The area's mild winter climate offers lots of opportunity for year-round gardening.
By Lani Duke
Regardless of where we live, we tend to think of a gardening calendar that really only works in the Northern states. Heavily influenced by traditions that had their roots in New England and the mid-Atlantic states, or maybe even northern Europe, we plant cool weather vegetables in the spring and late summer to early fall, warm weather crops most likely after Memorial Day.
But then again, most home gardeners think of summer as a three-month long season. The reality in Louisiana is that summer is six-months long, and winter, if it comes at all, lasts a few short weeks. At the time when a Northern gardener might expect to be cleaning out the garden in expectation of autumn frosts, a Louisiana gardener can look forward to planting and reaping fall vegetables.
Centenary College professor Kathryn Brandl says gardening in easier in the fall and winter than during the summer. In the summer, she has to get water to the plants and fight insects, as well as work around the heat of the day. Later in the year, rain more likely provides the moisture the plants need, and slugs are non-existent.
Greens and lettuce do well in cooler months, she said. Her fall garden seeds went in the second week of October.
“I grow lots year round except lettuce,” she says. Herbs do well, including parsley, cilantro and rosemary. She’s had no problem with squirrels or rodents, but her dogs do take a liking to some of the vegetables.
Local attorney Maurice Loridans has been gardening during Shreveport’s cool weather for the past three or four years. Many plants like kale, broccoli, and artichokes are much more productive after summer is over; mustard greens survive in temperatures down to 17 degrees, he notes. Peppers fall into the middle ground; they don’t grow well when heat is extreme, but won’t survive freezing either.
He credits his mentors Grace Peterson and Diane Carter with encouraging his interest in year-round gardening in Louisiana. He encourages people who want to follow his lead to start with plants that will withstand freezing: Swiss chard, kale, Brussels sprouts for example. If plants like cool weather but can’t take freezing, he advises planting in pots that can be towed indoors when temps dip into the icy zone.
Seeds to plant in December: beet, cabbage, carrot, Chinese cabbage, collard, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, radish, rutabaga, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip. In January, add broccoli, English and snow peas to that list. Transplants: Brussels sprout, celery, garlic, leek, onion, shallot. By January, omit Brussels sprout and garlic plants. from Month-by-Month Gardening in Louisiana by Dan Gill.
Other reference sources include the Louisiana State University Ag Center website and the wealth of local garden supply outlets in our area.