Alabama is a great state for gardening. Warm, humid, and sunny days mean lush gardens. The key to any successful garden is knowing what to plant and when to plant it. Understanding your zones, frost dates, and soil is important too. Here is everything you need to know to get started planting in Alabama.
Alabama Planting Zones
Alabama has three plant hardiness zones. They are zones 7, 8 and 9. This means lows of 0 – 30 degrees F at night. It’s important to plant the right plants in the zone you are in if you want a flourishing garden.
It’s also important to know the last frost date and the first frost date. Warm weather crops like tomatoes can’t go out in the garden until the last frost date. Dates can vary by city, but the earliest frost date for Alabama is around March 21st. The last frost date starts around 10/7, but for many areas is later in October.
Know Your Soil
Fall is the time to start working compost, leaves, and other natural soil enhancers into your garden area. Have your soil tested to see what the pH balance is. Find your local Alabama extension office number and arrange to have your soil tested. You can get kits that will allow you to test it yourself. The soil pH should be around 6.0 to 6.5. Once you know the pH of the soil, then you can add the correct amount of lime or fertilizer to balance things out.
Vegetables That Grow Well
In Alabama, you can grow a wide variety of vegetables. The long, hot days are perfect for vegetables like tomatoes that need a longer growing season. Be sure to choose varieties that are heat resistant and resistant to local pests. All this information will be on the seed packet or in the seed catalog.
Here are vegetables that do very well in Alabama:
- Radishes – Plant in early spring and again in the fall. Best choices – Cherry Belle, Icicle or Scarlet.
- Tomatoes – Plant in April and again in July. Best choices – Atkinson, April Celebrity, Better Boy, Big Beef, Husky Gold, Monte Carlo, Small Fry or Sweet Chelsea.
- Peppers – Plant in April and again in July. Best choices are cayenne, habanero or jalapeno for hot varieties. Sweet varieties choose any banana or bell.
- Potatoes – Plant in February and again in August. Best choices are Sebago, Red Pontiac, Red LaSoda or Superior.
- Peas – Plant in February. Best choices Arrow or English.
- Green Beans – Best choices – Contender, Derby or Green Crop.
- Pole Beans – Best choices – Kentucky Wonder, Kentucky Blue or Dade.
- Lima Beans – Best choices – King of the Garden.
- Oriental Cabbages – Plant in July. Best choices – Bok Choi, Michihli, Napa or Pak Choi.
- Collard Greens – Plant in July – Best choices are Top Bunch or Champion.
- Spinach – Plant February – September. Best choice is Bloomsdale Longstanding
- Mustard Greens – Plant February – August. Best choices – Red Giant or Florida Broadleaf.
- Okra – Plant April through June. Best choices – Clemson Spineless, Emerald Lee or Burgundy.
- Squash – Plant April and again in August. Best choices – any summer squash. Winter varieties choose acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash.
Healthy soil can help keep pests away, but every garden has to deal with them. Some of the ones you will see in your Alabama garden include slugs, cutworms, wireworms, white grubs (Japanese and other beetles when mature), aphids, asparagus beetles, squash bugs, and weevils. You’ll need to hand remove pests such as slugs and beetles. Check your local nursery for what insecticides work best for the insects in your area.
Gardening in Alabama is a great way to grow healthy, delicious food. The varieties you can grow are broad due to the nice growing season that is present. Plan your garden now for lots of flavorful produce from spring through summer.