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Comfrey flowers

Comfrey flowers

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 18 inches

Spacing: 20 inches


Hardiness Zone: 3a

Ornamental Features

Comfrey features delicate clusters of purple bell-shaped flowers at the ends of the stems in late spring. Its narrow leaves remain dark green in color throughout the season. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Comfrey is an herbaceous perennial with a mounded form. Its medium texture blends into the garden, but can always be balanced by a couple of finer or coarser plants for an effective composition.

This is a high maintenance plant that will require regular care and upkeep, and should be cut back in late fall in preparation for winter. Deer don’t particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;

  • Invasive

Comfrey is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Groundcover

Planting & Growing

Comfrey will grow to be about 18 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 24 inches. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 20 inches apart. It grows at a fast rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 10 years.

This plant performs well in both full sun and full shade. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist locations, and should do just fine under typical garden conditions. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This species is not originally from North America, and parts of it are known to be toxic to humans and animals, so care should be exercised in planting it around children and pets. It can be propagated by division.

Vegetables & Fruits

Craving homegrown veggies, but not much space, poor growing conditions, contaminated soils, or past failures with container gardening? Consider EarthBoxes®, a growing method developed by Florida farmer Blake Whisenant, working with university researchers and Cooperative Extension. Whisenant, using C. M. Geraldson’s gradient-oriented nutritional paradigm, created EarthBox® as a self-contained system with growing medium, fertilizer, lime, a water reservoir, and plastic mulch cover.

Why EarthBoxes®?

Although Extension Master Gardeners don’t endorse commercial products, EarthBoxes® resulted from research to develop a growing system that manages water and nutrients for optimal plant growth. Having grown vegetables at homes in different states, as well as a local community garden, I know that EarthBoxes® produce better yields in less space than conventional in-ground planting—with minimal maintenance!

EarthBox with Cover

How to use EarthBoxes®.

Each box is 29 inches long, 13 ½ inches deep, 11 inches tall, holds 3 gallons of water, and 2 cubic feet of growing medium. Tuck a single EarthBox® onto your deck or create an EarthBox® farming operation! For success, set up your EarthBoxes® with:

  • An appropriate growing medium,
  • Mixed with the recommended amount of dolomitic lime.
  • The recommended type and amount of fertilizer placed in a strip topped with more growing medium,
  • Covered with a plastic mulch “cap” that is either black, white, or red.

You need not buy soil mixes, fertilizers, and lime sold with EarthBoxes®—it is often cheaper to purchase these in bulk. Choose either conventional or organic products—just do NOT use garden soil and DO use dolomitic lime rather than other lime formulations. Carefully follow your EarthBox® instructions for the amount and placement of these ingredients—you should NOT add any more fertilizer during the growing season!

For gardening in future years:

  • The boxes will last indefinitely—I have one that is almost 20 years old and left outside most of that time!
  • The growing medium can be reused for many years—with just some topping up when you replant your boxes the next growing season.
  • Replenish fertilizer, lime, and mulch covers every year.

Customize your boxes by:

  • Making them mobile on casters to follow the sun;
  • Raise them up to waist height;
  • Add trellises for vining crops and support for your tomatoes;
  • Include frost covers to extend the growing season.

Watering is key!

You must keep the EarthBox® water reservoir partially full, so your plants’ dense root systems are evenly moist. This enclosed system means you cannot rely on rainwater, so boxes without an automatic watering system might require water twice a day by midsummer! The upside is that during wet seasons your boxes will not become waterlogged and/or leach nutrients—one reason Whisenant designed EarthBoxes® was crop loss from flooding in Florida tomato fields!

Adding an automatic watering system makes your boxes almost maintenance-free. The system sold to accompany EarthBoxes® can be a bit difficult to set up (their instructional video provides pointers) and may be vulnerable to coming apart and leaking. To minimize the toll of accidental leaks, I use a timer to limit how long water flows to the boxes; 15 to 20 minutes every 6 hours keeps the reservoirs filled on my eight-box system.

  • Use a “Y” connector when you hook up your automatic watering system to allow using your hose bib for other watering chores.
  • Make sure you keep any hose bib shut-off valve to the EarthBoxes® open at all times!
  • Turn on the faucet far enough to create sufficient water pressure to keep your boxes watered.

What can you grow in your EarthBoxes®?

Just about any vegetable—and many fruits and herbs—grown in our area will grow in an EarthBox®. I do not grow perennials (asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, and many herbs) in EarthBoxes® because you must disconnect the watering system before frost!

