By Brent Gray
The New Year is starting with a blast of cold air and full soil profiles. Tempera-tures forecast for Jan. 7 are cold enough to damage all but the most cold hardy vegetables. Harvest mustard and turnip greens, broccoli and cabbage even if they are a little young. Cover the plants you want to save with row covers of spun bonded polyethylene or polypropylene or a bed sheet. The covers will provide a few degrees of heat capture from the relatively warm wet soil. Covering with plastic sheets works less well, but is better than leaving the plants exposed to the cold wind. Be sure to anchor the covers well since strong winds are anticipated. After the freeze, prune the damaged laves and check the growing point to make sure it is green and not brown.
Growers in south Mississippi should be starting cool season vegetables for transplant now and warm season crops by the end of January. The rest of us should start cool season transplants by mid-January and warm season ones by six weeks before the last frost day. Most of the state has a last frost date in April, so warm season transplants of tomato, pepper, and others crops not in the vine crops should be stated by March first. Cucurbits only take three weeks to grow to transplant size. Remember to keep the growing media moist, not wet. Seeds should be planted into moist conditions and most do not need to be watered again until the leaves emerge. Over watering is one of the main causes of poor germination and early growth.
Storm damaged trees and shrubs should be evaluated for removal. This may be the time to get rid of a shrub that has outgrown its space or a tree that has neared the end of its life. Prune damaged limbs back to the collar on the plants you wish to keep.
This is a good time to prune fruit trees and grape vines. This is not the time to do normal pruning on evergreens.
It’s the new year and time to start thinking and planning for the gardening year ahead. Get out a pencil and notepad and walk around your landscape (you need the exercise anyway after all of that holiday feasting!) making notes of what worked and what didn’t work in your garden this past year. Make sketches of the areas you want to change or expand.
Using these notes, start your wish list of plant material. You should have no problem choosing plants. I don’t know a gardener alive who isn’t inundated with seed and plant catalogs this time of year which are loaded with pages of colorful, eye-popping specimens. The problem is to maintain some sense of control while looking through hundreds of pages of perfect plants. Although it will be a struggle, one which I admit I have lost occasionally, please don’t mindlessly order everything that strikes your fancy.
Consider the following questions before mail ordering any plant material:
1. Will it grow well in my climactic zone? (I don’t mean just barely survive, but thrive and live to bloom and multiply!)
2. Do I have a suitable place for this plant?
3. Is ordering by mail the most cost effective way to obtain this plant? Always check your local garden center or nursery first.
4. Do I honestly need this or have I let my imagination run wild!?!