Tagawa Gardens Blog

My Five “Gotta Grow” Veggies for Summer

One of my delights of summer is fresh homegrown tomatoes… often right off the vine. I routinely grow a dozen varieties or more. Being drawn to gardening more than to cooking, “dinner” often consists of a plate of sliced tomatoes with little sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and maybe some balsamic vinegar. Perfect!

Aside from an endless supply of tomatoes, I have a few other “gotta grows” too. Not necessarily because they’ve been awarded the title of “best ever,” but simply because I really, really like them!  I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorites with you and explain why they’re so high on my own summer gardening hit parade. Here we go!

I’ve already tipped my hand on tomatoes…

If I could grow only one tomato, my choice is easy:  “Sungold” for sure!

tomatoes on vine at tagawa gardens centennial colorado denver

I’ve been growing Sungold cherry tomatoes for years, and they’ve never disappointed.  They’re beautiful, prolific, and very easy to grow. The flavor is as tomatoey as it gets: not too sweet, not too tart.  When fully ripe and the color of what I think of as “yield-sign yellow,” they’re firm and juicy and will always be in my summer garden.

tomatoes at tagawa gardens centennial colorado denver

I know they’re just cherry tomatoes, only a bit bigger around than a quarter. They’re not the lovely slicers that work so well on sandwiches.  But trust me:  inspired by their yummy flavor, I have absolutely no problem making them work on a burger or a lovely grilled panini.  (Okay… so I cook a little bit, now and then…) And sliced in half, their color and taste can bring a salad to life!

Majestic, colorful beans

“Royal Burgundy” beans have been a favorite of mine for a long time. They’re bush beans, meaning they only get about two feet high, so no trellising is needed.

purple green beans at tagawa gardens centennial colorado denver

These beans live up to their royal purple name. The beans themselves are a bold, dense purple, and the bushes have lovely pale pinkish-purple flowers. They make a nice addition to gardeners who enjoy planting an edible landscape.

Royal Burgundy beans should be picked whenever the pods just begin to plump up.  And if it helps to tempt the kiddos to eat their veggies, these beans go from deep purple to bright green when they’re cooked!  A little magic, don’t ya know…

If you love peppery, without too much heat…

I’m sure I’m a disappointment to my family. So many of them can eat the hottest of peppers and never break a sweat. Not me! But I do love a peppery flavor, so what do I eat?  Shishito peppers!

These are so easy to grow, and even easier to cook. Just wash and saute them with a bit of olive oil and sea salt ’til they’ve blistered, and they’re ready!

I tried them last year for the first time and will plant even more this summer.  Three small plants in a 20″ pot gave me a beautiful harvest for weeks. Goodness, I can smell them now!

Shishitos are described as “sweet… most of the time.” You might run across a hot one every now and then, but for the most part, these lovely little peppers are just perfect for tender palates like mine!

Super nutrition in a rainbow package

Multi-colored Swiss chard has to be one of the prettiest things ever to inhabit a vegetable garden. And considering that it’s a powerhouse of great nutrients, too, growing it is a no-brainer!

rainbow swiss chard at tagawa gardens centennial colorado denver

There are different kinds of Swiss chard, all of them well worth trying. But one look at the colors of the neon or rainbow chards puts these in the lead for me.

I’ve grown these bright-colored chards for a lot of years, and often wonder why I don’t put more of them here and there amongst my flowers. They look especially pretty in a nice container, too, ideally just out of reach of the neighborhood rabbits.

The easiest way to grow Swiss chard is probably to start it from seed sown directly into beds or containers. Tagawa’s also carries young chard plants, too. When the stalks and leaves are ready, I slice them up and let them simmer in spaghetti sauce, or stir fry them with other fresh veggies and garlic.  (By the way, we’ll be looking at planting Tagawa’s gourmet garlic this fall!) Swiss chard has a slight but pleasant hint of bitterness like a lot of greens. It’s is definitely worth a try.

And then there’s an overflowing tub of humble lettuce

There was a time not so long ago that the choices of lettuce were pretty slim:  iceberg, Romaine, and a couple of others. Now, there are all kinds of fancy varieties available in most grocery stores, so I’d stopped growing it as a crop. Then I discovered how pretty a simple tub of lettuce can be!

For the past few summers, I’ve been growing a shallow tub of spotted or mixed-color lettuce simply because it looks so lush and pretty. I sow it much heavier than the package indicates. The lettuce grows just fine and makes a unique centerpiece for several weeks until I decide it’s time to harvest.

