Blackwelder column: Run vegetable rows east or west
The weather is becoming more spring-like and perfect for vegetable gardening.
April 15 is typically the last frost day in this area and temperatures should now be more conducive for plant growth. Below are questions from would-be vegetable gardeners earlier this week.
Q: What direction should I run the rows in my garden?
A: If practical, run vegetable crops east or west, however it really doesn’t make that much difference in our area. Make sure your gardening area has full sun or at least eight hours of bright sunlight during the day.
Q: Somebody has given me some horse manure for my garden. How should it be used?
A: Horse manure and other animal manures need to be well composted to prevent potential problems with salmonella. Aged manures should be worked into the soil before planting. Manures add organic matter, nutrients and aid in the workability of the soil. Avoid using fresh manure, especially as vegetable crops near maturity.
Q: I want to plant my tomatoes early. What can I do to get them off to a quick, healthy start?
A: Use a starter fertilizer solution when you set out your tomato and other vegetable transplants. A starter solution is usually a houseplant fertilizer solution that is high in phosphorus. Houseplant fertilizers such as 10-30-15 or 9-45-15 are often sold as bloom booster will suffice. Root growth responds to the extra phosphorous especially with cool spring soils.
Q: I planted my broccoli and cabbage seed earlier this spring with no luck. What happened?
A: Your seed most likely rotted in the cold, damp soil. Plant cole crops seed such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. in the late summer for a fall crop. Always use transplants in the spring.
Q: I’m constructing a raised bed for crops this summer. Should I remove all the soil?
A: No, it would be good to kill out any serious weeds such as Bermuda grass or nutsedge. Till up the area and add good grade topsoil, incorporating organic matter and some original soil from the area. The NCDA soil testing service will test your soil for any deficiencies.
Q: What can I use for mulch? I understand this is very beneficial for vegetable gardens.
A: Composted leaves, straw, shredded newspaper, black plastic. Black plastic increases soil temperature for quick early crops. Organic type mulches cool the soil and supply some nutrients as they beak down. Avoid using raw sawdust or woodchips. These can “tie up” nitrogen, a key element necessary for plant growth.
Q: Are you going to have more vegetable gardening classes?
A: Yes, Cooperative Extension is sponsoring more educational classes on General Vegetable Gardening for Beginners. These classes will be on Tuesday, April 28, 7 p.m. at the South Rowan Regional Library in Landis and Thursday, April 30, at Rowan Public Library in Salisbury. The next class will focus on proper transplanting techniques including tomatoes and other vegetable transplants, starter fertilizer solutions, potential early pest problems and other information on producing healthy vegetable crops. This class will also feature a question and answer session posed by beginner gardeners. The class is free and open to the public but space is limited so please call 704-216-8970.
Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. For more information on Beginner Vegetable Gardening, please visit the Rowan County Master Gardener Web site at www.rowanmastergardener.com or the Rowan Horticulture Blog at http://rowanhorticulture.blogspot.com/; call 704-216-8970.