Now that we are in the middle of March that means one thing - it is vegetable garden time! Gardeners are preparing their gardens, deciding what vegetables to plant, and the shovels are coming out of storage - this is the classic sign that spring has arrived! With the large variety of vegetables to choose from that can be planted in the garden, suggestions noted below should give you an idea on some vegetables to plant and some basic information to keep in mind.
The good ole tomato is one of the staple vegetables that is planted in gardens throughout Louisiana. With our rich soil and the tomatoes fairly easy growing habits, this is sure to be a popular choice for 2012. When choosing which tomatoes to grow, it is important to know the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomato plants. Determinate, or bush types, will require some support when growing. After the plant has reached about 3-4 feet, the plant will usually stop growing. On average, determinates produce heavy and more concentrated yields. Some varieties to consider are Bella Rosa, Heatwave II, Florida 91, Phoenix, Sun Leaper, and Talladega. Indeterminates, or vine types, grow tall and can continue until the first frost. These varieties are typically pruned to develop one vigorous stem. Some people prefer to stop pruning the side shoots about knee-high up and allow the top of the vine to bush for extra protection against sunburned fruit. Some general information on tomatoes can help you out as well. When planting tomato transplants in the garden, it is best to keep the plants about 50 to 65 plants per 100 feet of row and keep the plants spaced about 2 to 6 inches apart. Fertilizing is very critical to tomatoes as well. When fertilizing tomatoes, you can use 4-5 lbs. of 8-24-24 or 6-8 lbs. of 8-8-8 per 100 feet of row and this should give the plants the right amount of nutrients (assuming the pH of the soil is between 6.0 - 7.0). Additional side-dress applications can be used as well; you can apply ¾ lb. of ammonium nitrate or 1 lb. ammonium sulfate or even 3 lbs. of 8-8-8 (the side-dress applications are done at first fruit set and every 3-4 weeks after) per 100 feet of row. By following these simple guidelines, your tomatoes should be ready for picking within 60-75 days.
Bell peppers are another very good vegetable to get going in the garden now. Transplants of bell peppers can be planted starting the middle of March and can begin harvesting within 70-80 days. The bell pepper has a sweeter flavor when the green fruit has been allowed to turn yellow or red at full maturity. Some of the better non-hybrid (open-pollinated) varieties are Jupiter, Capistrano, and Purple Beauty. As far as the hybrid varieties to consider, consider planting Camelot X3R, Heritage, Summer Gold, Purple Beauty, and Bell Boy. When planting bell pepper transplants, it is best to plant from 66 to 80 plants per 100 feet of row and space the plants 15-18 inches apart. As with any vegetable, fertilizer is critical in the success of the bell pepper. When the peppers are planted, you can put out 4-5 lbs. of 8-24-24 or 5-6 lbs. of 8-8-8 per 100 feet of row. At the first fruit set on the transplants, an additional side-dress application can be put out. When doing so, you can use ¾ lb. of ammonium nitrate, 1 lb. of ammonium sulfate, or even 8-8-8 per 100 feet of row. By doing all of this, you will be right where you want to be with bell peppers.
There are many other vegetables to consider planting in the garden since spring has arrived and we will cover more as the season continues. Knowing what to plant, when to plant, where to plant, what fertilizer to use, and general gardening information can greatly increase the production of vegetables growing in your garden. As the vegetables grow and set their fruit, it is important to monitor those plants to ensure that they are free of insects and diseases as these certain factors can greatly influence the outcome of the garden. While monitoring the garden on a regular basis, make sure the garden has the right amount of moisture (don’t let the garden dry out and don’t saturate the garden) and the right amount of sunlight. Basic care, proper monitoring, and common sense are three tools that are needed to have a successful garden.
Since we are on the topic of vegetable gardens, the Acadia Parish LSU AgCenter will be hosting a Spring Vegetable Garden Seminar on March 30 from 9 a.m. - noon. LSU AgCenter specialists will be giving presentations on everything pertaining to vegetables, so be sure and register as soon as possible because limited seating is available. The seminar is free and open to the public. If you have any questions pertaining to the above topic or would like to register for the seminar, contact the LSU AgCenter at 337-788-8821 or you can contact Jeremy Hebert.