By Randall Mallette, LSU AgCenter County Agent
With the weather warming up, it is time to get your spring gardens going! April is a great time for a number of garden plants to be started, as well as preparing for later plantings.
Hopefully you have taken soil samples already and gotten the results back. Any needed soil amendments should be added prior to tilling. If possible, making your application prior to a rain to hasten the breakdown of the amendments.
Even though we do not desperately need garden irrigation yet, it is a good idea to go ahead and get your irrigation system in place. Many people use sprinklers in their gardens. Sprinklers work, but are not very efficient. Plants absorb water through their roots instead of foliage, so wetting the foliage doesn’t benefit them. Instead, it creates opportunity for disease. Use soaker hoses instead of sprinklers. Since the weather is not hot yet, it’s a great time to go ahead and lay out soaker hoses on your rows. This way, once the time comes for irrigation, all you have to do is turn on the water. Another pointer for irrigation is that it is best to water in the early morning while the temperature is still cool. Watering in the hot afternoon/evening results in more evaporation.
A question I get quite often is how deep to plant transplants such as tomatoes. Sturdy, healthy transplants should be planted at the same depth as the pot they are in. However, transplants often get “leggy” while they are waiting to be planted. In this case, leggy transplants can be planted deeper. This allows the soil to physically support the plant. Additionally, planting leggy tomato transplants deeper allows additional roots to grow from the portion of the stem that is underground.
Tomatoes cannot be grown without proper support. Staking and tomato cages are the most common ways that tomatoes are usually supported, but they can be supported using other setups. If you grow lots of tomato plants, you may get very tired of staking and tying, and it seems like the tomato cages that you can buy are not great quality. With this in mind, feel free to get creative with your tomato support. One option is to make a trellis system. Its fairly easy to make and doesn’t require a degree in engineering or carpentry know-how. All you need is end posts, clothesline, s-hooks, twine, and vine clips. The system I use is pictured and is fairly self-explanatory.
Peppers are another plant that can require support. Since they are season-long garden residents, they can grow into decent sized plants that are heavy when they are producing. In some cases, they can fall over, causing root and limb damage. Staking or supporting will protect your plants and ensure a long harvest season per plant.
Another common question is how to deal with squash vine borers. The problem with this pest is that by the time you realize you have a borer problem, it is often too late. The good news is that you can prevent them from attacking your plants by using a simple household item: aluminum foil. Borers lay their eggs at the base of the plant just above the soil. By wrapping a collar of aluminum foil around the base of the plant, you can prevent the eggs from being laid, therefore preventing the larvae that cause the problem.
For more information contact Randall Mallette, County Agent, at the Natchitoches LSU AgCenter Extension Office 318-357-2224 or the Red River LSU AgCenter Extension Office at 318-932-4342. You can also visit us on the web at www.lsuagcenter.com.