Vegetable Gardening Crop Highlights

Kathryn Fontenot  |  3/30/2017 6:52:44 PM

Bell pepper, eggplants, okra.

eggplant-1659784_1920jpgWait to transplant or direct-seed okra, bell pepper (transplants) and eggplant (transplants) until the weather has warmed considerably. These vegetables are sensitive to cold soils and weather. Once stunted by cool weather, they recover slowly.

A garden site with full sun is required for growing bell peppers. Any shade will greatly reduce fruit set. Space peppers about 18 inches and eggplants 18-36 inches apart.

Recommended open-pollinated varieties of bell peppers include Capistrano, Jupiter and Purple Beauty. Recommended hybrid bell peppers are Revolution, Heritage and the large King Arthur, Valencia, Paladin and Plato, Camelot (X3R), Aristotle, Gypsy, Tequila (purple) and Mavras (black).

Note: Tomato spotted wilt virus has hindered bell pepper production in many areas. The varieties Stiletto, Patriot and Excursion II are resistant to tomato spotted wilt virus. Try these varieties if you have had trouble producing bell peppers.

Recommended hybrid eggplant varieties are Fairy Tale, Calliope, Clas- sic, Epic, Dusky, Santana, Hansel or oriental Ichiban. The green eggplant varieties produce well in Louisiana and are less bitter than the purple varieties in hot, dry weather. The Louisiana Market Bulletin is a fairly good source for green eggplant seed and other hard-to-find vegetable seeds and plants. Kermit is a green variety of eggplant that might be worth a shot.

Cucurbits

halloween-1775685_1920jpgAll squash, cucumber and melon members of the cucurbit family can be planted in May, but yields may be lower than normal with the late plantings. Plant cucurbits outdoors well after the danger of frost is over. Do not keep trans- plants in pots longer than three to four weeks prior to planting in your garden.

Recommended cucumber varieties for slicing are Dasher II, General Lee, Thunder, Speedway, Poinsett 76, Slice More and Intimidator. For pickling, try Calypso, Fancipak, Jackson and Sassy.

Recommended summer squash crooknecks are Prelude II, Dixie, Gentry, Goldie, Supersett, Destiny III and Medallion.

Recommended yellow straightneck squash varieties are Goldbar, Liberator III, Enterprise, Cougar, Multipik, Patriot II, Superpik and Fortune.

Recommended zucchini varieties are Justice III, Independence II, Tigress, Lynx, Spineless Beauty, Senator, Gold Rush (AAS) and Payroll.

Recommended scallop or patty pan squash varieties are Peter Pan and Sunburst.

Recommended hard shell (winter) squash varieties are Waltham Butternut, Butternut Supreme, Early Butternut, Tay Belle Table Queen, Honey Bear, Cream of Crop, Table King and Imperial Delight.

Viruses are a big problem in squash production. Try planting some of the new virus-resistant varieties: Prelude II and Destiny (yellow crookneck); Liberator and Conqueror (yellow straight neck); and Declaration, Payroll, Judgment III, Revenue and Independence (zucchini).

Recommended cantaloupe varieties are Ace, Aphrodite, Athena, Primo, Magnum 45, Super 45, Ambrosia, Earlidew (honeydew type) or Honey Max (honeydew type).

Recommended watermelon varieties are Crimson Sweet (OP – open pollinated), Jubilee II (OP), Fiesta, La Sweet (OP), Jamboree, Jubilation, Patriot, Regency, Royal Star, Royal Jubilee, Royal Sweet, Sangria, Stars ’n Stripes and Starbrite. Seedless varieties include Revolution, Summer Sweet 5244, TriX Carousel 212 or 313, Cooperstown and Millionaire. Ice box type: Sugar Baby. Yellow: Summer Gold and Tender Gold.

Apply 2-3 pounds of 8-24-24 or similar fertilizer per 100-foot row before planting. Side-dress with 11/2-2 pounds of a complete fertilizer (13-13-13) per 100 feet of row when vines begin to run. Remove all but three to four well-shaped fruit from each plant when they reach 4-5 inches in diameter.

Pumpkins are much like winter squash, but the flesh often is coarser and stronger. Good varieties to try include Atlantic Giant, Prize Winner, Aladdin, Big Autumn, Merlin, Autumn Gold, Magic Lantern, Orange Smoothie, Sunlight, Early Abundance, Darling, Munchkin and Baby Boo. See the 2016 article on the LSU AgCenter’s website for more information from our 2016 pumpkin evaluations.

