Janet Laminack: Key to gardening vegetables is timing

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Spring is just around the corner! Timing is practically everything in vegetable gardening, of course, next time I’ll tell you it is soil, or watering or good pest management, but today it’s definitely timing. If you haven’t been successful before, look carefully at a planting guide for our area on when to plant. When it feels like spring consistently in our area, it’s pretty much too late for a spring garden.

Our average frost-free date in Denton County is mid-March, but last year our actual last frost was April 4. This just shows you what average means and how it’s always an educated guess when talking about the weather. Frost-free dates are important when planting vegetables. Right now, we can still plant cool-season vegetables such as beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, radish, Swiss chard and spinach. Some of these ideally need to be in the ground by March 1 in order to have enough cool days to go into production before the heat arrives. Some things like lettuce, chard and collards can go in up until mid-March.

Once we are past the danger of frost, the timing is right for a different group of vegetables: our warm-season veggies. Beans, eggplant, peppers, squash and tomatoes can be planted. These plants will not tolerate freezing temperature, so if we get a late cold snap, you will have to protect them and hope for the best. The window for planting most warm-season veggies extends up until the first of May, so it might pay to be cautious. However, if we have no late freezes and an early scorching summer, well, then, you will wish you got them in earlier. I know, it’s not an exact science, but that’s what makes it fun, right?

It can seem daunting for a first-time gardener, but I recommend starting small and going with some tried and true varieties.

Make sure your garden will receive eight to 10 hours of full sun, don’t skimp on soil preparation and water regularly throughout the garden season. Mulching the garden will help conserve water, but with veggies, you should plan on checking on your garden daily. Not only can a zucchini seemingly double in size overnight, but insect and disease problems can be monitored before they get out of hand.

More information about vegetable gardening is available at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/. Check out our vegetable gardening information under North Texas Gardening at www.dcmga.com. While you are there, you can find out about our upcoming classes and be put on our e-mail list. And as always, if you need more information or have specific gardening questions please contact us, at 940-349-2892, or e-mail master.gardener@dentoncounty.com. We are here to help.

Educational programs conducted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or jelaminack@ag.tamu.edu.

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