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Hot-weather crops require additional work

Summer months can be unproductive for most Florida gardeners. During the hot, wet months, almost anything will grow, even weeds, but harvest may be unsatisfactory, especially lettuce and radishes. They require cooler weather to produce a satisfactory crop. Perhaps the summer period in the Sunshine State is intended as a period for soil recuperation. However, some ambitious gardeners cultivate plants that readily lend themselves to hot weather growth.

Shading, the secret for successful summer gardening, can be obtained in two ways.

Erect a post at each of four corners of a proposed growing area and cover the resulting structure with air-, rain- and light-admitting substances. One that seemed to work quite well used Spanish moss. Under a 10-by-10-foot shade the gardener grew tomatoes, even sweet corn.

Gardeners can use a natural method and grow cover crops. Watermelons and other vine produce sometimes grow well under their protecting shade.

Eggplant, okra and collards grow quite well in hot, humid weather. Okra produces sufficient growth to shade even low-growing plants.

Tomatoes grown in full sun decline and fade during unprotected summer heat. One year a volunteer came up between two citrus trees. I even staked and trimmed the interloper.

It produced well and continued to bear fruit all summer, even persisting into fall months. After a suitable resting period it bloomed again to produce more tomatoes until a frost cut short its promising career.

Summer gardens still can produce some vegetables for satisfactory eating. Don't let an occasional unsuccessful attempt daunt or discourage further effort.

If you can deal with possible failure and still want to try, I would suggest working in your garden during the cool of early morning or after the sun has set.

Leo Van Meer's book, Natural Gardening, is available from Van Meer Publishing, P.O. Box 3431, Palm Beach, Fla. 33480 ($10.95 post-paid, plus 77 cents sales tax). Address questions to Garden Naturally, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg 33731.