Planting time is here

By Clif Knight

No matter if you’re planning a garden large enough to supply vegetables for the dinner table for the next five or six months or simply want a handful of flowering plants to decorate a patio, porch or sun room, it’s time to get started.

What you need is a little vision, a few dollars and a lot of patience and tender loving care. A good start would be a few hand tools, a garden rake, hoe and spade for example. More of the same is needed if you want to go big. Vegetables whose seed germinate easily and grow well during the cool months of spring include turnip greens, broccoli, cabbage onions, lettuce, potatoes, and sweet corn. The recommended planting time for tomatoes, green beans, butterbeans, peas, cucumbers, squash and okra is after the last freezing frost has past.

Deep soil turning was considered a good farming practice when I was a boy growing up on a farm. We started with a crop of winter Austrian peas or vetch, both of which provided an extra boost of nitrogen for the next crop. The cover crop decomposed underground and left a desirable seed bed for early root growth and moisture detention.

A wet winter season has been a hindrance to gardeners and row crop farmers and commercial fruit and vegetable growers. Unless they are blessed with well-drained deep topsoil, they are still waiting for more than two or three consecutive days of warm sunshine and zero rainfall get seed in the ground.

As a rule, the target for planting early-maturing corn on our farm was late March while cotton planting followed three to four weeks later. I don’t remember ever having to replant an entire crop of either but there were times when cold temperatures in May stunted growth and made chopping and hoeing difficult for farm workers. Covering early crops of tomatoes, watermelons and cantaloupes with pine straw was an unwelcome chore on our farm.

Our father was a stickler when it came to getting a head start on other peddlers with tomatoes and watermelons. He picked and sold ripe tomatoes two to three weeks ahead of anybody else. They brought 25 cents per pound when the demand was at its peak. When the price dropped to 10 cents per pound, he fed them to our hogs. The payoff came in the form of firm tender pork cuts and super delicious sugar-cured ham.

 

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