Robert Westerfield, Extension Horticulturist,
David Linvill, Chatham County Extension Agent

There is nothing quite like a home garden to supply you and your family with a variety of nutritious vegetables that can be enjoyed fresh or preserved for later use. When space is limited, a plentiful supply of crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and okra can be grown with a few properly cared-for plants.


Try to select a site that receives at least 8 to 10 hours of sunlight a day. Select a location that is conveniently located near the house and a water supply. The soil should have a good texture and be well-drained. Avoid sites that have a history of hard-to-control weeds such as nutsedge and bermudagrass.

Make a Plan

Plan your garden out on paper first before ordering seed. For small areas, select those crops that you like best and consider using dwarf compact varieties that will produce an adequate supply on a few plants. Also, plan to use the space continuously by planting another in-season crop soon after the last harvest is completed. Plant tall-growing plants together on the north or west side of the garden so they will not shade lower-growing plants. Make a map and keep it current so that the vegetables can be rotated within the garden from year to year. Remember to plan for space between rows to walk down to harvest the crop and maintain the bed.

Varieties, Seed and Plants

Be sure to select recommended varieties for your main planting. Many other varieties are available, and new varieties are being introduced each year. Try a few new varieties on a small scale to determine their worth in your area. Varieties listed in the Vegetable Planting Chart represent a few of the proven varieties.

Always buy good quality seed from a reputable company. Do not save your own seed unless it is a unique, unavailable variety.

When buying plants, purchase fresh, stocky plants that are free of diseases and insects.

Lime and Fertilizer

Run a soil test through your local county Extension office several months prior to planting to determine lime and fertilizer needs. If the pH is low (acidic soil), apply the recommended amount of lime before preparing the soil so it can be mixed with the soil during land preparation. A pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is recommended for all vegetables except Irish potatoes, which require a pH of 5.0 to 6.0. Vegetables are classified as light, medium or heavy feeders, based on their fertilizer recommendations for each group.

10-10-10 or 6-12-12 at a rate of 35 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.
10-10-10 or 6-12-12 at a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.
6-12-12 at a rate of 10 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.
cabbage artichoke cucumbers pumpkin peas, Southern
celery asparagus eggplant radish  
lettuce beans greens rhubarb  
onions beets herbs squash  
potatoes, Irish cantaloupes okra Swiss chard  
potatoes, sweet carrots peas, English watermelon  
tomatoes corn, sweet pepper    

Apply fertilizer according to the soil test results. Most vegetables need initial fertilizer at planting time, and again after they have begun to mature. Some vegetables, such as corn, need to be fertilized by side dressing after the plants are about knee high. Put the side dressing several inches away from the plant, never directly on the plant.

Approximate Pounds of Fertilizer per 100 Feet*
Pounds per Acre 24-inch Rows 30-inch Rows 36-inch Rows per 100 sq. ft.
100 0.5 2/3 0.75 0.25
200 1 1.25 1.5 0.5
300 1.5 1 2/3 2.25 0.75
400 2 2.5 3 1
500 1.5 3 3.75 1.25
1,000 5 6 7.5 1.5
2,000 10 12 15 5
*One pint of mixed fertilizer will weigh about 1 pound. For row widths not given, figure in proportion to the given rates.

If additional nitrogen is needed on peppers, eggplant or tomatoes, apply when the first fruits are about 1 inch in diameter.

Soil Preparation

Begin soil preparation in the fall by chopping litter and spading or turning deeply to bury the litter. Add other organic matter such as compost, leaf mold or well-rotted sawdust or manure.

Planting the Garden

Information on cultivars, planting dates and spacing is given in the planting chart. Several vegetables can be successively planted to lengthen the harvesting season.


Cultivate or hoe the garden as often as needed to control weeds and grasses. Do not cultivate or hoe too deeply, or root injury will result. Cultivating too often will also result in the soil drying out excessively.


A mulch of straw, leaves, compost or pine straw will help conserve moisture, control weeds and reduce cultivation. Apply enough mulch to have 2 to 4 inches after settling. Newspaper can also be applied as a mulch two to three layers thick around plants. Apply 3 inches of straw or compost on top of the paper.


Water the garden as often as needed to maintain a uniform moisture supply. In the absence of rain, a good soaking once a week will probably be adequate for heavier soils. Light, sandy soils might require an application more frequently. Water early in the morning so foliage will dry off quickly, which helps prevent diseases. Use soaker hoses or irrigation tape if possible to prevent foliage from getting wet and help prevent disease.

Control Insects, Diseases and Nematodes

Serious losses can occur from insects, diseases and nematodes. If nematodes are present, control measures must be taken before the crop is planted. Preventive control measures can be used for insects and diseases, or can be started as soon as problems are spotted. Contact your local county Extension agent for assistance in pest identification and recommended control measures.


Harvest vegetables as soon as they are ripe. Leaving them on the vine too long will lead to disease and insect problems and will cause crops such as beans, okra, squash and cucumbers to be over-mature and terminate or stop producing. Any surplus production should be canned or frozen as soon as possible after harvesting. Information on canning and freezing is available at your local county Extension office.

Status and Revision History
Published on Jun 10, 2009
Published with Full Review on Jun 20, 2012
Published with Full Review on Apr 06, 2015
Published with Full Review on Mar 26, 2019

Bob Westerfield Senior Public Service Associate; Areas of Interest: Consumer fruits and vegetables, Horticulture David L. Linvill County Extension Agent, Southeast District
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