FAQs Home Vegetables (A-C)

Mark Williams, Souvestre, Robert J.  |  9/30/2010 7:44:58 PM

Asparagus

General

Q. I have just purchased some asparagus plants. How should I plant them?

A. Prepare a planting bed by digging out unsuitable soil and replacing it with an organic type mixture (mix 1/3 sand, 1/3 soil, 1/3 sphagnum moss, compost or potting soil). Plant the plants 18-24 inches apart in a trench with the crown (buds) 4 inches below the ground level, but with only a thin layer of earth over them. As the growing season progresses, the trench should be gradually filled in.


Q. When should asparagus plantings be divided?

A. Generally, asparagus should be divided during the winter after the tops have been removed. The tops will freeze in north Louisiana, but in many areas of south Louisiana they will have to be cut back in order to produce a crop next year. During this time the roots can easily be divided into individual plants for replanting.


Q. After planting asparagus how long is it before I can harvest the first spears?

A. If you plant seed you should wait three years before the first harvest. If you start from one-year-old crowns, which is the usual recommended manner, harvest can begin to a limited degree the next year. Harvesting early will drastically reduce yield as well as quality of home-grown asparagus.


Q. How long do I harvest asparagus in the spring?

A. Most home gardeners in Louisiana tend to harvest asparagus too long in the spring. Length of harvest will depend a great deal upon location within the State, but generally the harvest should extend 4-6 weeks from the first harvest in early spring. Complete harvest in early spring followed by selective harvest “allowing a few spears to develop into ferns” is generally recommended.


Q. When I finish harvesting the asparagus spears, how should I care for them during rest of the year?

A. Allow the spears to fully develop into ferns. If necessary, an occasional selective trimming or pruning can reduce the amount of top growth. An occasional light fertilizing and adequate moisture will develop sufficient top growth to insure good spear production. Dust or spray to control beetles and other insects.


Q. Each year my asparagus produces fairly well, but many of the spears are bent and crooked in shape. What causes this?

A. Asparagus spears grown extremely fast and are highly sensitive to mechanical injury from cultivation, insect feeding or windblown soil particles. These injured areas, whatever the cause may be, will grow more slowly so that the more rapid growth on the opposite side causes the spears to curve and bend towards the injured side.


Q. Can table salt be used for weed control in my asparagus bed?

A. Yes, in limited amounts. Asparagus is much more salt tolerant than most vegetable plants and consequently, this characteristic results in the ability to use salt around the growing plants for weed control. However, excessive amounts of salt used in any one season, or salt accumulation over the years, can harm asparagus plants and subsequently reduce spear production. Thus this is generally not recommended. Consider Dalapon, 24D, Paraquat or Simazine as directed on the labels.


Q. What causes my asparagus spears to get smaller and smaller each year?

A. This is a condition that occurs in the warmer areas of the state, primarily in south central and south Louisiana. Spear production is primarily the result of food accumulated in the root system during the previous year. If this amount of stored material is lessened due to high temperatures, especially in the fall, or poor growing conditions, spear production will be smaller the following spring. These conditions over a long period of time will gradually result in smaller and smaller spears each year.

Bean

General

Q. Occasionally green beans germinate, come up but only have two leaves or maybe none at all. What is wrong?

A. This condition is termed “blind head”, “snake head” or “bald head” and is generally caused by planting cracked or damaged seed. Occasionally the beans literally “pull their heads off” when forced to germinate and come through heavy or crusted soil. Planting good, high quality seed and maintaining the soil in a relatively moist and friable condition will help eliminate this problem. Wait until the next day before watering freshly planted beans (esp. Limas).


Q. What causes my plants to bloom but fail to set pods?

A. Excessive fertility often causes beans to bloom profusely but fail to set any pods. High temperature in combination with low humidity can also cause beans to fail to set. By planting at the right time and avoiding excessive fertility at planting, most recommended varieties will produce a good crop of high quality beans. A light fertilizing after the first harvest will greatly increase subsequent yields and improve quality of later harvested beans. Consider inherent soil fertility, compost and manures when applying fertilizer. Side dress only after good pod set to avoid over feeding.


Q. Why are some type of beans able to climb and others are not?

A. Pole beans are characterized by what is called an “in determinant” or vining growth habit, whereas bush bean varieties are “determinant” in habit. In the vining type, flowers form in the axils of the leaves and stem; thus the stem may continue to grow longer, more or less indefinitely. In the determinant-type growth the main growing point terminates in a flower cluster, thus preventing further stem elongation. Beans that climb do so by virtue of their twining stems. The absence of tendrils or tendril leaves in beans helps in one way to distinguish beans from peas. Pole beans do not have the ability to climb till they are well along in their growth.


Q. What causes garden beans to become tough, stringy and fibrous?

A. This problem is more commonly caused by high temperatures which occur during the period when the pods are forming. Low fertility and inadequate moisture can also contribute to this condition. Beans should be planted at a time when they will mature before temperatures become excessively hot in order to produce pods of high quality and favor.

Q. Can I save seeds from this year’s bean crop for next season’s garden?

A. Since beans are self-pollinated, they will breed true from one year to the next if they are open pollinated varieties. However, there are certain diseases which can be seed borne and can cause problems if you save seed from this year’s garden for planting next year.


Q. Can mung beans be grown in Louisiana gardens?

A. Yes. Seeds of the mung bean are the source of bean sprouts in many popular Chinese dishes. They should be planted after all danger of frost in rows 3 feet apart with plants left 3- to 4- inches apart in the row. The pods are ready to harvest when they are fully mature and dark brown in color. The pods will mature over a long time. The seeds should be removed and germinated under clean, moist, dark conditions in order to produce long, tender nutritious sprouts.


Q. What is the yard-long bean which is advertised in many seed catalogs?

A. The yard-long or asparagus bean is a close relative of southern peas. It produces pods which are up to 3 feet long. The plants are vining and therefore need support. The pods are tender when young and are frequently used as snap beans. For snap beans, they should be harvested when the pods are partially developed and before seed enlargement begins to show. For shelling, they should be harvested when the seeds are full size, but still immature, or they may be shelled when fully mature.


