Home garden vegetables can be grown abundantly in most areas of South Carolina with proper care. Many who have grown vegetables for the excellent fresh flavor or as a hobby now find home gardening profitable with today’s high food costs.
The number of home vegetable gardeners is steadily increasing in the state. Success or failure of home vegetable production can depend on many things, but some major reasons for failure are negligence, not following the proper instructions, and not keeping up with current vegetable developments.
Planning the Vegetable Garden
When planning a garden, it is important to ask a few basic questions:
- Who will be doing the work? Will the garden be a group project with family members or friends who will work willingly through the season to a fall harvest, or will you be handling the hoe alone in between camping and swimming? Remember that a small weed-free garden will produce more than a large, weedy mess.
- What do you and your family like to eat? Although the pictures in the garden catalog look delicious, there is no value in taking up gardening space with vegetables that no one eats. Make a list of your family’s favorite vegetables, ranked in order of preference. This will be a useful guide in deciding how much of each vegetable to plant. Successive plantings of certain crops, such as beans, can be harvested over a longer period of time and increase your yield. As you plan, list recommended varieties and planting dates.
- How do you plan to use the produce from your garden? If you plan to can, freeze, dry, or store part of the produce, this will be a factor not only in planning the size of the garden but also in selecting varieties. Some varieties have much better keeping quality than others. Care should be used in choosing the seeds, making sure the varieties you select are adapted to your area and intended use.
- Finally, how much space is available? How much area can be converted into usable garden space, and how much garden do you need? Do not plant more garden than you need.
Additional Planning Hints
- Plan the garden on paper first. Draw a map showing the arrangement and spacing of crops. If you wish to keep the garden growing all season, you may need a spring, summer, and fall garden plan.
- Plan the garden and order seeds by January or February. Some plants may be started indoors as early as January.
- In your plan, place tall and trellised crops on the north side of the garden so they will not shade the shorter vegetables.
- Group plants by the length of the growing period. Plant spring crops together so that later crops can be planted in these areas after the early crops mature. Consider the length of harvest as well as time to maturity. Place perennial crops to the side of the garden where they will not be disturbed by annual tillage. Finally, practice crop rotation. Try not to plant the same vegetable or a related vegetable in the same location year after year.
The garden should be as small as possible to cut down on unnecessary work. In South Carolina, gardens should receive at least six hours of direct sun each day. Leafy vegetables can tolerate partial shade; vegetables that produce fruit, such as peppers and tomatoes, must be grown in full sun.
Avoid planting your garden close to or beneath trees and shrubs because shade and the competition for nutrients and water may reduce vegetable growth. If a garden must be planted near trees, reserve the sunniest spot for vegetables grown for their fruit or seeds.
Plants grown for their leaves or roots can be grown in partial shade. Because water is required by vegetables, especially during droughty periods, a site within close proximity to the house should be considered; this site is usually located close to an abundant water supply. Also, people are more likely to work in the garden and check for pests when the garden is close to the house.
When soil or landscape space is unavailable, vegetables can be grown in containers. As long as light, water, and soil volume requirements are met, container-grown vegetables can be placed anywhere: sidewalks, patios, window boxes, porches, or balconies. More information on vegetable gardening in containers is available in HGIC 1251, Container Vegetable Gardening.
Sloping areas are satisfactory if managed properly. Contour the rows to the shape of the slope (plant around the hill). Construct terraces if erosion results even with contoured planting.
Gardeners with poorly drained or steeply sloped sites can improve their sites through the use of raised beds. A permanent raised bed can be created with used cross ties, concrete blocks, or similar rot-resistant material. The completed form can then be filled with a mixture of good topsoil and compost. Permanent raised beds are easy to maintain and require less effort to control weeds and overcome poor soil or site problems. Raised beds can be any size, but narrow beds (about 3 to 4 feet wide) will allow the gardener to reach the center of the bed without stepping into the bed. More information on raised beds is available in HGIC 1257, Raised Beds.
Season of Planting
The time at which vegetables are planted outdoors depends on the cold hardiness of a particular species or cultivar. Vegetables can be divided into two categories based on temperature requirements: cool-season and warm-season crops.
Cool-season vegetables originated in temperate climates and have their favorable growth period during the cool parts of the year. Cool-season crops grow poorly in the summer heat. Though cool-season crops continue to grow well past the earliest freeze in the fall, they should be started early enough to mature before hard freezes are expected.
Warm-season crops primarily came from subtropical and tropical regions and require warm weather for seed germination and plant growth. They are injured or killed by freezing temperatures and should not be planted outdoors in the spring without protection or until the danger of freezing temperatures is past. Warm-season crops planted in the summer to mature in the fall should be planted early enough so they can be harvested before the killing freeze in the fall.
