In some areas of the United States, May temperatures have already started reaching into the high 80s or 90s. Gardeners wishing to plant a vegetable garden at this time of year need to grow heat-loving veggies that will tolerate summer temperatures. As with any plant grown during the summer months, adequate watering is required for proper growth and fruiting.
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) belongs to the family Malvaceae, along with hibiscus and cotton. It is a vegetable well suited for planting in May and growing during the hot summer months. The optimum temperatures for growing okra are between 70 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant okra seeds a half inch deep spaced 1 foot apart in rows spaced approximately 3 feet apart in full sun.
Depending on the cultivar, plants grow up to 6 feet tall with a spreading habit of 4 to 6 feet. Plants produce hibiscus-like flowers followed by the okra pods. Harvest pods when they are approximately 3 inches long. Total time to harvest is anywhere from 50 to 75 days. Harvesting the pods every other day encourages the plant to keep producing new okra pods. Water plants to keep the soil moist but not saturated.
Eggplant (Solanum melongena) belongs in the family Solanaceae. Eggplant is a heat lover well suited for growing in May. It requires a minimum of 70-degree Fahrenheit night temperatures for two months for proper fruiting. Eggplant will grow inside containers and may require staking, because plants can grow tall. There are varieties of cultivars producing purple, green or white fruits.
Grow eggplants in full sun in a rich soil medium. Plant transplants or seeds 18 to 24 inches apart in rows spaced approximately 30 inches apart. Depending on the cultivar grown, plants grow from 2 to 4 feet in height and spread. Fruiting follows purple blooms produced in late summer, and harvesting takes place in 75 to 90 days. Water plants to keep the soil moist but not saturated.
Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a warm-season vegetable belonging in the family Convolvulaceae that is well suited for planting in May. Sweet potato plants grow best in temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Since plants require 120 to 140 days of growth before harvesting, planting in May gives adequate time before cooler fall temperatures arrive.
Grow sweet potato plants in full sun spaced approximately 12 to 18 inches apart in 8-inch-high mounds that are 12 inches in width. Sweet potato cultivars are bush or spreading, with bush varieties taking up less garden space. Potatoes are either orange or white fleshed. Water potato plants during extended periods of dry weather, but stop watering the last month before harvesting.