Q. Can I grow soybeans in my home vegetable garden?

A. Yes. Soybeans are highly nutritious and produce fairly well in many areas of Louisiana. There are certain varieties which are commonly called vegetable soybeans which are milder in flavor than those grown in fields. They are  commonly eaten largely in the green shell stage. The pods should be thick when fully mature but still green and tender. They should be seeded in May or June in most areas of the state in rows 30 to 36 inches apart with plants 2 to 3 inches apart in the row.


Q. What is a broad bean?

A. Broad beans are also called Fava, Horse Bean and Windsor beans, but are not true beans. They are closely related to vetch and will generally grow in cooler weather which is unsuited for green snap beans. Some of the varieties commonly grown include broad Windsor and Long Pod. They can be planted very early in the spring in all areas of Louisiana. In central and south Louisiana, they can be planted in the fall for spring harvest. Generally they will not produce in the heat of summer. The commonly grown varieties require from 65- to 85-days from seeding to harvest.


Diseases

Q. The foliage of my beans develops a yellow appearance on the top of the leaf and on the lower side a brown, dusty material is formed.

A. This is bean rust. It is caused by a fungus and is controlled with either a Maneb, Maneb plus Zineb, sulphur or Chloroethalonil spray. Rust is associated with the cool weather in the fall. Begin at the first sign of the rust.


Q. My bean foliage appears to be distorted with a mild mottled pattern, and the fruit is crooked and hard.

A. This is bean mosaic. It is a virus that is seed transmitted. Once it develops within a garden site it can be moved from one bean to another by aphids. Control for this would be to use a good quality bean seed, to follow an aphid control program in the garden, and to remove diseased plants at once.


Q. My beans came up to a good stand and then began to die.

A. This is seedling disease of beans, and it is caused by a fungus known as Rhizoctonia. Control for this disease is a combination of different practices. The first is to use a raised bed so that the soil does not stay wet around these plants and also so that it will warm up somewhat faster. For the control of this disease, use a preplant drench of PCNB. It can be applied at the furrow at the planting time to get maximum control. The disease will be most severe during early spring.


Q. My beans appear to be very stunted. When I removed them from the soil, I found large irregular galls or swellings on the roots.

A. This is root knot nematodes. Root knot is a species of nematode that causes galls or swellings on plant roots. It restricts the uptake of nutrients from the root system to the foliage, thus resulting in a yellow and stunted plant. Root knot lives in the soil and can survive on a number of weed and vegetable crops. It is best controlled in gardens with an application of Vapam. The Vapam should be applied when the solid temperature is between 55 and 85°F. A drench application has been found to be the best method. It will require one quart per hundred square feet of garden surface. Do not apply around living plants or in areas where shade trees or fruit trees would have their root system underneath the garden. Almost all vegetable crops, weeds, and trees can be affected by this disease. Wait 3 to 4 weeks before planting.


Q. After the recent windstorm, my bean plants were blown over and broken off at the soil line.

A. This is the result of the seedling disease that occurred earlier. Although the plants were not killed in the seedling stage, the stems were damaged. Control of the seedling disease complex will result in prevention of this problem. Try a PCNB drench next time.


Q. My beans appear to be very healthy. However, in examining the root system, I find that they have small round galls which appear to be attached to the root system itself.

A. These are nodules formed by nitrification bacteria. Most legumes have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen in their root system.


Q. My bean leaves have large brown spots on them. The damage appears to be more severe near the soil. However, it is beginning to develop over the entire plant.

A. Although there are a number of leaf spots attacking beans, probably one of the most severe in Louisiana is anthracnose. It is caused by a fungus that is air-borne. It can be controlled with Chlorothalonil, Maneb, Maneb plus Zinc or Zineb sprays. Begin applications at first sign of the disease. Repeat in 10- to 14-days for 2 to 3 applications.


Q. The foliage on my beans has angular, dead spots. The spots may or may not have a yellow halo around them. Defoliation is occurring on the more severely infected leaves.

A. This is bacterial blight of beans. There are three different bacteria that can cause bacterial blight on beans. All can be controlled with foliar sprays of a copper fungicide such as Kocide 101, fixed Coppers or Copper Bourdeaux. The bacteria can also be seed transmitted.


Q. As they reach maturity, my bean pots are covered with a brown rotten spot. Once the beans are picked and brought inside, these spots develop rapidly into a white fungus in the crisper.

A. This is anthracnoses of beans. It is caused by a fungus and can be controlled with applications of Chlorothalonil, Maneb, Maneb plus Zinc or Zineb sprays which will need to be made on a regular schedule. Under severe conditions, this disease can affect the leaves, stems and pods of the plant, causing severe defoliation and in some cases death. When picking beans that are going to be placed in the crisper and used later, it is suggested that they be examined closely, and if any pods are found to be affected with this disease, they should be discarded.

Insects

Q. I have noticed toward early summer the leaves of my green beans start to develop a light rusting and unthrifty appearance. What could be causing this problem?

A. Chances are your beans are infested with spider mites. Spider mites are one of the most destructive pests of garden vegetables and this is especially true for green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and eggplants. These minute insects can literally destroy a planting of beans. Applications of approved insecticides should begin as soon as the mites are first noticed. Use of the insecticides Malathion or Diazion begun early in the season will generally result in satisfactory control although the miticide Kelthane is generally preferred and will normally give excellent results.

Beet

General

Q. What causes beet roots to stay small, fail to enlarge, and often become woody?

A. In order for beet roots to enlarge and be of high quality, they must mature during relatively favorable conditions including ideal temperatures, moderate fertility levels and adequate moisture. High temperatures, low moisture and slow growth brought about by low fertility often cause beet roots to be or poor and inferior quality.


Q. I have been canning beets and have some roots with poor color.

A. The appeal of your final product will be greatly enhanced by a deep, red color. Of course, zones of darker color and lighter color are natural in beets, but a light color is undesirable. Cooler temperatures (50 to 60°F) produce better colored beets than warmer temperatures (70°F plus). In general, fall and winter grown beets are darker in color than those grown in the spring. Small roots also usually have better color than larger roots.


