Vegetable seeds and transplants are available from many sources. See vegetable varieties to find a suitable plant. After selecting the varieties to plant, check local sources to see if the varieties are available.
It is important to locate seeds early, especially if you are going to grow some of your own transplants for the spring garden. You can order new varieties that are not available locally from mail order seed catalogs. Check the Planting Guide for amounts of seed to buy. It is important to a garden’s success that the seed is fresh and packaged for the current year. Home-saved vegetable seeds and those carried over from the previous year may give disappointing results. Since most of the new varieties are hybrids, do not attempt to save seed from one year’s crop to plant the next year. Also, because some diseases are carried on seeds, home-saved seeds may continue to cause a disease problem in your garden. The only vegetable seeds that gardeners should save are those of varieties that have been in the family for many years and have become heirloom varieties.
|Approximate Number of Plants to Expect
per Ounce of Seed
Once the garden is completely planned on paper, the land prepared, and the seed on hand, the job of planting begins.
Planting is not a “one shot” operation. There are different times for planting different vegetables. Vegetables may be grouped in the garden plan and planted according to their hardiness and temperature requirements. Lettuce and English peas are cool-season vegetables and grow best in cool weather. Okra and southern peas are warm-weather vegetables and need warm temperatures for best growth.
Cool-season vegetables differ from warm-season vegetables in that they are hardy or frost-tolerant, seeds germinate at cool soil temperatures, and root systems are shallow and require frequent irrigation. Cool-season plants are smaller, respond more to nitrogen fertilizer, and are generally more tolerant of shade than warm-season vegetable plants.
Site selection. To reduce chances of damping-off, root rot, and other problems associated with wet soils, choose a well-drained site. If such a site is not available, plant on raised beds to promote drainage and faster warming of the soil. Keep surface water from flowing across the garden to help prevent disease-causing organisms from coming into the garden from outside areas.
Sanitation. Since many disease-causing organisms live through the winter in old plants, plow under crop debris at least 6 inches deep as soon as possible.
Tobacco mosaic virus, a common problem on tomatoes and peppers, can be transmitted through tobacco products. Wash your hands with soap and water before working in the garden if you use tobacco.
Disease-free seed. Weather conditions in Mississippi favor the development of many seed-borne diseases. Therefore, buy certified seeds produced in the western United States where the climate is dry and the seeds are relatively free of disease-causing microorganisms.
Seed treatment. Most seeds are treated with a fungicide, as indicated by their red, blue, purple, or green color. If they have not been treated with a fungicide, treat them yourself.
Treat large seeds in a jar. To treat small seeds, tear off one corner of the seed packet. Lift out as much of the seed treatment fungicide (Thiram or Captan) as is held on the tip of the blade of a penknife, and insert the dust through the hole in the seed packet. Fold down the corner of the packet and shake thoroughly.
DO NOT eat treated seed or feed it to livestock.
Healthy transplants. Select healthy, vigorous plants for transplanting. Buy them from a reputable dealer or grow your own.
Crop rotation. An easy and economical way to reduce soil-borne diseases is to rotate vegetables. Corn and members of the cabbage family can be alternated with other vegetables from one year to the next. If space permits, move the garden to a new location every 3 to 4 years, preferably to a site that was in grass.
Resistant varieties. Make every effort to buy disease-resistant varieties. Consult the list of recommended varieties, seed catalog variety descriptions, or your county Extension office for help in selecting varieties that are disease resistant.
Fertilization. Use fertilizer according to recommendations based on a soil test. Fertilizers do not prevent diseases, but a healthy, well-fertilized plant is less susceptible to disease than one growing in soil lacking required nutrients.
Plant spacing. Crowding plants allows moisture from dew or rain to remain on leaf surfaces. You should avoid this because it promotes disease development.
Spraying. Control diseases like rust, mildew, anthracnose, and leaf spot with a foliar fungicide. Sprayers and dusters are available for this purpose. A spray is generally more effective than a dust.
Successful disease control with fungicides depends on these factors:
- Apply early to prevent early-season infection and rapid spread of disease.
- Select the proper fungicide because not all fungicides control the same disease.
- Cover all foliage thoroughly.
- Repeat application.
Suggested fungicides include chlorothalonil and other products listed in the Fungicides for Disease Control table in the Vegetable Diseases section. These fungicides are usually applied at rates ranging from 1 to 2 tablespoons per gallon of water. Refer to labels for recommended rates for specific vegetables and diseases controlled on those crops.
Some gardeners prefer to prepare their own fungicide. Bordeaux is an example of a fungicide that can be easily prepared by combining copper sulfate (blue stone), lime, and water. See the directions for making Bordeaux mixture.
Weed control. Weeds can harbor disease-causing organisms. A weedy garden also reduces air movement and sunlight, which creates conditions favorable to disease development.
Insect control. Insects feeding and laying eggs cause wounds on roots, stems, and fruits. These wounds let fungi and bacteria enter and cause diseases. Some insects also transmit viruses, bacteria, and fungi that cause diseases. Controlling insects in the garden is an important method of disease control.
Staking and mulching. Control diseases like cucumber belly rot and tomato soil rot by growing plants on mulch and trellising or staking to keep fruit off the ground.
Watering. Water plants in late morning or early evening. Watering late in the evening leaves foliage wet longer, which helps diseases develop.
Harvesting and working in the garden. Do not harvest vegetables or work in the garden when plant leaves are wet.
See the Planting Guide for a suggested garden planting. It includes the vegetable, amount of seeds, planting depth, spacing of seeds and depth, days until maturity, and expected yield.
If you read this Southern Gardening column frequently, you realize that I grow much more than pretty flowers in my home garden. Besides ornamental plants, I love to grow vegetables that my wife and I can enjoy for dinner.
If you’re anything like me, I find any excuse to get outside. The warmer temperatures and colorful blooms are refreshing, especially after the cold winter we had! Working on outdoor chores is a great excuse to get some fresh air. Here are a few tasks you need to cross off your checklist during April:
Don’t believe everything you hear. That piece of advice can be applied to gardening as well. We’ve all done something because a friend said that it works.
Pat yourself on the back. You made it through the historic February ice storm! The weeklong event probably set you back on your garden chores and likely created more work for you to do. Tidy up any damage and get your spring garden in shape with these garden tasks.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Each February marks the occasion for producers to share their research and programming needs with Mississippi State University agricultural specialists in person.
To comply with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, the opportunity will be extended virtually this year.