A vegetable gardening wave is sweeping the country. More and more people are relying less on store-bought vegetables and plotting their own gardens — enjoying the fresh, home-grown taste of their own food, enhancing their sustainability, and getting their children excited about growing and harvesting vegetables from their own back yards.
Luckily, we enjoy two long and bountiful growing seasons here in central Texas. September is the magic month for planting many of the fall garden vegetables we can grow. And that means it’s time to pull the summer garden plants out, revitalize the beds and start fresh for fall.
Whether you still have tomatoes and peppers and okra producing in these dog days of summer, or your garden is already a crispy critter, now is the time to make some fall gardening choices.
It’s tough love time in the garden.
Many summer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and okra are spent and should be removed to leave room for a new fall garden. Some plants can have a second fall crop, but once they are done, it’s too late to plant many of our favorite fall veggies, so you have to decide which is more important to you. Also, since the days are getting shorter many vegetables store more sugar and actually have better flavor than some spring-grown crops.
The first thing to do to prepare for a fall garden is prepare the soil. The easiest step is to add a few inches of compost to the beds. You can also add a little 8-2-4 fertilizer because fall vegetables tend to be heavy feeders. This will help give your new plants a healthy growing medium in which to get a good start.
Should I plant transplants or seeds?
There is still time to plant some vegetables as transplants, and it’s the perfect time to plant many varieties of seeds.
Although many vegetables bask in our full sun, there is an exception – the typical heat of August to mid-September. New plants will definitely need some shade from the blazing sun. Transplants aren’t strong enough or well enough established to withstand the heat. Shade cloth, floating row cover or any other cloth hung above the new plants, umbrellas, or anything you can find to shield them from the hottest hours of sunlight will help ensure their survival through this difficult time. They will also benefit from a generous layer of mulch to help protect them.
Seeds need the same TLC as new transplants, including a little shade. Water the soil well a few days before planting the seeds so that it isn’t so hot and dry when you plant them. Then keep soil moist with frequent watering during germination by using a gentle spray to moisten the soil well. Hand sprinkle at least once daily unless it happens to rain.
It is usually more difficult to start seeds during hot, dry weather. Larger seeds like beans can be soaked overnight between two damp paper towels. Smaller seeds like carrots should also be covered with a light application of mulch or compost to help them retain enough moisture to sprout. Once seedlings are established, you can water deeper and less frequently. Also, don’t be alarmed if it takes your seeds longer to reach maturity than the printed date on seed packets. Because the days are getting shorter, it may take your seeds longer to germinate.
Favorite Fall Crops
Once your garden soil is amended, you’re ready. When you begin planting, make sure you plan for successive planting. You don’t want 10 cabbages ready to eat all at the same time. Instead, plant a row, wait a week and plant another row. The same rule applies to vegetables like carrots and beets planted one plant at a time.
Why is selecting the proper vegetable varieties so important? If you’ve been gardening for any length of time, you know there are many different varieties of garden vegetables. However, only three or four varieties of any one vegetable are well suited or adapted to our area.
For additional detailed information about gardening in central Texas, check out the Garden Guide from the Texas Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener program, available at most local nurseries and garden centers.
Central Texas Vegetable Varieties
Vegetables to plant as transplants and recommended varieties for our area:
Broccoli Green Comet, Packman, Premium Crop, Baccus
Carrots Imperator, Nantes, Texas Gold Spike, Orlando Gold
Cabbage Bravo, Rio Verde, Red Rookie
Cauliflower Snow Crown
Vegetables to plant as seeds and recommended varieties for our area:
Snap Topcrop, Tendercrop, Tendergreen, Kentucky Wonder, Greencrop
Pinto UI-114, Dwarf Horticultural, Luna
Green Beans Roma II, Contender, Tendercrop.
Beets Pacemaker, Detroit Dark Red
Carrots Imperator, Nantes, Texas Gold Spike.
Chinese Cabbage Jade Pagoda, Monument, Napa, China Pride
Cucumbers Poinsett 76, Sweet Success, Dasher II, Sweet Slice, Calypso, Carolina
Garlic Texas White
Collards Blue Max, Georgia Southern,
Chard Lucullus, Ruby
Mustard Green Wave, Tendergreen, Southern Giant Curl
Kale Vates, Blue Knight
Crisp Head Mission
Loose Leaf Prizehead, Red Sails, Black-Seeded Simpson
Butter Head Buttercrunch
Cantaloupe Mission, Primo, Caravelle
Honey Dew TAM Dew, Honey Star
Bulb Texas 1015 Y, Early Grano 502, Granex 33
Green Evergreen, Bunching, Crystal Wax
Irish Red, Red LaSoda, Norland
Sweet Beauregard, TAMU Corder, Centennial, Jewel
Radish Cherry Belle, Sparkler, White Icicle, French Breakfast
Spinach Savoy, Green Valley II, Ozarka II, Fall Green, Coho
Summer Goldie, Gold Bar, Multipik
Zucchini President, Senator
Butternut Waltham, Early Butternut
Turnips White Lady, Royal Globe II