Q. Are beet tops good to eat?

A. A definite yes. Many people actually prefer the young tops of beets to the enlarged roots. Beet tops are fixed much like other types of greens, such as collards or turnips, and have a distinctive flavor enjoyed by many.


Q. It seems like every time I plant beet seeds, more than one plant comes up from each seed. Is this normal or am I doing something wrong?

A. Table beet “seeds” are really clusters of single-seeded fruits grown together into a seed ball or multiple fruit. Therefore, it is quite common for several seedlings to come up from each seed planted. Single-seeded fruit of table beets are available, but are not commonly used by home gardeners. After your beet plants start coming up, they should be thinned to about 3 to 4 inches between plants to allow for normal root development.


Q. I always seem to have trouble growing table beets. Could there be something wrong with my soil?

A. Chances are you are right. Beets do very poorly on acid soils. Soils with a pH of 5.5 or less are usually very unsatisfactory for growing table beets. Beets are an excellent test crop for many areas of North and West Louisiana. If beets fail to do well, chances are your soil is acid and should be limed to adjust the pH upward. To determine whether or not garden soils are acid, use the soil testing service to be sure.


Diseases

Q. My beet leaves are perforated by small holes. These holes at first are a purple color and then with age fall out to give the leaves a shothole effect. 

A. This shothole condition is caused by a fungus known as Cercospora. It is an air-borne fungus that becomes a problem under wet, moist conditions. It can be controlled with the Zineb or Maneb + Zinc sprays. However, in most cases the damage is not enough to cause any serious loss in root size or development.


Q. My beets are stunted. In examining the root system, I find that they are covered by small galls.

A. This is root knot nematodes. It can be controlled with nematicide treatments using Vapam. This should be done three weeks prior to planting. Use one quart per one hundred sq. ft. Follow label instructions carefully.

Broccoli

General

Q. Can broccoli be grown in both the spring and fall?

A. Generally, yes. Broccoli does best when temperatures remain between 40 and 70°F during the growing period which generally is from 80 to 115 days. In most areas of Louisiana broccoli does best when planted in late summer so that it matures during cool periods. Temperatures below 25°F can damage or kill broccoli. Planting should occur so that the broccoli can mature before these conditions occur. Fall crops can easily be grown from seed but early spring planting should be with developed transplants.


Q. What causes the broccoli heads to become discolored and slightly slimy?

A. Broccoli is subject to several types of fungal diseases, some of which affect the edible portion. Under certain environmental conditions, such as high temperatures during the initiation of the edible portion, discoloration occurs. This has been observed on some of the new hybrid varieties. A general purpose fungicide spray program in combination with correct planting times and good cultural care will usually eliminate head discoloration.


Q. What causes broccoli to flower almost immediately and thereby making the heads inedible?

A. Excessive temperatures at heading time usually result in premature flowering and consequently reduction in quality and quantity of home grown broccoli. Broccoli will flower quickly if it is forced to mature at temperatures much above 80°F.


Q. Are broccoli leaves good to eat?

A. Yes, as a matter of fact most people would have a hard time distinguishing between young broccoli leaves and collard greens. Harvest and prepare only young and tender leaves as older, tougher leaves often develop a somewhat bitter or off taste.


Q. I have harvested the first large heads of broccoli from my garden. The secondary sprouts are now producing heads, but they are not as large as the first head. Is this normal or should we fertilize?

A. The center head produced by broccoli is always the largest. The secondary sprouts produce heads about the size of a silver dollar. Side dressing with fertilizer may increase yields and size of these sprout shoots. It takes more of these to make a meal, but they will be as tasty as the large center head.


Q. My broccoli is magnificent this fall, but some plants are rotting after I remove the main head. The stem has a hole in it that retains water and causes rotting. What can I do?

A. The hole in the stem obviously cannot be corrected now. It is caused by a boron deficiency corrected by the addition of ½ pound per one thousand sq. ft. of a boron product, such as Twenty Mule Team Borax. Since boron is a minor element, add only small amounts. Boron toxicity occurs if too much is added, so use only what is required for your gardening area.


Disease

Q. My broccoli foliage is developing yellow spots on the supper side with a downy growth underneath.

A. This is downy mildew. It is caused by an air-borne fungus. There are some varieties that are resistant to this. The variety Bravo, however, appears to be very susceptible. Foliar sprays of Maneb plus Zinc, Zineb, and Chlorothalonil can be used to control this problem. It will take applications beginning at the first sign of the disease and repeated in 10- to 14-days depending on weather conditions.


Insects

Q. Occasionally, some of my young broccoli plants become stunted and weak-looking and upon inspection are covered by small, green bugs. What could be used to control these insects?

A. Aphids or plant lice are sometimes a real problem on broccoli and other members of the cabbage family. They are relatively easy to control utilizing insecticides, such as Malathiohn or Diazinon, if applications are begun early, before they become too numerous. Aphids reproduce rapidly.


Q. Could you please tell me how to control worms that get in my broccoli heads?

A. Chances are these are Loopers, Imported Cabbage Worms, or perhaps Broccoli Head Worms. Regardless of the type worm, satisfactory control can be obtained using a product containing Bacillus thurengensis. This is a biological type insecticide which gives excellent control of most types of worms. For this material to be effective, it must be eaten by the worm. Please note that it takes two to three days to be effective, which means that killing the worm is not immediate. This is a completely safe chemical and can be used for control of most types of worms on most commonly grown garden vegetables.

Brussels Sprouts

General

Q. When do I plant Brussels Sprouts for maximum production?

A. Brussels sprouts are very sensitive to temperature. In general, Brussels Sprouts will produce best when daytime temperatures average about 65°F or less. Consequently, in most cases of Louisiana, they do best when planted in mid or late summer for late fall or early winter harvesting.


