In the Garden:
Lower South
February, 2010
Regional Report

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Potatoes can be started in small pots for a head start on the gardening season.

Spring Gardening Season Begins

Can you feel it? Something inside you says that gardening season is upon us! Oh sure we garden year round here in the south, but the spring seems to have a special feel, almost like you can see the light at the end of the winter tunnel. After a brief break in the action, we are entering the biggest gardening rush hour of the year.

Our garden is a flurry of activity. I'm cleaning up some old beds that have been fallow over winter. Then there's the new spot where the soil needs to be turned over and compost mixed in, but right now the soil is still too wet to work.

For a few weeks now I've been seeding out the warm season veggies. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and the like, need 6-8 weeks to grow into decent sized transplants, so it is definitely time to get them in if you haven't already. Soon I'll start some transplants of cucumbers and squash, which need only a few weeks from seed to transplant. While these can be seeded directly out into the garden, I like the head start and have some older seed that I am not sure about germinating. This allows for an early "trial run".

A good fresh seed starting mix and clean containers will insure against seedling diseases and poor growth. I learned long ago to fertilize only lightly and to give them lots of light to keep them from becoming too leggy.

We are also setting out onion transplants. Here in the south the small, round, marble-sized sets do not work very well. It is better to select the pencil-sized transplants for late winter planting. With some good soil and a bit of pushing along, with a high nitrogen fertilizer they will take off like a rocket.

There is nothing like having a few new potatoes ready when the first green beans are harvested in early May. Cut the potatoes you purchase for planting into 2 or 3 "seed pieces" and dust the cut edges with sulfur. Then allow them to dry for a few days to cure the cut surfaces. This prevents some rot in the cool, moist soil.

Plant them in trenches about 8" deep and fill the trench with composted leaf litter as the potatoes grow. When harvest time comes it sure makes for easy digging and some wonderful yields.

It is time to seed out another planting of lettuce to insure a fresh harvest on into spring. Spinach and chard can also be seeded now. Just be ready to protect the tender seedlings if (or should I say when) that hard freeze hits.

The time has arrived to start transplants for many types of spring and summer flowers, too. Some things I prefer to purchase rather than start from seed. Petunias and begonias are two such flowers. Nevertheless it is time to work some compost into their planting area to get it ready for March when the transplants will go out. I have a spot prepared for some perennial flowers. The next few weeks is a good time to get them set out and ready for their spring debut!

Well, I'd better stop writing and head outside. The garden is beckoning me to trade in the keyboard for a garden fork, and I can't resist the offer!


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