A single box will hold 2 full-size tomato plants, OR 2 eggplants, OR 4 cucumber vines, OR 6 pepper plants, OR 8 lettuces, OR 16 bean plants. This may not seem like much, but I harvested 119 full-sized fruits from the two ‘Better Boy’ tomato plants I grew in my first EarthBox®!

Vegetable Gardening with EarthBoxes

Although EarthBox® provides planting placement instructions for many other crops, I have found it difficult to start seeds in the boxes—use your own or purchased transplants—so I do not grow beets, corn, or radishes in these systems. Trying new crops is part of the gardening adventure, though—experiment to find the best choices for your EarthBox® space!

Not every crop will do well every year but pay attention to timely harvesting and any disease or insect problems and you’ll typically see greater yields than from the same plants grown in the ground—and in a smaller space!

Should you try it?

The downside is the initial investment, so starting with a single EarthBox® or two with a watering system is a cautious approach. There are also many “do-it-yourself” versions of the boxes, and variants on irrigation methods, but I can’t vouch that you’ll get the same results with these substitutes.

If you do try EarthBoxes®, remember that you can consult with those of us who have used them before. Our Extension Master Gardner helpline opens again in March, along with info tables at many gardening events in our area!

Article by Debbie Green, Buncombe County Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteer.

About Blake Whisenant:

What/how to plant:

Instructional videos:

For Western North Carolina gardeners who follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, GIY (grow-it-yourself) protein can present a satisfying challenge

Some protein-producing plants, such as some legumes and grains, require much more space than a typical homeowner has. But others, like squash, peas and beans, are easy to grow and yield high amounts of protein, experts say.

Denise Barratt, a local dietitian and nutritionist at Vine Ripe Nutrition, says the best protein source that can be produced in a home garden is dried beans. In her garden, she just planted black beans, white lima beans, cow peas, fava beans and greasy beans, an Appalachian native pole bean that’s so-named for its shiny appearance.

“When beans are dried for cooking, there is about 7 grams of protein per half cup of beans. Most other vegetables have about 2 grams of protein,” says Barratt. “So, if you eat a cup of beans with a kale salad and a side of carrots, you’re looking at about 18 grams of protein.”

Barratt recommends that people eat 1 gram of protein per day for every kilogram they weigh. So, for a 165-pound man, that translates to roughly 75 kilograms, she says, which would mean eating about 75 grams of protein daily.

“Most of us get the majority of our protein from meat,” she says. “But you can get a lot of protein from dried beans, nuts and nut butters, as well as cheese and dairy. If you were to have beans with cornbread — which has 5 grams of protein — and some vegetables on the side, you’re at 23 grams, which is getting close to the 25 grams per meal that you need.”

Sunflowers are a protein option for WNC gardens that’s both beautiful and productive. Although Barratt says she has trouble cultivating them in her current Asheville plot, she has raised them in the past, and they make for a great source of homegrown protein — about 8 grams of it per 1/4 cup. “They are also rich in polyunsaturated fats,” she adds.

Barratt notes that squash and pumpkins can provide a double benefit, since protein can be found in both the flesh and seeds. But for those who have small growing areas, those crops may not be the best solution, says Alan Israel, nursery manager with Jesse Israel and Sons Garden Center in Asheville. The plants take up a lot of space for a relatively small yield.

“With squash, you’re going to pick them in their younger stages, and that’s before the plant and its seeds have time to mature,” he says. “Really mature summer squash, for instance, is not really palatable. And you’re not going to get that high of yield of seeds after all of that.”

However, ripe pumpkins do have matured seeds that are especially delicious roasted. “A lot of times, people will grow the competition pumpkins, if they’ve got the space for it,” he says. “Those larger pumpkins have larger seeds, which have more meat to them, which means more protein.”

But probably the easiest protein home producers can grow are beans, says Israel. “You can devote a space to beans and grow them on poles or on trellises where they won’t take up much space,” he says. “But you can also find bush varieties that are more compact and don’t require staking them up.”

Peas, he notes, are another good source and are simple to grow. “They’re fairly easy, but they’re going to be more for your colder months,” he says. “Right now you should be harvesting them, but you would be able to put in another crop in fall.”

Peas can be eaten fresh or dried and eaten as split peas. The dried versions have more protein, Barratt says.

Peanuts are another protein-rich crop that can be grown in WNC, but Israel says that, taking into account the cost of seed peanuts and all the materials needed for them to grow, it may make more sense to just buy them already roasted. “As low as the price is on peanuts , it’s just not worth the cost and trouble,” he says.

