The thought of Italian vegetables brings to mind tomatoes, onions, garlic, summer squash, green peppers and eggplant. All are staples of Italian cuisine. There is something else these vegetables have in common: They are warm-season crops. They thrive with long, warm days with temperatures between 60 degrees F at night and 80 degrees F during the day.
Planting and Growing
Plant an Italian vegetable garden in full sun. Provide afternoon shade with screening in climates with very hot summers.
Double dig the bed. Start a trench at one end of the bed. Remove the dirt. Add 4 inches of compost, peat or rotted steer manure to the trench. Fill the first trench by digging a second trench next to it. Fill the second trench with 4 inches of soil amendments and dig a third trench. Continue until the entire bed has been dug up. Fill each trench with soil form the previous trench.
Add slow-release fertilizer, according to package directions. Mix in with the soil.
Plant varieties of Italian vegetables that will mature in your area according to the USDA Hardiness Zone chart.
Plant seeds indoors to give the vegetables a head start on the season. Harden off the seedlings by putting them outside in dappled shade, moving them to bright sunlight for longer and longer periods each day.
Remove the lower leaves of tomato transplants from the stem, leaving a set of four leaves at the top. Lay the transplants on their sides. Bury the root ball and the stems up to the leaves.
Water when the top 4 inches of soil are dry. Test the soil by using your finger as a dipstick. Water until the soil is wet to 4 inches deep.
Fertilize on a monthly basis.
Harvest tomatoes when they are bright red. Or, if you have planted yellow, orange or pink varieties, when the tomatoes are ripe. Taste one. If it's sweet and tangy, note the color and harvest the other tomatoes when they reach that color.
Harvest sweet peppers as soon as they are big enough to be worth it. Green peppers are simply immature peppers. Leave them on the vine and they will turn red. Some varieties of peppers are orange, yellow or purple when ripe.
Harvest summer squash at any size. Squash continues to grow while on the vine. Harvest eggplant when it's bright purple and shiny. Eggplant also continues to grow while on the vine. Onions and garlic may be harvested as soon as they're big enough. Young garlic doesn't have as pungent a garlic flavor as fully mature.