Archive for Vegetables


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By Emily Shirley, Advanced Master Gardener

     Some of the most popular warm season vegetables we plant include tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squash, melons, beans and cucumbers. In this part of the country, we know that our average last frost date is around March 15th, so we should only plant outdoors after this date is past. It’s may even be better to wait an extra two weeks for the soil to warm up more. In my experience, plants that are planted two weeks afterward tend to be just as large, or larger, than those planted immediately after the last frost date. Keep in mind that just because it’s the last frost date it doesn’t mean that a frost can’t happen!  Remember, they call it an “average” last frost date.  As a gardener you must always keep an eye on the weather.

Cool season vegetables can be planted outdoors before the last frost date. We can grow most cool season plants at any time as long as the ground is not frozen – which rarely happens in this area, especially the last couple of years!  We began planting Snap peas in January and mid-February.  It was such a treat to have a couple of weeks of wonderful spring-like weather this winter (January, 2013) that gave us an opportunity to get our beds ready for early planting.   Kale, spinach, and chard could have been planted out in mid-February and can be successively planted until the days get too warm. The key is to start a new crop every two weeks to have a steady supply.  Lettuce is a tender plant and shouldn’t be planted too early.  A month to six weeks before the last frost date usually works well in this area. Carrots can be planted in the garden about a month before the last frost while onions and their family should be given about 2 months if grown from seed.

Keep in mind that as gardeners the weather is the ultimate decision maker. The weather can make or break a garden.  When it “breaks” the garden because we planted too early, we often have to do it all over again. (There is always the possibility of covering the plants if there is a late frost, but I don’t like to do that, so I wait.) The weather determines when we start our plants and how they grow. Pay close attention to the forecast and make adjustments according to what the forecasters say but also keep in mind what is normal may not always be normal.  I remember a couple of years when we had very warm springs and gardeners were able to start tomato plants almost a month early!  I still lean toward waiting on planting out my warm season vegetables because I’m always afraid of a late frost.  What are you planting this year?  What is your plan?  Oh, you haven’t made your plans yet?  Then you are one of those people that doesn’t have to feel guilty about the February/early March weather.  You can sit inside and say “It is a good thing I can’t work outside today because I’m working on my 2013 Garden Plan”.

While you are working on those plans there are a few things to remember.  When starting from seeds always check the seed packet if you are purchasing seed and check the number of weeks on the package.  We know our average last frost date in this area is about March 15th, so you would count back from that date to determine when to start your seed.  To be on the safe side, some people add a couple of weeks to that.  (If you are working with seed that you saved or that someone gave you, you may have to do a little more researching on the particular plant and variety since you will not have a seed packet to refer to.

Be cautious about buying early transplants from stores.  I know – they are out there and they look so fresh and healthy and you just want to get yours before anyone else, or before they are picked over and maybe even not cared for by garden center.  Just remember they are tempting you (and taking your money now), and they will also bring in more batches later when it is closer to the correct time to transplant (and take your money again).  Tomatoes and peppers do not need to be planted outdoors before the safe frost date.  Planting too early can lead to fungal diseases that will last throughout the season.  Covering and un-covering plants for weeks is way too much trouble for me.


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Master Gardener Journal: Planting Seeds at Greenhouse

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Planting seeds at Greenhouse, Jan 31, 2012

By Jimmy Earl Cooley, Beauregard Parish Master Gardener

      Its time to start plants in greenhouse from seeds.  See how I do it using jiffy pots, Burpee seeds, and plastic flats that hold the jiffy pots.

starting seedlings

Starting seeds for seedlings suitable for transplanting.

Diagram and notes (shown below) to show me what is planted where.  I have a florescent light above the flats that can be raised or lowered  It has five small diameter bulbs, but not growing bulbs, that I put down very close to plants.

Notes to help with seedling ID

Notes to help find the correct seedlings.