Top Vegetables Grown in North Carolina

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Chris Gunter, a vegetable crops expert and professor of horticultural science at NC State. This post is part of our NC Knowledge List series, which taps into NC State’s expertise on all things North Carolina.

Have you ever wondered what vegetables are grown in North Carolina? We have some of the best vegetable growers in the whole country! Let’s take a look at eight vegetable crops for which North Carolina ranks in the top 10 highest producing states in the country.

Cabbage. North Carolina ranks ninth nationally for cabbage production. While California is the top producing state, North Carolina farmers grow almost 70 million pounds of heading cabbage annually. Our top cabbage production takes place in coastal Pasquotank County and in Wilson County in the Piedmont.

Squash and Watermelon. North Carolina ranks eighth in production of both of these crops nationally. Michigan ranks first in squash production and Florida ranks first for watermelon production. North Carolina grows more than 21 million pounds of squash and over 144 million pounds of watermelon annually. If you are looking for those crops in North Carolina, start in Cleveland County for squash and Wayne County for watermelon. Those are the top producing counties in North Carolina for these crops.

Cantaloupe and Tomatoes. North Carolina ranks seventh in the country for both crops. While we don’t grow quite as many cantaloupes as Georgia or as many tomatoes as California, neither does anyone else in the country. Wilson County tops the list for cantaloupe production in NC. But to find NC’s top tomato-producing county, you have to go out west to Henderson County. We grow a lot of these crops in the state, with 20 million and 96 million pounds of cantaloupe and tomatoes, respectively.

Cucumbers. North Carolina vegetable farmers rank fifth in the nation for cucumber production, growing 149 million pounds of cukes. Sampson County is the state leader in cucumber production.

Pumpkins. We’re fourth in the nation for pumpkin production, with almost 94 million pounds. If you are looking for pumpkins in the state, check Allegheny County.

Sweet Potatoes. We grow 1.7 billion pounds of sweet potatoes annually. That’s a lot of sweet potatoes – and we grow more of them than any other state. In fact, we grow more than half of all the sweet potatoes in the whole country. If you want to get your hands on some of those roots, head over to Nash, Sampson, Johnston, Wilson and Edgecombe Counties. They are our top sweet potato producing counties. When you choose sweet potatoes for dinner, you help support our North Carolina vegetable farms.

If you would like to know more about what’s grown in North Carolina, check out our agricultural statistics book, published by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The book is published and updated annually and has information about vegetable crops, fruit crops, animal production and much more. Check it out!

Sixty percent of the state is covered by timberland, according to the N.C. Forestry Association, at 18.1 million acres. Eighty-five percent is privately owned, with 21% controlled by industrial landowners. Forest products are marketed as wood pulp, wood products, and paper and packaging.

North Carolina exported $480 million in wood products, with China and Vietnam the top destinations, and Canada and Mexico topped the charts as the biggest customers of N.C.’s $325 million of paper-and-packaging products.

While hurricanes and cold temperatures provided some challenges in 2018, growers are optimistic.

Scott Sullivan’s family business, Sullivan Farms, in Wilson County grows about 500 acres of sweet potatoes. He’s seen the markets rise and fall.

“We’ve been doing it since my dad started in the 1970s. In a normal year, we harvest about 30,000 pounds, but it’s down about a third now, to about 20,000 pounds,” he says. “Farther south it’s even worse. But the price is up, almost a little less than double the price it was last year, and it could go more.”

Recovery takes effort

“Farmers worked around the clock to harvest as much of their crops as they could before and after Hurricane Florence made landfall, which resulted in 60% to 80% of the crop being successfully harvested,” says Kelly McIver, executive director of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission.

Meat products also are profitable for North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Pork Council, the state ranks second to Iowa in hog production, and the state pork industry provides 46,000 full-time jobs. There are 2,100 pig farms in North Carolina, with 25% of the pork exported.

The council says about 10% of U.S. pork exports come from North Carolina, with Mexico and Canada the main customers followed by Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. State data shows $366.7 in total commodities of pork exports in 2018 through October.

Wang says North Carolina is open for business worldwide and is always looking at new possibilities.

“I have been saying we need to diversify the market. We are actively looking to other markets,” she says. “We basically are looking at any place we have the opportunity.”

Emily Silverman

North Carolina farmers may someday grow stevia, a plant whose leaves produce compounds used in sweeteners. Photo by Emily Silverman

Crops of the future

N.C. scientists test everything from poplars to hemp.

