Mississippi has a long growing season that is suitable for growing a wide variety of vegetables. The secret to successful vegetable gardening in Mississippi is amending the soil with lots of organic matter, such as compost, timely applications of fertilizer and planting the right varieties of vegetables at the right time. For example, some crops, such as cabbage, are grown during the cooler months, while others, such as tomatoes, produce when the weather warms in spring.
Cabbage is a cool-weather crop and is grown in early spring and fall in Mississippi. Starting your own seed is a good way to experiment with varieties such as early Jersey Wakefield, which produces tapered heads, or a red cabbage, such as the red meteor variety. Cabbage is a large plant, so it should be spaced 24 inches apart. Cabbage heads can be harvested anytime after they form, but the best time to harvest is when the heads feel solid when they are squeezed.
Okra is a popular vegetable for growing in the southern United States. It thrives in hot, humid weather. It can be directly seeded into the garden when all danger of frost has passed and the weather warms in April or May, depending on the location. Okra has broad leaves and produces long seed pods after each flower fades that are picked when they are tender. Okra pods are ready to harvest when they are young and tender and easily snap off the plant. Okra pods can be sliced and fried, pickled or used to thicken soups.
Tomatoes are an important addition to Mississippi vegetable gardens. Plant tomatoes in the spring after all danger of frost has passed. If transplants are not purchased, tomato plants must be started from seed indoors as early as February, so that the plants will be ready to set outside as soon as possible. Tomato plants have trouble producing fruit when daytime temperatures are consistently above 85 degrees. Some varieties recommended for Mississippi by the University of Mississippi extension service are Better Boy, Celebrity, Park's Whopper and Super Fantastic. For cherry tomatoes, Sweet 100 is a recommended variety.
Onions are started from seed in the fall or purchased as transplants, or sets, in January. Onion sets should not be larger than a pencil when purchased or the plants will bolt, or flower, which reduces the storage life of the onion. Only short-day onion varieties are used in Mississippi. By the time enough daylight hours are available for long-day onion varieties to produce bulbs, the daytime temperatures are too warm for long-day onions to grow without heat stress. Short-day onion varieties recommended for Mississippi are Granex 33 and 1015Y.