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Gardening in Rutherford County

Welcome to Rutherford County, we are so glad to have you here in the foothills of North Carolina!

There are so many types of plants that can be grown here and we are happy to help you get started with tools and knowledge to best work with your lawn and garden. Rutherford County is in USDA Hardiness Zones 6b, 7a, and 7b.

Soil Testing Support

WNC Annual Planting Calendar

Upcoming Gardening Classes

Average Frost Dates by County

NC State Extension Homegrown Video Series


“Hello everyone, I am Madi Weast, an intern at the Rutherford County Extension office. I am a junior at North Carolina State University majoring in Agricultural Business Management and Animal Science with a minor in Economics.

Today I’m going to be speaking on vegetable gardening. Vegetable gardening consists of selecting a site, planning the garden, prepping the soil, choosing the seeds and plants, planting a crop and nurturing the plants until they are ready to harvest.

The end result is fresh produce to eat share or sell. Growing vegetables takes some space but not necessarily acres. A vegetable garden can be in the ground or in a planting bed but it doesn’t have to be. Many vegetables can be grown in containers for example, a lettuce or salad can be grown in a 12 inch pot on the back deck. Add a few radishes and carrots also grown in 12 inch containers for spice and sweetness and you can have a good start on a delicious salad.

Success, however, takes more than a place to grow the vegetables. They need sunlight, water, air, soil, fertilizer and care. For a vegetable garden you want to choose a convenient site in full sun with easy access to water and fertile well-drained soil. You want to avoid areas near trees and large shrubs that will compete with the garden for light, water, and nutrients. Most vegetables need at least 8 hours of direct sunlight. Plants that we grow for their leaves including leafy greens such as lettuce, kale and spinach and plants that we grow for their storage roots such as radishes, turnips and beets can be grown in as little as 6 hours of sunlight but do much better with 8 or more. Plants that we grow for their fruit including tomato, squash, and cucumbers need at least 8 hours of sunlight but they do much better with 10.

One of the most important aspects of gardening is water, which makes up about 90% of a plant’s weight. Water is heavy and difficult to move so you want to locate the garden near a water source, making it easy to water a garden properly. Vegetables need on average 1 inch of water per week and you need to provide only what is not supplied by rain. Make sure you water the soil not the plant, many diseases are spread by water splashing on the leaves. Over-watering can also lead to insects and disease problems as well as washing nutrients away.

Once you have selected that perfect site for your garden there will be several other questions you will need to consider in the planting phase. First, what type of garden do you want? Container gardens, raised beds, traditional rows and intensive plannings are all possibilities. For container gardens, the bigger the container, the easier it is to be successful. The larger the mature plant, the larger the container needs to be. Vegetables that do well in containers include beans, beets, carrots, collards, cucumbers, eggplants, garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, peas, peppers, potatoes, spinach, squash, and tomatoes. You can mix and match vegetables in one container for extended beauty and harvest. Containers require more frequent irrigation than gardens, specially as the plants grow and require more water. A drip irrigation system connected to a timer is a great addition to a container garden.

A variety of materials can be used to construct raised beds but you should not use materials that could leach chemicals into the soil such as an old railroad tie. Soil and raised beds will heat up more quickly in the Spring and stay warm longer in the Fall. Vegetables in raised beds will require more frequent irrigation than those in an in-ground garden. When planned and planted properly, one 4 foot by 8 foot raised bed may supply a good portion of the produce for one or two people.

Larger areas allow gardeners to choose traditional row gardening or gardening in beds. While a row garden is easier to manage with a tractor for planting, harvesting and other garden chores, planting in a bed makes better use of available space. Using beds allows for several rows to be planted closer together, shading the weed seeds and preventing them from growing later in the season. Beds may require a bit more labor initially but when planted correctly, beds can reduce the need for weeding later in the season. You can also incorporate vegetables in your ornamental beds.

The next question to consider is” what to plant? Grow what you like to eat. If space is limited, concentrate on vegetables that yield the greatest return for the effort such as pole beans, tomatoes, root crops, and leafy greens. If you like to cook unusual foods try vegetables that are difficult to find or expensive in the garden such as speciality lettuces or broccolini.

In North Carolina most vegetables are grown as annuals but some bi-annuals and perennials are also grown. Vegetables are grouped by when they grow. Cool season annuals should be planted in early Spring and early Fall. They are cold hearty and thrive in Spring and Fall when temperatures are bellow 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold season annuals include beets, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, and spinach. Warm season annuals can be planted after the last Spring frost, when soil has warmed up. They are frost sensitive and thrive in Summer when temperatures are above 70. Beans, cantaloupes, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, okra, peppers, pumpkins, southern peas, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and watermelons are warm-season annuals.

Bi-annual crops such as artichokes grow the first year, and flower, fruit and die the second year. Perennials such as asparagus live for many years once established.

Thank you for your time. For more information please visit,, again that is Or visit your local extension office.”