“HOW On Earth” – Published in Pink Magazine – April 2012

Vegetable Gardening

It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.
Lewis Grizzard

I have been attracted to vegetable gardens since I was a kid. I was always fascinated to discover how fruits and vegetables grew on plants. Last spring, I brought in peas, beets, carrots, asparagus, onions, lettuces, strawberries, and mint to my daughters third grade class. I decided to bring in the whole plant; stems, roots, leaves, with the edible parts attached.  I was amazed and thrilled that these eight year olds were so enthusiastic and adventurous. Their teacher cooked some of the food and left others raw. All was devoured. I joined my daughter for lunch the following week and my heart was warmed when so many of the children came up to me and thanked me for bringing them things from the garden. Believe it or not, the beets were some of their favorites. It had to be the bright richness of the red that appealed to them.

The colors are quite vivid and the shapes all organic that I love to mix vegetables with my plantings. I recently saw an entire bed of Japanese Eggplant massed in a commercial bed in Charleston which greatly impressed me. These gardens do not have to be in a backyard and hidden from view as an eyesore. There is beauty in our food and the freshness and difference in taste is astounding.

I am often asked when is the best time to start and plan a vegetable garden. Vegetable gardening in the southeast is a year round pleasure. There is always something I can find to eat from my garden, even if it’s just a sprig of mint for my iced tea. Planting times are grouped into two distinct seasons, a warm and a cool season.


Crop Planting Date Days to Harvest Comments
Beans, bush Mar-Apr


50-60 Nitrogen fixers. Plant in 2 week intervals. Bush Blue Lake is a favorite.
Beans, pole Mar-Apr


55-70 Requires support. Kentucky Wonder and Blue Lake are excellent.
Beans, lima Mar-Aug 65-75 Leave beans on plant until pods swell.
Cantaloupes Mar-Apr 75-90 I have grown these on a trellis and it greatly reduces them from rotting.
Corn, sweet Feb-Apr


60-95 Try planting pole beans on them. The beans will fix nitrogen into the soil which the corn is a heavy feeder of.
Cucumbers Feb-Apr


50-65 Grow on a trellis for space saving.
Eggplant Feb-July 90-110 I love the Japanese variety. These Purple beauties are glorious as an ornamental.
Okra Mar-July 50-75 Hibiscus flowers adorn this tall heat loving plant.
Peas, southern Mar-Aug 60-90 Tough dependable Southern plant, wait until soil temperatures are warm to plant.
Peppers Feb-Apr


80-100 There are so many varieties to choose from. They make lovely plants that will produce well into late fall.
Potatoes, sweet Mar-June 120-140 Prolific and easy to grow.
Pumpkin Mar-Apr


90-120 Easy to grow, when the vine starts to wither it is time to pick.
Squash, summer Mar-Apr


40-55 Abundant and easy to grow.
Squash Winter Mar


80-110 The vining types require large space.
Tomatoes, Feb-Apr


90-110 Susceptible to various wilts, try resistant varieties.
Watermelon, large Mar-Apr


85-95 Will benefit from a soil high in organic matter, and black plastic to prevent rot and insects.
Watermelon, small / seedless Mar-Apr




Crop Days to Harvest Comments
Beets Sept-Mar 50-65 There is a red foliage variety that is simply beautiful. I love this plant in winter pots.
Broccoli Aug-Feb 75-90 After picking the center crown, side shoots will continue to harvest.
Brussel Sprouts Sept-Nov These little gems develop all along the stem of this cabbage family gem.
Cabbage Sept-Feb 90-110 Very easy and delicious, will keep long.
Carrots Sept-Mar 65-80 Seed, then thin so roots can develop.
Cauliflower Jan-Feb


75-90 Cover the head with the leaves to protect from sunlight. This causes the heads to become bitter.
Celery Jan-Mar 115-125 I find celery somewhat challenging to grow. Prefers a cooler climate.
Chinese cabbage Oct-Feb 70-90 Bok Choys are my favorite and easy to grow cabbages. Great in soups and stir frys.
Collards Feb-Apr


