EAST TEXAS - Is it fall gardening time?
Or should we just continue gardening as we transition into the fall months?
It’s interesting to me that many folks think we have two seasons for gardening: spring and fall. In fact, with the right plants in your garden patch, gardeners in East Texas can raise vegetables 12 months out of the year with the hot dry summer months as our most difficult.
I hope you don’t see my spring planted garden. It is beyond gone. I should have cleaned it up weeks ago. My spring garden always ends when we go on vacation and a summer conference. Our absence coupled with summer heat and dryness is an effective end to spring planted vegetables.
But better gardeners than I keep their garden going during hot, dry months with well adapted plants such as okra and southern peas.
If you are like me and will need to re-start your vegetable garden, now is a grand time to do so.
Yes, the fall vegetable garden is just as much a possibility as a spring one, just different. It will be different in a few ways.
Establishing a fall garden is different as you must work in the heat up-front. In a “Pollyanna” frame of mind, this will be to your advantage as warm soils help germinate vegetable plants much sooner than cooler spring soil temperatures.
Watering is also approached with a different mind-set. Water will be crucial to establishing the summer growing vegetables. Germinated seeds hot, dry summer months will need uniform moisture and plenty of it.
Mulching, a practice not often done for spring gardens will really help here. Just a light layer of mulch will greatly aid in keeping moisture in the soil next to the developing roots.
Pest control for fall gardens should be less. Insect problems that are commonly experienced in the spring will be reduced. Disease issues that arise from cool, moist environments will also be diminished.
The biggest proponents of fall vegetable gardens will always brag on the harvest. Harvested produce in milder weather are reported to taste better. The time spent harvesting, choosing which squash or beans to pick, is obviously more comfortably done.
Yet with fall gardening, you’ll have a hard deadline from many common, warm-season vegetables. That deadline is our first frost.
Most vegetables traditionally grown in the spring and summer must beat the frost. Now the average first frost for this area is mid- November. The key word is average. Sometimes it may be near Christmas, and other times it will be prior to Halloween.
A new tool that many gardeners need to purchase are row covers. Purchased locally or online, these thin fabric covers can give a few degrees of protection. And for our first frost, just a few degrees is all we need.
Available in a wide variety of widths and lengths, they serve double duty for keeping insects off young tender plants.
Looking ahead, we have approximately 75 days from the first of September to mid-November. In that time frame you might possibly grow summer squash, bush beans, cucumbers, English peas and maybe even Southern peas.
Follow those crops with true cold weather vegetables such as broccoli, greens, brussels sprouts, garlic or onions and you will have started gardening thru winter months. This is the beginning of year-round produce.
The bottom line: here in east Texas our spring and fall gardening seasons are short, sandwiched between frosts and hot summer conditions that cause many crops to stop production.
And with proper variety selection and proper planting time, we can grow vegetables all year long.