Homegrown help|Local gardening experts offer advice for spring

Published 9:02 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

By By Lisa Tindell
news editor

Spring is a time of year when getting dirt on your knees and under your fingernails is acceptable.
Gardeners of all kinds can be found in the outdoor department of local retailers picking out the perfect plants to spruce up flowerbeds or even plants that will put food on the table.
Olin “Buck” Farrior, Escambia County Extension agent, said gardeners of every kind should pay attention to the plants they choose.
With rising costs in a difficult economy, planting a garden can be a good way for consumers to enjoy vegetables without having to pay market prices for them, Farrior said.
Farrior said okra could be considered the highest value crop. Tomatoes are considered a high-value crop, but gardeners need to pay special attention to the variety chosen for their gardens.
Farrior said there are three varieties that tend to be disease resistant and are good for the home gardener.
Todd Williamson, agri-science teacher at W.S. Neal High School conducted an experiment on tomatoes during the last growing season and made some discoveries, Farrior said.
Farrior said the next couple of weeks is a prime time to begin planting tomatoes as well as peppers. April adds eggplants, sweet potato and parsley to the “best time to plant” list.
Farrior, along with workers at the Extension Service’s experimental farm, are working on a plot system that uses a planned rotation in specific areas.
Families of plants should never be planted in the same spot season after season, Farrior said.
Onion Family: onion, garlic, leek, shallot and chive.
Carrot Family: carrot, parsnip, parsley and celery.
Sunflower Family: lettuce, endive salsify, Jerusalem artichoke.
Mustard Family: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, turnip, Chinese cabbage, kale, collard, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga.
Goosefoot Family: Beet, Swiss chard, spinach.
Bindweed Family: Sweet potato.
Gourd Family: Cucumber, muskmelon, watermelon, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkin, gourd, honeydew melon.
Pea Family: English pea, snap bean, lima bean, soybean, cowpea and field pea.
Mallow Family: Okra.
Grass Family: Sweet corn, popcorn, ornamental corn
Nightshade Family: Tomato, pepper, eggplant, Irish potato, husk tomato.
According to information from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, establishing rotation is important in any garden. Dividing the garden into units and avoiding the planting of crops of the same family in the same location two years in a row is essential to pest and disease management.
Farrior said proper soil cultivation is also essential in getting any garden off to a good start.
Farrior said the service also offers information on crop choices, planting processes and crop rotation among many other brochures on gardening.
For additional information, contact the Extension System at 867-7760 or stop by their offices off South Boulevard behind Southern Pine Electric Cooperative.

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