Friday, August 12, 2011

Texas Fall Gardening

Per a request on tips and " how to" for Gardening in Texas.

Texas planting is a little different than planting anywhere else. You can read books and "how to" articles on what and when to plant but unless you have planted here or know someone who has, all that studying is for not.
To give an idea on the difficulties of Texas gardening, it is like planting in the dry hot desert but at the same time having hardy enough plants to endure harsh cold snaps.
Here's an example, our last frost in usually in March. So one would think to plant like the almanac says and all your spring seeds would be in the ground by March 15th to April 1st and even some of the transplants . Then, in the second week of April after all the seeds have sprouted and the tender little plants are about inch or two tall, we have a week of freezing temperatures and all that work and planting was for nothing.
So you think you learned something? The very next year you decide that will not happen again so you wait till the end of April to seed and transplant. No freezing temperatures this time, but the massive heat and drought hits at the end of May and your plants never had a chance.
I see it year after year. It is like playing craps, just a roll of the dice. Unless you have a climate controlled greenhouse, this is the fight you will face every year.

Fall Gardens are my favorite. Here are some tips I have learned over the years.
I get more production from Fall gardens than any other time I plant. The vegetables taste much better and are brighter in color. The shorter days keeps the sun from pulling all the good taste and color out. This is because many vegetable crops store more sugar making them taste better than the spring crop.

The first thing that needs to be done while it is still hot is to prep the soil. This is the time to add compost. Some people even go as far as to sterilize the ground by turning it three to five times during the hottest parts of the summer and letting the sun kill everything. I do not do this because I use raised beds and my soil is layered and is kinda like a composter in it's self.    

The one thing to remember with a fall garden is the growing season is not as long as the spring. One tip is to use transplants were you can to boost the production. Plus, it is wise to add a couple of weeks to the number of days to maturity on the seeded plants. It also helps to use the varieties that are relatively short in maturing.
It would be nice to have a green house or some cold frames for when it starts getting cold to extend the growing season. Being that I have neither, I use old hay as an insulator from the bitter winds and my kale will last up until it is covered in snow.

Here are just some good fall crops:
Broccoli - The most productive fall crop.
Green Beans - I use either Roma II or Tendercrop.
Carrots - I have to use the short variety like Nantes due to some hard packed soil.
Squash - I plant summer and winter squash in the fall about two weeks apart.

What's the plan and what's in the ground now:
I had a very bad summer garden. I finally gave up on it about a month ago and let it lay. The only thing I have done to the beds was add compost.
This week we planted Sweet Corn, Summer Squash and Cucumbers (slicing and pickling).
This weekend we are planting Snap Beans, Bush Beans, Pinto Beans, Cauliflower and Winter Squash.
The first of September we are planting Cabbage, Carrots, Swiss Chard and Kale.
The middle of September we are planting Garlic, Lettuce (leaf and romaine), Sugar Snap Peas and Spinach.         
This is only the second year I have had gardens here at this place. The first year was not a good year at all because I had to establish my soil. I tried, but the soil was not ready and did not have what it took to grow a nice healthy crop. The summer crops, like I said, could not be kept alive and with the well outage for a week did them in. This fall should be the best yet and I am looking forward to it. 


  1. From the sound of things, looks like you grow a pretty substantial garden. I try to grow just enough for the 2 of us and have problems. I can only imagine the heartache of losing a huge crop to frost or drought.
    A lot of us on the east coast lost our gardens from all the heat and no rain, this summer. Hopefully, fall will produce better.

  2. Aww this post gives me hope. Great post! Looking forward and planning a fall garden is a good way to shake the drought blues. I believe I will follow in your footsteps. Thanks for the positive outlook.

  3. GREAT post, MDR. I think you need to a add a Redneck CALENDAR to your store website. Lord knows you have great photos and lots of 'that's funny right there' stuff for decoration, but you are full of good timely advice for us newbie homesteaders that you could list out on the appropriate days/months. I'm serious. Think about it, okay?

  4. Thank yall for the comments.

    Mike - I am putting all the bets on the table for this fall garden. Talk about never counting your chickens before they hatch, this fall garden has no choice but to produce.

    Genevieve - Thank you. I am glad I could help in one way or the other. I forgot to mention that being it is still hot and dry when we plant a fall garden, you need to soak your seeds overnight so it will give them a better chance to sprout.
    Good luck and keep us posted.

    HossBoss - Thanks for the idea HB, that is a good one. The one problem with fixed dates are the year is different, well, every year. Some of the seeds I planted last week needed to be in the ground on the first of Aug. With the current weather conditions I decided to push the planting two weeks later so the tender seedlings will have some kind of a chance of survival. Like I said, it is a craps shoot. The best I can do is give approximate dates like from "Date" to "Date", plant "This" and cross your fingers. lol, (That's funny).

  5. That's good information. My wife and I are thinking about a fall garden as an experiment, part of our long term canning plan.