By Brent Gray
Many cool season greens are bolting now and should be used as soon as possible. There is still time to plant very quick growing cool season crops like radishes, baby lettuces, salad mixes like mesculun, or spinach.
The most consistent head lettuces for this time of year are Batavian varieties like Sierra, Nevada, or Tahoe, but head lettuce is always a gamble in Mississippi’s varying climate. It is getting late for seeding traditional greens like collard, turnip and mustard, but warm season greens like Malabar spinach and vegetable amaranth will produce all summer. Make sure you label vegetable amaranth well since it looks like pigweed.
The cloudy Spring has caused a lot of etiolated (stretched) vegetable transplants. Bury the transplants a little deeper than usual to prevent wind damage.
Plans should be finalized for the warm season garden. Seeds should be ordered; cover crops should be rolled, mown or incorporated; soil amendments such as limestone and compost should be incorporated; and bees should be arranged.
Spaghetti squash fanciers should order some Small Wonder or Pinnacle seed. These two hybrid varieties make small squash which cook into one or two servings. Gardeners with large families should continue to grow the original varieties which cook into six or more servings. Folks who have not yet grown these winter squashes should plant a couple of seeds. These winter squash are grown the same way as yellow or zucchini squash, but the fruit is left on the plant until they mature. One of the benefits of spaghetti squash is the several month storage life so the squash you plant in April or May and harvest in July or August can be served for Halloween.
April showers bring May flowers, but April winds from the southwest bring moths. Inspect your garden for eggs or caterpillars frequently and apply appropriate control measures like Bt sprays. It is far easier to kill very small caterpillars than large ones. Make sure you look at the base of the cabbage head for diamond back moth larvae and eggs. These small, active, green caterpillars are very difficult to manage after just a few days of eating and growing.
Tender annuals started indoors should gradually be “hardened off” before planting them in the garden. Hardening is a procedure that prepares indoor-grown plants for the rigors of the outdoors. Reduce watering and set them outdoors during the day. Bring them inside at night. Continue this for three to four days.
If the temperature drops below 50 degrees, take the plants inside. After four days, allow the plants to be outside all day and night. After about a week or two, the plants should be hardened off and ready to be transplanted.
Another alternative is to put the plants in a cold frame for a week or two, monitoring the temperature and adjusting the cold frame cover accordingly.
Generally speaking, all of Mississippi should be beyond the chance for freezing by April 15.
BEE cautious. Honey bees, bumble bees, and other insects are visiting the blooms of apple, peach and other fruit trees. Delay your insecticide sprays until after petal fall so the bees are not harmed.
David Nagel, Lelia Kelly