North Carolina’s terrain is a canvas of endless possibilities for researchers, farmers and marketers.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is developing components for continued agribusiness success. In January, the department announced its New and Emerging Crops Program.

“North Carolina is really unique in that we have an extensive system with 18 research stations located throughout the state. We can test crops in a wide range of climates and sulfites,” says Hunter Barrier, agriculture manager of horticulture at the Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury and program coordinator for the NECP.

The NECP is administered through the N.C. Bioenergy Research Initiative, part of the Research Stations Division. A $1 million allocation from Bioenergy Research is covering bioenergy projects and emerging crops projects, with up to $500,000 available for emerging crops initiatives, Barrier says.

North Carolina State University’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources will use $107,757 to fund a study of “hybrid poplar clones suitable for veneer.”

The NCSU Department of Horticultural Science will use $74,283 toward research for “optimizing floral yield of industrial hemp grown
in outdoor production systems.”

Another $105,305 segment of the allocation goes to NCSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences to study nitrogen and potassium rates for industrial hemp production, as growers need research-based fertility guidelines for hemp grown for CBD oil, or cannabidiol.

Also in the grant cycle, the Biotechnology Center will use $83,931 for research on hemp fungal disease management to evaluate biological, organic and conventional fungicides on disease control, yield and CBD oil quality.

Last, the Biotechnology Center will use $113,523 of grant money toward studying a potential market for natural food colorants. A high-yielding purple carrot variety, favorable for extraction for food colorants, will be tested for varieties best in soil types, growing locations, and planting and harvesting periods.

A plant not included in the New and Emerging Crops Program but being tested in N.C. is stevia, whose leaves produce compounds used as artificial, calorie-free sweeteners. Stevia is used in products such as Truvia and has an annual global market value of about $400 million.

“I’m not sure it can be considered a crop yet,” says Todd Wehner, professor of horticultural science at N.C. State. “Growers can obtain plants and see their production, but I would be hesitant to say it’s a crop because that implies that there are production methods and machines. But it seems promising.”

Robert Elliott

The Veteran’s Farm of N.C. is a nonprofit program helping veterans prepare for life on the farm.Vets on the farm. Photo courtesy of Robert Elliott

Vets on the farm

Education programs focus on veterans with farming ambitions.

Robert Elliott is a former C-130 aircraft mechanic for the United States Marine Corps. Like any enlisted person facing the tenseness of active duty, he says, “There were some questionable moments.”

Elliott retired from the military in 2011 after five years of enlisted service and 10 as a contractor for the Department of Defense. The predicament of what to do next led him to farming. “It was more therapeutic, and I realized a lot of veterans wanted what I’d found. It can be a hard time transitioning from military to civilian,” he says.

In 2015, he established The Veteran’s Farm of N.C. Inc., a nonprofit assisting veterans with becoming successful farmers. The Sanford-based organization offers guidance on raising livestock and growing organic vegetables and maintains an arsenal of gear — tractors, basic farm tools, trucks and trailers — that can be checked out and returned.

“For a lot of them, it may take a few years to get squared away and transition and get to where they want to be and need to be,” Elliott says.

Elliott’s work became part of Fort Bragg’s new Soldier to Agriculture Program, a six-week course that gives exiting military a glimpse of farming. The first class started in July 2017 to coincide with the opening of the base’s Career Resource Center. Elliott is the instructor and is a liaison between Fort Bragg and N.C. State’s Agricultural Institute.

The Soldier to Agriculture class is free and does not provide credits, though some students choose to segue to N.C. State to further their education in that discipline. All Career Resource Center agriculture classes are classroom only; there is no online work or self-study.

“It’s introduction-to-agriculture type stuff, what the history is, what a farm looks like, what products are based where,” Elliott says. “It’s about fisheries, forestry, and they learn about a variety of production models.”

The class emphasizes that working a farm is unlike working a 9-to-5 business shift.

In addition to agriculture knowledge, Elliott emphasizes built-in discipline. Elliott’s course also teaches that farming is not a get-rich-quick profession. Money to buy land is not a given.

Veterans can apply for a USDA loan or Farm Credit loan, which provides financial assistance to farmers, agribusinesses and farm-owned cooperatives. Nationally, Farm Credit reports 57,000 new loans in 2016 to farmers younger than 36, 74,000 new loans to those with fewer than 10 years’ experience and 137,000 new loans to farms with less than $250,000 in annual sales.

