Buy cool-season plants before they stress out

Garden centers now have transplants for many cool-season crops. Find out which day the truck arrives and buy the plants that day they arrive if possible.

Plants that sit in the racks in their trays generally are not well watered and stress will cause the plant to stop growing. A little stress is called “hardening off” and can make the transplant less vulnerable to transplant shock, but severe stress can make the plant enter a dormant state. It takes time for a dormant plant to start growing again. Be sure to water the soil thoroughly when you establish the plants in the garden.

One cool-season type you will have to order seed for is broccoli raab. Mistakenly called a form of broccoli (Brassica oleraceae. group Italica), it is actually a flowering cousin of turnip and Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa group ruvo). Broccoli raab is frequently found in the greens section of supermarkets and differs from collard and turnip greens in having small flower heads in the bud stage among the leaves.

The fairly tale Rapunzel is named after rapinii, the Italian name for this crop. Grow just like mustard or turnip greens.

Late-season tomatoes are thriving in the warm temperatures and high light conditions. Stank bugs are attacking the young fruit, however. The puncture wounds from the bugs’ feeding allow yeast to enter the fruit. Yeast decompose the interior structure of the tomato and cause soft, foul smelling areas. Keep the bugs off by hand picking or proper insecticide use.

First-time sweetpotato growers may be tempted to harvest since the vines are starting to fade in color. Carefully scrape the soil away from the root system of a couple of plants and observe the size of the storage roots. Dig when the roots are big enough to suit you. Jumbo sweet potatoes of modern varieties are still quality food, they just don’t bake as well as smaller ones.

Lawns

Lawns in Mississippi are showing signs of stress because of higher temperatures and lower rainfall amounts. The wet spring and early summer developed plants with shallower-than-normal root systems and the week of 95-plus degrees with few clouds and little rain has caused the water demands of the leaves to exceed the root systems’ ability to supply water.

Landscape Projects

Late summer and early fall is a great time to plan and do landscape projects. The weather is not so hot and humid. The kids are back in school and you have time to think!

Most landscaping is actually a matter of “remodeling” an existing situation. Only brand-new homes offer the challenge of bare ground to begin. Remodeling is a more leisurely process than planning a garden from scratch. There’s no urgent need to cover the brown earth. It’s better to come to the right decisions slowly than to rush in and make mistakes that will aggravate you for years to come.

While remodeling plans should always be a part of a total landscape project, the work can be done one area at a time. Doing the work by area is a great way to get the support of family members who could question your sanity if you propose a major overhaul all at once.

Springing one little project at a time on your potential helpers works so much better. Gratification is faster and then you spring the next “little project.” Before they know it, they have worked themselves silly and you can bash in the glow of your accomplishments and motivational skills!

An example of a way to really change the look of your landscape is to redo the entry — or the “public face” of your landscape. Is it inviting? Is it easily accessible? Is it easy to maintain?

Just widening the walkway, adding some lighting or even painting your front door can make a huge difference. Don’t forget, your entryway is a major focal point of your landscape, so you can get a tad lively!

It is OK to express your individuality and uniqueness. It is YOUR landscape. Adding ornate pots, vivid colored or shaped containers, sculpture, unique plants (in shape, texture or color) are all ways to draw attention to let folks know this is where you enter my home!

By David Nagel and Lelia Kelly

Extension Horticulture Specialists

Distributed by Lisa Stewart, Webster County Director