat right off the plant when picked at peak ripeness. Sunset zones 1B, 2B-24, H1, H2.
Once standard sweet corn is picked its sugar changes to starch quickly. By rushing ears from the garden to boiling water, you can capture their full sweetness.
Make room for at least one cuke in your summer garden and you won’t regret it; think of all those ways to serve the fruits―as appetizers (sliced and topped with deviled eggs), in salads, and cold soups.
Vining types ramble to 25 feet or so (or choose a bush type). We love the round, yellow, mild- flavored Lemon cuke, and the long, pale green Armenian cukes. All zones.
Plant 5-6 seeds in hills 6-8 inches high and 3-6 ft. apart. Thin to the 2 strongest plants.
Cantaloupes taste so sweet and juicy when fully ripe, they’re worth the long wait―4 months of steady heat― to harvest. We love ‘Ambrosia’ for its fragrant, extra-sweet flesh. But ‘Lil’ Loupe’ fruits are smaller beauties, each not much bigger than a baseball. Zones 2-24.
Compact early cantaloupes thrive in containers at least 18 inches wide and deep; a half wine barrel works well. Let vines ramble over the edges, or trellis them.
'Sun Gold' cherry tomatoes are pure candy for tomato-lovers; their 1-inch golden-red fruits, which hang in clusters on vining plants, have unsurpassed sweetness.
Pop the ripe fruits in your mouth fresh off the plant. All zones.
Make planting holes extra deep, then carefully pinch of the lowest 2 sets of leaves. Set in seedlings (video: see how) so that the lowest remaining leaves are just above soil level. Roots will form on the buried stems.
What’s a summer picnic outdoors without watermelon? And we don’t mean just any watermelon, but the cute, ‘PureHeart Seedless’ variety whose round fruits are mini or personal- sized. Vining plants need room to sprawl, though. Zones 1-24, H1, H2.
To save ground space, grow small melons on sun-bathed trellises; support the heavy fruit in individual cloth slings.
All it takes is one or two zucchini plants to deliver a bumper crop, but, yes, they’re worth the effort.
Plants are easy to grow, and you can eat both the fruits and blossoms. We’re partial to yellow types such as ‘Gold Rush’ (territorial seed.com), which bears golden yellow zukes with white flesh on compact plants. All zones.
Roots need regular moisture, but leaves and stems should be kept dry to prevent diseases.
Of all the mint we grow, two are hands down favorites. Chocolate mint, because its leaves recall the scent and taste of a peppermint patty. And spearmints (pictured), whose quilted, dark green leaves add freshness to cold drinks and jellys; ‘Kentucky Colonel’ is the best in mojitos.
Replant about every 3 years; propagate from runners.
Grow all mints in low, wide bowls; otherwise, their roots will take over garden beds. Zones A2, A3, 1-24.
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Leaves of this shrubby perennial are flavorful and aromatic. But what we love most is their gray green leaves with creamy white borders; new foliage is flushed with purplish pink. It makes a pretty edging for eggplants. Zones 2-24, H1, H2.
Plant from nursery containers with the base of the plant slightly above the ground's surface.
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We love the Northern Highbush types such as ‘Bluecrop’; the shrubs grow to 6 feet tall and need winter chill to bear fruit. But their large blue berries have a delicious sweet-tart flavor, and they’re high in antioxidents.
In mild climates, try a Southern Highbush type such as ‘Sharpblue’. (Sunset climate zones 2-9, 14-17), or Rabbiteye blueberries (zones 8, 9, 14-24 ).
Blueberries have fine roots near the surface. Avoid cultivating the soil around them, and apply a 3- to 4-in. thick layer of mulch to conserve moisture.
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Few things taste sweeter than a plump, sun-warmed strawberry picked at peak of ripeness; it’s dessert right off the plant.
If there was ever a fruit to grow yourself, this is it; most commercial varieties are subjected to too many pesticides. ‘Quinault’ is a flavorful everbearing variety, but we also love ‘Sequoia’ (a June-bearing variety, one of the tastiest around) and ‘Seascape’, tasty fresh and in jams. Zones A1-A3, 1-9, 14-24, H1, H2.
Standard strawberries yield 5 to 10 quarts of berries per 10 ft. of matted row.
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'Eureka' is aptly named; this lemon tree rarely without gorgeous yellow fruits in the right climates; it literally bears all year.
The standard market variety, it grows 20 feet tall. As a dwarf, it’s a dense tree with large dark leaves. Zones 8,9,12-24, H1, H2.
Fruits ripen only on the tree. Judge ripeness by taste, not rind color. (Many varieties may turn yellow before they are ripe.)
All leaf lettuces (ones that grow in loose rosettes rather than heads) are great in salads, but ‘Oak Leaf’, ‘Red Deer Tongue’, and ‘Red Sails’ are especially pretty when tossed together. Fresh cut as baby greens, they’re sweet and tender.
Plant in sun; part shade in hottest climates; all climate zones.
Nursery starts often have 2 or 3 plants to a cell. Tease them apart and plant separately for a bigger crop.
This root crop is super easy to grow―and very fast! ‘Cherry Belle’ is short, round, and red, an early variety that grows best in cool weather. It thrives in pots and raised beds. Takes sun in mild climates, part shade where weather is hot. All zones.
In containers, sow seeds 6 in. apart in a diamond pattern. When the tops are up, pull out every other plant; you can eat the small roots of the thinnings.
What’s not to love about chard? Leaves and stems are pretty in pots and garden beds, they taste great in soups and stir fries, and the plant produces over a long season.
At the top of our chard list: ‘Bright Lights’, which has leaves ranging from green to burgundy and stalks in shades of yellow, orange, burgundy, and more; and ‘Rhubarb’ with ruby red stalks. All zones.
You can begin to cut outer leaves for the table when the plants have reached about 1½ ft. tall. New will leaves grow up from the center of the plant.
‘Nero di Toscana’ is especially versatile; its bumpy gray green leaves are ornamental, extra hardy, and tasty in a variety of dishes (try pan-frying them in extra virgin olive oil with lemon and red chile flakes).
Eat thinning as plants fill in. Sun or light shade; all zones.