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c21’s Master Gardener Tips

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, people forced to shelter in place may be trying new things or reigniting old passions for baking, sewing and gardening.  c21’s finance director Valerie Randolph has always had a passion for gardening and below are some tips for those of you considering starting a garden this spring or summer.

The strange alternating cold and warm weather this spring had me starting my garden a little late. Normally, the last frost in Atlanta is April 15, but this year, the temps dipped down well past that date.
Early spring is a good time to plant foods that need cooler temperatures to grow. Hot July and August temperatures will make these plants wilt and stunt their growth.

I grow in containers and in vegetable beds. So if you don’t have room for raised gardens or beds, you can still plant interesting things you might like!

I’m going to concentrate on green leafy vegetables because they’re easy to grow from seed. They don’t have deep root systems and grow well in a medium container with drain holes in the bottom. They like to be watered often, but their roots don’t like to be sitting in water. They need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. If you have an area that gets sun from morning through evening you’ll want to shade the following vegetables from the late afternoon sun.

If growing in containers, keep in mind that when it rains or they’re watered, nutrients escape the soil in the drainage holes, so all of these plants will need to be fertilized about every two weeks.

When selecting a fertilizer know your numbers. The three numbers on fertilizer containers refer to the amount of micronutrients in the fertilizer. The first number is nitrogen. Nitrogen provides chlorophyll, which provides green plant growth. The second number is phosphorus. Phosphorus boosts bloom production, and the third number is potassium, sometimes is referred to as potash. Potassium helps with the overall general health of the plant.

The greens described above all need nitrogen and perhaps potassium. You want to discourage any blooms on the plants. When greens produce a bloom (also known as bolting) the leaves become bitter.

Now is also a great time to plant herbs. It’s too late in the season to start seeds outside, so you’ll want to buy small plants from your local garden center. Pike has a great program in place to avoid crowds. You have to order and pay online and then pick up your order. They only allow employees in the store right now.

Herbs also need 6-8 hours of sun. They can be grown inside if you have a sunny window. They don’t require the same amount of fertilizer as greens. Most are hardy and self-sufficient. I usually only fertilize mine once or twice in the summer. They will also become bitter if you allow blooms to grow on the plants. Basil is more tender than rosemary, thyme, oregano, and chives. It will definitely need to be protected from the late afternoon sun.

Additional notes:

  1. If you love garlic and are tempted to buy it now – save your money. Garlic will not survive August weather. It needs 7-8 months in the ground. You need to plant it in September, October or November in Georgia. It tolerates cold weather and will give you great bulbs the following summer.
  2. Now is a great time to plant peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and other heat loving foods. Peppers are easy. Tomatoes and cucumber are tricky and I will give tips on those plants soon. It’s too early for these plants to be blooming, so if you buy any of these plants pinch off the blooms so the plant can grow sturdy before it starts bearing fruit.

Happy planting!