As spring marches on, we are getting more and more excited for warm-season veggie weather! The emergence of spring brings with it the excitement of the first plantings of the year, with cool-season veggies like lettuce, spinach, and kale kicking off the growing season. But that excitement will soon be in high gear with the heat of the summer, which veggies like cucumber, zucchini, and green beans love just about as much as we do.
Lucky for us, many of these summer-loving vegetables are also relatively easy to grow! So, whether you are a seasoned gardener or just starting out, you’ll be sure to harvest a bountiful crop with these easy-to-grow vegetables.
Nothing says summer quite like the taste of a refreshing cucumber picked straight out of the garden. These warm-season vegetables are super easy to grow, making them a great choice for a kid’s garden. They do best when they get a lot of sunshine and are planted in moist, rich, well-draining soil. They also require a trellis of some kind for their vines to climb up. There are different varieties of cucumbers to choose from, depending on what your end game is.
If you’re big on summer salads, then you’ll want to grow a slicing variety, which can grow up to about a foot long. Most of our customers prefer the seedless or burpless type. The English cucumber has also been gaining in popularity over the last few years. These easy to grow summer staple vegetables are great in salads or on sandwiches. The second variety is the pickling kind, which is a bit smaller, usually growing up to about six inches long. You can harvest cucumbers once they are about two inches long and anytime after that before they start to yellow. They are the most delicious when they’re a little younger, though! Some favorites for kids and adults alike are the Baby Hybrid and Patio Snackers. They are both on the short side, almost seedless and very tasty!
Beans are super easy to grow in your garden right from seed. You’re almost guaranteed to get some sort of bean crop if you plant seeds in your garden, but if you want a killer harvest, there are a few things to know before you get planting. The first is which kind of beans you want to grow; there are pole beans and bush beans.
Pole beans grow up and spiral around a vertical support (so, another one that would require a trellis of some sort), and they mature pretty slowly. Their harvest period is generally around six to eight weeks, so if you want to have fresh, homegrown beans in your suppers all summer long - these should be your go-to.
On the other hand, bush beans grow into pretty compact plants (around 2’ tall) that have a shorter harvest period. They usually produce quite abundantly for around three to four weeks. This makes them a good choice for canning or pickling.
If you just can’t get enough of leafy greens, we would like to present to you the wonder that is Malabar Spinach. Just as other cool season leafy veggies wind down in the heat of the summer, Malabar Spinach is just getting ready to shine. It loves the heat! In addition to being one of the few leafy greens that will tolerate the heat, its foliage is also quite ornamental, so if you like mixing edible plants into your flower garden, Malabar Spinach is your girl!
While it bears the spinach name, Malabar Spinach isn’t actually a true spinach (despite what the appearance of its foliage might suggest). It also goes by monikers like Malabar nightshade, vine spinach, or climbing spinach, thanks to its climbing properties. Just like your beans and cucumbers, this is an easy to grow vegetable that will require some staking or trellises.
Malabar Spinach leaves have a pretty mild flavor that can be eaten raw or cooked. It holds up quite nicely in soups and stir-fries, and the plant itself produces a ton of seeds that you can save for next year’s growing season!
"Harvesting peppers involves a bit of personal preference, as they are generally best picked once they have reached your desired color and size."
Peppers will bring your garden game to the next level. There are so many varieties to choose from—sweet bell, habanero, cayenne, serrano, tabasco, or pimento, to name a few - and all of them have a unique, tasty quality to them. Peppers are usually best started indoors, but again, if you weren’t on top of seed starting, our greenhouse will have you covered. Our long, hot summers are perfect for growing peppers.
Harvesting peppers involves a bit of personal preference, as they are generally best picked once they have reached your desired color and size. Sweet bell peppers start out green and then mature to red, yellow, orange, purple, or white depending on the variety you have planted. Yes, green bell peppers are from the same plant as the red or yellow ones—they’re just harvested at different times! Did we just blow your mind?
