Vegetable gardening is in full swing across southwest Louisiana. Due to the early spring this year, many people started planting vegetables earlier than normal. Now that we have had continuous warm weather and with our daytime and nighttime temperatures constantly rising, warm season vegetables are being planted every day and people are getting very excited about this year’s vegetable crops. The last vegetable article, we covered tomatoes and peppers; this article we will cover cucumbers and okra.
Cucumbers are another staple vegetable crop that’s found almost in every garden down here in south Louisiana. If you grow tomatoes, usually you have cucumbers as well; both add a great deal of taste to any salad or other foods we eat on a regular basis and offer a lot in terms on nutrition. Cucumbers can be direct seeded or transplanted; make sure if planting transplants that the plants are healthy and free of insects and diseases. If direct seeding cucumbers, the recommended seeding rate is about ¼ oz. of seed per 100 feet of row. As the cucumbers grow, you can thin out the cucumbers and keep them spaced (the spacing goes for transplants as well) 12 – 18 inches apart. If you plant cucumbers too close to one another, they become crowded and they compete for the same nutrients which can ultimately affect plant growth and fruit production. Fertilization also plays a key role in the overall production of cucumbers. If using 8-8-8 as a fertilizer, it is important to use about 5 – 7 pounds per 100 feet of row; if using 13-13-13, use about 10 – 12 pounds per 100 feet of row.
As the plant begins to “run”, you can add a side-dress application of about 2-3lbs of 8-8-8 (this should be done when the plant starts to run and again 3-4 weeks later). Cucumbers are a great vegetable to grow, but they do have problems that you need to keep an eye out for. Seedling disease (more common in direct seeding) is a common problem that many people have when growing cucumbers. The symptoms are as the seedling germinates and starts to grow, the seedling will start to wilt and then rot off at the soil line (this is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil). For best results, get seed that has been treated with a fungicide. Some of the more popular varieties of cucumbers for slicing are Dasher II, General Lee, Thunder, Intimidator, and Sweet Success. If you are considering planting cucumbers for pickling, you may want to try Calypso, Jackson, Sassy, and Fancipak.
Okra is another exciting vegetable to grow in the garden during the warmer season; usually when nothing is growing too great in the dead-heat of the summer, okra will be thriving. Like cucumbers, okra can be transplanted into the garden and even direct-seeded. If you are planning on direct seeding into the garden, keep the seeding rate about ½ oz. per 100 feet of row. As the seed germinates and grow, you may have to thin out the row and keep the spacing between the plants a minimum of 12 inches apart. Okra will give you good yields and produce until the weather starts to cool down in October. Like all vegetables, fertilizing plays an important role in the overall growth and production of the plant and pod. Typically, okra doesn’t need as much fertilizer as some other vegetables, but still needs some in order to grow. If using 8-8-8, you can use about 4 – 5 pounds per 100 feet of row; if using 13 -13 -13, you can use 2 – 3 pounds. After the first pods have set, you can add an additional ¾ pound of ammonium nitrate, 1 pound of ammonium sulfate, or about 2 pounds of 8-8-8 as a side-dress application (this should be done at first pod set and every 4-6 weeks thereafter). As the okra pods grow to a length of about 3 inches, this is the optimum time to harvest for best quality (some varieties will have a tendency to stay tender if harvested when the pods are larger). Some popular varieties that do well here in south Louisiana are Clemson Spineless, Cajun Delight, Louisiana Green Velvet, Emerald and Burgundy.
With our early, warm, spring temperatures, these vegetables are sure to thrive in the garden. One thing to watch out for is overwatering the vegetable garden. Due to our very wet spring season, you may not have to water your garden as much since Mother Nature is doing it for us. Monitor the moisture level in the garden because if you are watering your garden on a regular basis and so is Mother Nature, these plants may be getting too much water and this can possibly cause you problems like root rot and other diseases as well. Be aware, monitor the garden for any changes throughout the growing season, and enjoy these warm, comfortable temperatures because we all know what temperatures are in store com July and August.