By Brent Gray
Most everyone that has a vegetable garden is enjoying fresh tomatoes right now. Those of us who love fresh salsa, picante sauce and other Tex/Mex dishes that are flavored with cilantro are lamenting the fact that our garden cilantro has long since bolted and gone to seed.
Both temperature and day length influence flowering and seed setting, with the longest vegetative period occurring when the plant is growing in the cooler temperatures and shorter days of spring and fall. It is always aggravating to have someone tell you what you should have done, but I am going to go ahead and say it—you should have harvesting the aromatic foliage of this very popular plant when it was growing vigorously this spring and frozen it in zip lock bags for use now in your Tex/Mex dishes. It doesn’t hold its flavor well when dried, so freezing is the best method.
All is not lost, as you can sow a fall crop of cilantro to have with your fall tomato crop. All you have to do is count back about 70 days from your typical first frost date, and sow cilantro seed on that date. For example, for north Mississippi our first frost is typically around Halloween, so I would sow my seed on Aug. 23. You folks in south Mississippi might have to adjust this forward a week or so because your growing season is longer, seeding your cilantro around Aug. 30 or Sept. 6.
Johnny’s Select Seeds indicate that cilantro will germinate in about 7-10 days and be ready for harvesting of leaves in 50-55 days. Only harvest about a third of the foliage at a time. Seed begin to form in 90-105 days from seeding, at which point the foliage becomes a little “off” tasting and the life cycle of the plant will be ending. For a fall crop the plant may succumb to freezing temperatures before the seed are formed. Sow seed about ? inch deep in well drained soil.
Recommended varieties include Santo and Jantar Longstanding
Growers are reporting areas on their peppers and tomatoes that are soft and early ripening that then turn tan. There are no obvious disease symptoms. Sunburn or sun scald happens when the fruit is exposed to direct sunlight. The temperature rises high enough to kill the tissue. This normally happens when the plants did not grow well and there are not enough leaves to shade the fruit. The best thing to do is harvest the peppers and tomatoes at the first signs of damage and use it as a green pepper or green tomato. Hopefully the plant will grow enough to shade future fruit.
There are already rutabagas planted in Mississippi. If you are an afficionado of this big rooted member of the Brassica family you might try seeding it this early. Be sure to water frequently to keep the soil as cool.
It is time to be lining up strawberry plants for September or early October planting. There are two types of strawberries, Jun bearers and ever bearers. Most of the familiar varieties like Chandler are June bearers that produce a lot of berries in late April and May(!) and then stop. Ever bearing strawberries produce a few berries over an extended season. Albion is one ever bearer that is still producing a few berries in August. Visit with your plant supplier about which berries will be available.
There are several vegetable gardening programs available in the approaching weeks.
‘Microfarming – Growing for Farmers’ Markets Conference will be held August 27and 28 at the Eagle Ridge Conference Center. Contact Rick Snyder 601-892-3731.
Planning a Fall Garden will be held 9 a.m. August 30 at the Mississippi State Trial Gardens on campus. Contact msgardentrials on facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 662-325-2311
Fall Vegetable Container Gardens and Raised Beds will be held 6:30 pm September 9 at the Dorman Greenhouse on Campus. Cost is $15. Register at email@example.com .
Fall Horticulture Field Day is September 20th at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center at Verona.
The Fall Flower and Garden Fest will be October 17 and 18 at the Truck Crop Experiment Station. This is the largest display of home garden varieties in the South.