TONY MELTON: Get ready, get set, plant

January 28, 2019

“Rain, rain, go away, come back again when it is so blessed hot in the summer.”

(Never been able to rhyme anyway.)

Seriously, we need the fields to dry so we can prepare for the spring cool-season crop. This is an important time. In just a couple of weeks, we need to be planting those early spring crops, such as cabbage, collards, turnips and mustard.

I just got off the phone with a 1,000-acre greens grower. My advice was to get to working the land as quickly as the weather/land will allow. With all of the rain we have been having, it probably will be a short window to get the land ready, bedded and planted. This is one reason why farmers have big equipment – not to show off, like many folks think, but to get the work done in the short window when the weather/land will allow.

Go ahead and take those soil samples to make sure you don’t need to put out lime to get the pH right. It might be too late for the lime to take full effect for this crop, but it is always best to get it out. Nothing will grow properly without the proper soil pH, which will allow all the nutrients you put out with the fertilizer to be available for the plant to use.

Always rotate crops. Try not to plant the same vegetable or a related vegetable in the same location year after year. For example, in the spot that you had greens (brassica) last year, grow another family of vegetables, such as sweet corn (grass family) or okra (mallow family). This will interrupt the life cycle or, as I like to say, “life style” of diseases and insects.

Like you, insects and disease have favorite vegetables, and they will not enjoy feeding on the rotated crop, thus resulting in less damage. Rotation has become very important with brassicas because of two new bacterial diseases on them that are seed transmitted.

Not much you can do about getting these diseases in the seed, but once it gets to your field, it will survive about one year in the soil. So, when seed is transmitted, it will be one plant every now and then in the field, but if you don’t rotate, it will be spread throughout the field and destroy the crop.

All of this leads into the planting of high-quality seed, getting a good stand and getting the crop grown and out of the field before it gets so blessed hot. One of my growers says, “Growing the best seed is the least costly thing you can do.” A poor crop will always cost more than a good crop.

Cool-season vegetables are those that originated in temperate climates and have their favorable growth periods during the cool parts of the year. Most grow well between 50 and 70 degrees F. In other words, they grow best before it gets so blessed hot in the summer.

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