Cucurbit hints: Don’t be concerned if the first several squash fruit fall off the plant before they reach an edible stage. The first flowers to form in early spring squash are the female flowers (with the miniature fruit). Male flowers do not form at that time, so no pollination takes place. In a few days, though, the male flowers appear and normal fruit set begins. In summer, the process reverses – with the male flowers usually developing first and the females later.

Cucumber yields may be doubled by growing plants on a trellis. To get cucumber vines to climb a trellis or fence, you may need to tie them to the trellis in the beginning. Once they catch hold, they will continue to climb.

Use pesticides on cucurbits late in the afternoon so as not to reduce the bee population. Side-dress cucumbers, squash, watermelons and cantaloupes with 1 1/2 pounds of calcium nitrate per 100-foot row as vines begin to run. Weekly applications of a general-purpose fungicide (Daconil or Maneb) starting at first bloom will protect the foliage and improve yield. Plastic mulch will reduce fruit rot and enhance the production of cantaloupes and the other cucurbits.

Irish potatoes

potatoes-1637285_1920jpgBegin digging 90-110 days after planting. Plant tops start turning yellow as tubers reach maturity. Allowing the potatoes to remain in the ground a few days after tops die or after tops are cut will help set or toughen the skin and reduce skinning, bruising and storage rot. To keep potatoes for several weeks, allow cuts and skinned places to heal over at high temperatures. Then store in a cool, dark place with high humidity. Do not store where they will receive light because they will turn green and develop an undesirable taste.

Lima beans (butter beans)

beans-228870_1920jpgLima beans require warmer soil (70° F, at least) than snap beans to germinate, so wait until soil warms (usually in early to mid-April) before planting. Bush varieties to plant are Henderson’s Bush, Fordhook 242, Thorogreen, Bridgeton, Nemagreen, Dixie Butterpea or Baby Fordhook.

Plant lima beans every two weeks through mid-May to extend the harvest. One-half pound of seeds will plant a 100-foot row when three or four seeds are planted every 12 inches within the row.

Recommended pole lima beans are King of the Garden, Carolina Sieva, Willow Leaf, Christmas and Florida Speckled. Plant seeds 6-12 inches apart. One-quarter pound of seed will plant a 100-foot row.

Okra

okra-1386365_1920jpgSoil needs to be warm (65- 75° F) for okra seeds to germinate. Soak seeds overnight in tap water to soften seed coat before planting. Recommended varieties are Emer- ald, Annie Oakley (hybrid), Cowhorn, Cajun Delight-AAS, Red Burgundy and Clemson Spineless.

Onions, shallots, garlic

garden-1846590_1920jpgHarvest mature onion, garlic and shallot bulbs during the early summer. When mature, the tops begin to turn yellow or brown and fall over. Pull them, trim tops and roots and lay the plants on top of the row or place in burlap sacks for a couple of days to let them dry, if weather permits. Then store them in a cool, shaded and well-ventilated place. (Ideal storage for onions after drying is at temperatures of 45-50° F in a place with 65-70 percent relative humidity.)

Peanuts

Shell peanuts, and plant about four seeds per foot of row. Plant peanuts in April and May. Spanish peanuts have the smallest seeds. Runner types have intermediate size seeds, and Virginia types have the largest. Fertilize lightly with 1-2 pounds of 8-24-24 or similar fertilizer per 100-foot row. Soil should be high in calcium. Try not to follow peanut crops with tomato crops or other relatives of the nightshade family. Rotate between seasons.

Snap beans

green-beans-1018624_1920jpgPlant bush varieties every two weeks, starting right after the average last frost date. This will provide a continuous harvest for an extended period.

Good bush snap beans for Louisiana are Ambra, Bronco, Contender, Valentino, Dusky, Festina, Hialeah, Magnum, Storm, Strike, Provider and Bush Blue Lake 274. An All-America Selections winner is Derby. Try Roma II for a good-eating, flat Italian pod bean. For a purple pod bush snap, try Royal Burgundy in early spring. Those who prefer yellow wax beans should choose Golden Rod Wax and Goldmine.