70-80 True southern plant and very easy to grow.
Lettuce: Crisp, Butter-head, Leaf & Romaine Feb-Mar


50-90 Sow in 2-3 week intervals and harvest the outer leaves. When plant begins to flower it will turn bitter.
Mustard Sept-May 40-60 These and chards are simple and colorful additions to the winter garden.
Onions, Bulbing Sept-Dec 120-160 Easy to grow from sets.
Peas, English Jan-Mar 50-70 These are wonderful raw in a salad.
Potatoes Jan-Mar 85-110 Keep mounding soil up to leaves to prevent the sunlight from the potatoes.
Radish Sept-Mar 20-30 Sow in 2 -3 week intervals, prefers cold temperatures.
Spinach Oct-Nov 45-60 Sometimes finicky with seeding, but well worth the effort.
Strawberry Oct-Nov 90-110 These make a great ground cover and are quite abundant.
Turnips Jan-Apr


40-60 Both the tops and root are used


Companion planting is a method of combining plants to deter pest, improve soil conditions, and enhance the flavor of neighboring plants. I also find it a pretty way to beautify my garden.

Crop Pairings Uses / Benefits Comments
Anise Coriander Repels Aphids.

Use in ointments to protect skin from stings and bites

Smells like licorice
Basil Tomato Repels thrips, flies, and mosquitoes
Bay Leaf Fresh leaf stored with grain or beans will keep weevils and moths away.  Dried leaves sprinkles with other herbs in the garden repel insects.
Bee Balm Tomato Attracts bees
Borage Tomato, Squash, Strawberries, and most plants Repels tomatoe hornworms and cabbage hornworms.  Increase pest and disease resistance to neighbors.  Adds minerals when used in compost. Edible flowers
Catnip Repels flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants, weevils, and mice Smells good and is safe
Chives Tomato, Carrots, Apple Trees Repels Japanese beetles and carrot rust fly.  Prevents scabs on apple trees.  Prevents downy mildew on cucumber when used in a tea.
Chrysanthemums C.coccineum kill root nematodes.  Flowering chrysanthemum repel Japanese beetles.
Comfrey Traps slugs.  Medicinal plant.  Accumulates calcium, phosphorous and potassium. Prefers moist soil
Dill Lettuce, Onions, Cucumber Repels, to some degree, aphids, spider mites, squash bug.  Attracts predatory insects.  Feeder plant for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars Plant away from carrot, caraway and tomato
Garlic Roses Accumulates sulfer which acts as a fungicide. Garlic when taken up by the roots of plants will deter carrot root fly, snails, root maggots, Japanese Beetles, and codling moths.  When placed at the base of a tree as a time release capsule it will help keep deer away.  Garlic sprays repel whiteflies, aphids, and fungus gnats
Lavender Repels fleas and moths.  Nectar feeds beneficial insects.
Lemon Balm Use as herbal powder mix to repel insects.  Crush leaves and rub on skin to act as mosquito repellent.  Wards off squash bugs.
Marigolds Tomato Fragrant variety repels pests such as nematodes and white flies. Can attract slugs and spider mites
Majoram Vegetables and Herbs
Mint Repels white cabbage moths, ants, rodents, flea beetles, fleas, aphids, and mice.  Attracts predatory insects that feed on pest insects.  Attracts earthworms.
Oregano Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Grapes Repels cabbage butterfly and cucumber beetle
Parsley Tomato, Asparagus and Roses Repels asparagus beetles.  Attract predatory insects.  Increase fragrance of roses.
Peppermint Repels aphids, flea beetles, and white cabbage moths as well as insects.  Attracts bees.
Rosemary Beans, Sage, Carrots, and Cabbage Repels cabbage moths, bean beetles, and carrot flies.
Sage Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, and Rosemary Repels cabbage moths and black flea beetles, and carrot flies.  Attracts beneficial insects. Do not plant near cucumber, onions, or rue
Thyme Repels cabbage worms.