Brock: Now is a good time for heat-loving plants

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 6, 2020

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Last month, faithful readers, I announced we’d try and host Tomato Field Day in May but all LSU AgCenter face-to-face events through May 30 are cancelled. We now plan to have it June 4 starting at 6 p.m. The garden contest won’t happen in person, but how about a facsimile? Email me some pictures of your vegetable garden by May 21 and we’ll judge them on the usual parameters. (For contest rules or details email me.)

Hopefully we’ll announce garden contest winners at Tomato Field Day. If it’s cancelled we can get you your plaque somehow. Under this revised format, I’m inviting all St. John and St. James Parish residents alike to enter. We’ll have separate rankings for each parish.

The Biggest Tomato Contest will be held by appointment to weigh your entry at our Lutcher office June 2. Be sure to call our office (225-562-2320) or email me so we can schedule your weigh-in.

As of this writing, the stay-at-home order goes through May 15. Also as of this writing, the weather is lovely and trending toward warmer. If you want to plant tomatoes in May, be sure they’re the heat-set types. It’s prime time to plant heat-loving plants like okra and eggplant too.


I think edamame is an underrated and easy-to-grow vegetable. These are the steamed and salted soybeans we get at the Japanese restaurants. The “edamame” label on the seed packet means they’re bred less for yield and more for flavor for us home gardeners, compared to commercial varieties.

Plant these about six inches apart in your garden, and about an inch deep. That’s a dense stand compared to tomatoes, for instance. But beans are legumes, which means they have their own built-in fertilizer source. That is, they have symbiotic bacteria that live on their roots in nodules the legumes make. These bacteria pull nitrogen out of the air pockets in the soil and make it available for themselves and our plants. We say they “fix” nitrogen onto the roots. If you’ve never had clover or leguminous crops grown in the area, dust in a little nitrogen-fixing bacteria available at nurseries or online. You still might need phosphorus and potassium so use something like 8-24-24 or 0-10-10 at a quarter pound per ten foot row.

Make sure they’re in rows or raised beds, as beans do not tolerate “wet feet.” They’ll set pods in a month or so. Pick when you can see the swelling of the seeds inside the pod but before it dries. You may have several pickings from one plant so don’t pull the whole plant up with the firmly-attached bean pod. Boil these in water for five to 10 minutes, drain and salt them, and enjoy!

If you want to know more about gardening, landscaping, or anything else horticultural, contact the St. John & St. James Parishes County Agent André Brock at Also, the LSU Ag Center’s website can be accessed at with lots of user-friendly information, including this article.