Summer favorites differ from spring and fall crops in more ways than their temperature range. They actually come from different parts of the world, with different kinds of soil and growing patterns. If you understand those differences, it will help you to grow them with more success and less effort.
Think of the vegetables of spring and fall—lettuce, peas, fava beans, cabbage, broccoli, kale, radishes, spinach--even wheat, barley, and rye grains. They all come from Europe, which has a lot of coastline and very temperate weather. Livestock like cattle, sheep and pigs were integral to farming. Permanent fields were plowed with heavy doses of animal manure. In the North, summers are cool. Along the Mediterranean, the main growing seasons were spring, fall, and winter, because those were the only times when rain fell. So cool-season crops were dominant in both northern and southern Europe.
In contrast, most of our hot-weather vegetables--beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, winter squash, okra, sunflowers, and watermelon, as well as grains such as sorghum, amaranth, and quinoa all come from North America, South America, or Africa. The hoe, digging stick, and fire were the primary tools used to prepare the ground. The fields were carved out of jungle or brush, used for a few seasons, and then allowed to return to the wild. The primary source of nutrients was the burned or decomposed forest vegetation from clearing the land.
What does this mean for our backyard gardens? Well, it doesn't mean we should trade in our rototiller for a digging stick. It does mean that:
Jamie Chevalier lives and gardens on a river in the Coast Range. She has gardened professionally in Alaska and California, as well as living in a remote cabin and commercial fishing. She wrote the Bountiful Gardens catalog from 2009 to 2017, and now is proprietor of Quail Seeds.