Spring is gardeners’ season of anticipation. Daily Journal reporter Errol Castens visited with Mississippi State University Extension Horticulturist Dr. Rick Snyder about priorities for the area’s vegetable gardeners.
Q: Many Southerners plant on Good Friday, but that misses early opportunities. What does March offer gardeners here?
A: Vegetable gardeners have some good choices for cool-season crops. All kinds of greens, leaf lettuces, carrots and radishes can be planted right now.
Also, think about planting sweet corn – or a succession planting of it. Early sweet corn has a much better chance of avoiding those nasty earworms and tip worms.
Hold off on setting in tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, cantaloupes, etc., until frost is out of the forecast.
Q: What are some must-have vegetables for home gardeners?
A: Gardening should be a fun and creative activity. Most people tend to plant the same vegetables every year. Plant based on what you and your family like to eat, the size of your family, and whether you are growing for fresh consumption or for canning and freezing.
If you want to try something different, think about these “oddball” vegetables for 2014:
• Kohlrabi – This is closely related to cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, but the part of the plant you eat is a swollen stem just above the soil line. It tastes a lot like cabbage.
• Swiss chard – This leafy green is cool weather tolerant, so you can plant early. Eat it like spinach or turnip greens.
• Beets – They are an easy-to-grow root crop, like radishes or carrots, that do well in cool soil. In addition to the delicious red (or gold) root, the leaves are also very tasty cooked like other greens.
Q: Most of us have limits on space, money, energy and/or time. How can we make our gardening more efficient?
A: Select the vegetables that you most want to eat, and plant a reasonable amount of each. If you can’t harvest at least every other day, don’t plant summer squash or okra. Tomatoes are great but will take time to prune (sucker) and stake.
With limited space, avoid space hogs like sweet corn, pumpkins, watermelons, and cantaloupes. Leaf lettuce, greens, carrots, snap beans, etc., can be very productive in a small space. Consider container gardening.
To save money, plant as much of your garden by direct seeding as possible, or raise your own seedlings.