I have not found out how to grow the plants with strong short stems and good foliage, like the ones from Bonnie Plants.  The potting soil is one with a mixture of Osmacote, that I got from a dealer in Oberlin.  Insert seed in top of wet jiffy pot, press in down, and sprinkle spagnum peat moss on top of jiffy pots, spray tops with water to saturate the moss and cover with plastic transparent top.  Thought you may like to see, if not just delete and send to outer space.
Much Obliged

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Grow Your Own Healthy Crops


Grow Your Own Healthy Crops
By George Giltner, Master Gardener, Beauregard Parish, LA
Health and nutritional value of food has become a common daily concern. The CDC reports that in 1958 less than 1% of the US population was diagnosed with diabetes. By 2010, the percentage has trended to an amazing 7%. For our youth, estimates are that 33% are overweight and at risk for diabetes. The cost of coronary heart disease in the US is over $150 billion annually (World Health Organization), with over 100 million people having high cholesterol levels (200mg/dl), and 70 million are treated for high blood pressure. WHO also reports that global cancer rates could increase by 50% by 2020. Our Western lifestyle with a high caloric diet, rich in fat, refined carbohydrates and animal protein, combined with low physical activity, lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arterial hypertension and cancer. Those are the unhealthy facts.
Now, is the time for a healthy life-style awakening, a behavioral reality check, and sensible cost-saving solutions to your health goals. Gardening can be the best choice solution for healthy nutrition and physical activity. The DeRidder LSU AgCenter has a nutritionist, Master Gardener classes, and a wealth of experts to support you. Gardens can be grown in containers, from pots to raised beds, or bigger into row gardens. In a month you can have a nice crop of red lettuce, kale, and broccoli. For spring, plan for one of the healthiest foods, legumes. The garden-fun exercise is good for the entire family. Dr. Kathy Fontenot, LSU AgCenter School Gardening coordinator, says “When kids grow vegetables, they will eat them.” This behavioral change even applies to adults!
Since gardening is a consumer of time and effort, you expect a good return on your investment. Education and learning are vital to a successful outcome. The Master Gardeners Program along with the comrade of contacts through the course provides abundant gardening knowledge.
You will also want to grow the healthiest and most nutritional veggies. Questions concerning diets and healthy food can be answered by Christy at the LSU AgCenter.
Whether to go organic or chemical or somewhere between in your garden quest is another nutritional choice. Common chemical fertilizers (NPK) are notorious for acidification and depletion of organic matter in soil. Also balance of nutrients is variable due to solubility and leaching of nutrients, especially when high rainfall amounts occur. However organic agricultural practices in general are right on track towards providing necessary soil conditions for growing vegetables with good, and sometimes superior, nutritional qualities. New mixed-fertility, management systems makes selective use of commercial fertilizers and organics with the goal of producing mineral-dense nutritious foods. These ecologically-oriented farms using this system, produce foods of superior nutritional quality. In many instances it surpasses their certified organic counterparts. Soil testing is of prime importance. It provides the analysis necessary to correct mineral deficiencies in various soils whether organic, chemical or mixture farming.
Between 1963 to 1992, the USDA reported average drops in the mineral content of some fruits and vegetables (oranges, apples, carrots, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, etc.) The average % change was -30% for calcium, -32% for iron, -21% for magnesium, -11% for phosphorus, and -6.5% for potassium. Other studies support depletion of soil minerals in American farm soils and a loss of food nutritional values.
The practice of adding well-made compost in organic gardening is an excellent method of avoiding mineral depletion. Home gardens are under the control of the gardener, who feeds the soil with composted kitchen waste to a large variety of other organic matter. This supports soil life with needed macro/micro minerals and nutrients that in turn, supplies the vegetables with a balance of absorbable minerals (20) and other nutrients in a desirable on-demand release.
Another factor in food nutrition is freshness. Fresh vegetables are more nutritious than canned goods, some frozen goods, and imported produce. Canned veggies are cooked, then have stabilizers, salt, and preservatives added which make them a poor choice for people with health issues. Cooking and draining of food can result in a 75% loss of potassium. Blanching of frozen veggies causes the loss of water-soluble vitamins (like B vitamins), but removes few of the fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, E, and carotenoids. 30% of vitamin C is lost in freezing. For more information refer to the USDA Table of Nutrient Retention Factors (2003). Imported or distant produce is typically picked raw, then treated with ethylene or other agents for a ripe appearance and a fresh look. However time and the disrupted ripening process of fruit can severely affect its nutritional quality and flavor. Food from the local grower or home garden can always be picked fresh and can have flavor comparable to vine ripe tomatoes.
The ‘mystery factor’ of our food supply is a major residual concern for most people. The ‘mystery factor’ can be “Where did this food come from?” or “Are any harmful pesticide residues or biologicals in or on the food?” or “What is the true nutritional value?”. A recent TV documentary stated that only 2% of food from China is inspected. A close inspection of supermarket pork may reveal that it came from Haiti or another third world country. Also there are only 3 major food suppliers of food in this country. Their main concern is growing food for a profit. It must look good, taste fair, have a long shelf-life and above all – be sold. Therefore, the best approach to obtaining good nutritional food without the ‘mystery factor’ is to buy local quality food or grow it yourself.
So there are healthy benefits in growing your own food. You can control fertility, pesticide usage, harvest time and choose many types of flavorful, nutritious vegetable varieties. Garden produce can lower your grocery budget, or it may even produce income from a Farmers Market. It is a pleasant endeavor that can improve physical and mental well-being.

