Gardening in the South
By: Felder Rushing
Theoretically, here in the Deep South we can garden any day of the year. But the sorry truth is our "window of opportunity" is not 365 days. The real gardening window in the South opens for just a few days at a time. Then it's slammed shut by steady downpours or relentless sun. Most of the time our soil is either sticky goo or so hard baked the only thing you could grow is ashtrays. The air is either drizzly, steamy or baking. Even the dew is so heavy that it makes working the garden messy early in the morning. We have plants that can take the weather, but it's pretty rough on the gardeners!
The average southern gardener has a big garden, with impossibly long rows spaced three feet apart whether the crop is corn or carrots. The merciless weather explains a lot about when most people plant down here. The traditional planting date is Good Friday, too late really. But we eat fresh squash and tomatoes in May, sweet corn on the Fourth of July, and then beat a hasty retreat indoors until next spring, when it's time to plant again.
Planting day should be in February, but it's just too nasty then for most of us. It takes forethought to get part of the garden ready in fall so that Irish potatoes, edible-pod peas and beets can be planted in the rain. And in summer it's way too hot and dry (and the stinkbugs are too big) to plant for fall.
So with rare exceptions, and in spite of our long potential growing season, we plant just once a year and try to "make do" the rest of the season. But change is coming, thanks to a cross-pollination of ideas from other regions.