Master gardeners plan presentation on spring vegetable planting

It’s late February, but planning and planting for spring vegetables has already started for some plants. Planting trees, shrubs, herbs and even a few summer crops is less than a month away. Everyone loves spring as the big planting time, but remember, we haven’t had our last frost date. So there’s some gambling going on if you start too early with certain plants.

On Monday, March 2, a trio of Walker County Master Gardeners will offer an informative presentation at the Huntsville Public Library. “Spring Vegetable Gardening,” which will start at 10:30 a.m. and conclude at noon. This free presentation is designed to give the public the tried and true methods and tips for putting in vegetables for this spring. There will also be information on fertilization, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), composting and mulching. Attendees are strongly encouraged to bring their questions for the speakers. There will be plenty of time for interaction with the master gardeners.

First up is Kathy McHargue. She will go over the proper soil and fertilization techniques to have a successful vegetable plot. She will also discuss spacing, sun location and other vegetable bed preparation work. McHargue is the current WCMGA President and is a team member in the Vegetable Production team.

The next speaker up is Jerry Gabbard. He will cover various crops that grow best for spring and early summer gardens. Gabbard will also discuss the choices that are common for our area and the varieties that work best in Walker County. Some of the vegetables that he will discuss include tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers and radishes. Jerry has been a Walker County Master Gardener for over 12 years, and is a Specialist in Fruit & Nut Trees. He is the head of the Vegetable Production team, and runs the shade house next door that houses the fruit and nut crops. He is a wealth of knowledge in this department.

Gail Warren will be the final speaker. She is a Specialist in First Detector (plant diseases), Entomology (insects) and Propagation. Gail’s discussion will cover getting to know the "good guys" (as in bugs) in our backyards. She usually brings pinned examples of most of them. She will also discuss how to use the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach in the proactive vs. reactive decision-making process of gardening. Her part of the presentation will include the question of whether to use chemical control, and how to determine toxicity levels of chemicals. Gail will conclude with tips on how to keep our bees safe.

One trick to spring planting is that some spring crops generally do better when started from transplants than from seed. Transplants should always be used for growing tomatoes and peppers.

Walker County is in Zone 8b and our last spring freeze is listed as February 28. However, we know that it is not out of the question to get a cold blast in mid to late March. If you put your transplants out in early March, be ready to cover your plants with row cover, plastic ‘bell jars’ or other cover.

Some of the vegetables that will be offered at the WCMGA Spring Sale include tomatoes such as: Celebrity, Juliet, Cherokee Purple and Big Beef. Others vegetables include: Sweet banana and TAM jalapeno peppers, Fordhook zucchini and Straight 8 cucumbers. There will also be Chandler strawberries.

While you are planning or designing your vegetable garden, don’t forget the annuals that can go into the beds to bring the pollinators. March through early April is time for putting seeds or small flowering annual plugs into your beds to bring the pollinators. Nasturtiums, violets, and hibiscus are just some of the edible flowers. Other flowers for the garden include: petunias, begonias, impatiens, and alyssum. Look for these plants or seeds and many others at the upcoming Spring Sale.

Texas Master Gardeners are members of the local community who have been accepted into the Master Gardener training program in Walker County. They have attended 50 hours of instruction, and have committed 50 hours of volunteer service to Walker County’s Texas Cooperative Extension program to attain certification. The group is committed to educating others in the community about a variety of horticulture-related topics.

Door prizes will be awarded at the end of the presentation. There will also be updates on the next big events for the Walker County Master Gardeners.

For more information on this free presentation, please contact Mary Kokot at the Huntsville Public Library at 936-291-5471 or register online at: https://www.huntsvilletx.gov/Calendar.aspx?EID=4450&month=3&year=2020&day=2&calType=0

For more information on this presentation, contact the Walker County AgriLife Extension office at 936-435-2426. You may also visit with a Master Gardener when we are ‘in’ on Thursday mornings, or email us at walkercomg@gmail.com

The Walker County Extension Office is also on Facebook. WalkerCoTxAgrilife has been established to provide updates and information to Walker County residents and landowners on a timely basis. The Walker County Master Gardeners are also on Facebook! Check out both of these Facebook pages and hit "like" to join.