Eggplant, pumpkin, spaghetti squash, and watermelon are some other warm-season vegetables you might consider growing this summer here in Greenville. But, if you’re new to growing or just want to take it a bit easy on yourself this summer when it comes to choosing what vegetables to grow, these four are a great place to start. Stop by our garden center anytime, and we’ll be happy to get you well on your way to growing a killer veggie garden this summer!
If you are hoping to become a budding fruit tree grower of the apple variety, you’ve probably heard about rootstocks by now. While the idea of planting a seed right from an apple may seem dreamy and appealing, in actuality, it’s not quite that simple! Growing a fruit tree of any kind from seed can take upward of eight years before it will start producing fruit. Furthermore, it’s just generally not how apple trees are typically grown.
The Ultimate Guide to Apple Rootstock
Apple trees are grafted (or fused) onto a rootstock that helps determine the size and strength of your tree once it has reached maturity. Grafting is a practice that has occurred for thousands of years. More recently, immense amounts of research have resulted in a list of the apple rootstocks believed to provide the best results. The online world is full of lots of complicated information, which is why we put together this guide to help you navigate your way to a better understanding of apple rootstocks.
So What Is a Rootstock, Anyway?
In simple terms, “rootstock” refers to the base of a tree, including the roots and trunk, that a scion (or the flowering or fruiting part of the tree that you see above ground) is grafted to. For the grafting process to be successful, the rootstock and scion need to be fairly close relatives. Rootstock varieties can come from a few different places: naturally growing trees, plant mutations, or genetically bred. When a “successful” rootstock is identified, it is cloned so that it can be used over and over again! In addition to determining your tree’s size and strength, apple rootstocks are also selected based on attributes like their level of disease resistance, cold hardiness, and the type of conditions they can thrive in.
What Is The Best Rootstock for Apple Trees?
When it comes to determining what the best rootstock is, there are a lot of factors to consider! What is ideal for one grower may be different for another. There are so many different rootstock variations that have been scientifically studied, bred, and established over decades. But, for the sake of simplicity in our guide, we are going to focus on some of our favorites that you can pick up at Carolina Seasons.
B9: This is what one would consider a “dwarfing” rootstock. As we mentioned earlier, rootstock variations determine the size and strength of an apple tree, and a B9 rootstock will limit the size of the tree to about 10 feet once it reaches maturity. While they are resistant to root and collar rots, they prefer a well-draining planting site and require permanent staking. The B9 rootstock produces a tree that is resistant to fire blight. B9 is also called Bud 9 which is short for Budagovsky 9.
M111: This is a vigorous semi-dwarfing rootstock that produces a tree that grows to about 85% of a standard-sized apple tree. They are considered one of the more adaptable of all rootstocks; they are quite winter hardy, have a fairly shallow-spreading root system, and are relatively drought tolerant. They are also resistant to woolly apple aphid, collar rot, root rot, and fire blight. Trees grown from an M111 rootstock will bear fruit at a relatively young age. The M111 rootstock is also known by the names MM111 and EMLA 111.
M106: An M106 rootstock is another semi-dwarfing variety that will produce a tree that is about 70% the size of a standard apple tree. They are quite productive and do not usually need staking. They should not be planted in wet spots due to their susceptibility to root rot. Rather, if you are looking to plant a tree in your backyard and go with an M106 rootstock variety, be sure to select a location with well-draining soil. Trees on the M106 rootstock are resistant to wooly apple aphid and show some resistance to fire blight. The M106 rootstock is also known as MM106 and EMLA106.
Selecting and growing an apple tree might seem overwhelming at first, but we hope this guide has helped break down some of the general mysteries in the beginning stages of that process. If you’ve still got questions, pop into our nursery, and one of our experts would be happy to help start you on your journey toward growing and enjoying delicious apples for years to come!
Whatever size space you have, you can garden. Whether you only have a windowsill, a small patio, or a postage stamp yard in North Carolina, it's still possible to grow some of your own food. Not only does homegrown food taste better, but gardening is also great for our mental and physical health. Here a few ideas to make the best of the gardening space you have available so you can enjoy an abundant harvest.
