How to Grow Vegetables in the South (USA)

The southern states have a long growing season, so growing vegetables in this region is a gardener’s delight. In some areas of the south, you can also grow vegetables in the winter months. Even if you factor in severe weather anomalies, most southern vegetable gardens produce bumper crops.


  1. Image titled Grow Vegetables in the South Step 1
    Select your garden site. If possible, choose a location that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight every day.
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    Make a diagram of your garden on paper before you start digging. Note which vegetables you want to plant first, as well as where you want to plant successive crops.
    • Consider the mature size of the vegetable. For example, melons require a lot of space and cannot be crowded.
    • Figure out the best spot to plant vegetables that prefer cool weather. Some leafy vegetables like spinach and lettuce, will wilt in full sun. Plant those in rows where they will eventually get some shade from taller vegetables.
    • Consult the back of your seed packages to see the length of maturation of each plant. If you plant several rows of carrots, which have a long maturation date, you won’t be able to use that space to plant more seeds later in the season.
  3. Image titled Grow Vegetables in the South Step 3
    Prepare the soil. Till or hand spade your garden. Work in compost and till the soil again to make sure the compost is worked all the way through the soil.
  4. Image titled Grow Vegetables in the South Step 4
    Plant in groups to get the best yield. Get the most produce from your garden by grouping early-maturing crops. Plan to sow cabbage, carrots and beets in the same rows that you planted your early peas and beans. You can also plant corn in between rows of potatoes, radishes in between rows of lettuce, etc.
  5. Image titled Grow Vegetables in the South Step 5
    Stake the tomatoes early on because the branches and the tomatoes get very heavy. Other plants like pole beans don’t need support because they are heavy, but if they lay on the ground, they will rot and attract garden pests.
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    Mulch your garden early. Don't wait for weeds to overtake tender sprouts or transplants. Mulching helps the soil stay moist and cool on hot days. Mulching will also help with weed control, and organic mulch will enrich the soil as it decomposes.
  7. Image titled Grow Vegetables in the South Step 7
    Give your garden adequate amounts of water. Rainwater is best because it provides needed nutrients, but rain amounts vary greatly. Most plants, especially tomatoes, must have a lot of water to produce a high yield. Consider saving rainwater in barrels so that you can use it throughout the year.
  8. Image titled Grow Vegetables in the South Step 8
    Protect your crops. Put fencing around the garden to keep out deer, rabbits and other small animals.


  • Watering your garden adequately is important, but don’t over water, otherwise your plants will rot. The roots need to dry out a bit between watering.
  • It is easy to go overboard when planning a garden, but it is much easier to maintain a small garden than to be overwhelmed with a garden so large you cannot take care of it properly. Try to be realistic when you are deciding how much seed to buy.
  • If you lack space in your garden, you can plant some vegetables in and around your flower beds and shrubbery. Many vegetables and herbs are also ornamental and will complement other areas of your landscape. Just be sure the vegetable plants will get enough sunlight.
  • Tall-growing crops should be planted where they will not shade or interfere with the growth of smaller crops. However, some plants, such as lettuce, can be sown in mid to late summer in the shade of taller plants when the sun is too intense.
  • Most areas in the south have such long growing seasons that you don’t need to germinate seeds indoors before spring planting. If you do start seedlings inside, be sure to put them in a window that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight every day.
  • Every state has an agricultural experiment station; the local agents can advise you about unique conditions of your area. They will also test your soil samples so that you can add amendments to your soil if needed. If your local extension service doesn’t have a website, you can find their number in the yellow pages of your phone book.


  • All things considered, you will not have a good garden unless you start with good soil. Don’t skimp on this critical step. If your soil is properly readied, it will provide the best medium for root development and water and air absorption. Be sure to till your garden with rich, organic compost before you begin planting.
  • Although leafy vegetables can be grown in partial shade, all vegetables that bear fruit must have direct sunlight.
  • Rotate your crops every year to prevent your soil from being robbed of nutrients. Each plant removes particular nutrients from the soil, but if you rotate the plants, your vegetables will add back needed nutrients to the soil.
  • Water your garden early in the morning while it is still cool. Watering during the hottest part of the day will result in the sun evaporating the moisture that your plants need. Don’t water at night because if your plant’s leaves stay wet all night long, they will mildew.

Things You’ll Need

  • Tiller or shovel
  • Hoe
  • Seeds or transplants
  • Paper and pen
  • Fencing (optional)

Sources and Citations

  • Garden & Landscape Staff, Southern Living: Growing Vegetables & Herbs, (Birmingham, AL: Oxford House, Inc., 1984)
  • James Underwood Crockett, Crockett’s Victory Garden, (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1977)

Article Info

Categories: Growing Vegetables