Top Crops: Southern Interior

Okra, sweet potatoes, and watermelon might be signifiers of the southern interior, but sweet peppers are the surprise #1 among the region's top crops.
By Barbara Pleasant
April/May 2009
Add to My MSN

The Southern Interior gardening region.

Content Tools

Broccoli finally makes it onto the list of 10 Top Crops thanks to the Southern interior region’s long fall, which starts in September and lingers until December. In addition, educational programs that encouraged farmers to switch from tobacco to broccoli probably trickled down to gardeners. Seedlings must be set out during the torrid days of August, and you will need to use row covers. Weekly sprays with a Bt or Spinosad insecticide will control cabbage worms and other leaf-eating caterpillars, but with row covers you get additional protection from grasshoppers — the scourge of the late-summer garden.

Most of the crops Southerners claim as their own — okra, sweet potatoes, Southern peas, and watermelon — lined up just behind the region’s Top 10. One gardener commented that he took the survey just so he could say how happy he was with his okra. Yet it does look like the red clay soils of the South are tough for root crops, which even experienced gardeners often find difficult to grow. Framed raised beds filled with sandy loam may be the only solution.

On the other hand, fall greens pretty much grow themselves, and most Southerners value collards the most. Spinach, turnips, chard, and mustard may be good, but in the South, collards are king.

Top 10

  1. Sweet pepper
  2. Slicing tomato
  3. Bush snap bean
  4. Summer squash
  5. Broccoli
  6. Garlic
  7. Bulb onion
  8. Pole snap bean
  9. Cherry tomato
  10. Hot pepper

Other Highly Rated Crops

Cabbage family: Cabbage, collards, kale

Cucumber family: Cantaloupe, watermelon, winter squash

Leafy greens: Arugula, chard, lettuce, mâche, mustard (all types), pac choi, sorrel, spinach, turnip greens

Legumes: Asparagus/yard-long bean, bush lima bean, dry soup bean, edamame, pole bean, snow/snap pea

Root crops: Potato, radish, rutabaga, shallot, sunchoke, sweet potato

Tomato family: Eggplant, tomatillo

Miscellaneous: Asparagus, okra, scallion, sweet corn

Read The Best Crops for Your Garden to find top crops for other U.S. gardening regions.

Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on .

Post a comment below.


Joy Ann Cone
4/26/2009 7:25:19 AM
did I miss my window to plant this year?

4/7/2009 4:15:11 PM
Well, I reckon this applies to NWAR-- that tiny little white corner of the state up there-- just as well. Thanks for the tip on dealing with the @!#%* grasshoppers. Any recommendations on the best materials to make rowcovers out of???? I hope I started my salad garden early enough.

4/6/2009 3:55:43 PM
I live in far South Texas and I didn't see my area in any of the articles. It's hot and dry and I could use a little advice!

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.