1. Be strategic about what you grow. Choose vegetables that will yield a lot of food without a lot of space. That means veggies like lettuce, tomatoes, or even potatoes, which produce lots of food from a single plant. Avoid less-efficient veggies, like corn, which need quite a bit of space and only produce about 1-2 cobs per stalk.
2. Consider the vegetables you purchase most often at the grocery store. If lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots are always finding their way into your cart, stick to growing just those things. You can grow much more food if you limit the types of plants in your small-space garden.
3. Take advantage of vertical space. You may not have very much space on the ground for your crops, but there’s plenty of room higher up! With a lattice or bamboo poles, you can grow climbing vegetables like peas and beans that take up very little space on the ground. Potatoes and carrots can be grown in deep pots or even 5-gallon pails, which you can stack on a shelving unit placed in a sunny spot.
4. Hang up some planters. There are lots of different herbs, fruits, and vegetables you can grow from a hanging planter. Strawberries do well in hanging baskets, as do cherry tomatoes, mint, some varieties of eggplant, and even small peppers.
5. Try companion planting to use your space more efficiently. Companion planting has a few different benefits that are helpful in a small garden. For one, companion planting can help shade the soil in your garden to slow the evaporation of water. Secondly, it helps maximize your harvest in minimal space. And third, planting certain crops side by side can help deter garden pests. Try planting lettuce, basil, and onions around the bottom of your tomato plants. You could also try growing carrots underneath climbing beans, and potatoes underneath your peas. Don't forget marigolds; they're easy to grow, and they repel many common garden pests, so they're a great companion for anything!
6. Keep track of your watering. In a small space garden, you'll have to pay pretty close attention to the moisture levels of your plants. When they're in peak growing season, vegetable plants can be really thirsty, especially if you're maximizing your space and growing more than one crop in the same space. But, be careful not to overwater. If you're growing your garden in containers, make sure the containers have ample drainage holes before you start planting, so that your plant roots don't end up waterlogged. When you're growing in containers, it's a good idea to check the soil every day. To do this, poke your finger into the soil up to your second knuckle. If the top inch is dry, its time to water.
Don't be discouraged or shy away from gardening if you only have a tiny yard. Even on a bright windowsill, you can easily grow some herbs or salad greens! You don't need much to get started; just a container, some soil, and some seeds. If you need more supplies, give us a call. We can help you find everything you need to grow a small-but-mighty garden.
If you've got a little sprout that's interested in gardening, you can help encourage that curiosity by helping them learn to grow their favorite veggies. Homegrown veggies taste so good, they'll go nuts for them and eat straight from the garden! If you've never grown a vegetable before, don't worry. You don't need to have a green thumb, or even know much about gardening, to help your children grow a kid-friendly vegetable garden.
The best plants to help kids develop a passion for gardening are ones that require very little maintenance and produce "snackable" edible plants quickly. Here are 5 of our favorite kid-friendly vegetables to grow in your North Carolina garden.
Carrots are super easy to grow. They're a cool-season crop, so should be planted in early spring, around mid-February. The seeds are quite tiny, so you may need to help small hands plant these. If they get a whole bunch of seeds in one place, just spread them out gently with your fingertips so that they're not too close together. You can usually start to pluck out a few baby carrots to snack on about eight weeks from planting. Carrots can also be grown in containers; just make sure it's a minimum of one foot deep.
It’s easier to get tasty tomatoes from the cherry and grape tomato plants compared to the larger tomatoes. With their tiny size, they ripen much faster and kids can snack on them right in the garden. Also since they ripen so quickly, you have less chance of typical tomato diseases setting in before you get a good crop.
Beans and Sugar Snap Peas
Beans take a little longer to grow, but they can be tons of fun for kids. If your child is familiar with "Jack and the Beanstalk," growing real-life magic beans is a fun way to bring the fairy tale to life! Climbing beans, like scarlet runner beans, are especially popular with kids because they grow fast enough over a structure to create a little secret hiding space. Creating a simple tent or teepee structure with string and stakes, and planting beans around the outside of it will soon give them a little fort in the garden, complete with ready-to-eat snacks later in the season. Sugar snaps can be planted in mid-February and beans should be planted around the beginning of April here in North Carolina.