To determine when to plant cool- and warm-season vegetables in South Carolina, refer to Table 1. Knowing the number of days required to reach maturity, a gardener could determine the appropriate planting time for seeds and transplants by using the average dates of the first and last freezes in their area.
Piedmont: Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens, Marlboro, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Saluda, Spartanburg, Union, and York Counties.
Coastal Plain: Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Lee, Lexington, Marion, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter, and Williamsburg Counties.
Table 1. Planting Chart — Dates to Plant in South Carolina
|Crop||Planting Date Range||Planting Date Range||Planting Date Range||Planting Date Range|
|Coastal Spring||Coastal Fall||Piedmont Spring||Piedmont Fall|
|Asparagus||Feb 1 to Mar 15||Not recommended||Mar 1 to Apr 15||Not recommended|
|Beans, Snap||Apr 1 to Jun 1||Aug 1 to Sept 1||Apr 15 to Jul 1||Jul 20 to Aug 1|
|Beans, Pole||Apr 1 to Jun 1||Aug 1 to Sept 1||Apr 15 to Jul 1||Jul 20 to Aug 1|
|Beans, Half-Runner||Apr 1 to Jun 1||Aug 1 to Sept 1||Apr 15 to Jul 1||Jul 20 to Aug 1|
|Beans, Lima||Apr 15 to Jun1||Jul 15 to Aug 1||May 1 to Jun 15||Jul 1 to Jul 15|
|Beans, Pole Lima||Apr 15 to Jun1||Jul 15 to Aug 1||May 1 to June 15||Jul 1 to Jul 15|
|Beans, Edible Soy||Apr 15 to Jun1||Jul 15 to Aug 1||May 1 to June 15||Jul 1 to Jul 15|
|Beets||Feb 15 to Mar 31||Aug 15 to Sept 30||Mar 15 to May 31||Jul 15 to Aug 31|
|Broccoli 1||Mar 1 to Apr 10||Sept 1 to Sept 30||Mar 20 to Apr 30||Aug 15 to Sept 15|
|Brussels Sprouts||Not recommended||Sept 15 to Oct 15||Not recommended||Aug 15 to Sept 15|
|Cabbage 1||Feb 1 to Mar 31||Aug 15 to Sept 30||Mar 15 to Apr 30||Jul 15 to Aug 31|
|Cantaloupe||Mar 15 to May 15||Jul 1 to Jul 30||Apr 15 to Jun 5||Not recommended|
|Carrots||Feb 1 to Mar 15||Sept 1 to Sept 15||Feb 15 to Mar 31||Aug 1 to Sep 15|
|Cauliflower 1||Mar 1 to Apr 10||Aug 15 to Aug 30||Mar 20 to Apr 30||Jul 15 to Aug 31|
|Collards||Feb 1 to Jun 15||Aug 1 to Oct 30||Mar 15 to Jun 30||Aug 1 to Sept 30|
|Cucumber||Mar 15 to May 15||Aug 1 to Aug 30||Apr 15 to Jun 5||Aug 1 to Sept 30|
|Eggplant 1||Apr 1 to Apr 30||Aug 1 to Aug 31||May 1 to Jun 30||Not recommended|
|Garlic||Not recommended||Oct 1 to Nov 30||Not recommended||Aug 15 to Oct 15|
|Honeydew||Mar 15 to May 15||Jul 1 to Jul 30||Apr 15 to Jun 5||Not recommended|
|Kale||Feb 1 to Jun 15||Aug 1 to Oct 30||Mar 15 to Jun 30||Aug 1 to Sept 30|
|Leeks||Feb 1 to Jun 15||Not recommended||Mar 15 to Jun 30||Not recommended|
|Lettuce 2||Feb 1 to Apr 15||Sept 5 to Nov 1||Mar 1 to May 15||Not recommended|
|Mustard 2||Feb 1 to Jun 15||Aug 1 to Oct 15||March 15-Jul 30||Aug 1 to Sept 15|
|Onion, sets||Feb 1 to Mar 15||Sept 15 to Nov 15||Feb 15 to Mar 30||Sept 15 to Oct 15|
|Onion, plants||Not recommended||Oct 1 to Nov 15||Not recommended||Sept 15 to Oct 15|
|Onion, seeds||Not recommended||Sept 15 to Oct 30||Not recommended||Not recommended|
|Okra||May 1 to Jun 30||Not recommended||May 15 to July 15||Not recommended|
|Peanuts||Apr 1 to May 31||Not recommended||May 1 to Jun 30||Not recommended|
