The southern US has two gardening seasons: one in the spring and one in the fall separated by ten weeks of very hot weather. Because the vegetable growing seasons in the South are during the transitional months of spring and fall, a wide variety of temperatures and growing conditions can affect vegetable yields and plant health.
Appropriate Vegetable Plants
Choose vegetable plants that you and your family will enjoy at harvest time. Also, choose plants that will grow during the appropriate season. For example, okra has trouble growing in the fall but thrives in the spring as the amount of sunlight begins to increase as the days grow longer. The same is true for onions.
Size of the Garden
Gardening in the south can be a miserable experience if you have to maintain a garden that is too large for your household. Start with a garden that is small, for example 10 feet by 10 feet, to get an idea of how much time you need to appropriate to make a productive garden.
Planting the same vegetable plants in the same place every season invites pest problems as many pests will simply over winter in the same place and attack the plants again the next spring. Crop rotation means moving the areas where you plant vegetable plants to a different location in the garden every year to outwit pests.
Vegetable gardens need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day for optimal vegetable production. Design the garden so it has a north to south orientation for best sunlight exposure with the tallest plants in the back of the garden. A north to south orientation will also increase air circulation, which helps prevent fungal and mildew problems.
Because the weather in the south during the main growing seasons can be so unpredictable, you must be prepared for a sudden freeze that can kill your warm weather vegetable plants such as tomatoes and peppers. Use lightweight row cover, which comes in long rolls and is available at a farm supply store, to cover plants if a freeze threatens. You can also use buckets, hay, straw or old flower pots to cover small plants if the garden is not too large.
Weeds take moisture and nutrients away from vegetable plants and must be removed. Also, you must keep the garden free of weeds because weeds are vectors of plant diseases. This means that a bug can crawl or chew on a weed and pick up a disease then hop onto a vegetable plant and spread the disease to the vegetable plant.
Source of Water
Locating the garden near a source of water is important because vegetable plants need plenty of water applied on a regular schedule to be productive.