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Southern life allows for fall vegetables

November 25, 2011

We are fortunate in Mississippi that we can still be growing vegetables in our landscape in late November. Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas and other northern states are already under as much as a foot of snow. Let’s take advantage of our weather and grow things now. This is the time to be planting the most cold tolerant vegetables outdoors. The greens and cole crops planted in September are being harvested now and it is time to replace the freeze tender mustard and turnip with more cold tolerant collard and kale. Adventuresome gardeners may want to try “dinosaur” kale. These were named either after their long slender leaves reminiscent of the cycads dinosaurs chewed on or for their texture which is very savoyed (crinkled) and has a reptilian appearance. Names include Lacinato kale, Tuscan kale, black kale, and palm tree kale as well as  dinosaur kale. Our normal collards will withstand all but the most severe winter temperatures. Collards and kales are all members of the cabbage family.Gardeners who are depending on the harvest to feed themselves may want to plant Siberian kale which is related to rutabaga and is even more low temperature tolerant.
The new seed catalogues are coming on line and in the mail. These are god to look through on those wet days when you don’t want to be out in the weather.  One thing in several catalogues this year is the availability of true seed for Irish potatoes. A major problem each winter is the arrival of seed potatoes in time to plant. The seed potato suppliers don’t want to ship them when freezing can damage them, but by the time it is warm enough in North Dakota so the seed potatoes won’t freeze, the optimum planting time has passed for Mississippians. You can avoid this by getting true seed and starting them in flats the same way you grow your own tomato transplants. We normally use tubers , or seed pieces, to start new potato plants so we know what we will get at harvest. True seed lines have been carefully selected to do the same thing. selection is limited, however. You can only get Red LaSoda from tubers.
Lawn Tools of Fall - Rake, Gloves, and Tarp 
We have experienced our first few killing frost of fall and deciduous trees such as oaks, ash, hickory, etc. have been dropping their leaves profusely. While leaves can become excellent mulch or compost they should not be left intact on your lawn. Leaves lying on the turf canopy reduce light and air circulation necessary for healthy turf. With a layer of leaves covering the lawn damage from diseases and insects can easily go unnoticed until the turf is totally destroyed. A blanket of leaves covering the turf will trap moisture between the soil and the leaves providing an ideal environment for the proliferation of pathogens such as large patch (rhizoctonia solani) and other diseases most prominent with the moderate temperatures of fall. Therefore, leaves should be periodically raked from the lawn or at least mulched down into the thatch with a good mulching mower.
While a good pair of soft work gloves, a nice large lawn rake and a lightweight tarp are ideal tools to get leaves off the lawn leaf blowers and bagging mowers can make the work go a lot faster and much easier. However, with these modern machines you don’t quite get the full benefits of great exercise and sore muscles to reward you from this chore. 
When to plant?
Busy gardeners joke that you should plant whenever you have time to plant! In the south, fall and during the dormant period is a great time to get hardy plants in the ground. This includes perennials, trees, shrubs and ground covers.
When planting in a large area such as a border or bed try to improve all the soil at once before planting. The benefit of tilling and thoroughly amending a planting area based on recommendations of a soil test can’t be discounted. Adding compost or other organic matter to improve the soil will benefit plant growth as well.
Many of us who learned to garden from parents or grandparents may want to add lots of compost or other organic matter to the hole when planting a single shrub or tree into native soil. This method has been discounted by research. When you enrich a single hole with amendments, the trees and shrubs tend not to extend beyond the isolated environment of the planting hole into native soils. This leads to weak and unstable roots. For perennials and annuals when planting in native soil, if necessary, you can mix organic matter or compost in a ratio of no more than 1:3 (compost: native soil) to the backfill soil. Be sure to keep all new plants watered during times of drought—yes, we do have dry spells during the winter.
 
Kelly, Nagel, and Wells are affiliated with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Provided by the Oktibbeha County Extension Service. For more information, call 662-323-5916.

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