|Peas, Garden||Feb 1 to Mar 15||Aug 15 to Nov 30||Mar 1 to Apr 5||Aug 15 to Oct 30|
|Peas, Southern||Apr 1 to Jun 15||Jul 15 to Aug 1||Apr 15 to Jul 15||Not recommended|
|Pepper 1||Apr 1 to May 15||July 10 to Aug 10||May 1 to Jun 30||Not recommended|
|Potatoes, Irish||Feb 1 to Mar 31||Not recommended||Mar 15 to Apr 30||Not recommended|
|Potatoes, Sweet||Apr 15 to Jun 15||Not recommended||May 1 to Jun 15||Not recommended|
|Pumpkins||Not recommended||Jun 1 -to Jun 30||Not recommended||Jun 15 to Jul 15|
|Radish 2||Feb 1 to Jun 15||Aug 1 to Sept 30||Mar 15 to Jun 30||Aug 1 to Sept 15|
|Rutabaga||Feb 1 to Mar 31||Aug 15 to Oct 15||Mar 15 to Apr 30||Jul 15 to Sept 30|
|Spinach 2||Feb 1 to Apr 1||Aug 15 to Oct 15||Mar 15 to Apr 15||Aug 1 to Sept 30|
|Sweet Corn 2||Mar 1 to Apr 15||Not recommended||Mar 30 to May 31||Not recommended|
|Squash, Summer||Mar 15 to Jul 31||Aug 1 to Aug 31||Apr 15 to Jul 31||Jul 15 to Aug 15|
|Squash, Winter||Mar 20 to May 1||Aug 1 to Aug 31||Apr 15 to Jun 15||Not recommended|
|Tomato 1||Mar 1 to Apr 30||July 1 to Jul 31||May 1 to Jun 30||Not recommended|
|Turnips 2||Feb 1 to Apr 1||Aug 1 to Sept 30||March 15-Apr 30||Aug 1 to Sept 15|
|Watermelon 1||Apr 1 to Apr 30||Not recommended||Apr 15 to June 15||Not recommended|
2Sequentially plant to extend the cropping season
Table 2. Vegetables Planting Chart
|Vegetable||Seed (100-foot row)||Spacing
Between-row x In-row(inches)
Days to Harvest
|Asparagus||—||36 x 18||4 crowns||2 years|
|Beans, Snap||¾ pound||36 x 2||1||50-60|
|Beans, Pole||½ pound||36 x 4||1||60-70|
|Beans, Half Runner||½ pound||36 x 2||1||55-65|
|Beans, Lima||¾ pound||36 x 3||1½||65-75|
|Beans, Pole Lima||½ pound||36 x 6||1½||70-75|
|Beans, Edible Soy||½ pound||36 x 3||1||60-70|
|Beets||½ ounce||30 x 2||¾||50-60|
|Broccoli||½ ounce||36 x 18||½||60-70|
|Brussels Sprouts||½ ounce||36 x 18||½||90-100|
|Cabbage*||½ ounce||36 x 12||3||60-80|
|Cantaloupe||1 ounce||60 x 24||1||75-85|
|Carrots||¼ ounce||30 x 1||¼||60-70|
|Cauliflower||¼ ounce||36 x 18||½||60-70|
|Collards||½ ounce||36 x 8||½||60-70|
|Cucumbers||1 ounce||60 x 12||1||50-60|
|Eggplant*||—||36 x 18||3||70-80|
|Kale||½ ounce||36 x 1||½||50-55|
|Lettuce, Leaf||¼ ounce||30 x 2||½||40-70|
|Lettuce, Head||⅛ ounce||30 x 12||¼||30-50|
|Lettuce, Mustard||½ ounce||30 x 2||½||40-60|
|Onions, Green||1 quart||30 x 2||1½ sets||35-45|
|Onions, Bulb||½ ounce||30 x 3||½ seed||100-120|
|Okra||1 ounce||36 x 9||¾||60-70|
|Peanuts||¼ pound||30 x 4||1½||100-120|
|Peas, Garden||1 pound||36 x 1||1½||65-80|
|Peas, Southern||½ pound||46 x 4||1½||75-85|
|Pepper*||—||36 x 18||3||60-70|
|Potatoes, Irish||12 pounds||36 x 12||3||90-110|
|Potatoes, Sweet*||—||36 x 8||3||120|
|Radish||½ ounce||24 x 1||½||25-30|
|Rutabaga||½ ounce||36 x 12||¾||100-110|
|Spinach||1 ounce||30 x 2||½||50-60|
|Sweet Corn||4 ounce||36 x 10||1||80-95|
|Squash, Summer||1 ounce||36 x 15||1||50-60|
|Squash, Winter||½ ounce||60 x 48||1½||90-120|
|Tomato*||—||60 x 24||4||70-80|
|Turnips||¼ ounce||30 x 2||½||60-70|
|Watermelon||½ ounce||60 x 60||1½||80-100|
Excerpted from the South Carolina Master Gardener Training Manual, EC 678.
1. 2021 Southeastern US Vegetable Crop Handbook
Originally published 01/05