North Carolina gardeners have a long growing season that accommodates both cool-season vegetables like greens and heat-loving garden staples like corn and tomatoes. Plant from either seeds or transplants and irrigate vegetables during summer heat so the soil is moist, not dry and crumbly.
Available in white, yellow and bi-color ears, corn grows well in the North Carolina summer heat. The University of Illinois recommends planting sugary enhancer corn, which combines sweet taste and creamy texture for a superior ear of corn. In North Carolina, gardeners can plant corn beginning April 15. Corn requires full sun to grow; space seeds 1/2-inch deep and 9 to 12 inches apart in the soil.
Southern peas, better known as cowpeas or blackeyed peas, are a staple of North Carolina gardens. These warm-weather vegetables can be planted beginning May 15. Southern peas grow in full sun or part shade and mature in 60 to 90 days. They add nutrients to poor soils and are often planted just to improve the soil in a garden bed. The peas require trellising to grow properly. Harvest southern peas when the pods bulge and eat them fresh, or leave them on the plant until the pods turn yellow or brown and enjoy dried peas.
North Carolina gardeners can plant collards beginning August 1; this cool-season vegetables doesn't perform well in summer heat. Sow seeds 1/4-inch deep in the soil and thin out seedlings as they mature, leaving 6 inches between plants. Most collards mature in 60 to 75 days. Harvest individual leaves or pick the entire collard plant. A member of the cabbage family, collards are naturally tough and fibrous and require braising or steaming before they can be eaten.
Okra can be fried, boiled, stewed or picked. The small green pods enjoy warm weather and may be planted in North Carolina beginning May 1. Place okra seeds in the soil, leaving 12 to 24 inches between seeds and placing the seeds 1 inch deep. To harvest plants, cut them from the pod when the average 2 to 3 inches in length; leaving them on the plant for longer causes the vegetable to grow tough.
Tomatoes are a popular warm weather vegetable that can be planted in North Carolina in the summer months in successive planting. Tomatoes come in an array of types, colors and flavors; gardeners can choose between cherry tomatoes, paste tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes and cluster tomatoes. Plant tomatoes in full sun and stake them with a tomato cage to offer support to developing plants. While Early Girl tomatoes mature in 55 days, most varieties take 65 to 70 days to mature.