Q. Should you pinch or cut the top out of Brussels Sprouts plants in order to make them produce more?

A. This is up to you. Pinching or removing the growing point of the plant will hasten the development of the sprouts resulting in earlier harvest. This reduces the yield by about 1/3. If you expect temperatures in your part of Louisiana to drop much below 20°F, which might kill the Brussels Sprout plant, pinching out the top in early fall will probably increase harvestable yield.


Q. How come my Brussels Sprouts fail to make firm, good-sized sprouts?

A. More than likely it is because they were planted at the wrong time of the year. Brussels Sprouts do best when they mature under relatively cool conditions. Firm, good quality sprouts will result if planting generally occurs about 120 days before the first expected hard, killing frost in the fall.

Cabbage

General

Q. What causes cabbage heads to be loose and puffy rather than firm and hard?

A. Some varieties of cabbage produce less tight or dense head than others, although this condition is generally associated with improper growing conditions. Cabbage does best when it is planted so it will head when daytime temperatures are under 80°F. High fertility, improper water conditions and improper temperature can result in loose, puffy heads.


Q. How can I prevent my cabbage heads from splitting at the time they are ready for harvest?

A. Splitting of the cabbage head be lessened or prevented by keeping the soil uniformly moist near harvest time. Splitting can also be lessened by root pruning the plant about the time the heads are mature. This can be done by cultivating near the plant or simply twisting the plant to break some of the roots. Splitting is seldom a problem with varieties maturing during cool weather unless it’s variable.


Q. What causes by cabbage to send up a flower stalk?

A. Bolting or flowering of cabbage is directly related to temperature conditions. If the plants go dormant due to cold weather for extended periods of time, when growth resumes they will often go to seed or “bolt.” This condition can also occur if temperature conditions become too hot. Spring planted cabbage is often seen flowering in gardens over Louisiana during mid-summer.


Q. I often have trouble in getting my cabbage to form a head. What is wrong?

A. Cabbage and all members of the cabbage family, such as cauliflower and broccoli, require cool temperatures, adequate moisture and high fertility in order to produce high yields of quality produce. Any condition which results in a stunting or stress on the plants during the growing period, including insect or disease, can result in complete or partial crop failure.

Q. What is Chinese cabbage and how is it different than regular cabbage?

A. Chinese cabbage is Brassica rapa and is more biologically related to the turnip. Like cabbage, it is a cool season crop and tends to bolt or go to seed in long days of late spring and summer. Consequently, it grows best as a fall or early winter crop in most areas of Louisiana. Cultural practices are generally the same as for regular cabbage, although Chinese cabbage generally matures quicker and may be ready in as little as 60-to 65-days from seeding. Chinese cabbage is generally used fresh in salads, stir fried or cooked as regular cabbage.


Q. What is savoy cabbage?

A. Savoy cabbage is nothing more than a crinkled or crumpled leaf variety. It is cultivated and harvested identically as common types of cabbage. The Savoy King hybrid is an all American winner.


Q. I have heard that cabbage plants will produce small, secondary heads resembling Brussels Sprouts. Is there any secret to this?

A. It is true that one to several small lateral heads may be harvested from early cabbage if the plants are left in the garden after the main head is removed. This is done by cutting carefully just beneath the solid head leaving the loose older leaves uninjured, if possible. Sprinkle a small amount of fertilizer around each plant and water in. These small “brussels sprout” like heads develop from buds located in the axils of older leaves. They should be harvested when of good size and firm. Flavor, color and texture are excellent. Remember that cabbage does best under cool conditions, and the same requirements are necessary for the small, secondary heads to develop.


Q. What is ornamental cabbage or kale and are they edible?

A. There are certain varieties of cabbage and kale that produce decorative, non-heading plants with green or purple leaves and colorful white, cream, pink, red or purple interleaves. These are sold as “flowering cabbage” and can be attractively used as edging or for low, colorful accent plants in flower beds. Ornamental cabbage, like other members of the kale crop family, does best when it matures under cool conditions. The leaves are edible, but tough and strong in flavor. The plants are subject to the same insect and diseases as common cabbage.


Q. What causes the dark or black areas on the internal leaves in cabbage heads?

A. Chances are what you are describing is Internal Tip Burn. Although the exact cause is unknown, tip burn has been related to low soil moisture, high fertility and boron deficiency. To avoid this problem, maintain adequate fertility especially during formation of the cabbage head and avoid excessive fertilization near maturity. Applications of a small amount of Twenty Mule Team Borax to the soil can overcome boron deficiencies, but please remember that excessive amounts can be toxic to plants. This treatment should be avoided until a boron deficiency is certain.


Disease

Q. As my cabbage approaches maturity, the head develops black, circular spots. These may be the size of a penny up to the size of a half dollar.

A. This is Alternaria leaf spot and can be controlled with Zineb, Maneb + Zinc or Chlorothalonil sprays.


Q. I recently harvested a head of cabbage that had black streaks throughout the stem and core area of a the cabbage. This extended out into the head, causing a foul smelling decay.

A. This is black rot of cabbage and is caused by a seed borne bacteria. There is no control for this other than the use of resistant varieties. Cabbage which is temporarily flooded is more subject to this type of infection.


Q. The outer foliage of my cabbage plants develops a yellow lesion with downy growth underneath and is very brittle.

A. This is downy mildew and is controlled with Maneb, Maneb plus Zinc, or Chlorothalonil sprays beginning at the first sign of the disease. Repeat at 10- to 14-day intervals for 2 to 3 applications.


Insects

Q. What are the shield shape, bright colored insects which seem to enjoy my cabbage more than I do?

A. No doubt you are describing Harlequin Bugs. These are close relatives of stink bugs and can be a real problem on cabbage and related plants if left unchecked. At the first sign of problems with this insect, applications of most general purpose insecticides will result in satisfactory control. Always remove harvested or over mature cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower plants as these serve as excellent breeding and nesting places for Harlequin Bugs and serve as a good source of problems for your next season’s garden.


