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5 Early Spring Vegetables To Plant

As days grow longer and warmer we begin to see the first signs that spring has arrived. Most gardeners can’t wait to step outside and get their hands dirty. So what can I plant in early spring? Planting early in the season can be a risky endeavor but there are hardy vegetables that can tolerate hard frosts.  See the color-coded NOAA Frost Map for the average date for frosts in your area. This will give you an idea of when to plant and how long your harvest season should last. All these veggies we reviewed taste best when they grow and mature in cooler weather. So here are five vegetables that thrive in cool weather and can be planted in your early spring garden.

Radish

  • Radishes are one of the easiest spring vegetables to grow.
  • For a spring planting, sow seeds 4–6 weeks before the average date of the last frost.
  • Prepare your garden by removing any rocks before planting. Add compost
  • Sow seeds directly ½ to 1 inch deep and 1 inch apart,  Thin if necessary, crowded plants do not do well.
  • Sow seeds outdoors, do not try to transplant a radish, it will not work!

Lettuce

  • The cool, wet weather of spring is the perfect time to get lettuce started.
  • Sow seeds directly outdoors as soon as the ground can be worked. Lettuce can be sown after the soil reaches 40°F
  • If you want an earlier crop, you can start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last spring frost date.
  • The most fragile on our list, it may require some protection from frost.

Broccoli

  • Broccoli seeds are best started indoors 7 to 9 weeks before the last spring frost. Transplants should have 4 or 5 well-developed leaves. Plant 12 inches apart.
  • Direct sow outdoors 2 weeks before the last frost. Soil temperature needs to be 40F. Plant seeds ½ of 1 deep and 3 inches apart. Thin if necessary.
  • Planting marigolds as companions with broccoli helps to deter cabbage moth and its damaging cabbageworm stage.

Peas

  • Peas are one of the first crops to plant in early spring. They are not a summer crop.
  • Sow seeds outdoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last spring frost date. Soil temperatures need to be 45°F. Plant seeds 1 inch deep and about 2 inches apart
  • A blanket of snow will usually not hurt young pea plants, however, several days with temperatures below 20F could. Be prepared to plant again if the first peas don’t make it.

Cabbage

  • Cabbage seeds are best started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost of spring. Transplant outdoors when they are about 4 inches tall and as early as 3 weeks before the last frost.
  • Direct sow seed outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked in spring. Plant seeds 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart. Thin plants as necessary.
  • Improve soil conditions by mixing in several inches of compost. Mulch to retain moisture and help regulate soil temperature.

 

 

 

Video: Downy Mildew In Hops Plants

Downy Mildew is caused by the notorious plant pathogen, Pseudoperonospora humuli, an organism that is considered by biologists to be an oomycete protist. Pseudoperonospora results in reduced yield, poor hop quality, and, in severe cases, plant death.  With an ever-increasing number of gardeners, home, and local brewers interested in growing their own hops, it is essential that they understand the cause and symptoms associated with this severe pathogen. If you grow hops, you should read this short article, then watch the video explaining the life cycle of downy mildew in hops plants

Symptoms Of Downy Mildew In Hops Plants

Growers begin to see signs of downy mildew in early spring.  Pseudoperonospora affects hops plants grown in containers and hopyards. It is one of the most important diseases of hops that are grown in wet and humid regions. Mild temperatures (~65°F) and moisture resulting from rain, overhead irrigation, and morning dew are ideal conditions for infection. Microscopic flagellated zoospores are produced which swim on the surfaces of a leaf, entering through plant stomata and setting up an infection.

 

hops plant with downy mildew
The underside of hops leaves showing discoloration due to the formation of oomycete sporangia

Leaves that are infected have black lesions while cones that are infected become brown, harden, and sometimes do not develop correctly. Pseudoperonospora continues to grow and invades the hop tissues, eventually killing healthy plants. The infection moves throughout the entire plant, including the bines, buds, and rhizomes. More zoospores are produced on the underside of leaves, which becomes blackened with masses of sporangia.

Video: Downy Mildew In Hops Plants

Click on the video and see the life cycle of Downy Mildew and how it infects hops plants.

A Change In Classification

For many years, biologists believed that oomycetes were true fungi.  In fact, the “mycete” suffix is reserved for fungi.  The basis for its classification was based on filamentous cells and the formation of sporangia, which are common characteristics of true fungi. With more advanced techniques available to biologists, there is now evidence that oomycetes are not related to fungi and are more closely associated with a group of protists called Stramenophila. So even though their placement on the tree of life has changed, their name has not.

What Makes Oomycetes Unique?

Oomycetes are unique organisms that differ metabolically, genetically, and in their cell structures.  Pseudoperonospora is an obligate plant pathogen, meaning that it requires a living cell to complete its life cycle. Additionally, this organism produces motile zoospores with two flagella.  One flagellum is whiplike, while the other is a ‘tinsel’ flagellum.  This important characteristic is another reason why they are now classified as Stramenophila.

