Starting your Spring/Summer Garden w/ Mary & Roger Demeny

Mary & Roger are back again with their tips on successful gardening & your spring & summer garden.  How many of you started your tomato seeds as instructed in December?  Well, now & over the next few months, it’s time to start quite a few of our summer crops.  And who wants to bet me that summer won’t come early this year?
So normally, you start squashes, cukes & the like in March, primarily to beat the summer bugs.  In light of our very warm winter, Mary suggests them now along with other summer crops like beans. (but depending on the size of your garden, you may want to put beans in after the tomatoes, cukes or whatever are done. They will be fine in the heat.)
Look for tomato, eggplant & pepper starts now. You will be putting them out in the garden soon. (But be prepared to keep them warm if our crazy winter turns cool again.)  For pepper varieties, Mary loves Big Bertha. For eggplant, get dark purple varieties. And for tomatoes, Mary recommends hybrids developed to survive our problem climate such as Tycoon. If you have plenty of space, by all means, try all the heirlooms you want. Look for Gunter Nursery tomato plants. They make appearances at most of our area nurseries.  Also, attend upcoming Master Gardener plant sales as mentioned in the recent newsletter.
April
April 15, she says, is the normal date to start okra, but we may be doing that earlier as well. Okra seeds are a bit difficult to germinate, so soak them in warm water overnight or try this method of keeping seeds warm while sprouting with a heating pad.
Mary recommended Zeebest, which is a variety that has high yields & remains tender while growing quite long.  A few sources for Zeebest are Southern ExposureBaker Creek & Localharvest. Here’s a nice little article about the history of Zeebest developed in Houston, not Louisiana!  And another about growing okra in the Houston area that names other good varieties such as cowhorn, another one that produces long, yet tender pods. Cowhorn is available in the bulk jars at Wabash Feed.
Another crop you’ll start in April is sweet potatoes. Just let one of your purchased sweet potatoes sprout. Pick off the sprouts, aka slips & plant.
Basil is one of the few annual herbs we grow in summer. Basil likes it warm.
Amaranth is a recommended green for summer, along with garden weeds like purslane which is a superfood!  See this post about Merriwether’s Garden Weed presentation last fall  for more about edible & beneficial garden weeds.
See also notes from Mary’s presentation in July on starting your cool season garden. (You start many in July-August after tricking the seeds by freezing in ice cubes.)

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