“Part of our program,” Elliott says, “is trying to burst the bubble of ‘Everything’s going to be great, and I’m going to make a ton of money.’ But it’s one of the most difficult areas to succeed in. You have to make a really good decision to enter into farming.”

Ward & Smith:

© 2019 Ward and Smith, P.A. For further information regarding the issues described above, please contact Tyler Russell or Allen Trask.

Business North Carolina

Hemp: North Carolina’s new cash crop?

Something extraordinary happened in December 2018:
President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, a.k.a. the “2018 Farm Bill.” Farm bills are adopted by Congress from time to time to reauthorize and modify programs that address, among other things, commodity support, conservation, nutrition assistance, farm credit, rural development, research activities, forestry, energy, horticulture, and crop insurance.
The 2018 Farm Bill did more than that: it legalized hemp.


For years, hemp was considered a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1972. The reins were loosened a bit with the passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014, which authorized research institutions and state agricultural agencies to grow industrial hemp as part of a research pilot program. North Carolina then established its own pilot program and the NC Industrial Hemp Commission in 2015. Although that was a huge step forward for hemp in general, the authorizing statutes, and the rules and regulations developed as a result, were limited in nature and left major issues to speculation – like the legality of some commercial hemp activities and hemp-derived cannabidiol (“CBD”). Those legal ambiguities also largely prevented industry participants from accessing traditional banking services, insurance programs (like crop insurance for growers), and other commonplace business activities.

Now, though, hemp and hemp-derived cannabinoids, extracts, and isomers have been legalized on the Federal level. Some of its immediate effects include:
• Expansion of the legal definition of “hemp” to include all parts of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, “including seeds and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis.”
• Amendment of the definition of “marijuana” under the CSA to expressly exclude “hemp” (as defined above) and to expressly carve-out of the Schedule I controlled substances list any tetrahydrocannabinols (“THC”) that exist in “hemp. ”
• States may, individually, determine whether to retain primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp within their borders. To do so, a state must submit to the US Secretary of Agriculture its plan to monitor and regulate hemp production. Importantly, that plan must include “a procedure for testing, using post-decarboxylation or other similarly reliable methods, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration levels of hemp produced in the state.” This is consistent with the test requirements already enforced by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (which oversees testing for the current pilot program).
• “Hemp” and related products can be transported legally across state lines and states must not interfere with that transport, allowing for interstate commerce.
• “Hemp” growers can participate in crop insurance and government subsidy programs, as they are developed and implemented by the regulating authorities.
With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp will effectively become a commodity crop for farmers and, we hope, it will be a boon for North Carolina’s agricultural economy. Many of the concerns that previously faced hemp and CBD companies have been alleviated. But many regulatory concerns remain to be resolved, especially with respect to CBD.


CBD represents one of the fastest growing – and, perhaps, the most controversial and commercially profitable – segments of the hemp industry today.

There is no shortage of claims about CBD’s helpful properties, with common-place industry acceptance that it can be used to, among other things, alleviate inflammation and anxiety. CBD has been, and it continues to be, incorporated into a wide variety of consumer products, including lozenges, honey, and even an FDA-approved prescription medicine. But, as the legal and regulatory landscape surrounding hemp and CBD continues to develop, there remains uncertainty – at least for now – about the legality of using hemp-derived CBD to produce food, cosmetic, and dietary supplement products.

On the same day the 2018 Farm Bill became law, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) released a press issued on the matter. The FDA statement is not binding or controlling, but it does forecast the FDA’s clear intention to take an active role in regulation and enforcement for hemp and CBD products going forward.

By issuing that press release, the FDA has publicly stated that:
• It will continue to enforce the law (including the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or “FD&C Act”) in an effort to protect patients, the public, and to promote the agency’s overall public health role.
• Products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds (like CBD) will be subject to the same authorities and requirements as other non-cannabis FDA regulated products.
• Hemp or hemp-derived CBD products that are “marketed with a claim of therapeutic benefit, or with any other disease claim” must be approved
by the FDA before being introduced into interstate commerce.
• Hemp or hemp-derived CBD products marketed “for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of diseases” must be approved by the FDA before they are marketed for sale in the U.S.
• It is “unlawful under the FD&C Act to introduce food containing added CBD or THC into interstate commerce, or to market CBD or THC products as, or in, dietary supplements, regardless of whether the substances are hemp-derived.”