My goal is to remember to start a second tub as the first sowing is maturing so I have a replacement when that first batch is ready for the salad bowl.

What are your favorite “must grows?”

No matter which veggies top your own list of favorites, Tagawa’s is sure to have what you need, in both seeds and plants, and maybe a few more that you didn’t realize you need! What fun!

Our vegetable department and seed racks are calling your name!  There are certainly veggie options for every taste and gardening preference.  And feel free to bring your questions, too. Our vegetable staff will be happy to help!

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Luan Akin
Luan Akin
Tagawa Gardens Outreach Ambassador

After 30 years as a news reporter for KCNC TV in Denver, Luan Akin was ready for a change. In 2008, she came to Tagawa Gardens and offered to create a brand new position: Garden Outreach Ambassador.

Luan had trained and volunteered as a Douglas County Master Gardener for ten years. In addition to her duties as a news reporter, working primarily out of the Channel 4 News helicopter, Luan also produced and presented a long-running series of stories called “Gardening Together.”

All these years later, Luan now works year ‘round, presenting a variety of gardening and nature-related topics to hundreds of children, HOA’s, gardening clubs, church groups, small businesses and other organizations.

She is an avid gardener, a beekeeper and a proud mom to four dogs who have trained her well.


  1. Sandy Kofel

    May 7, 2021 - 8:37 am

    I am wondering about caring for basil…
    I bought a plant that was already about six or 7 inches tall very healthy looking I brought it home and I watered it and within a day the leaves started to shrivel and I had no idea why …ust from watering it ???

    I kept it inside because of our iffy weather… I didn’t know if it didn’t get enough sun or if the soil was too wet but I was so surprised within three days all the leaves were shriveled …

    I had to cut them off and I didDry the leaves so I could still use them …could you tell me about caring for basil?

    • Luan Akin

      Luan Akin

      May 15, 2021 - 10:01 pm

      Sandy… Basil is can be fussy stuff. First of all, you definitely want to “harden it off,” or acclimate it for a week or so, before setting it out in either a pot or a bed… especially in a bed where it’s so exposed to the elements. Acclimating any plants that have been displayed indoors, including annuals, herbs and perennials, gives the plants enough conditioning to transition to their new life of wind, temperature fluctuations, dry air and such. If the plant wasn’t acclimated long enough… exposed to slightly more challenging conditions day by day for a week or so, it can definitely stress the plant and cause permanent damage. If the leaves are shriveled and not just black (which would be a sign of temps colder than the basil will tolerate) then it’s probably a humidity situation… too much dry air and wind. Be careful about watering just because the leaves are drooping. That could be a sign of over-watering, where the roots are rotting and can’t deliver enough water to the thirsty plants. But actually drying out just strikes me as a humidity issue. The other possibility is too much direct sun. Basil is pretty easy to “fry” if the sun is too strong; ex: full and direct afternoon sun, especially if the plant is facing south or west up against a wall or fence that radiates heat back to the plant. My basil does very well with bright morning sun and then just partial sun as the day progresses. Hope this helps!! And thanks for following the blog! Luan

  2. Maureen Gollob

    May 7, 2021 - 12:45 pm

    Question: what should I use as a liner in a raised (elevated) planter box?

    • Luan Akin

      Luan Akin

      May 15, 2021 - 9:50 pm

      Maureen… If by “raised” you mean up off the ground, any liner you use would need to be very porous… maybe a sheet of mesh-type landscape fabric. Enough to keep the soil in place through your many drainage holes (that’s a not-so-subtle hint, by the way.) If the raised bed is sitting on the ground, I definitely don’t recommend any kind of liner. In fact, in that case, I’d say the raised bed mix and the native soil should be well mixed together so you don’t have a hard interface between the lovely new stuff and the more challenging native Colorado soil. Good luck!! Luan

  3. Don Davies

    May 13, 2021 - 2:58 am

    Amazing! thanks for this! I’m planning to add some plants to compliment my Colorado Backyard landscaping which was done by https://purelyponds.com/ a year ago. I want to add a little veggie patch so I can sustain the family with some vegetables! I think the soil there is arable and I hope I can make it work with these tips I got from you guys! Thanks again!

    • Luan Akin

      Luan Akin

      May 15, 2021 - 9:45 pm

      Don… you’re most welcome! You sound inspired, and I hope your garden is a huge success! Luan

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