Time to plant spring gardens
By Allen Hogan
LSU AgCenter Agent
Vegetables to Plant -After a dry, cool winter and spring, gardening season is finally upon us. Many believe in planting vegetables early. With the number of frosts and cold fronts we had this year, they also planted often.
As we get into late March and April, most vegetables should be planted to avoid the extreme hot weather we have on the other end of the season. Tomatoes, our most popular vegetable, should be transplanted now. Peppers, hot and sweet varieties, like hot weather and will usually survive and grow well by this time. The same is true of eggplants.
Vegetables that can be planted from seed include: snap beans, butter beans, radishes, cucumbers, summer squash, cantaloupes and watermelons. We are approaching the end of the good season for sweet corn planting. There is no problem with its growth when planted late. But, late planting could cause sweet corn to flower in hot weather.
When the corn “silks and tassels” in temperatures over 90 degrees, the pollen is often sterile. This will cause “skips” in the kernels or poor ear development. Try to finish up sweet corn planting soon.
Seedling Problems-If you have problems with your young vegetables wilting and dying suddenly, it is probably due to seedling disease. Young plants (particularly beans, okra and cucumbers) are susceptible to infection from fungi that inhabit the soil.
Many of these fungi grow best in cool, damp soil. They attack the young plant’s roots and will cause the stem to rot off at the soil surface. As the plant grows larger, it is more able to tolerate the fungus. Also, the soil will eventually warm and be less conducive to fungal growth.
The use of a fungicidal seed treatment will go a long way in preventing seedling disease.
However, most vegetable seeds are not treated when you purchase them. It is difficult to find fungicide for seed treatment on your own. Your most practical approach to seedling disease in vegetables is to replant after the plant stand is reduced. Eventually, the environmental conditions will favor the plant more than the fungus.
Spring Lawn Weed Control-is usually more a matter of revenge than actual management. Most of the weeds that you see in the lawn now have been there all winter. These cool season weeds can best be dealt with by a sharp mower blade at this time of year.
Poa, annual blue grass, is very common and evident at this time. This is because it is in bloom. It has been there since last November, you probably just didn’t notice it until it sent up its white seed head. Don’t worry about it now. Hot weather is soon going to eliminate it.
Wild garlic, chick weed, henbit, medic, vetch and other cool season broadleaf weeds are also very evident. These are in bloom and very difficult to control. Earlier in the winter, several post-emergence herbicides would have been effective.
Again, your most effective method of elimination for now is probably a sharp mower blade. Cut them back and allow warmer temperatures to remove them from your sight for the summer.
We also have the emergence of warm season weeds in late March and April. These weeds are often in the lawn because there is a weak or thin grass population in the area.
Poor soil fertility, inadequate soil drainage or disease damage from the previous summer can cause these weak areas of turf. Regardless, these areas are the most prone to weed invasion and will continue to be susceptible as long as the condition is not corrected.
Dollar weed and Virginia buttonweed are two of the most troublesome warm-season weeds in our lawns. An application of a recommended herbicide in early spring is more effective than waiting until the weeds are larger and more mature. The post emergence herbicides, Trimec and Weed-Free-Zone, give fair to good control of these weeds.
Dollar weed is also controlled by the herbicide, Image. Image requires a little time to produce symptoms on the dollar weed, but is effective. All these herbicides produce better results in warm weather (60 degrees F or higher).
When applying any pesticide, follow all label directions and restrictions. Don’t apply herbicides on a windy day. Be sure the herbicide you choose is labeled for use on your species of lawn grass.
Southwest Louisiana Garden Festival- This is a reminder of the Southwest Garden Festival that will be held Saturday, March 28 through Sunday, March 29, 2009 in the Burton Coliseum Complex in Lake Charles. There will be two full days of commercial and educational activities sure to be of interest to all vegetable and ornamental gardeners and home lawn enthusiasts.