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Timely tendings: Start your spring vegetable garden

It is time to plant your spring vegetable garden. Warm-season vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, summer squash and beans can be planted now. You will want to spade up your garden area and incorporate organic matter. Add about 25 pounds of some type of organic material per 100 square feet of garden. Cow manure (allow four weeks before planting if it is not composted), compost, peat moss or any combination of materials are great organic amendments. Some nurseries have starter plants for tender crops now. Vegetable Gardening in Florida by James Stephens is a good reference book for growing vegetables, and the UF/IFAS Extension website has a "Florida Gardening Guide" on its website, edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

Blossom-end rot can be a serious problem in the vegetable garden. The bottoms of tomatoes, peppers or squash turn soft and dark. It is important for the soil to contain adequate calcium and for irrigation to be consistent. Correct this by using lime in the garden or treating existing plants with calcium chloride, commonly sold as Stop Blossom-End Rot. Also, be sure to water your garden regularly so the plants do not wilt during this dry time of the year.

Now is the time to divide crowded perennials such as cannas, gerberas, daylilies and stokesia. Division involves cutting large clumps into smaller sections and making sure that each smaller clump has an adequate supply of stems, leaves, roots and buds to survive transplanting. Ferns, orchids, daylilies, bulbous plants, nandina and liriope are commonly propagated by division. Some plants can be pulled apart, but many must be cut. Transplant the clumps at the same depth they were growing originally. Do not divide plants when they are flowering, but any other time during the growing season is suitable as long as adequate care is provided after planting.

Information from Carol Suggs and Theresa Badurek of the Pinellas County Extension Service and from the Hillsborough County Extension Gardening Almanac. Go to the extension websites at pinellascountyextension.org and hillsborough.extension.ufl.edu.

Timely tendings: Start your spring vegetable garden 02/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 11, 2011 3:30am]

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