Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 7/28/2005 2:08:36 AM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
There’s something particularly satisfying about putting quality, nutritious food on the table as a direct result of your gardening efforts, and August is a transitional time in the vegetable garden.
Although planting of cool-season vegetables will begin in earnest next month, some of the more heat-tolerant ones, such as the cole crops, can be planted now. Better yet, since our first frosts generally don’t arrive until late November or early December, we also can plant warm-season vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers for fall production.
Visit area nurseries to find out what vegetable transplants and seeds are available.
Of course, it’s important to prepare beds properly before planting this next set of crops. To do that, clear the site of all weeds or finished vegetable plants. Turn the soil with a shovel, fork or tiller to a depth of at least 8 inches, and spread a 2-inch to 4-inch layer of organic matter (leaves, grass clippings, aged manure or compost can be used) over the tilled soil. This helps to maintain a high level of organic matter in the soil, which encourages a strong, healthy root system, improves drainage, retains moisture, provides nutrients and promotes vigorous plant growth.
Fertilizer can be sprinkled on top of the organic matter. Apply an all-purpose fertilizer following package directions for rates.
In addition, gardeners should consider having their soil tested through their parish LSU AgCenter Extension Office to learn more about the fertility of the soil and what fertilizer to use. A soil test also will tell you if you need to add lime to the soil.
Back to preparing the beds, mix the organic matter and fertilizer thoroughly into the soil. Turn the soil by digging with a shovel, garden fork or a tiller until the materials you’ve added are evenly distributed in the soil. If you are not gardening in raised beds, form the soil into raised rows about 8 inches high and 2 feet wide, with narrow walkways between them. If you are gardening in containers, use a quality potting mix and fertilize with balanced soluble or slow-release fertilizers according to label directions.
By this time of year, insects and diseases have had all summer to build up their populations, and insects such as whiteflies, stink bugs, aphids and caterpillars are commonly seen. Since insect and disease pressure often is greater in the late summer/early fall than in the spring, watch plants carefully for problems and use appropriate control measures promptly when needed.
Now is the time to plant tomato and bell pepper transplants for fall production.
If your pepper plants from the spring are still in reasonably good shape, they often will produce an excellent fall crop once the weather begins to cool down. (This also goes for eggplants.) Keep them well fertilized and protected from insects and diseases.
On the other hand, spring-planted tomatoes rarely survive the summer in decent shape, and new transplants generally are used for the fall crop. Tomato cultivars that produce well in the fall include Heatwave, Hawaiian Hybrid, Bingo, Whirlaway, Celebrity and Solar Set. Plant several varieties and see which you like best.
Fall snap beans often produce better than those planted in spring. This is because temperatures begin to fall as snap beans come into production, while in the spring the weather gets increasingly hotter as the beans produce their crop. Snap beans are one of the easiest and most reliable vegetables and are especially appropriate for children’s gardens. Wait until late August in North Louisiana or early September in South Louisiana to plant snap beans, so they will come into bloom after the weather has begun to turn cooler, and choose bush types. Bush lima beans also may be planted.
Cole crops to be planted this month from seeds or transplants include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale, rape and collards. Cole is the Old English word for cabbage, and these days it is used to refer to this group of closely related vegetables. (We still use the word when we call cabbage salad coleslaw).
Broccoli is one of the best and easiest to grow of the group. Transplants may be planted now through early October. Seeds can be planted now through early September – and those may be planted into pots or flats and transplanted into the garden, or they can be direct seeded into the garden where they will grow. Plant transplants 12-18 inches apart into well-prepared beds. The closer spacing will produce smaller heads but more total production.
Here’s a list of the vegetables that can be planted into the garden this month: Plant transplants of tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Plant seeds of broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, turnips, squash, bush lima beans, bush snap beans (Plant these beans in late August.) and Swiss chard. Plant sets (small bulbs) of shallots and bunching onions. Plant small whole Irish potatoes saved from the spring crop.
Visit www.lsuagcenter.com to see the LSU AgCenter’s Vegetable Planting Guide, a free publication that will provide you with information on the year-round planting dates for many vegetables. Contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office for additional information.
Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.