Having come from farm country in Illinois to the wilds of Texas was quite an adjustment to my thinking of how to garden. Thinking of vegetable gardens as a huge spring planting event followed by a slow growing season that extends through a big portion of the summer. It was and still is where my mind automatically wants to go in planning. Its been hard to get used to for me so I thought I would pass on some tips to non-native Texans wanting to garden here. I can only give an account for North Texas, so if you live in other parts of the state you will have to contact your local county Extension office for planting dates.
- There are two short gardening seasons. One is spring, the other in fall
- Cole crop vegetables like broccoli tend to bolt faster if planted in the spring garden because our soil heats up so fast.
- Spring planting starts as early as late-January to early-February which includes onions then potatoes, broccoli, lettuces, peas. Warm season plants like tomatoes and peppers are best planted at the end of March.
- Varieties of vegetables chosen need to be suited for shorter growing seasons.
- Tomatoes can be a challenge to grow here. Temperature changes seem to be the culprit to tomato production. If our temperature here doesn't stay mid-range long enough we miss bloom set time. If it gets too hot too fast the plants nearly shut down as far as growth. Tomatoes don't like it too hot. With the late spring freezes we've had over the past few years, special care needs to be taken to protect plants that are prone to freezing.
- Fall planting starts as early as June and that's only to direct sow tomato seeds. Most of the warm season vegetables aren't planted until late July into August. The rest follows all the way to October for cool season vegetables.
- Watering gardens is required. The rain nearly shuts off in June and doesn't really pick back up until September. Drip irrigation and soaker hoses are some of the best methods because there is less evaporation and it wastes the least amount of water. Overhead watering will do, but it makes plants more prone to diseases.
- People here report that fall vegetable gardening is preferred because of insect issues being reduced.
- Guide for growing vegetables here Aggie Horticulture Home Vegetable Gardening and a nice printable vegetable guide.
Having a bit of foreknowledge of what to expect helps to better prepare for each season. Each region has its unique challenges and it doesn't hurt to get familiar with some seasoned gardeners or your local master gardening program for more information.
What are your gardening challenges for your area?