Spring gardening expert Felder Rushing shares valuable tips and tricks

Whether you’re new to gardening or have played with seeds and soil your whole life, there’s always so much more to learn. What vegetables can withstand the heat and humidity of summer? How much sun do certain types of plants actually need? What and where to plant according to the size of your garden?

We spoke with horticulturist Felder Rushing, host of the “Gardener Gestalt” on MPB ThinkRadio. Each week, Rushing answers questions from listeners, shares stories and offers tips on different aspects of gardening, like how to protect plants from sudden drops in temperature and frost.

Rushing’s years in radio influenced the way he portrays this passion. He’s quick with metaphors as he covers ways to avoid common faux pas that new or even seasoned gardeners can make. So whether you’re just getting started or already have plants in the ground, here are some suggestions on how to make your garden thrive not just in spring but all year round.

Felder rushing

Clarion Ledger: What is one of the most common mistakes new gardeners make when planning their garden?

Felder rushing: People try to plant too many things rather than just planting what works well in a small space. Or they try to plant things they don’t like to eat too much. You can buy a box of corn for much less than all the time and space wasted on a pile of rows of corn. Plant things of great value: peppers, tomatoes, okra, squash, beans. Stick with the stuff that produces a lot over a longer period of time. Think about what is most nutritious and what you and your family will enjoy.

Clarion Ledger: When is the right time to start planting and what should gardeners with less space consider when starting their garden?

FR : Our average last freeze is next week, but we often get frost and snow in parts of Mississippi through April. As a rule of thumb, we say don’t put any summer plants in the ground until the first week of April or Good Friday. Let’s wait until the ground has warmed up and the rains are not cold. They are the ones that cause root rot.

Many people try to plant everything at once and in long, skinny rows. Make your rows double width. Also, whatever the size of your garden, divide it into two or three individual gardens. Plant one thing in one area, then the other, then the other. If you have a garden divided into individual gardens, as soon as something is harvested you will already have another space ready to go. I can replant something before the mosquitoes know I’m there.

Also, always put flowers there. Mix four or five types of flowers and plant them at the end of the rows, and add some herbs. Basil is such a pretty plant. Ornamental peppers too. Put it there because it’s pretty and makes you smile.

Tomatoes are ideal for vegetable gardens.

Clarion Ledger: What about starting plants from seed?

FR : Starting things from seeds is not for beginners. They try to grow their own transplants indoors without the right light or low humidity. Spend a little extra money and get healthy, well-groomed plants.

Many people don’t realize that in Mississippi and Tennessee there is enough time between April and fall to have two full back-to-back gardens. In the North, they only have one shot. So instead of trying to keep a tomato plant alive through the summer, it’s best to plant twice. Pull it up and stick something else in its place. Commercial growers do not plant just once. Gardeners can do the same. Make it a regular process, like keeping the fridge stocked.

Clarion Ledger: What other resources would you recommend for gardeners?

FR : Source #1 is Mississippi State MSUCares.com and search for Garden Tabloid. It’s the most accurate source of information on what to plant, where to plant it, and the best variety. This is free and really accurate information.

There is also Facebook page called Mississippi Gardening which provides real-time suggestions on what people are doing in their gardens. There are many beautiful things like that.

The Gestalt Gardener airs on MPB Think Radio Friday mornings at 9 a.m. and Saturday mornings at 10 a.m.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Maria Clark is a generalist reporter for The American South. Ideas for articles, advice, questions? Email her at mclark@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter @MariaPClark1. Sign up for The American South Newsletter. follow us on instagram, Facebook and Twitter.