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cool season vegetable crops

*This is an excerpt from The Alabama Vegetable Gardener, ANR-0479.


A successful home garden comes with planning and constant attention! Select the site carefully, plant at the right time, use the right amount of fertilizer, use adapted varieties, control pests; then, harvest at the right time.


Select a site with full sun. You cannot grow vegetables in competition with trees or in shade. The soil should be well drained and free of harmful chemicals or debris.

Soil Management

Improve your garden soil by adding organic matter—compost, leaf mold, or well-rotted sawdust—in the late fall.

Lime and Fertilizer

A soil test is the only way to determine lime needs and the best way to figure fertilizer needs. Get information for soil tests at your county Extension office. Test at least every 2 years. For most vegetables, the soil pH should be around 6.0 to 6.5. Mix lime into the soil a month or two before planting to be effective.

Long-season crops such as tomatoes, cabbage, pepper, okra, and potatoes need more fertilizer than short-season crops. Close observation is the best guide for additional sidedressing.

Seed and Plants

Seed are inexpensive; get the best available. Don’t seed too thickly. Plant small seed, such as turnips and carrots, about ¼ to ½ inch deep. Plant larger seed, such as beans and cucumbers, about 1 inch deep.

Use only stocky, healthy, fresh plants. Set them at the same level they originally grew in the pot. Always water transplants to settle soil around roots. Set tall tomato plants deeper than they grew originally.


To control weeds, cultivate frequently but shallowly. Chemical weed killers are not usually recommended for home gardens. Before using, get full information on how to use and what crop to use them on.


Water is essential for a top-notch garden. During long dry periods, soak the garden thoroughly once a week; don’t just sprinkle daily. Light, frequent irrigation helps only during seed germination. Overhead irrigation, especially late in the afternoon, can spread certain diseases. If you use overhead irrigation, do so earlier in the day so plants dry before night. Consider using drip irrigation.

Disease Control

The best practices are rotation, clean seed, resistant varieties (when available), early planting, plowing under old crop debris, and seed treatment. Chemical fungicides, such as chlorothalonil and maneb, may be used to control some common leaf diseases of tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and cantaloupes. If the garden is heavily infested with nematodes, you might need to move your garden.

Insect Control

For a successful garden, you must control insect pests in a timely manner. Many low-cost insect monitoring traps are available. These pheromone-based traps give accurate information about pest activity and season-long monitoring. Once pest insects are detected and identified, use a three-tiered, integrated pest management (IPM) approach of cultural controls, mechanical barriers, and insecticidal intervention, if needed. Note that all pesticides are poisons and must be used in their prescribed manner to minimize effects to nontarget insects, such as honey bees.

USE ALL CHEMICALS FOR INSECTS, WEEDS, OR NEMATODES ACCORDING TO DIRECTIONS ON THE LABEL. It tells you the amount to use, the crops to use it on, and the days between application and harvest. The label is one of the most important pieces of garden literature. Read and heed it for effective use and safety.


The main reason for having a garden is fresh, high-quality vegetables. Harvest often to get vegetables at the proper stage of maturity. If beans, cucumbers, or okra are left to mature fully, the plant will stop producing. Early-morning harvest is best for most vegetables. Freeze or can the surplus to enjoy your garden all year.


Alabama Vegetable Garden Planning Chart

These planting dates are for Central Alabama. For South Alabama, make spring plantings approximately 10 days earlier and fall planting 10 days laters. In North Alabama, make spring plantings approximately 10 days later and fall plantings 10 days earlier.

†Between rows x in the row. *Transplant.
VegetableSpring Planting DatesFall Planting DatesSeed Per 100 Ft. RowSpacing (inches)†Average Crop Per 100 Ft.
Beans, snapAprilAugust 5–20¾ lb.36×2-3120 lb.
Beans, poleApril 10–30July 20–August 5½ lb.36×6-8150 lb.
Beans, limaApril 10–May 10July 20–August 5¾ lb.36×3-625 lb. shelled
Beans, pole limaApril 15–May 15July 15–August 1½ lb.36×6-850 lb.
BeetsFebruaryAugust½ oz.30×2150 lb.
BroccoliAugust 1–15½ oz.36×18100 lb.
Brussels sproutsAugust 1–September 1½ oz.36×1875 lb.
CabbageJanuary 1–February 15*July 25–August 10½ oz.36×12150 lb.
CantaloupeApril1 oz.60×24100 fruit
CarrotsMarchJuly 20–September 20¼ oz.30×1-2100 lb.
CauliflowerJanuary 1–February 15*July 25–August 10½ oz.36×12150 lb.
Chinese cabbageAugust 1–15½ oz.36×1280 heads
CollardsFebruary 1–March 15August 15–September 15½ oz.36×12-18100 lb.
Corn, sweetMarch 10–June 308 oz.36×1510 doz.
CucumbersApril 15–May 15July 1–201 oz.60×24120 lb.
EggplantsApril 15–May 15*July 1–20*50 plants36×24100 lb.
KaleAugust 15–September 15½ oz.36×10100 lb.
LettuceJanuary 15–February*August 15–September 11/8 oz.30×1250 lb.
MustardFebruary 1–March 15August 15–September 15½ oz.30×2100 lb.
OkraApril 10–June 301 oz.36×12100 lb.

January 15–March 15*
September 15–October 15½ oz.
400 plants
100 lb.
100 lb.
Peas, gardenFebruary1 lb.36×220 lb.
Peas, southernApril–July½ lb.42×4-650 lb.
PeppersApril 1–May 10*July*50 plants36×2460 lb.
Potatoes, IrishFebruaryAugust 1–1512 lb.36×12100 lb.
Potatoes, sweetApril 10–June 30*100 plants42×12100 lb.
RadishesFebruary 1–April 1September 1–October 15½ oz.24×1100 bunches
SpinachFebruary 15–March 15September1 oz.30×2-340 lb.
Squash, summerAprilAugust 1–151 oz.36×15150 lb.
Squash, winterAprilJuly 15–August 1½ oz.60×36100 lb.
TomatoesApril*July*35–50 plants60×24-36100 lb.
TurnipsFebruary 1–April 1August 10–October 1¼ oz.30×2100 lb.
WatermelonsAprilJune 15–30½ oz.96×9640 fruit


For more information, see other excerpts from The Alabama Vegetable Gardener, ANR-0479.

Kerry SmithExtension Home Horticulture AssociateAyanava MajumdarExtension EntomologistCharles MitchellExtension Agronomist, Professor, Agronomy and Soils; John Everest, Visiting Professor, Agronomy and Soils; Edward SikoraExtension Plant Pathologist, Professor, Entomology and Plant Pathology; Joseph KembleExtension Specialist, Professor, Horticulture; all with Auburn University; and Rufina Ward, Research Entomologist, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, Alabama A&M University.

Reviewed October 2021, The Alabama Vegetable Gardener, ANR-0479

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