Lettuce is another super-fast grower that kids can snack on within weeks of planting. Lettuce is also a cool-season crop that will do best in the early spring or late fall. Because it has shallow roots, you can easily grow lettuce in small containers or in the ground. You can even grow lettuce inside near a sunny window! Seeding a new batch of lettuce every two weeks will give you fresh salad greens all season long. Some varieties of lettuce can be ready to eat as soon as three weeks after seeding. Many varieties are “cut and come again”. You take the outermost leaves and the innermost leaves continue growing.
Cucumbers are another fun climbing plant for kids. Most kids love cucumbers, and they're easy to grow as long as you give them lots of sunshine, water, and something to climb. You can also grow cucumbers in a pot as long as they have a trellis, but they will require frequent watering. The one thing about cucumbers is that they need both male and female flowers to pollinate correctly, which both grow on the same plant! It’s always a good idea to grow more than one cucumber plant for increased chances for cross-pollination. For the best harvest, give your child a small clean paintbrush and have them gently "tickle" the cucumber flowers on each plant every few days to help pollinate them. You can start planting cucumbers outdoors in mid-April. Try the Baby Hybrid and the Gherking cukes for kids!
Encouraging your kids' curiosity about gardening and growing doesn't have to be difficult or complicated. Choose a couple of their favorite veggies and watch as their appreciation for plant-based food grows before your eyes!
Before we answer the question, let's start by saying that the number of common houseplants considered toxic might actually surprise you. And just like you wouldn't ingest your other household decorations, it's pretty common sense not to nibble on your houseplants.
Now, we get it—children and pets are a little harder to reason with when it comes to doing dangerous things. While they'll generally live and learn, in most cases, you definitely wouldn't want to keep anything potentially harmful within their reach. Still, there are myriad ways to keep houseplants out of the way, such as placing them on a high shelf or a hanging basket—and let's face it, this might be a good idea even if the plants aren't toxic!
The truth is, poinsettias are NOT poisonous. While they may cause irritation and are by no means edible, ingesting them does not have serious consequences.
The Myth of Poisonous Poinsettias
For years, people have believed that these vibrant plants were dangerously toxic and have repeated the warning that "just one leaf can kill a child." But if no one has ever hurt themselves from ingesting the plant, then where did this unfounded fear come from?
One of the more obvious reasons is the word association between "poinsettia" and "poison"—the similarity between the two words might lead people to assume they're connected. However, the plants are actually named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced them to the United States after being appointed the first U.S. Minister to Mexico. Poinsettias are also commonly grouped with other holiday plants like holly and mistletoe. These seasonal plants are known to be toxic, leaving our favorite Christmas centerpieces guilty by association.
The most accepted source of the myth is from a report from a hundred years ago that a child passed away after eating one of the plant's leaves. This was nothing more than an assumption based on the fact that the child was found near a wild poinsettia plant. Nevertheless, the rumor quickly spread throughout the scientific community, leading doctors to support these claims for many, many years.
Finally, researchers at Ohio State University discovered the truth in 1971 during a study on the plant's toxicity. When trying to pinpoint what a poisonous dose might be, they ended up reaching extraordinary high doses before concluding that the plant isn't actually toxic at all.
Adverse Effects of Poinsettia Plants
Let's be clear—just because something isn't poisonous, does not make it edible. Though poinsettia leaves are harmless, they aren't something you want to grow in your veggie garden or add to your salads. They still have a very low level of toxicity that can cause some irritation when they're touched or ingested. Although these symptoms are pretty self-limiting and rarely require medical attention, you should still take steps to keep them out of little bellies.
If your cat or dog ate poinsettia, here are some of the symptoms to watch for before calling the vet:
Our advice is to go ahead and decorate your home for the holidays with poinsettias, knowing they're just as safe to have around your loved ones as most other houseplants! If you have particularly curious pets and are more comfortable keeping your plants out of their reach, they'll be just as happy on a high shelf or in hanging planter by the window. Either way, don't hesitate to make Carolina Seasons your first stop for poinsettias in Greenville.
Carolina Seasons Nursery