Western North Carolina can be a tricky place to start a home garden. The mountain soil is rich with nutrients, but spring weather in the Blue Ridge can be unpredictable, to put it lightly. This weather can present a headache to new homeowners in the Asheville area, especially if you come from warmer areas with year-round growing seasons.
You will need to adapt slightly to be a successful home gardener in Asheville, but even an amateur green thumb can have some delicious fruits and vegetables ready for the table with some planning and a little love and time. The key is to observe a couple easy rules and to focus on native plants that thrive in the local climate.
When to Start Your Spring Crops
Frost is the arch nemesis of plants like broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers. While the cold weather is “over” for the area in February, expect the unexpected cold snap well into March. These cold snaps could easily kill off your spring veggies before they even sprout. If you wait until the weather is warm enough to guarantee a safe growing season, you’re probably not going to have fresh vegetables for your summer picnics.
There is a solution, though: gardening experts suggest starting indoors to give your garden a head start. You can plant everything from cauliflower to potatoes in small pots around mid-February. Once the ground has definitely thawed, move them outside and into the rich soil.
Fall Crops in Asheville
Just as March can cause headaches early in the spring planting season, October brings a new frost that can wipe out all of your crops before they’re ready to harvest. Likewise, August heatwaves can do the same, scorching your veggie plants and killing them off if they aren’t acclimated to being outdoors.
Nothing says fall like pumpkins, squash, and corn. You’ll want to plant those seeds on July 1 if you want a bountiful harvest in time for Thanksgiving.
Ramps: An Appalachian Signature
If you’re new in town, the ecstatic signs outside every restaurant claiming “WE HAVE RAMPS!” might be a little confusing. These little wild leeks are an Appalachian signature that defines the regional cuisine in the same way as trout and grits. They’re delicious and a great way to let your neighbors know you’re a real deal Ashevillian.
While these bad boys are typically grown in the wild, local farmers have had some success growing them as well. We’ll admit it: growing ramps is not easy. Most guides say it can take a few years to get a decent-sized colony. Ramps also are very fickle—they need a good amount of shade, moist soil, and only produce aromatic leaves for a short time in early spring.
However, the result is worth it: ramps are absolutely delicious and give an extra kick to any dish that uses leeks or onions. They’re a hot commodity around here, so having a healthy batch of them in your yard could make you the most popular person on the block.
Rhubarb: Another Classic Mountain Treat
They take Rhubarb seriously around here, so much so that it’s the namesake of one of Asheville’s most popular farm-to-table spots. If you’re committed to growing an authentic Asheville garden, you can’t ask for much better.
Waiting is key with rhubarb as well. Farming guides suggest waiting to harvest rhubarb for an entire year after planting to ensure the plants can survive. The payoff is worth it, though: rhubarb plants can last for 20 years with proper care. That’s a lot of delicious pies!
It’s Always Growing Season
Part of the joy of owning a home is having a place to establish your roots and grow as a person and as a family. A garden lets you take that a little more literally, giving you fresh fruits and vegetables every season. Home gardens are a fantastic activity, whether it’s your own therapeutic time away from the world or something you share with your partner or children.
Asheville has a long history as a farming community. Growing your own fruits and vegetables is a great way to connect to the spirit of your new home, especially if you are planting rows of local favorites. The area has a thriving community of people who love the land. Once you start gardening you’ll open yourself up to a whole new world of friendly people at farmer’s markets who can’t wait to share more tips and secrets every successful gardener swears by.
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