One-half pound of snap bean seeds will plant a 100-foot row. Plant seeds 1-2 inches apart in the row. High temperatures at bloom may cause many of the flowers to fall off. Generally, snap beans do not produce well when planted in late May. For best quality, harvest pods before the developing seeds cause the pod to bulge. Beans can be held for up to seven days at 40-45° F and 90-95 percent humidity.

Pole snap bean varieties produce larger yields since they produce for a longer period than bush varieties. Space seeds about 6-12 inches apart. About 2-3 ounces of seeds will plant a 100-foot row. For pole snaps, the All-America Selections winner is Kentucky Blue. Rattle Snake and McCaslan have done well in Louisiana. For those who want a bean that sets well in the heat, try the vigorous Yardlong Asparagus Bean and harvest pods when 12-18 inches long.


Sweet Corn

close-up-72296_1280jpgPlanting corn early may reduce exposure to corn earworm populations. The earliest planting should be made seven days before the average last frost date for your area. Plant every two to three weeks to provide a continuous supply of sweet corn. Remember to plant the same variety in a block of at least three rows side by side at each planting. This will help ensure good pollination and well-filled ears. Planting a yellow corn adjacent to a white corn in small gardens may cause bicolor corn ears to form be- cause of cross-pollination. To avoid cross-pollination, wait three weeks between planting varieties.

When planting sweet corn, drop two or three seeds every 8 to 12 inches in the row and cover to about 1/2 inch to 1 inch deep. After the seeds germinate and the plants are 3 to 4 inches tall, thin to one plant per hill. Side-dress a 100-foot row with 1 1/2 to 3 pounds of calcium nitrate when the plants are about 12 inches tall and again when the plants are 24-36 inches tall. One pint of fertilizer or 2 cups is about 1 pound. Three ounces of seed will plant a 100 ft. row.

Dust or spray silks with Sevin every two to three days after silks first appear and until silks begin to dry. This treatment will help reduce corn earworm damage.

Harvest sweet corn early in the morning while it is still cool. Chill or cook immediately after harvesting. Sweet corn that is ready to harvest should have a well-filled ear. Kernels should be bright and plump, and their juice should be milky.

Varieties such as Seneca Horizon, Funks G90, Gold Queen, Merit, Silver Queen (white) and Golden Cross Bantam always perform well. Many other varieties are available and do well in Louisiana. Give Ambrosia, Incredible, Miracle and Delectable a try as well as Temptation, Obsession, Honey and Cream, Peaches and Cream, Luscious and any of the XTRA-Tender numbered series.

Tomatoes

tomato-697275_1920jpgPlant tomatoes in a well-drained site that receives six to eight hours direct sunlight. If the garden is too shady, few blossoms form, and many of those that form fall off before setting fruit. Begin transplanting in mid-March in south Louisiana and at or after April 1 in north Louisiana – after the danger of frost is over. If a frost occurs, you will need to cover the newly planted plants! Early blight is a common disease in tomatoes. Spray with cop- per fungicides early in the season at the base of the plant. Switch over to garden herbicides later in the season. Scout weekly for insects.

Space tomato plants 18-24 inches apart. Fertilize with 6-7 pounds of 13-13-13 per 100-foot row prior to planting and side-dress at first and second bloom with calcium nitrate or potassium nitrate.

Tomato vines may be determinate or indeterminate. Indeterminate types have a vegetative terminal bud that continues to grow. Determinate types have a fruiting terminal bud that keeps the plant from growing beyond a predetermined height. Determinate types are better suited for container gardening. Indeterminate types will need to be staked in the garden.

Indeterminate varieties that grow well in Louisiana include Better Boy and Big Beef (large); Champion and Pink Girl (pink); and Sweet Million, Sweet Chelsea, Jolly, Small Fry, Juliet, Elfin, Cupid, Mountain Belle and Sun Gold (cherry).

Determinants have very produc- tive vines that grow to heights of 4 feet. Determinants should be pruned only once or twice up to the first cluster.

Recommended determinate types for Louisiana include Celebrity (an All-America Selections winner, best taste); Carolina Gold, Florida 91, Mountain Spring, Cherry Grande (cherry) and Floralina. Also try Sun Master, Sunleaper, Mountain Spring and Phoenix

Note: The tomato spotted wilt virus has nearly eliminated tomato production in some areas. If you had trouble with it, plant Bella Rosa, Mountain Glory, Amelia, Quincy, Tribeca, Tribute and Fletcher varieties

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