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!
When you’re establishing a brand new lawn on freshly graded soil, or looking to revitalize an older lawn, you’ll want to make sure you choose the right grass for Greenville, NC. From the sidewalk, it may seem like grass is grass is grass. But that’s not quite true.
Like trees, there are so many different types of grass, and some do better in certain locations. In general, grass is divided into two different categories: cool-season and warm-season. Our hot summers here in North Carolina mean we need warm-season grass if we really want our lawns to thrive.
Warm-season grasses flourish in the intense heat of summer, but they don’t love the deep chill of winter in the northern states. One of the best warm-season grass choices for Greenville, and for most of North Carolina, is centipede grass.
Centipede grass is often called “lazy man's grass” because it does not require frequent mowing or fertilization, and it is extremely drought- and heat-tolerant. That means the lawn will survive even if it has to go several weeks without water.
Centipede Grass Care
Many grass experts say that centipede grass should be mowed to a height of 1-1½ inches height and that height is ok. We’ve seen many healthy centipede lawns with a really tight looking, short mow height. However, in our experience, a slightly taller grass blade (1½-2 inches height) is beneficial in that it shades the roots and stolons just a bit more from the harsh summer sun and gives a lusher texture.
As grass grows, it uses nutrients from the soil. An easy and inexpensive way to put those nutrients back into the soil is to leave grass clippings on the lawn to decompose after mowing. Small clippings are ideal for leaving on the lawn, so either mow frequently, use mulching blades on your lawn mower, or both! Many folks seem to think that lawn clippings cause thatch build-up, but thatch is actually made up of the roots, stems, and lower portions of grass leaves that are located below the mower blades. Heavy fertilizing and watering contribute to thatch build up. If thatch reaches ¾ inch, it’s time to dethatch or power rake. This should only be done during the growing season and with a blade spacing of 3 inches to avoid seriously injuring the lawn.
Another task that contributes to excellent lawn health is coring, or aeration. Centipede does not grow well in compacted soils. You may have noticed bare spots in the grass caused by high foot traffic and compaction. Coring allows oxygen to move easily into the rootzone. It might seem counterintuitive, but oxygen gas is actually needed by plant roots to grow. Compacted soils impede the roots’ access to oxygen, and coring is the best way to solve this problem.
Like dethatching, coring should only be done during the growing season so the lawn can recover from the procedure faster.
Centipede grass seems to grow best if it receives at least 1 inch of water each week. In these times of freshwater shortages, we don’t recommend watering the lawn. But the fact is, water does help centipede lawns grow. With that in mind, it’s up to you to decide how important it is to have the prettiest lawn (and honestly, we’ve never heard of anyone receiving a Medal of Honor for their lawn!).
Warm season grasses are known for being drought-tolerant once established. And if you let them do their job, they can pull through a drought surprisingly well. However, you have to be willing to let them go dormant during a drought, which means your grass will turn a deathly shade of grey-green. If you halfway try to water during a drought, you may actually be doing more harm than good. So, make your choice in the beginning: are you going to water heavily to keep the grass fat and happy, or just let it do what it was meant to do?
First of all, let’s get one thing straight—centipede grass should never be the same deep green lush color as the fescue grasses you find in the Piedmont and Mountain regions of our state. If it is, it has been severely over-fertilized and will suffer long term consequences in the form of fungal disease, thatch build up, and increased cold damage during winter. Think of Granny Smith apples when you think of centipede grass—a bright, happy, lemon-limey green.
If you think you need to add something to your centipede grass to improve its health, the first step is to have a soil sample tested by the NCDA. Their lab in Raleigh will prescribe exactly what you need. If that sounds overwhelming, keep in mind we can help you with this. If you bring a soil sample to us, we will box it up, fill out the paperwork, send it to Raleigh (via the Pitt County Ag Extension courier), and we will help you interpret the results. Normally, NCDA does not charge for testing from around April to November. The lab is busier December to March, so they charge a small $4 fee per soil sample during this time.
We have seen so many off-the-cuff fertilizer, nutrient, weed control, and insect control recommendations based on symptoms and not on science. For example, “Is your centipede yellow? Add iron!” The problem with this advice is, if your soil pH is above 6.0 or the phosphorus level is high, the iron in your soil is tied up and the roots are denied access to it. Sure, an iron treatment might help temporarily, but it’s not a long-term fix. You, and your wallet, would be better off finding and correcting the root cause of the problem.
