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Power Plants

Another Option Beets come in all colors and are full of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants By Katie Jackson

Garden Tips: February • Order seed for spring and summer crops. • Prune summer flowering shrubs, though wait to prune spring bloomers until after they flower. • Divide and move perennials. • Plant roses. • Replant hardy perennials. • Transplant deciduous shrubs and trees this month unless the buds have begun to swell. • Start warm-season vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers and summer bedding plants, in cold frames or indoor settings now. • Clean bird feeders and keep them full. • Plant dormant fruit and landscape trees and shrubs this month, and start new strawberry plants. • Clean up fallen limbs and other winter yard debris.A

Katie Jackson is associate editor for the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. Contact her at

22  FEBRUARY 2012

As Valentine’s Day approaches, red roses will likely be the most popular botanical gift of love. If my husband could choose his own gift, though, he’d forgo the flowers and ask for another red option – beets. Okay, they aren’t exactly a box of chocolates, but for those who love the taste of beets, they can be muchadored treats that are chock-full of healthy substances (vitamins, fiber and antioxidants, to name a few), low in calories and can help lower cholesterol and fight heart and other diseases. What better way to say “I love you,” right? Beets, by the way, come in colors other than the iconic beet red/deep purple. White, yellow and orange varieties are available and the combination of these on a plate can be stunning. Every inch of a beet is edible, from its leafy top to its earthy roots, and can be enjoyed raw, steamed, sautéed, roasted, grilled, pickled and, of course, as the famous Eastern European soup, borscht. A surprising array of beet recipes can be found in cookbooks and online. While beets are available at most grocery stores and other retail produce outlets this time of year, the best beets are the ones right from the garden and it just so happens that February is a great month for planting beets. Granted, they won’t be

ready to harvest by Valentine’s Day, but a nice crop of tender little beets should be ready to dig within seven to eight weeks after planting, and the leafy tops can be harvested even sooner. If beets are not exactly what you have in mind for a Valentine’s Day gift, there are lots of other garden- and plant-related gifts to give, from cut flowers to potted plants, from gardening tools and books, to seeds. In fact, this is a great time to give and plant other winter/ early spring crops (in addition to beets), such as garden peas (snow, sugar snap and sweet peas), all sorts of lettuces, mustard, spinach, turnips, Swiss chard, radishes, cauliflower, cabbage, bulb onions and Irish potatoes, all of which can be seeded in February. With most of these crops, it is best to wait until mid-February or a little later in the month to plant. Don’t plant them in frozen ground, and be sure to locate them in a sunny area on well-drained soil. If a hard and prolonged late winter freeze occurs after seedlings have emerged they may need to be protected with a plastic or cloth cover or straw mulch. For those gardeners who are truly serious about growing winter crops, investing in a cold frame or hoop house may be just the thing (or those may be great gifts for the gardener you love). A

Alabama Living TREC February 2012  

Alabama Living TREC February 2012