Just about any time of year is a good time to plant vegetable seeds in Louisiana.
“If you’re just itching to plant something now, try beet and spinach seeds,” says LSU AgCenter vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot. “And you can sow seeds of kale, mustard greens and leaf lettuce.”
Dinosaur kale is a “fun” plant with its crinkled leaves, she says. This is a cold-hardy plant, and the leaves make good deep-fried kale chips.
Good lettuce varieties are Sierra, Nevada, Lolo Rosso, Tango, Panisse and Skyphos, a buttercrunch type.
A common mistake is planting lettuce seed too deeply. Many lettuce varieties require sunlight for germination, so the best way to plant them is to scatter the seed on the row and lightly rake it into the soil. Keep the soil moist until the seeds have germinated and are well established.
“You can plant transplants of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower,” she says. And December is a good time to plant bulbing onions.
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and greens planted now should be covered if freeze or frost is predicted because they haven’t had time to harden off. Otherwise, they’re hardy in Louisiana.
If you’re looking for vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower, insects shouldn’t be much of a problem. If you want to harvest the leaves, however, you need to control the pests.
Cabbage, on the other hand, can have insect problems if they get into the head before it firms up, Fontenot says. Because they’re hidden in the center of the plant, the insects cause damage that won’t be apparent until the head is harvested and cut. Then you’ll find tunnels where the insects have been feeding.
If you see holes in the leaves of these plants, look for loopers, worms and caterpillars, Fontenot says. Because they feed at night, these insects may be difficult to spot. The threshold for insects is lower in cabbage than in broccoli and cauliflower.
If you do have problems, you can treat with Sevin dust, Bt or spinosad.
Be sure to follow label directions on any pesticide you use in your garden, the expert recommends.
And with cold weather upon us, gardeners should remember to cover strawberries when a freeze or frost threatens.
“The plants are hardy, but the blossoms will be damaged and won’t produce berries,” Fontenot says. “You’ll have to wait for the next bloom.”
Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.