Q. What are these inch worms that are literally destroying my cabbage?

A. Although cabbage and related vegetable crops are bothered by many different types of worms, chances are you are bothered by cabbage loopers. Loopers, although a severe pest of cabbage, are relatively easy to control utilizing the biological insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis. This material gives excellent control of worms and can be used with complete safety around the home. It is sold under many trade names such as Biotrol, Thuricide, Dipel and Biological Worm Killer. Otherwise, try Sevin.


Q. Occasionally my cabbage plants seem to be growing slow and upon examining the roots, there appears to be white webs and small crawling insects on the roots. Is this the cause of my problem and what can be done?

A. You are describing soil or root aphids. They can become a problem on members of the cabbage family and result in stunting, poor growth, low quality and poor yields of infested plants. The occurrence of this problem is relatively unpredictable and consequently, control recommendations are generally not recommended. Applications of recommended soil insecticides, such as Diazinon will generally give satisfactory control of soil aphids. Applications of Diazinon should be made when the ground is being prepared and before seeding or transplanting.

Cantaloupe (Muskmelon)

General

Q. What do my cantaloupes bloom and bloom but seldom set any fruit?

A. Cantaloupes, like other vining crops, such as cucumbers, pumpkins, squash and watermelon, require pollination in order for fruit set to occur. This means that pollen must be transferred normally by bees and insects from the male blooms to the female blooms in order for fruit set to occur. Although cantaloupes are somewhat different than other vining crops in that they have flowers that contain both male and female parts as well as those which contain only mail parts, pollination is still necessary for fruit set to occur. Also, high temperatures or under some circumstances high fertility can cause the cantaloupe to produce only male blooms which obviously results in poor fruit set.

A. A qualified yes. Although cantaloupes do produce some perfect flowers (those that contain both male and female parts) which have the ability to set fruit without being pollinated by pollen from a male flower, an adequate supply of bees during bloom will insure a more abundant harvest of cantaloupe. It is safe to say that most of the problems with fruit set in cantaloupes is simply a lack of pollinating insects during the blooming period. You can hand pollinate.


Q. Can cantaloupes cross with other crops such as cucumbers, watermelons, squash or pumpkins?

A. Although crossing can occur between some members of the cucurbit family, this is relatively rare and infrequent in most groups. If crossing does occur it will not show up in this year’s fruit resulting in off-flavor, odd colors, etc., but will be evident if seed is saved from these fruits to plant in next year’s garden. Many people relate off-flavored fruit or strange colored fruit as being the result of cross-pollination, but this is primarily due to environmental conditions or some type of disease. (See pollination charts.)


Q. What is the best way to determine when a cantaloupe is ready for harvest?

A. The cantaloupe itself will tell you when it is ready to harvest. The cantaloupe is ready to harvest when the fruit reaches the “slip” state. Slip means that the stem will easily separate from the fruit. When a cantaloupe is thoroughly ripe, the stem will automatically slip. To avoid over-ripening, home gardeners should harvest cantaloupes before they naturally separate from the vine. The best way to check maturity of cantaloupes is to place your thumb beside the stem and apply pressure gently to the side. If the stem separates easily, rest assured the cantaloupe is ripe.


Q. Some years my cantaloupes are sweet and tasty and other years they have no flavor at all. What is wrong?

A. Cantaloupe flavor is highly dependent upon environmental conditions. Many people feel that the lack of flavor is due to the fact that the cantaloupes have crossed with other types of vine crops, such as cucumbers. This is absolutely false. High rainfall or excessive irrigation as the cantaloupes near maturity will adversely affect fruit flavor. Also, diseases which reduce the vigor of the plant and consequently the leaves’ ability to produce sugar will also affect fruit flavor. Maintaining the plants in a healthy growing condition and avoiding excessive watering near maturity will improve cantaloupe flavor.


Q. Can you save seed from this year’s crop of cantaloupes for planting in next year’s garden?

A. Yes, but this is not a recommended practice. In general, you should not save seed from any of the vine crops as some cross-pollinating can occur which will be evident when the seed are planted in next year’s garden. It is fairly safe to say that if you grow only one variety of cantaloupes and there are no cantaloupes in neighborhood gardens, seed can be saved for next year without fear of producing off-type fruit. If hybrid seed is used, then seed should definitely not be saved for next year’s planting.


Q. What is the difference between a honeydew and cantaloupe?

A. Honeydew melons are closely related to cantaloupes but generally ripen later. Most of the honeydew melons have white or green flesh and mature within 100 to 120 days from planting. Most honeydew varieties do not “slip” from the vine as do cantaloupes and are mature when they become creamy to golden yellow in color and the blossom end becomes slightly soft.


Disease

Q. My cantaloupe foliage is developing yellow spots with a downy growth underneath.

A. This is downy mildew and is controlled with resistant varieties like Top Score, and fungicide applications using Maneb, Maneb plus Zinc, Chlorothalonil and Zineb.


Q. My cantaloupes foliage is covered by brown, necrotic spots which fall out giving the foliage a very tattered appearance.

A. They are cercospora leaf spots and are controlled with fungicide applications at 10 to 14 day intervals. Use Maneb, Maneb plus Zinc, Zineb and Chlorothalonil.


Q. My cantaloupe stems near the crown of the plant, are splitting. An amber-colored ooze is being formed around these cuts. Soon after this, the plants wilt and die.

A. This is Gummy Stem Blight. It is a soil-borne fungal disease that infects the young plant causing death. It can be controlled by Benlate Chlorothalonil, Maneb plus Zn or Zineb sprays applied at the crown of the plant when they are just beginning to emerge and form runners. Rotation within the garden will also help prevent the occurrence of this problem.


Q. After the recent rains, my cantaloupes began to rot. Around the base of the decay a white fungal mat was found.

A. This is Southern Blight. The best means of controlling this is to place something between the fruit and the soil. Heavy soils will be more apt to have this problem than light, sandy soils. Chemical control has not proven satisfactory for the prevention of this problem. If you are watering, it should be light and of short duration so that the soil does not stay wet for long periods. Deep plow before planting.