There are several differences between the characteristics of oomycetes and fungi. For example, the cell walls of Pseudoperonospora are composed of cellulose rather than chitin, and their cells typically do not have septations. Another difference is in the vegetative state that is composed of diploid nuclei, whereas fungi have haploid nuclei. Additionally, oomycetes and fungi have different metabolic pathways for synthesizing the amino acid, lysine, along with enzyme and mitochondrial differences.

Choosing Pseudoperonospora Resistant Varieties

Listed below are hops varieties that are moderately resistant and resistant to downy mildew.

Hops Variety Usage Downy Mildew Susceptibility
Columbia Aroma Moderately Resistant
Fuggle Aroma Moderately Resistant
Hall. Gold Aroma Resistant
Hall. Magnum Bittering Resistant
Hall. Tradition Aroma Resistant
Newport Bittering Resistant
Perle Aroma Resistant
Spalter Aroma Resistant
Sterling Aroma Moderately Resistant
Teamaker Aroma Moderately Resistant
U.S. Tettnanger Aroma Moderately Resistant
Willamette Aroma Moderately Resistant

Currently, growers manage downy mildew by removing basal foliage during spring pruning and frequent applications of fungicides.  An extensive list for Disease Management and Control for both gardeners and large scale conventional growers can be found at the North Carolina State Extension.

Citation: Judelson H. 2007. Sexual Reproduction in Plant Pathogenic Oomycetes: Biology and Impact on Disease, p 445-458. In Heitman J, Kronstad J, Taylor J, Casselton L (ed), Sex in Fungi. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815837.ch27

 

Video Explaining Apple Tree Scab Disease

Symptoms Of Apple Scab Disease

Apple Scab Disease is a plant disease commonly found in domestic apples and ornamental crabapple trees.  Symptoms include dark brown or black lesions on the surface of leaves and fruit. Apple scab is caused by the ascomycete fungus, Venturia inaequalis. An aggressive infection of this type will eventually reduce fruit quality, rendering it inedible. Fruit quantity is also affected.  Apple Scab may occur over successive growing seasons; however, this fungus rarely kills its host. So if you are interested in planting apple trees or have a home orchard, then watch the video explaining the Apple Scab life cycle.

apple scab disease
Apples with dark lesions are infected with Apple Scab Disease. By Shuhrataxmedov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39951147

Video Explaining Apple Scab Life Cycle

Watch this easy to understand video explaining the critical stages that occurs during this fungal infection.

It all about moisture and temperature when it comes to apple scab infections. The wetter and warmer the weather is during springtime, the more vigorous the disease will become.

When the ascospores from Venturia inaequalis land on wet apple buds, leaves, or fruit, they germinate and grow into the apple tissue. The time required depends on temperature and the presence of a wet surface. At 39°F and 28 hours of continuous moisture will result in an infection, while between 61 to 75°F, only 6 hours are required.

After the fungus has penetrated, it continues to grow and enlarge within the plant tissues. It takes approximately 9 to 17 days for a visible scab to form. Development occurs more rapidly at higher temperatures. This initial infection is known as the primary phase.

If left untreated, a secondary infection will eventually develop on the plant surfaces, which appear as asexual conidia. These new conidiospores are easily dislodged when the lesions are wet and transferred by the wind to new leaf and fruit surfaces on the tree. This is known as the secondary phase.

Choosing Disease Resistant Varieties

Many attractive and tasty apple varieties are available that have resistance to apple scab disease. Some varieties have more resistance than others. However, these apples are still susceptible to other fungal diseases like powdery mildew and cedar apple rust.  That said, gardeners may still have to use fungicides on these trees.

Apple Cultivars: Scab Resistance Selections
Crimson Crisp Gold Rush Querina
Crimson Gold Novamac ** Redfree
Crimson Topaz Otava Rubinola
Freedom ** Enterprise ** Williams Pride **
** suitable for home orchards

Links

Purdue University explains chemical management using conventional fungicides

Some easy tips on how to get rid of Apple Scab Disease

Brown Turkey Fig Trees Facts

I can remember from when I was a young child that fig trees were special.  I would go with my dad and visit his friends.  Everyone was proud of their fig trees.  Some people even had a story to tell about their trees, how it came from the old county in a grandmother’s suitcase or something like that.  Back in the day, most figs trees were gifts from neighbor to neighbor. Over the fence, from one yard to another. A specialty plant that was not easy to buy. A friend would say to you “try my figs, they taste delicious!” or “you never had a fig quite like this…these are the best!” But enough of that, the whole purpose of this article is to teach you about brown turkey fig trees. So read on to learn more brown turkey tree facts.

figLeaves
Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’ Fig is an attractive deciduous tree with fragrant foliage 5 to 10 inches long and 4 to 7 inches wide. The leaves are deeply lobed.

