'Groundwork' for March 17, 2013

Spring has officially arrived and it’s time to begin planting vegetables and herbs in the garden and containers.

Vegetables to plant in March include snap beans, Swiss chard, radish, lettuce, collard, mustard, turnip, cabbage, broccoli and sweet corn seeds. Herbs include basil, chamomile, lemon grass, Mexican oregano, rosemary, mints, summer savory, bay and lemon verbena.

Plant tomato and pepper transplants. Plant cantaloupes, squash, cucumbers and watermelons well after danger of frost is over; this usually is after mid-March.

The following are excerpts from the current spring issue of Horticulture Hints, a quarterly planting guide available at http://www.lsuagcenter.com under the publications/newsletter tab. View or print the entire issue for comprehensive gardening information.

Plant bush snap bean varieties every two weeks. This will provide a continuous harvest for an extended period. Good bush snap beans for Louisiana are Ambra, Bronco, Contender, Derby, Pod Squad, Valentino, Dusky, Festina, Hialea, Magnum, Storm, Strike, Provider and Bush Blue Lake 274.

Try Roma II for a good-eating, flat, Italian pod bean. For a purple pod bush snap, try Royal Burgundy in early spring. Those who prefer the yellow wax beans should choose Golden Rod Wax, Goldmine or Golden Improved.

Pole snap bean varieties produce larger yields since they produce for a longer period than bush varieties. Selections include Kentucky Blue, Blue Lake KY Wonder 191, Dade, Rattle Snake and McCaslan. For those who want a bean that sets well in the heat, try the vigorous Yardlong Asparagus Bean and harvest pods when about 18 inches high.

Plant tomatoes in a well-drained site that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Space tomato plants 18-24 inches apart. Fertilize with 5-6 pounds of 13-13-13 prior to planting and side-dress at first and second bloom with calcium nitrate or potassium nitrate.

Tomato vines may be determinate or indeterminate. Determinate types are better suited for container gardening. Indeterminate types will need to be staked in the garden.

Indeterminate varieties that grow well in Louisiana include Better Boy and Big Beef (large), Champion and Pink Girl (pink), Sweet Million, Sweet Chelsea, Jolly, Small Fry, Juliet, Elf, Elfin, Navidad, Cupid, Mountain Belle, Sun Gold, Supersweet 100 and Brandymaster Pink

Determinants have very productive vines that grow to heights of 4 feet. Determinants should be pruned only once or twice up to the first cluster.

Recommended determinate types for Louisiana include Celebrity, Carolina Gold, Florida 91, BHN 964, Mountain Spring, Cherry Grande (cherry), and Floralina.

Also try Sun Master, Sunleaper, Summer Flavor 6000, Mountain Spring and Phoenix. Note: The tomato spotted wilt virus has nearly eliminated tomato production in some areas. If you had this trouble, plant Bella Rosa, Mountain Glory, Amelia, Crista, Quincy or Talladega varieties. Recommended nonhybrid varieties of bell peppers for Louisiana are Capistrano, Jupiter and Purple Beauty.

Recommended hybrid bell peppers are Revolution, Heritage, King Arthur, Valencia, Paladin, Plato, Camelot (X3R), Aristotle, Gypsy, Giant Marconi, Spanish Spice, Summer Sweet, Super Heavyweight, Tequila (purple) and Mavras (black).

Add some heat with Ancho San Luis, Cayennetta, Ghost Pepper, Goliath Jalapeno, Habanero and Peter Pepper. Note: Tomato spotted wilt virus has hindered bell pepper production in many areas. The varieties Stiletto, Patriot and Excursion II are resistant to tomato spotted wilt virus.

Try these varieties if you have had trouble producing bell peppers.

Plant cucurbits outdoors well after the danger of frost is over. Do not keep transplants in pots longer than three to four weeks prior to planting in your garden. Recommended cucumber varieties for slicing are Talladega, Dasher II, Olympian, Fanfare, Diva, General Lee, Speedway, Poinsett 76, Slice More, Thunder, Indy, Intimidator, Sweet Slice and Sweet Success.

For pickling, try Calypso, Fancipak and Jackson.

Recommended summer squash crooknecks are Prelude II, Dixie, Gentry, Goldie, Supersett, Destiny III and Medallion. Recommended yellow straight-neck squash varieties are Goldbar, Liberator III, Enterprise, Cougar, Multipik, Patriot II, Superpik, Fortune and Lemondrop. Recommended zucchini varieties are Declaration II, Justice, Independence II, Tigress, Lynx, Spineless Beauty, Senator, Gold Rush, Payroll, Revenue and Dividend.

Recommended scallop or patty pan squash varieties are Peter Pan and Sunburst. Recommended hard shell (winter) squash varieties are Waltham, Butternut, Butternut Supreme, Early Butternut, Ultra Butternut, Tay Belle Acorn, Cream of Crop Acorn, Table Queen, Table King and Imperial Delight.

Viruses are a big problem in squash production. Try planting some of the new virus-resistant varieties: Prelude II and Destiny (yellow crookneck); Liberator and Conqueror (yellow straight neck); and Declaration, Payroll, Judgment III, Revenue and Independence (zucchini).

Plant Fling

Get ready to fill your Easter garden carts with a veritable botanical bonanza of trees, shrubs, perennials, fruits, vines, ferns, gingers, incredible edibles and grasses. Attend Hilltop Arboretum’s Spring Plant Fling from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 11855 Highland Road.

A listing of the plants being offered at the sale will be posted at http://www.lsu.edu/hilltop.

Plant sale change

There’s an important change in the annual spring plant sale conducted by LSU AgCenter Master Gardeners. The date has changed and is no longer on Mother’s Day weekend.

Mark your calendars for the two-day sale on April 13-14 at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens, formerly Burden Center, 4560 Essen Lane.

Got a gardening question? Write to Bob Souvestre, horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter, at Burden Center, 4560 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA 70809, or email to bsouvestre@agcenter.lsu.edu, or call Master Gardeners at (225) 763-3990.