Q. My cantaloupe roots are covered with knots and small swellings.

A. This is root knot nematodes. They are controlled with Vapam treatments.

Carrot

General

Q. I have planted carrots several times with no luck. Why won’t they come up?

A. Be sure not to plant them too deep. Sow the seed on top of the bed and gently rake them in, covering the seed only about ¼ inch deep. Germination will increase as soil temperature decrease. Don’t crust or harden the soil on top of the bed with direct sprays of water. Keep your planting area moist and try a temporary mulch or cover shade.


Q. What causes the top of my carrots to be green in color rather than orange?

A. Greening on the top of the carrot is brought about by exposure to sunlight. This generally occurs when conditions such as heavy rain causes the soil to be washed away from the carrot roots exposing them to the sun. There is often an off-flavor associated with this green color. Therefore, this portion should be removed before consuming or canning.


Q. Why are my garden carrots short and stumpy rather than long and slender like those found in grocery store?

A. More than likely the problem is variety selection. Most recommended home garden varieties are the Nantes or Chantenay varieties, which are genetically short and thick. Those sold at grocery stores are of the Imperator type and inherently long and slender. Carrot length can be affected by excessive moisture during the growth of the carrots and soil type. Gardeners should avoid over watering carrots as they near maturity.


Q. What causes my home garden carrots to be tasteless, woody and often bitter rather than sweet and tender?

A. Generally this is associated with growing conditions and environmental conditions during the maturing period. Carrots grow best and develop highest sugars when temperatures are between 40-80°F. Consequently, the best carrots are produced when planted in fall for early winter harvest. Carrots are cold hardy, but should be planted so that they mature before temperatures drop below 20°F as damage or death can occur. In areas of south Louisiana, plantings can begin in late September of October.


Q. Each year my spring planted carrots send up a seed stalk. Am I planting the wrong variety or what am I doing wrong?

A. Carrots are a biennial plant. They generally take two years to go from seed to producing flowers. Carrots or many other biennial type crops, such as cabbage, will produce seed stalks the first year if the young plants are subjected to cold weather early during their growth. Carrots which produce seed stalks often lack flavor and are woody and of poor texture.


Q. What causes my carrots to be pale yellow in color rather than the typical orange color?

A. Although there are varietal differences with regard to root color, changes are your problem is associated with environmental conditions. Carrots that mature under relatively warm temperatures or high moisture conditions have the tendency to lack good root color. These carrots also have poor flavor and texture. Carrots should be planted so that they mature under relatively cool conditions and prefer growing temperatures that average less than 80°F. Avoid excessive soil moisture if at all possible.


Insect

Q. What causes my carrots to be forked or double?

A. This condition is brought about by any occurrence which destroys or damages the growing tip of a young carrot. Common causes include soil insects and nematodes which feed on the growing tip resulting in branching of the carrot root. Fresh manures near the roots may also do this.


Disease

Q. Once I harvest my carrots and place them in the crisper, they soon deteriorate into a slimy, foul-smelling mess.

A. Most often this is associated with Bacterial Soft Rot. It enters the carrot at harvest time through cuts and breaks. To control this, carrots should be washed thoroughly. Any broken or damaged carrots should be consumed immediately. After washing, they should be placed in a crisper and held at a cool temperature to prevent further development of the bacteria.


Q. My carrots foliage is infected with brown lesions which cause the leaves to decay.

A. This is a leaf blight of carrots and is caused by two different fungi. The control for this is to spray with Maneb plus Zinc, Zineb, or Chlorothalonil sprays. Begin at the first sign of the disease and repeat at 10 to 14 day intervals until weather conditions change. Leaf blight in carrots is favored by extended periods of high humidity caused by dews andintermittent rain. If not controlled, leaf blight can reduce the yield.


Q. When I dug my carrots, I found galls or swelling on the roots.

A. This is root knot nematodes. Nematodes are controlled with Vapam soil treatments, high organic matter, summer fallowing, and rotation.


Q. My carrots foliage has a yellow appearance with multiple sprouting at the crown of theroot. The roots have numerous small roots on the main root.

A. This is Aster Yellows and is a virus disease of carrots which is carried by leafhoppers.There is no control for the disease other than a good insect program coupled with removal of the diseased plants once the disease symptoms begin to show up.


Q. My carrots are rotting off at the soil line. On close examination, I find the top of theroot covered by a white fungal mat.

A. This is Southern Blight of carrots. It is a soil-borne disease and can be controlled by combining a good foliage fungicide program, deep burial of organic material so that you do not have undecomposed leaf tissue in the upper zone of the garden soil, and rotation.


Q. My carrots die off rapidly during the warmer months of the year.

A. This is cotton root rot and is a soil-borne fungus. It attacks the roots of carrots causing rapid death of the carrot itself. On close examination of the root system, you will find it to be completely decayed. There is no control for this other than the use of rotation. Plant carrots so that they will mature in cool months of the year. Cotton root rot is a disease that requires a hot soil for it to develop and grow at its most rapid stage. Carrots planted in the fall and winter months to mature before the soil warms up will reduce losses from this fungus.

Cauliflower

General

Q. Can cauliflower be grown in the spring as well as in the fall?

A. Cauliflower is not an easy garden crop to grown and requires a constant supply of moisture, relatively high levels of fertility and moderate temperature conditions. Cauliflower will not do well if grown where temperatures average above 75°F or where winter temperatures drop below 25°F. Problems usually associated with poor results from cauliflower are invariably related to improper planting time and/or low moisture and fertility conditions.


Q. How long does it take cauliflower to go from seed to a harvestable head?

A. This is dependent upon variety and seasonal temperatures. Some of the new hybrid varieties of cauliflower, such as Snowcrown, will yield a 6-9 inch head about 55-60 days from transplanting. Others may require as much as 100 days from transplanting. In general, most varieties if properly grown will produce harvestable heads 85-130 days from planting the seed. When heads are forming, heat hastens maturity.


Q. I am growing cauliflower for the first time. I read somewhere that it must be blanched to reach its best quality. What is blanching? When and how is it done?

