March 6, 2013 11:29:11 AM
The reward of growing your own food is something everyone should experience firsthand. Nothing compares to a home-cooked meal prepared with vegetables that were grown in your garden. Tomatoes, okra, squash, cucumber, peas and beans are a few of the staple items in most Mississippi gardens. Growing vegetables can be rewarding, but it does require a little hard work.
A free and timely Home Vegetable Gardening program March 7 at 6 p.m. at St. Paul's Episcopal Church will offer advice to new and experienced home gardeners alike.
For some gardeners, growing vegetables is as easy as planting the seed and watching it grow until harvest. For most of us it requires a little more time and effort, and even then we can still have problems.
Okra, squash, cucumber and peas are a few of the vegetables that are considered easier to grow. Tomatoes, however, usually require a little more work. Nine out of 10 vegetable calls that come into the Extension office are about sick or dying tomatoes. While tomatoes are a wonderful plant, they can be susceptible to several insect and disease problems. This is not a reason to forgo planting them, because they are definitely worth the effort.
Blossom-end Rot is possibly the most common problem seen in tomatoes. This is when the blossom-end (bottom) of the fruit gets brown, water-soaked areas. It is caused by a shortage of calcium in the fruit which is due to improper watering. It also can appear in plants that have received too much nitrogen fertilizer. The best cure is to water regularly and not let the soil dry out completely. A layer of mulch in the garden may help to retain soil moisture.
Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus is another problem encountered with tomatoes. Leaves in the top of the plant begin to wilt after an excessive amount of rainfall or irrigation and can move throughout the entire plant within a single day. If you've ever had a plant die overnight, this may have been the culprit. It usually occurs in soils that drain poorly. Incorporating organic matter such as leaves, clippings, compost or soil conditioner may help to control this problem. Raised beds also work well with most any vegetable.
Early Blight is another problem you may come across. Dark brown to black rings may appear on the older, lower leaves giving a target effect. Providing good air circulation around the plant and not watering too late in the day may help avoid this situation.
Keep in mind
Growing vegetables can be a worthwhile experience if you follow a few simple tips. They like to grow in full sun in well-drained soils. They need about 2 inches of water per week. They need to receive this water at regular intervals, not all at once. There may even be times when you must spray with a fungicide or insecticide to keep pests from eliminating your crop. If so, always follow the directions on the label.
The home vegetable growing program will provide much more information to help gardens get off to the right start.
For more information, contact the Lowndes County Extension office at 662-328-2111 or visit msucares.com for answers to gardening questions.