Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.
News article for March 11, 2019:
Vegetable gardening was once a household chore, but popularity waned over time. It has become popular again as people have a renewed appetite for a fresh supply of nutritious vegetables.
Vegetable crops can be grown year round in south Louisiana, but the easiest garden to grow is one planted in the spring. If you are new to vegetable gardening or have been struggling with success, there are a few fundamentals that can make your experience more enjoyable and successful. First, do not get started too early. No sense in fighting cold weather when you are still trying to learn the ropes. Wait for it to warm up some, the old timers would always plant their gardens on Good Friday. That would put you planting the third week in April this year, I think I would go for the last week in March or the first week in April.
Another tip is you keep it small. You can grow a lot of vegetables in a small area if you take care of them. While planting is easy enough, you might find that dealing with weeds, insects, diseases, irrigation and harvesting are tasks that require more time and will occur as it gets hotter. Add all of these together and you can quickly turn gardening into work.
If you have options in locating your garden do not overlook the obvious. You need as much sunlight as you can get. Place the garden where it can get full sun if possible, but you will need a minimum of 8 hours of sun to be very productive. As you reduce the amount of sun, you limit your harvest and it will take longer for the crops to mature, especially fruiting crops. Also, make sure you are close enough to a water source to irrigate and make sure the site has good drainage of surface water.
Take a soil sample so we can determine the pH and the nutrient base of the soil. This will go a long way toward making your gardening experience successful. Fertilize and lime according to the soil sample recommendations. You can broadcast the fertilizer once the garden is plowed down and then when you row it up all the fertilizer will be in the row. Another way to fertilize is to build your row then bust the middles open and band your fertilizer in that trench in the center of the row at a depth of 4 inches.Then fill the trench back in to recover the row.
You will want to think about the most labor intensive part of gardening while you are in the planning stages, which is weed control. Your choices are to use a hoe, use herbicides, use organic mulches or plastic mulches. The best options are to use organic mulches or plastic mulches. Organic mulches sound best, but they keep the soil cool in the spring and slow the crop. They do block sunlight which keeps weed seed from germinating, but also keep the soil from warming up. I like black plastic mulch because it helps to warm the soil for earlier production and it blocks sunlight to prevent weeds (except coco grass) and it conserves moisture.
Irrigation is a big part of vegetable production and if you are going to use plastic mulch you will want to figure out how to get water past the plastic. I like the drip irrigation tape that is buried in the row a few inches deep prior to laying the plastic. Then you attach your water supply to the ends of the row and irrigation becomes just a turn of a knob and there is no water wasted.
When you actually plant, spacing and depth are important as well as placement. If you put down black plastic mulch with a drip irrigation tube in the middle of the row, you do not want to plant in the middle of the row. You should plant off center to avoid damaging the irrigation tube or plant a double row by planting on both sides of the irrigation tube. Follow recommended spacing for vegetables. Some common spacing would be 2-3 inches for bush snap beans, 8-12 inches for sweet corn, 12 inches for cucumbers and okra, and 18 inches for tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. Seed are planted at a depth which is twice the diameter of the seed.
For a detailed list of recommended vegetable varieties, dates to plant, seed spacing, seed depth requirements and days to harvest, get a copy of LSU AgCenter Publication 1980- Louisiana Vegetable Planting Guide from our website at www.lsuagcenter.com.