A. Blanching of cauliflower refers to protecting the heads from sunlight. Unblanched heads will be yellowish, pale green in color while blanched heads are pure white. When the head begins to enlarge, the outer leaves should be pulled over the head and tied with a rubber band or soft twine.


Disease

Q. My cauliflower heads turn dark as they reach maturity.

A. This is caused by a disease known as downy mildew. Downy mildew can also affect the foliage causing loss of leaves. It can be controlled with Maneb plus Zinc, Zineb, and Chlorothalonil sprays applied on a regular basis.

Celery

General

Q. Can celery be grown successfully in Louisiana gardens?

A. Yes, if given the proper growing conditions – but it’s not easy! Celery does best in cool weather and especially well when nighttime temperatures are around 50°F and average daytime temperatures stay between 60-70°F. Since celery requires these conditions for as long as 5 to 6 months duration, most optimum planting time occurs in mid to late summer with harvesting occurring in early winter. Prolonged periods of cold temperatures during early growth or excessively high temperatures near maturity will start the formation of a seed stalk. In the northern parts of Louisiana celery transplants must be hardened and set out early to avoid damage which can occur from low temperatures. In the southern regions of Louisiana, seeding or transplant can occur in late fall for harvest during late-winter. This crop is thought to be a real challenge for our ardeners.


Q. Will freezing weather kill or damage celery?

A. Yes. Young celery plants can be damaged by near freezing temperatures. At or near maturity celery plants can withstand frost or freezing weather although temperatures much below 30°F can kill or damage celery.


Q. What causes the stout and often bitter flavor?

A. Improper environmental conditions, primarily high temperatures at maturity along with stress conditions such as drought or low fertility can cause celery to become offflavored. For maximum quality celery must be grown full speed under suitable environmental conditions and a constant level of available moisture.


Q. What is meant by blanching celery?

A. Blanched celery refers to celery that is largely without any green color. Blanched celery is less popular now and the so-called self-blanching varieties are difficult to locate. For the most part, green celery is preferred by most gardeners due to the fact that it is generally considered to be more nutritious. Green varieties can be blanched if light is excluded from the plant by placing strong paper or boards on each side of the plants or by wrapping individual plants loosely with paper 2 to 3 weeks before harvesting.


Q. My celery plants foliage is marked by reddish-brown lesions.

A. This is leaf blight caused by several fungi. However, Cercospora seems to be the primary one involved. It can be controlled with foliar sprays of Chlorothalonil. Begin applications at the first sign of the disease and continue at 10 to 14 day intervals until weather conditions no longer favor disease development.

Celeriac Celery

General

Q. What is celeriac?

A. Celeriac, also called Turnip Rooted Celery or Knob Celery, is grown for its globular root which has a celery-like flavor. It is usually about 5 inches in diameter at maturity. Celeriac is easier to grown than is true celery.


Q. Can celeriac be successfully grown in Louisiana?

A. If you can grow celery, you can surely grow celeriac in your garden. It requires approximately 200 days from seeding to maturity although the root is edible at any earlier stage.


Q. How do you use celeriac?

A. Leaves can be harvested from the celeriac at any time. Pull up the roots to use when desired, usually when they are about the size of a baseball. The root must be peeled and sliced into sticks before using. Celeriac is usually eaten cooked rather than raw.

Chive

General

Q. What are chives?

A. Chives are a hardy relative of the onion. They produce numerous thin, hollow leaves 6 to 10 inches long. In late spring or early summer they bloom with lavender colored blossoms. They are classed as perennials, but are not evergreen perennials. Stalks may die down to bulbs in summer.


Q. When planting chives do I use seeds or plants?

A. Either. If you plant clumps or plants you can start harvesting within 2 months. Starting from seed, it generally takes about 90 days before first harvest can occur.


Q. Do chives require any special care for maximum production?

A. Constant harvesting of the leaves is essential if you are to keep a healthy, vigorous plant growing. Every third year dig and divide the clumps and plant them in another part of the garden. They are very easily grown in gardens and do exceptionally well in pots or in other types of containers.

Collard

General

Q. is it true that collard greens are highly nutritious?

A. Collard greens are relatively nutritious being quite high in vitamins A and C, Calcium and Riboflavin. The taste is similar to, but richer than that of cabbage. A light frost near harvest time enhances the flavor of collard greens.


Q. When harvesting collard greens, should you harvest the older, mature leaves or should you pull up the entire plant?

A. Although harvesting can occur in both manners, maximum yields result if you harvest the leaves from the bottom of the plant before they become too old. The first harvest generally occurs about the time the plants are 60 days old.


Diseases

Q. My collard foliage developed a yellow area and white, downy growth underneath. This foliage quickly turned yellow and became brittle to the touch.

A. This is Downy Mildew. It is controlled with Maneb plus Zinc, or Zineb. Make repeated applications at 14-day intervals.


Q. The stems of my collard plants become rotten once foliage is removed. The decayed area is very foul smelling.

A. This is Bacterial Soft Rot which is entering in the broken areas where the leaves were removed. This can be controlled with a spray of Kocide 101 fixed copper or copper Bordeaux at the time of harvesting.

Corn

General

Q. Should sweet corn be planted in several short rows rather than in one or two long rows?

A. The answer to this is a definite yes that is if you want kernels on the cob. Corn is pollinated by wind-borne pollen. Planting corn in blocks rather than in long rows makes it easier for the plants to pollinate one another during tasseling.


Q. Should the “suckers” or “side shoots” which emerge near the ground level on sweet corn be removed?

A. This is not necessary although most experienced gardeners feel removal of the suckers will result in larger, high quality ears especially in close spacings. If they are to be removed, they should be snapped off at a relatively small size.


Q. How long does it take for most sweet corn varieties to produce edible ears?

A. Most sweet corn varieties on the market today will mature here between 65-90 days from seeding. Rate of maturity will vary greatly from year to year and from season to season depending upon temperature conditions. Heat makes it grow faster.


