Start preparing the ground

Photo by DAN GILL -- Vegetable gardens can provide a bountiful harvest throughout the year in Louisiana.
Photo by DAN GILL -- Vegetable gardens can provide a bountiful harvest throughout the year in Louisiana.

For vegetable gardeners, February is “not the time to mope around,” says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Kiki Fontenot. It’s time to start preparing the ground for the spring planting season.

If your soil tests say you need fertilizer, apply it now and allow it to sit in the garden for a week before planting. And make sure it either rains or you water it in before you plant, she says.

“If your soil is already prepared and you’re just itching to plant something, give Irish potatoes a try,” Fontenot says. She recommends Kennbec (brown skin, white flesh) and Red LaSoda (red skin, white flesh) be planted before the end of February.

Other good February candidates for the vegetable garden include snap beans — both bush and pole. You can direct-seed beets, mustard greens and radishes now. When they emerge, thin beets to one every 3-4 inches; mustard greens to every 2-3 inches; and radishes an inch apart.

You also can plant Swiss chard, but Fontenot recommends waiting until the end of the month to plant sweet corn.

In south Louisiana, March 15 is generally considered the average frost-free date, so wait until at least then before planting any warm-season vegetable crops.

Upcoming events

The Herb Society of America Baton Rouge Unit, in conjunction with the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden, will feature discussions on olive oil and will be selling olive trees at its 7 p.m. meeting on Feb. 27 at the Botanic Gardens Ione Burden Conference Center, 4560 Essen Lane near I-10. Meetings are open to the public at $5 per nonmember. Funds go toward building an herb garden near the Children’s Garden at Burden, which is part of the Botanic Gardens.

You asked

I have two big sago palms that have been severely damaged by the recent frosts. I am afraid they are dead. Will they come back? Is it all right to trim them now or wait till spring? — Melinda

Sagos (Cycas revoluta) in the Baton Rouge area likely have survived the freezes we have had so far, but a number of them have sustained varying degrees of damage to their fronds.

Prune any brown or badly damaged fronds now, or wait until Ash Wednesday (March 5) if you like. Expect to see new growth emerge from the top of the trunks sometime in spring or early summer. — Dan Gill, LSU AgCenter

Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.