North Carolina has both mountainous areas as well as coastal. At any time of the year, the temperatures within the state can vary by 20 degrees F. Luckily, vegetable gardens do very well in any part of the state as long as you plant according to the USDA hardiness zone recommendations. Larry Bass, a horticultural specialist with North Carolina State University, advises beginning gardeners to consider five factors for optimal success, including sunlight, nearness to your home, soil quality, water and air flow.
Choose a size and location for your garden. Your garden should receive a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight daily and be placed in an area that receives adequate airflow and good water drainage. In the fall, clear the area of excess rocks and sticks and till the soil, working in a layer of manure to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Allow the soil to absorb the nutrients of the manure until planting time in the spring.
Plant your chosen vegetable seeds in nursery flats filled with vermiculite. Since vermiculite contains no nutrients, you will need to begin providing a water-soluble fertilizer as soon as the seedlings produce at least two leaves. Place the newly sprouted plants near a window that receives sunlight or under fluorescent lighting. The room should be kept at a temperature of between 60 and 75 degrees F.
Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the vegetable plants' root system. Place the plant into the hole and cover with soil leaving at least 2 to 3 leaves exposed when possible. Different vegetables have their own spacing requirements; for instance, squash plants should be planted in raised mounds 24 inches apart. Tomato plants need to be planted 18 inches apart in rows.
Fertilize your freshly planted garden with a water-soluble formula high in phosphorus. Mix the solution 2 tbsp. per gallon of water. Pour 1 cup around the base of each plant. Later, as your plants grow you can add more of this fertilizer if the plants seem to need extra help to grow and thrive.
Protect your new vegetable plants for at least 2 days after placing them in the garden soil. High winds or an unexpected freeze can quickly kill your plants. Place baskets or flowerpots over the individual plant should these conditions occur.
Water your vegetable plants per their individual requirements listed on the seed packets. Plants have varying water needs, but 1 inch of water is a safe amount. Gently dig down 1 to 2 inches near the plant and, if the soil is dry, it is a good time to water. Be careful not to disturb the root system of the plant. Remove weeds regularly so your vegetable plants will not have to share water and soil nutrients. Use insecticides when needed to rid your garden of destructive pests.