Timing is everything. Especially for fertilizer applications. Actively growing centipede grass is cold-sensitive. If it is exposed to freezing temperatures, it may die. So, it’s important to let the grass come out of dormancy in the spring and begin active growth before fertilizing (NC State Extension Service recommends waiting until June through August to fertilize). Fall fertilizer applications can be problematic. A few years ago, the Pitt County Extension Agent told me about a lawn in one of our neighborhoods that was fertilized in the prior year’s fall. The lawn jumped in growth, and then it got cold. The next spring, there was barely a patch of centipede that remained alive. It was tender and froze to death.
We’ve covered the key points to growing a good centipede lawn. Of course, there’s a lot more to know about the use of pre- and post- emergent weed killers, insecticides, and fungicide treatments. Keep in mind that the rainwater runoff in many of Greenville’s neighborhoods goes straight into the Tar River. Some newer neighborhoods have retention ponds that allow chemicals to at least partially dissipate before moving into underground water reservoirs. Best management practices in nurseries indicate that you can never expect to be 100% free of pests, so find a level of pest damage that is acceptable and try to manage things at that level. We think the same should go for homeowners as well.
For more information on warm season grasses, check out NCSU TurfFiles online, call us, or call your County Extension Office.
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!
There's no denying that houseplants add style and vibrancy to your home decor, but if that's not reason enough for you to venture into "plant parenthood," there is a long list of other benefits that might surprise you! Science has shown that keeping houseplants indoors can improve your physical and mental health, and will even keep your house cleaner! That's right; your plants will help you clean your house. They really don't get enough credit for all they do for us!
There are so many fabulous benefits to owning houseplants here in North Carolina. Here are some of the most compelling cases for why you should add some plants into your home, your office, or anywhere else you hang out.
Plants Have Air-Purifying Properties
Houseplants are truly a scientific marvel. Back in the late 1980’s, NASA began looking into whether they could use common houseplants to clean the air in future space stations. Since then there have been numerous studies conducted to determine which common household VOCs can be affected by plants, which plants are best at removing VOCs from the environment, and just how it happens. One thing is clear, lab tests prove beyond a doubt that plants can remove harmful VOCs from the air.
Fewer Toxins In The Air: Many everyday household items, like printer ink, cleaning solutions, paints, and even your carpet can release airborne toxins known as Volatile Organic Compounds. You may remember from your last chemistry class that the “organic” part of that phrase means the material is composed of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. High concentrations of VOCs can trigger asthma, irritate your skin and eyes, and make it harder to breathe deeply. In high enough concentrations, some VOCs are considered to be cancer-causing. Houseplants can take in these compounds and convert them into usable chemical components where they may be stored in the leaf, translocated to another part of the plant, or removed by the roots into the soil. Unlike us, it doesn't hurt them at all. Thanks, houseplants!
More Humidity: When the air in our home is too dry, our skin, nails, and immune systems suffer. Having extra moisture in the air will help to avoid chapped, cracking skin while promoting faster healing. Plants release moisture into the air as they pump out all that clean oxygen, so you'll feel a noticeable difference in your home if you fill it with some greenery.
What Is The Best Houseplant To Clean The Air?
Not all houseplants are equally gifted in their air filtering abilities, but there are a few in particular that are total powerhouses. If we had to crown a champion, we'd have to go with the ever-popular spider plant, which soaks up dust and impurities like a magnet. Who needs Febreze when you've got your trusty spider plant to keep things smelling fresh? Spider plants are also known for their rapid reproduction—a full-sized plant will develop tons of baby plants that can be plucked off and grown into a new plant to share with a friend!
Some other plants that are super effective at cleaning the air include:
Do Houseplants Make You Happier?
As unbelievable as it may sound, many studies have shown a clear link between improved mental health and having lots of plants around, indoors and out. The effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder can bog some folks down during the more dreary winter months, but a living space full of vibrant, lush houseplants can have a positive effect. Herbs with soothing scents are especially calming and can help improve sleep and reduce anxiety.
Offices full of plants tend to have higher productivity and fewer employees calling in sick, and schools full of plants report more focused, well-behaved students. In essence, plants help our overall well-being.
The benefits of having plants at home are nothing to sneeze at—they really do have a major impact on our health, our mood, our productivity, and overall quality of life! If your living space is feeling a little lifeless, consider picking up some new houseplants. Even if you don't have much sunlight streaming in, there are plenty of low-light-tolerant plants you can grow indoors! Visit us at Carolina Seasons, and we'll help you find the perfect plant.
Carolina Seasons Nursery