Brown Turkey Tree Facts

The Brown Turkey Fig, Ficus carica, can be purchased at your local garden store. If you are interested in growing fig plants I recommend finding your hardiness zone first. This will give you a better understanding if brown turkey figs are is right for your location. They are heat-tolerant and require full sun all day to ripen palatable fruits. That’s why most gardeners will plant their figs with Southern exposure to optimize light and protect the tree during the winter months from freezing.

Fruit Color Brown
Fruit Size Small to Medium
Taste Mild and Sweet
Texture Fleshy and Soft
Pollination Self-pollinating
Ripens June – September
Light Requirements Full Sun
Soil Composition Loamy and well-drained
Soil pH 6.0 – 6.5
Years to bear figs 1 to 2 years
USDA Growing Zone Range 5 – 9

Caring For Brown Turkey Figs

Here’s how to grow a fig tree in your garden. Plant fig trees outdoors in the early spring or late fall, when the tree is dormant. The soil needs to be well-drained and with plenty of organic material. You will need to water young fig trees regularly to help them become established. Adding a layer of mulch around the tree will help to prevent weeds and keep in moisture for the roots. Depending on your growing zone, it’s not the summer but the winter that is the killer of fig trees.  If you have several very cold winters in succession, chances are that the fig will die back but the roots will survive.  It will then grow back next spring and bear fruit. Most gardeners wrap their fig trees for protection during the winter months.

Do Brown Turkey Figs Have Wasps In Them?

Common figs such as Brown Turkey Figs do not require pollination from another tree, they are self-pollinating.  However, you may want to plant pollinating partners to increase your crop yield, but doing so is optional. There are no wasps inside a brown turkey fig because this variety is self-pollinating and does not require the service of insects.  However, some varieties such as Calimyrna figs do require Pleistodontes wasps as insect pollinators.

The Taste Is Amazing!

The Brown Turkey Fig is perfect if you want a sweet fruit that you can pick off the tree and eat fresh. They are succulent, yet fragile while fresh with rich dark hues and elegant shape. To prepare, wash well and lay on a paper towel to dry. Use ripe figs as soon as possible to experience their awesome flavor or refrigerate up to three days. Figs are rich and chewy when dried or freeze them for up to six months for later use. Most of all, enjoy your figs.

 

Propagating Shrubs From Hardwood Cuttings

Hardwood cuttings provide an easy and reliable method of plant propagation. We will be discussing its use with shrubs. Hardwood cuttings are taken in the dormant season from mid-autumn until late winter. With Deciduous trees, the ideal time is just after leaf fall or just before bud-burst in spring. Although this type of propagation may be slow to develop roots, it is usually successful. So let’s read on to learn more about hardwood cuttings.

Hardwood Versus Softwood Cuttings

We like making hardwood cuttings; it is a simple propagation technique to make more plants, mainly the shrubs in your landscape. Since these cuttings went dormant with no leaves, there is not a requirement to provide a high humidity environment as with softwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings require correct lighting and humidity conditions. It is a technique that is more labor-intensive. It needs constant attention and must never dry out. However, with hardwood cuttings, you “stick it in and let it sit until Spring!”

tools for hardwood cuttings
The tools needed to prepare hardwood cuttings are simple. Sharp pruning shears to make a clean cut, a trowl to make a trench and rooting hormone.

Making Hardwood Cuttings

Select vigorous and healthy shoots that are free of any disease.  Shoots should be close to pencil-thickness in diameter and from the current season’s growth.  They will be mature, woody, and dormant. Cut straight across at the base below a bud. At the top make an angled cut to shed water and as a reminder to tell which end is the top.  By the time you are done, the cuttings should be about six inches long.

An additional step that often helps difficult to root plants is to make a “wound” at the cutting’s base. Use a sharp knife here and remove the bark. The additional cut exposes more of the light green cambium under the bark. The cambium has meristematic tissue that will differentiate into roots.

Wet the end of the cutting and dip the lower cut end in a hormone rooting powder. The addition of the hormone promotes root formation; it also contains a fungicide that protects against rot.

picture of hardwood cuttings
Cuttings should be about 6 inches in length when complete. Make the bottom cut just below a bud.

Hardwood Cuttings In Containers

Insert the cuttings into a container with two-thirds of the cutting below the surface. As a medium, we use mason sand. The roots will form along the buried portion of the stem. A few buds remain above the ground to allow the plant to grow and leaf out in the spring. Hardwood cuttings are often grown outdoors, but depending on your region, you may require a cold frame. Even though hardwood cuttings take more time to develop roots, there is enough food stored in the stem to keep the cutting alive through the winter.

growing hardwood cuttings in containers
A) Make a trench in sand using a tool. B) Insert cuttings with root hormone about two inches into the sand. C) Finish by closing up the trench. D) Complete by filling the container with cuttings.

 

 

 

 

 

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