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Growin’ Green

Pile Fallen Leaves On Non-Growing Beds

By Brent Gray

Cool season crops are in almost ideal growing conditions now. The cool nights and mild days allow the plants to grow and mature with minimal stress. Be sure to do your part to keep them growing. Examine the lower leaves for signs of yellowing which indicates a need for fertilizer. Make sure the soil stays moist. Cabbage  loopers are abundant on greens and other members of the cabbage family. There have been reports of imported cabbage worms on lettuce. Manage these insects with appropriate techniques  like hand picking, Bt applications, and other pesticides. Be sure to follow the label for harvest intervals since you are applying the pesticide to the part you will eat.
Broccoli can race through the proper harvest time in these conditions. The beads can expand past their prime in just a couple of days when day temperatures are in the eighties. It is better to sacrifice a little yield potential for higher quality with younger heads. Commercial broccoli growers are now marketing broccoli leaves to be used just like collard and kale. Be sure to choose young leaves less than six inches long   if you want to try them,  Older leaves tend to be bitter.
Now is the time to be planting kale and collard for harvest in the cold of winter. These plants will  usually  survive Mississippi winters and give gardeners a good source of vitamins A and C during January and February.
Talk to your garden center manager now about plants you would like for next Spring. The growers are buying seed now and you may be able to get plants of something grown by the professionals rather than having to arrange buying of your own seed and growing your own transplants. All America selections like  Parisian Gherkin cucumber and Pretty sunset peppers can be included in the normal delivery if enough people request them before planting time in January.
Pile your fallen leaves on the beds you are not growing anything in this winter. The leaves will prevent weeds from growing and they will decompose to add organic matter to the soil. You can keep them in place with temporary fences of stakes and strings of Christmas lights. That way you are ready for the holiday season early.
Now is not the time to prune the hedges that have gotten out of bounds. Wait until  next spring before the new growth starts. It is always proper to remove damaged limbs at any time and to remove that branch that has grown into the wrong place, but minimize pruning during the fall.
Now is the time to plant woody ornamentals and fruit trees. Make sure the hole is three times as wide as the root ball, but no deeper. Be prepared to water the newly planted shrub any week is does not rain at least an inch since the roots will be growing through the winter with no sign of growth from the leaves. Consider growing a fruit bearing plant since most of them are also attractive flowering specimens. Consult publication 966  Fruit and nut Recommendations for Mississippi at your local extension office or online.

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