By Debbie Clark

I am always surprised by gardeners when they say they cannot grow anything in the mountains. Yes, growing in the mountains does have its challenges like rocky clay soil, steep sloped land, shade from the forest and those wonderful creatures who like to visit and eat our gardens. Even with these disadvantages, you can grow a beautiful garden. Here are some tips to make gardening easier and successful:

Tip 1 – If you have clay soil with lots of rock, consider the idea of having raised beds. You can construct vegetable and flower gardens from cedar or treated wood and then fill them with a good commercial soil mix. Do not use treated wood for raised beds if you will be growing food in them. Cedar will hold up better and is insect resistant.

Tip 2 – If you are growing in the ground, consider having a soil test done and amend your soil per the soil test. Soil testing information and boxes are available at your County Extension Office.

Tip 3 – When purchasing plants always read the label for proper planting such as spacing, watering needs, light conditions, height and the width the plant will grow. Know the zone that you are growing in.

Tip 4 – If you have problems with wildlife in your garden, consider using organic spray repellants, fencing, or growing plants that wildlife do not like to eat.

Tip 5 – Choose easy plants to grow. There are many plants that grow well in the mountains such as coneflowers or black-eyed Susan.

Tip 6 – In the mountains, we can have lots of rain or very hot days or even weeks without rain. Keep your plants watered when needed but consider ways to save water like using drip irrigation rather than a sprinkler system. Put the water where it is needed which is at the plant roots. Mulching your beds will help keep that moisture in the ground during the hot part of the summer.

Tip 7 – Make sure you wear clothes that are appropriate for gardening. Like gloves, hats and sturdy work boots that give good support to feet and ankles. Cover up or use a sunblock to protect your skin from sun exposure.

Tip 8 – Consider growing plants in your garden that are native to the area. Native plants are easier to grow and have adjusted to our environment of the mountains.

Tip 9 – Do not use chemicals in your garden. Organic gardening is healthier for wildlife and your family.

Tip 10 – It can get very hot in the mountains in the summer. Consider gardening early or late in the day and drink plenty of water. Keep your lighter gardening work for the summer like planting, weeding and deadheading and the heavier back breaking work like mulching, graveling and laying stone for the winter, fall and spring temperatures.

Gardening in the mountains of North Carolina can be fun and you can have a beautiful garden to enjoy.

Debbie Clark is a North Carolina Master Gardener. Visit her blog at: gardenthymewiththe creativegardener.blogspot.com.

Echinacea or Purple Coneflower is an easy perennial plant to grow that also gives lots of blooms to the garden. Do not deadhead your plant in the fall because the birds loves the seeds.

Black-eyed Susan or Rudbeckia hirta offer lots of color to a garden when planted in large clumps. This perennial is a native and is very versatile in the garden and is heat and drought tolerant.

Jo-Pye Weed or Eutrochium is a native plant loved by butterflies and bumblebees alike. If you want to attract pollinators to your garden, this is the native plant to grow. It can become very tall, but there are varieties available that are much smaller in size.

Rattlesnake-Master or Eryngium yuccifolium is a North American native plant the can take moist or dry conditions. The lower leaves look like small yuccas with creamy white flowers that bloom from mid to late summer. This plant offers a nice color difference in the garden. It was also the North Carolina native plant of the year for 2016.