By GWEN SISSON
While most people consider the gardening season to be over for the year, now is the best time to think about cool season planting.
And while it is over 100 degrees most days, mid-August is the time to be rowing up the garden again. Many people do not think lettuce is humanly possible in Mississippi, but experts say some of the most delicate plants can be grown in the early spring and late fall.
Two resources available to help local gardeners learn more about appropriate planting times for best results for fresh food, includes The MSU Gardening Tabloid is available on line at http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p1091.pdf , and the Home Food Production Garden Poster is available on line at http://energyusereduction.com/store/  and at the Book Mart in downtown Starkville.
Wayne Porter, area horticulture agent for MSU Extension Service, said all the leafy lettuces can be started now as well as mustard, turnips, spinach, kale, beets, and carrots. He said red and green cabbage, broccoli, collards, and cauliflower transplants or seeds can be planted now. Radishes can be ready to eat in 30 days. Shallots, garlic, and some onions can be planted in late-August or early September.
“If you are planting lettuce or carrot seeds, plant them shallowly, and then water them well,” Porter said. “Place a board over the row until the sprouts reach the soil surface. The board will help to retain moisture and keep the soil cool. Remove the board as soon as seedlings appear so that they receive full sun.”
Porter said another possibility is to start lettuce transplants in a shaded area or in a cool indoor area.
“August plantings of leaf lettuce can be tricky because fluctuating temperatures can cause them to go to seed,” Porter said.
Porter said after the crops are up and going, apply mulch to help hold moisture, cool the soil surface, and control weeds.
“Adequate water is necessary to keep the young plants going in this hot weather,” Porter said. “Sometimes water daily to get them established. They will need about one inch of water each week if it does not rain.”
Porter said some of the best quality vegetables are produced during the warm days and cool nights of the fall season.
“Cauliflower, carrots, and broccoli which might not have produced well in the spring because the weather got too hot prior to harvest, will grow better in the fall garden,” Porter said.
Pete Melby, landscape architect with Mississippi State University and author of the new Home Food Production Garden Poster, said the fall gardening crops best suited for the Starkville area, include broccoli (plants), Brussels Sprouts (plants), cabbage (plants), carrots (seed), Cauliflower (plants), Swiss Chard (seed), lettuce (seed), green onions (plants), bulb onions (plants), radishes (seed), greens - turnip, mustard, collard (seed) and spinach (seed).
“Fall gardens can be planted beginning the 15th of August, this is when the weather is beginning to cool just a little bit,” Melby said.
Melby said for best results, fertilize the transplants weekly with a liquid fertilizer, and soak the spinach seed overnight befor planting to soften the hard seed coating and enhance quicker germination.
Melby also serves as Starkville Parks and Recreation Commissioner and spearheaded the Community Garden project at Josey Park. He said in the community garden users have planted with success radishes, Swiss Chard, mustard greens, spinach, broccoli, and Brussels Sprouts. Carrots were also planted this past year with impressive results.
Matthew Rye, director of Starkville’s Parks and Recreation Department, said eight plots are currently available for rent at the Community Garden. The plots are about 36 square feet and are $30 annually. There is water available inside the garden. “The response has been great from the community, we are well pleased with the For more information about leasing a raised plot, contact the Starkville Parks and Recreation office at 323-2294 or e-mail Matthew Rye at firstname.lastname@example.org .