Ashley Gregory, Horticulturalist for Hidalgo County
It may feel a little early, but now is a great time to start planning your fall vegetable garden. Some key factors to remember when planning your vegetable garden: select varieties for our area, plant at the right time, prepare your soil, provide adequate moisture, and make sure you have plenty of sun.
Fall is the ideal time for a vegetable garden in South Texas. Traditionally, September has been the recommended time to start planting most of our cool season crops. However, the weather has been anything but normally lately so you may want to hold off until October if it’s too hot.
You can start from seed or seedlings, maybe try both to see which works better. Local plant nurseries tend to have selections best suited to our growing region, but you will find the most options shopping from national seeds companies like Burpee, Twilley, Johnny’s and others. These sites have a large selection and can recommend varieties suited to our growing zone.
When growing fruits and vegetables having healthy, fertile soil with good drainage is important for production. If you plant in raised beds and add new soil each year, soil testing may not be as important, but if you are planting in-ground it’s highly recommended to do soil testing at least every 2 years.
A soil analysis can provide nutrient availability information, soil pH, organic matter content and detailed salinity information, among other details of your soil. Not only does this tell you what your plant may be lacking, but it also prevents the application of unneeded fertilizers, avoiding excess nutrients from ending up in our waterways. If you have drainage issues and want to plant in ground, consider building up the soil to create a raised area to help improve drainage around the roots. And don’t forget the mulch; it will help suppress weeds and retain moisture.
Unlike our landscapes, vegetable gardens need to be watered almost daily. A drip irrigation system is recommended for the most efficient application as it will deliver the water directly to the root zone. If you have to water overhead, make sure to do so early in the morning to avoid the plants being wet for prolonged periods of time. With our high humidity excess moisture can quickly create favorable environments for pests and disease.
Proper plant spacing is also important to health and production. Make sure to consider the mature size of the plants and space them accordingly. This will allow the plant to reach its full potential as well as ensuring adequate air flow which helps prevent pest and disease.
While you may be tempted to plant your garden in the shade of a nice tree, remember that most fruits and vegetables need a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sunlight.
There is a great variety of vegetable resources on the Aggie Horticulture website https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/ or check out the Easy Gardening Fact Sheets for homeowners for reliable information. For more information on soil testing visit http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/
Ashley Gregory is the Horticulturalist for Hidalgo County with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She can be reached at the Hidalgo County Extension Office at (956) 383-1026 or by email at [email protected]