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From The Ground Up

Plenty Left For The Gardener To Do

By Pamela Redwine

Just a reminder the Extension Service is closed until January 3, 2011.  Merry Christmas!

Gardening Season Not Over Just Yet

Many vegetable gardeners act as if the season is over now that everyone in Mississippi has seen temperatures in the mid-twenties or lower. The first thing we need to do is clean up the dead plants in the garden by either plowing them in or putting the plants in the compost pile. Then we can select new plants to put in.

One interesting plant not widely grown in Mississippi is yet another version of the cabbage family called Portugese cabbage or Portugese kale. This plant looks like a cross between bok choi and collards. It has the thick celery like petioles of bok choi with the thick large leaves of collard and is commonly used to make soups in Portugal. It is known as tronchuda or couve in the rest of the world. You will have to order the seed and it may be listed by any of the names. It is grown like any other cabbage and takes only ninety days from seed to harvest at full size.

One sign a vegetable is attracting a lot of attention is competitors releasing similar varieties. Bulls blood beet is an old variety of red leafed beet that has been used for salad mixes for years. Now Soldier is a new hybrid beet with improved color. Chiogga is an old novelty beet with red and white zones in the root. Guardsmark is a hybrid version. Either of these beets could be planted now. Whenever you try a new variety be sure to plant the old one next to it in the garden so you can see if the “new and improved” version actually is.

Greenhouse, high tunnel and hot bed growers should notice one big difference between the freeze last winter and the recent one. Last year the cold temperatures were under cloudy skies. This time the sun was visible. Covered structures work by trapping the heat generated by sunlight striking the soil, plants and other surfaces. Last year no light meant no heat which meant dead plants. This year the plants should have survived.

Now is the time for correcting your lawn’s soil pH

Most of our warm season turf species lawns have now gone dormant for the winter curtailing many lawn chores until next spring. Once we have done a final mowing and raked the leaves we, just like the turf, are ready to take a couple months off from our lawn maintenance activities. However, there is one winter activity that done now can certainly pay dividends later on. Now is a great time to take soil samples and start correcting the soil pH if found that the soil pH is too low for good turf growth. Liming sources (calcitic lime and dolomitic lime) take months to alter the pH so putting lime out now will give you a head start for next spring.

The winter rains during these idle months will help get the lime reacting in the soil. No more than fifty pounds of a liming material per 1,000 square feet should be applied at any single application. Therefore, if the pH is very low it may take a couple of tons of lime per acre to actually get the soil within the range you need for good turf growth, which means you may have to apply lime several times over the course of the year. If you have not taken a soil sample in the past couple of years it would be prudent to take one now. The Yalobusha County Extension office can assist you in getting these samples prepared and shipped to the testing lab.

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