Q. Can you tell me why ears of corn are underdeveloped at the tip end?

A. This condition is quite common not only in gardens, but also in large commercial planting. Several explanations have been given for the cause of this condition such as a nutrient deficiency, loss of foliage due to disease with correspondingly lower food manufacturing capacity, cool temperatures during ear maturity periods and low moisture conditions. Corn is cross-pollinated by windblown pollen from the male flowers of tassels at the top of the plant to the female flowers or silks about midway up the stalks. Each kernel develops from an individual pollinated silk. Silks develop near the middle and base of the ear first with those at the tip developing last. When unfavorable conditions occur such as those mentioned above, those kernels pollinated first will take precedence over those pollinated last. This often results in failure of the kernels near the tip to properly develop.


Q. How come some years a sweet corn is sweet and tasty and other years it seems to lack the desired flavor?

A. The flavor of sweet corn is highly dependent on weather conditions. If rain occurs within a week of harvest time, the flavor of sweet corn is often greatly diminished. Also, if the corn matures during high daytime temperatures as well as high nighttime temperatures, the sugar levels of sweet corn will be relatively low and flavor will be disappointing. The sugar in sweet corn is rapidly converted to starch even under optimum storage conditions necessitating the need for cooking as soon as possible after harvest.


Q. Is there an optimum or best time of day to harvest sweet corn?

A. Most experienced sweet corn gardeners recommend harvesting corn at milk stage maturity during the early morning hours. This insures that the sugar level will be at its highest level providing the harvesting occurs when the corn is mature and not overripe. Chill as soon as possible.


Q. How often should sweet corn be fertilized to produce high yields of good quality corn?

A. Sweet corn should be lightly fertilized prior to planting. It should be fertilized again when the plants are almost one foot tall and again when they are almost 3 feet tall. Approximately ¼ pound of complete fertilizer for every 10 feet of garden row should be sufficient for fertilizing corn in most areas.


Q. My sweet corn this year produced both yellow and white kernels on the same cob. What’s wrong?

A. This could b e the result of a bicolored variety or perhaps cross-pollination. Some of the near varieties, primarily those which have an extra sweet character, produce both white and yellow kernels on the same cob. Some of the bicolored varieties are “Sugar Dot” and “Honey and Cream.” However, if you planted both yellow and white sweet corn in your garden or perhaps a neighbor planted a different type sweet corn, multi-colored kernels on the same cob can result.


Q. What is meant by advertisements in catalogs referring to “Super Sweet” varieties of sweet corn?

A. Certain newly developed “Super Sweet” hybrid varieties of corn may contain up to 40 percent more sugar than some of the old standard varieties. These super sweet hybrids carry one of several genetic factors which can result in a higher sugar content. The sweet character is lost in some types if pollinated by ordinary sweet corn or field corn. If the variety you have has this weakness (usually the Sh2 gene) then it should be planted well away from any other type of corn which will be in silk at a similar time.


Q. What is the difference between roasting ears and sweet corn?

A. To most people, roasting ears refers to field corn that is harvested at an immature stage for human consumption. Many people prefer field corn because the ears are larger and the corn can be quite “chewy.” However, there is no comparison in flavor between sweet corn and roasting ears if the sweet corn is grown under proper conditions, harvested at the right stage of maturity and handled properly between harvest time and cooking time.


Disease

Q. My sweet corn produced normally. However, as the ear was formed, the tip of it became covered with a very white mass that continued to grow and finally broke open and exposed a black, powdery mass.

A. This is corn ear smut. It is a fungus and is carried in the seed. To avoid this problem, use only high quality seed from a reputable source. There is no chemical control for this disease.


Q. My sweet foliage is developing reddish lesions.

A. This is rust. There is no chemical control. Some varieties are less susceptible than others. It does very little damage under normal conditions. However, if infection should occur early and continue to develop, losses may occur.


Q. My sweet corn grew for a period of time and then had a mosaic appearance. The corn did not develop properly. What ears were formed were poorly filled.

A. This is Maize Dwarf Mosaic Virus. It is a common virus occurring on sweet corn in Louisiana. It overwinters in Johnson grass around the garden. To control the problem, it is important that the Johnson grass is followed. There are some varieties which are much more resistant to this disease than others.


Insects

Q. I planted corn in my garden this fall and it turned out beautifully, but the worms ate more corn than my family. What can I do to prevent this?

A. Sevin insecticide can be used to spray or dust the ear silks to prevent entrance and egg laying by the adult insect. You must begin dusting and spraying the silks at an early stage and repeat every two days for adequate control. Some gardeners also report that a drop of mineral oil applied on the silks will prevent earworm damage. Sounds like a lot of effort, but may be worth trying. Watch for worms to be especially heavy a week or so after the full moon.


Q. Are there any truly earworm resistant varieties of sweet corn available on the market today?

A. No. Some varieties seem to be bothered less by corn earworms than others; however, none are what we would truly call resistant. In general, the higher quality and sweeter the corn, the more likely it is to be bothered by earworms. Varieties of sweet corn which have a relatively tight shuck near the silk seem to be bothered less by earworms and birds than those that have loose and open ends.


Q. My sweet corn seedlings are laying on top of the ground! Did some soil insect push these out?

A. It was probably a crow or raven seeking the seed that is found at the base of the young seedling. Check the area for bird tracks.

FAQs Home Vegetables Table of Contents

Answers to frequently asked questions about vegetables grown in home gardens available in three parts.

  • Please see below for vegetables A-C, including:
    • asparagus
    • bean
    • beet
    • broccoli
    • brussels sprouts
    • cabbage
    • cantaloupe (muskmelon)
    • carrot
    • cauliflower
    • celery
    • chive
    • collard
    • corn
    • cucumber
  • Please click here for vegetables D-P, including:
    • dandelion
    • dill
    • eggplant
    • endive
    • horseradish
    • Jerusalem artichoke
    • kohlrabi
    • lettuce
    • mustard
    • okra
    • onion
    • parsnip
    • pea
    • pepper
    • potato
    • pumpkin
  • Please click here for vegetables R-W, including:
    • radish
    • spinach
    • squash
    • sweet potato
    • swiss chard
    • tomato
    • turnip
    • watermelon

FAQs Home Vegetables
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