Most of us have waited and wondered for some time now if we were past the cold weather and able to start planting our spring vegetable gardens. On average we have our last frost somewhere around March 28 – April 1. So at this point I feel pretty comfortable starting my spring garden. Now is the time to decide what vegetables and what varieties of those vegetables to start planting. I always like to try and plant as early as possible so that I can have the bragging rights later when I harvest a tomato sooner than my neighbors.
Many times when people call me before planting they ask questions like, “which tomato variety tastes best”? I really don’t know how to answer that questions since everybody likes different things. What I like you may think tastes too sweet or maybe too bitter. I can give some variety recommendations on what has grown well in our area and what might be resistant to some of the insect or disease issues we have in our area. Recommended vining-type cultivars include Better Boy, Fantastic, Monte Carlo and Sweet Million (cherry), and recommended bush-type cultivars include Bingo, Celebrity, Mountain Delight Solar Set and Sun Leaper. I think that one of the most important things to remember when planting several tomato plants is to try planting several different varieties so as to ensure a good production.
After tomatoes, it’s generally a toss-up between bell peppers and squash as to the one that I get the most questions about. Of all the many pepper plant that we can grow bell peppers seem to be the more popular in our area. Varieties that perform well here include Big Bertha, King Arthur, Camelot, Merlin, Sentry and Jupiter. Bell pepper produce best in the spring and very early summer. Production is usually less during the hottest part of summer, but if you keep them alive throughout the summer, production does pick back up in the fall.
Squash is another one that has people asking lots of questions. There are many different types of squash but the 3 most popular in our area seem to be zucchini, yellow straight and yellow crookneck. There is an insect called the squash vine borer that is a problem in mid to late summer. The number one question I get about squash every year is, “Is something wrong with my squash; its blooms are falling off”? This is very common and does not need to be a reason for concern. Squash blooms are either male or female flowers. The male flowers will fall off the vine. Only the female flowers produce squash.
Lastly, we will briefly talk about the cucumber. It’s also very popular in our area. I usually encourage people to grow their cucumbers up instead of on the ground. You could build a trellis or just plant them next to a fence and train the vines to climb up. You will get a better quality cucumber by doing this. Two types of cucumbers can be grown, either the thin-skinned slicing type or the thicker-skinned pickling type. This is another vegetable that is generally not severely attacked by insects or diseases when planted early. Production will last from May into July.
There are many other types of vegetable that we grow in this area. If you would like to learn more you can call me at 318-251-5134 or go to our website www.lsuagcenter.edu and search for the Louisiana Vegetable Planting Guide. It is one of the best publications that we put out with tons of useful vegetable information in it.