April started off with more volatile weather. We are getting too much rain to make vegetable gardening easy. Hopefully we will return to more normal weather patterns.
Over the past few weeks I have given recommendations on some of the vegetables that are more tolerant of cooler weather and tomatoes. Now we will focus on more of the traditional crops that are spring planted after the fear of frost has past. Just remember to plant on high rows to keep plants out of the excess rain water that seems to occur routinely.
A few peppers and eggplants are a great addition to the garden. They can be planted from seed but I would suggest using transplants to make this task easier and get faster production.
There are a number of different kinds of peppers that you can grow in the garden. Bell peppers seem to be the most popular. I would space bell peppers every 12 to 18 inches within the row. We typically harvest bell peppers in the immature green stage when the pepper is firm and dark green and the stem will easily snap when the fruit is slightly lifted. All of the green pepper will turn a color if left until full maturity but our hot humid weather is not conducive to getting full color before the peppers rot.
A nice large hybrid pepper that many of our commercial growers like is Aristotle. It produces a larges 4.5 to 5 inch tall pepper x 4.5 inches wide. Other recommended hybrid varieties would include King Arthur, Camelot, Revolution, Heritage, Valencia, Paladin, Plato, Gypsy, Tequila (purple) and Marvas (black). If you like the open pollinated varieties, Jupiter, Capistrano and Purple Beauty are recommended.
Eggplants can be a longer term plant and gets larger than pepper so space plants out every 24 to 36 inches. There are a lot of varieties and colors to choose but the typical consumer still buys the purple oval to oblong varieties at a much higher frequency. Those recommended traditional purple oblong varieties would include Santana, Classic, Epic and Black Beauty (open pollinated). Calliope produces small round fruit that is purple and white variegated, where Fairy Tale is a small plant that yields small slender lavender eggplants. Hansel is a small slender dark purple fruit variety and Ichiban is a larger slender dark purple. Dusky produces green fruit.
Squash also come in a variety of shapes. Your choices are the popular yellow straight neck, yellow crooked neck, patty pan and zucchini. Squash are usually planted by seed and on hills, 3 to 4 seeds per hill. Spread hills out every 36 inches.
Recommended straight neck varieties would include Superpik, Multipik, Goldbar, Liberator II, Enterprise, Patriot II, Cougar and Fortune. For crooked neck squash try Supersett, Prelude II, Dixie, Gentry, Goldie, Destiny III and Medallion. Patty pan varieties to plant are Peter Pan and Sunburst (yellow). Zucchini is my favorite squash to grill. Varieties to try include Justice III, Tigress, Senator, Independence II, Lynx, Spineless Beauty, Gold Rush and Payroll.
Cucumbers are a cool vegetable for summer eating. Plant seeds 12 to 18 inches apart. Recommended varieties include Thunder, General Lee, Speedway, Intimidator, Dasher II, Poinsett 76, and Slice More. Pickling options are Fancipak, Jackson, Sassy and Calypso.
Okra needs a warm soil for a good start. Soak the seed overnight before planting for easier germination. Seeds are planted every 8 to 12 inches and okra can be picked to frost. Recommended okra varieties include Clemson Spineless (ribbed), Annie Oakley (ribbed), Emerald (round), Cajun Delight (ribbed), Cowhorn (ribbed) and Red Burgundy (red and ribbed).
Kenny Sharpe is county agent with the LSU Cooperative Extension Service in Livingston Parish. For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.