Tips on Starting Your Vegetable Garden in WNC

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Many people consider vegetable gardening the most rewarding form of gardening there is. There is a very real connection one can have with the land if one is in the tomato bunchright frame of mind to enjoy vegetable gardening. Gardeners look forward every year to their first veggies in June and dread the winter day when they run out of frozen veggies that were put up earlier that year from the garden.

Here are some links to our NC State University publications on vegetable gardening. Hopefully they will answer your questions about what crops to plant and when, soil information and how to improve it using organic matter, raised beds, etc.

Vegetable Gardening in Western North Carolina

For a more in-depth dive into veggies, see the Vegetable Gardening Chapter from our Master Gardener Handbook

Tips for starting your own home vegetable garden in Western North Carolina:

· Consider where to put your garden. How much space is available? Make sure the garden will get at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Direct means that sunlight touches the ground for eight hours a day. Six hours of direct sunlight would be a minimum.

· Plan the garden on paper. Draw yourself a map. Hang on to the map until next year so that you can rotate your crop locations to help avoid diseases.

· Remember to plant tall plants on the north side of the garden to avoid shading other plants.

Canned vegetables· Arrange plants so that whole rows or beds may be harvested at the same time so new plants can be planted. This extends your harvest season.

· Add soil amendments to the garden such as mushroom compost (my favorite) or decomposed leaves to build organic matter.

· Wait to till your soil if the soil is too wet. Test this by digging with a shovel and get a handful of soil. Squeeze the soil. If it crumbles it is just right to till. If it sticks together, then wait for the soil to dry out. Tilling when wet will cause clods to form and will prevent you from having a nice uniform seed bed.

· If you like to grow your own vegetables from seed, plant them 6-8 weeks prior to your projected planting date. Usually, cool-season spring planting occurs in early April so start seeds at the end of February indoors. Summer veggies are planted in late May so start your seedlings indoors at the beginning of April. Fall cool-season veggies are planted in late August so start seedlings in late July.

· Monitor soil temperatures for the best time to plant summer veggies. When soil temperatures get above 65 degrees for several days, then summer veggies such as tomatoes and peppers can be planted. Where can you find environmental data? You can monitor this kind of information using the NC State University’s weather website. NC State University provides a free weather monitoring system via the Internet that allows you to track environmental conditions such as soil temperature at many monitoring sites across the state. The website is a valuable tool for anyone involved in growing plants for a living or for pleasure.

· Build raised beds for gardening in tight spaces. Designing a raised bed garden begins by measuring the garden area and making a sketch showing existing structures and plants. Draw in the raised beds, irrigation, and other structures.

Finally, build the beds using durable landscape material and fill with native soil. Add amendments if necessary.

· Mulch your vegetables with 2 to 3 inches of clean seed-free wheat straw.