For now, many questions remain for North Carolina’s hemp and CBD companies. Will CBD ultimately be regulated entirely as a drug? Will it be treated as an additive not subject to FDA approval? Or perhaps the specific application of CBD to a product will drive how it is treated? What about hemp flower as a food additive? We do not yet know the answers to these and the many other questions.

We urge anyone considering hemp cultivation, CBD processing, product manufacturing sales or distribution to seek legal counsel before investing significant time and money. Ward and Smith’s Agribusiness practice team can advise you as you work through these and other complex legal issues.

Ward & Smith

Tyler J. Russell
Tyler is a business attorney who regularly works with regulated industries – including breweries, distilleries, wineries, and hemp and cannabidoil (CBD) operations – to address permitting and licensing needs, compliance issues, grower agreements, distribution and supply chain matters, negotiations and interactions with local, state, and federal governments, and other related operational needs.

Ward & Smith

Allen N. Trask, III
Allen is the leader of the firm’s Agribusiness Practice Group, where he coordinates the firm’s resources to address the specialized issues facing clients in the agribusiness community, such as farmland leases, corporate organization, restructuring, dissolution, and succession planning, equipment financing and leasing, environmental regulatory compliance and permitting, protection of trade secrets and intellectual property, and negotiations and interactions with local, state, and federal government. These agribusiness services encompass all aspects of hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) operations, including licensure before the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, liability and risk planning, sales and marketing contracts, and grower agreements.

Click here to see a PDF of the section

North Carolina Planting Zones – USDA Map Of North Carolina Growing Zones

Click on the image above to see a larger version.

Planting in North Carolina Using the USDA Plant Hardiness Map

If you live in North Carolina, you enjoy a relatively temperate climate, which makes it possible to grow a wide variety of trees, shrubs and perennial flowers. The 2012 North Carolina USDA planting map, as seen above, indicates which growing zones cover certain areas of the state. While the northwestern part of the state has the coolest average extreme winter lows down to a possible -15-degrees F., the southeastern part of the state rarely experiences winter lows to 15-degrees F. North Carolina zones range from a 5b to 8b.

To find your location, you can enlarge the above map. You can also visit the USDA site and put in your zip code if you are uncertain of where you fall within the zones. The new 2012 map is more detailed than previous versions and offers a more sophisticated zone finder capability. The new map, released at the beginning of 2012, takes into account 30 years of weather data collected from thousands of weather stations throughout the Untied States. Each zone is in 10-degree increments and further divided into 5-degree subzones. Factors such as elevation and proximity to a large body of water have also been used to calculate the zones.

Although many plants survive the North Carolina winter, there are some tropical species that will not and gardeners living in the mountain regions have to be careful of their plant selection, as well. Overall, using the North Carolina USDA zone hardiness map provides good foundational knowledge for any gardener.

North Carolina Planting Zones

Most of North Carolina’s climate is a humid subtropical climate with the exception of the Appalachians, which have a subtropical highland climate. The North Carolina mountain ranges across the state keep the storms and extreme low temperatures from the Midwest from impacting it too much. Midsummer temperatures average in the 90s, whereas average winter temperatures are generally in the 50s. The climate is affected by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream, which allows for warmer winter temperatures in the coastal parts of the state. In those coastal regions, winter temperatures rarely drop below freezing. The state as a whole though can see occasional severe weather patterns both in the winters and the summers. Summers can see abundant rain, tropical storms and hurricanes which often result in flooding.

North Carolina growing zones range from 5b to 8b. Growing zones, also known as planting zones, help gardeners know what flowers, plants or vegetables will thrive in a specific region. Zones also determine which plants will be most likely to survive the winter conditions of the zone. But they do not only guide on what to plant, they also help determine when the best time to plant is, too. North Carolina planting zones base everything planting-related on when the zone’s first and last frost dates are. Keep in mind that when planting a garden, you should only use plants that are rated for the North Carolina planting zone you are planting in or lower. For example, if planting in zone 5b, choose plants rated zones 1 through 5, not any higher. This will help make sure plants can survive the winter conditions of the zone. Find your growing zone with Gilmour’s Interactive Planting Zone Map.

North Carolina has many flowers and plants that grow well throughout the state. Using the hardiness zones as a guide is the best opportunity to grow plants that will thrive. There is a wide variety to choose from. Wood anemone, Carolina lupine, dwarf crested iris, swamp milkweed and eastern blue star are all native plants that will grow with ease. Cucumbers, pumpkins, cabbage, squash, cantaloupe, watermelon and tomatoes will all do exceptionally well throughout the state, too.

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