Georgia may be known as the "Peach State," but many vegetables thrive in gardens there as well. Georgia is in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 6, 7, 8, so the main thing to understand is the different planting times for vegetable varieties. When planting garden vegetables in Georgia, choose those that have similar requirements and need minimal maintenance, such as mustard greens, beets and parsnips. This is particularly beneficial if you are a beginner.
Mustard greens (Brassica juncea) not only provide an interesting addition to your kitchen, but they also add an aesthetic beauty to your garden with bright yellow flowers on a green stalk that can grow over 3 feet tall. The seeds grow in the curvy green pods that slightly resemble pea pods, which need moist soil to thrive. Mustard greens are grown in southern Georgia in the winter and in the rest of the state in spring and summer seasons. Some varieties are drought tolerant, but they all need full sun for optimum growth. When used in the kitchen, mustard greens are mixed with rich greens such as spinach or kale as a salad or steamed. They are also added to meat dishes, particularly ham and salted pork.
As a cool season vegetable, the parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) loves cool Georgia winters and attracts butterflies. Since it needs a large planting area (it can grow up to 2 feet tall with very deep roots), it is ideal to plant individual parsnips instead of large crops so you have room for other fruits or vegetables. The large green leaves need full sun and, when fully matured, have a nutty pleasant flavor. Parsnips are usually mashed with potatoes, chopped raw for salads, fried as finger food or baked as chips.
Beets (Beta vulgaris) are another vegetable that adds an element of beauty to your garden from the rich colors of red and green. When fully matured, a beet's stalk can grow up to 4 feet tall with red leaves that grow to almost 2 feet. Beets bloom small green and red flowers during the second year, and the parsnip itself can range from white to red to orange. Beets require full sun and moist soil for optimum growth. In winter, beets are planted in Georgia's southern regions, and in summer and spring they are planted in the rest of the state. Beets are usually eaten raw and sliced, made into soups or sauces, pickled or steamed. The leaves are also edible, with a slight peppery bitter flavor that can be added to fresh salads or steamed.