By Brent Gray
Bedding plants and vegetable transplants are arriving at garden centers now. When you buy transplants of flowers and vegetables, remember that bigger is not always better. Plants that have outgrown their container and have become leggy will not perform as well as those that have just filled out their pot. If you have a choice, select the ones that have not started flowering. Also choose transplants grown in individual cell packs over those that have several plants. Individual transplants will suffer less transplanting shock.
If your garden site is too wet to plant in early spring, consider making raised beds. Border the beds with railroad ties, landscape timbers, or pressure-treated 2” x 12” boards. You can even make temporary beds by simply mounding the soil. Make the beds as long as you like, but for easy maintenance, build them no wider than 4 to 6 feet across, so you can comfortably work from either side of the bed. These beds will tend to dry out faster than in-ground beds so pay attention to watering during periods of no rainfall. Adding organic matter to the soil will also help retain moisture. Mulching around the plants will also help to keep the moisture in the soil.
One of the most overlooked benefits of planting is the simple process of loosening the soil. This allows the roots to grow deeper where they will find water and nutrients. Light, fluffy soil also has a lot of space between soil particles. This space supplies oxygen to the roots and lets water drain through the soil. Keep this in mind when you are working in your beds. Avoid stepping on freshly prepared soil, as that will compact it. Repeated foot traffic will make the soil quite hard and inhibit root growth. Put boards across vegetable beds to distribute your weight more evenly across a wider area. Place stepping stones to provide a place to stop to work.
Maples and plums are in bloom and many gardeners are anxious to plant warm season vegetables. Many Springs mid-March is warm enough to be planting some of the more cold tolerant warm season crops, but this year it may be prudent to wait a while longer. Take a walk and enjoy the red and white flowers. If you do succumb to Spring planting fever, have some covers on hand for a frost event.
Early sweet corn is always a race to see if the corn ears can be harvested before the ear worms arrive. Invest in a thermometer to monitor the soil temperatures at two inches. Plant when the thermometer reads sixty degrees before nine a.m. for at least three days in a row and the weather forecast doesn’t have any freezes in the forecast for the next week.
Stalk celery is difficult to grow in Mississippi since it takes so long to grow and has a narrow range of temperatures in which it grows well. There is another form of celery that may grow better in our climate, but it is not one that produces stalks for making ants on a log. Smallage, commonly called leaf-celery, is grown for its leaves and is primarily used for cooking. Smallage is more intensely flavored than stalk celery, so a little goes a long way when following a recipe.
Grow smallage the same way you do parsley. Both cooking herbs do well in containers. Seed can be found in several on-line and mail order catalogues. The seed are often grouped with stalk celery and may not be separated by the name smallage or leaf-celery. The only way you find out it is leaf celery is from the description.The varieties tend to have strange names like Zwolsche Krul, Red Soup, Dark Green Soup, Amsterdam or Parcel.
Horticulture Tips for March 10, 2014
Lelia Kelly, David Nagel