I have a 1/2 acre to play with and want to create an amazing natural vegetable garden. I have been going nuts trying to find what vegetables grow best in full sun in zone 8A - lots of clay in soil so I need to prepare the soil throughly first. Can anyone give me a list of all the good stuff I can grow. Thanks!
Zone 8a varys widely in what you can grow. Las Vegas is in the desert so if you have water, probably most of what the rest of us grow. Much of the Pacific Northwest is also 8a, a totally different climate from 8a Georgia. USDA zones are pretty useless for predicting what vegetables will grow. They are intended to allow for the cold tolerance of perennials. Here I can grow just about any vegetable by planting at the proper time of year. Cool weather vegetables have to be grown in Fall, Winter, and early spring. July and August are pretty well limited to hot weather vegetables, southern peas, lima beans, okra, sweet potatoes.
Squash, melons, okra, beans, peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, corn, pumpkins all love it out here. Greens and other cool weather veggies do great early fall through late spring.
One challenge is that the heat shortens the growing season for some plants. We tried snow peas last fall. They almost croaked from the heat immediately after germinating, but pulled through. However, as soon as we started picking, overnight freezes killed all the new blossoms. The opposite this spring. No problem with germination and initial growth, but the heat will do in the plants just about the time they bear. I was a little late getting the broccoli and cauliflower in the ground this spring, & I expect it to bolt before bearing.
Early tomato varieties make a spring and a fall crop with a "vacation" mid-summer. The plants flourish, but no fruit sets. We even had fresh tomatoes all winter from plants in a hot frame with heat lamps. Late bearing tomatoes grow well, but have a pretty short bearing period.
A big challenge is managing soil moisture in the high temps and low humidity. What has worked well for us is raised beds, adding a lot of organic material to the soil, soaker watering under heavy mulch, and checking it often. Your clayey soil could be a plus - once you get it improved it will drain but still retain moisture better than the usual sandy desert soil.