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Planting Tips & Community Gardening Plots Available in DeRidder for 2013

By George Giltner, Master Gardener

LSUAC4C72-80px[1]MasGarTM5x7_w85[1] A Blog from the LSU AgCenter and Beauregard Master Gardeners

Master Gardeners welcome gardeners to grow and care for vegetable plots in DeRidder.  Master Gardeners or community gardeners can obtain plots by calling the AgCenter, 463-7006, or George Giltner at 460-1715.  Corn, early tomatoes, a row of blackberries, broccoli, lettuce, snap peas, etc. are suggestions.  Our aim is to grow healthy, nutrient dense foods, and to support our LSU AgCenter.

A healthy potato variety, Nicola, will be trialed this spring in two sites in the Master Garden.  This potato has a low glycemic index and a buttery flavor that is great for potato salads and mashed potatoes.  One planting site is the primarily clay soil on the west end, and the other in a sandy loam site in the center of the garden center.

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Santa visiting a winter garden in Beauregard Parish

Potato planning tips:

  1. Be sure to order your potatoes early.  Many heirloom and hard-to-find varieties sell out quickly.  Ask about the delivery date.  This is important because potatoes do not do well when the temperatures reach the 90’s.  If a late planting runs into hot weather while the tubers are in the early bulking stage, you may get a low yield.
  2. When your seed potatoes arrive, store them in the refrigerator until the week before you are going to plant them.  To break their dormancy, take them out of the refrigerator, and place them on a bright and warm place, like a window seal.
  3. Plan on where you want to plant your potatoes.  The critical consideration for planting is good soil drainage.  Heavy spring rains can soak soil and turn it to anaerobic conditions and rot,  without proper drainage.  Do not plant potatoes where tomatoes or other members of the Nightshade family grew the previous year.  Plant them in spots where cabbage, mustards or other brassicas were grown for their fumigant and disease resistant properties.
  4. The right time to plant is determined by weather conditions.  Potatoes should be planted in soils that are dry enough to be cultivated without heavily sticking to cultivating tools.  The target date for our Nicola potatoes is Feb. 14.  However some may be planted under hoop wire and cover cloth for an earlier start.
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Containerized beds with hoop covers for winter gardening.

More planting and gardening tips will follow next month.  Gardening is fun.  You get mental and physical exercise, but the best part is really great food at the end of the day.  An outstanding web site is  All of us want good health.  So think about a New Year of discovering ways to live a healthy life style.

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