Melody's Gardening in Central Texas


Vegetables for Central Texas

Growing your own vegetables can be quite rewarding. It can also be very frustrating here in Central Texas. We have many insect pests and problems with high heat and drought. Many vegetables can be grown in the cooler weather of fall, winter, and spring. See my book, Cool-Season Gardening in Central Texas on Amazon for suggestions of how to grow cool season vegetables.

greens

Vegetables to grow in cooler weather:

Kale, lettuce, greens, Chinese greens, radishes, and carrots--you can plant all these in the fall when the weather starts to cool off probably toward the end of September. All of these are planted from seeds. You will find many more varieties to try by buying them from seed catalogs rather than at your local stores.

Broccoli and cauliflower are planted in the fall or early spring. It is best to cover these crops with fabric row cover both to give them more warmth during the winter and to prevent moths from laying their eggs on them. The dreaded green caterpillars can be kept at bay with fabric row cover.

Root crops are also cool season vegetables. If you want to have large onions you have to plant them in the fall or late winter. Garlic is also planted in the fall for a spring harvest. Potatoes must be planted in the spring no later than Valentine's Day. Harvest around the time the kids get out of school for the summer.

Vegetables for warm weather:

Asparagus: Although asparagus is traditionally planted from late January to early February, you must be patient, for you will not be picking any for two years. The asparagus roots need time to get established. Keep in mind that the wait is worth it; just remember how much asparagus costs at the food store. If you are patient you will have all the asparagus you want at a modest cost in time and money. Purchase good asparagus roots from a reputable nursery and plant them in well-prepared soil. Water them as needed and add fertilizer on a planned schedule. Shoots will emerge from the roots during the spring. Let the shoots “fern out” and continue caring for them. In the second spring following planting, you can begin cutting the larger shoots. Let the shoots grow to about six to eight inches and carefully cut them at the base. Enjoy. Once hot weather arrives, stop harvesting the shoots and let the asparagus shoots fern out. The following fall you can again cut newly emerging shoots, but don’t cut the existing ferns.

Beans: Various kinds of beans are planted in spring once the weather has warmed up, but before it gets very hot. Make succession plantings so that you do not have all your beans mature at one time. Moderate fertilizer, ample water, and vigilance in controlling spider mites is necessary. A second planting can be made in the fall for harvest just before the first frost.

cantaloupeCantaloupes: Cantaloupes and watermelons make a great addition to the garden, as they provide vitamin C In larger amounts than most vegetables. A rich garden soil in full sun will help these to grow well as long as you provide a deep, regular watering. Keep an eye out for pests, including pill bugs, which enjoy eating them as much as we do. Pill bugs will be on the bottom of the melons where they can hide from the sun. Raising the melons off the ground can help.

Okra: our beloved soup vegetable, okra thrives in the brutal summer heat of Central Texas. If you can find a spineless variety you will have fewer unpleasant encounters with this vegetable while harvesting it.

Peppers: Both hot peppers and sweet peppers will grow better when there is ample rainfall. You can plant them in the spring, and get a good harvest. Then they will slack off and not produce much until it gets cooler in the fall. The fall harvest of peppers will probably be the best you will have all year round.

Summer squash: Don't limit yourself to just the yellow squashes, There are many delightful flavors and shapes to explore. Peruse the pages of several seed catalogs and pick out some interesting squash varieties to try this year.  Squash plants need fertilizer and water at appropriate intervals. If your squash suddenly wilts and dies, it probably has been invaded by the dreaded squash borer.

Tomatoes: Considered the most popular vegetable grown in the United States, nothing else in the gardening world gives quite the thrill as growing a successful crop of tomatoes. It is a daunting task here, as there are many disease and insect pests that will attack our beloved tomatoes. Plant in rich garden soil, fertilize once a month, and water by drip irrigation. Keep an eye out for spider mites and leaf footed bugs, two of the greatest foes of tomatoes. Treat them early or they will get out of hand quickly. A forceful spray of water on the bottom of the leaves will help to destroy a light spider mite infestation early in the year. Later, you can try neem oil. This insecticide is natural (approved for organic gardening) and also helps with some plant diseases (read the label). You will need to spray probably once a week. If all else fails, turn to a more powerful insecticide that can be used within three days of harvest, and follow the directions carefully!