Vegetable Gardening

Tomatoes, Peppers and Cucumbers

Tips and Facts about Vegetable Gardening in Denton County:

Getting Started

Are you ready to give vegetable gardening a try?   Check out our Getting Started Guide for Denton County.

And here’s a handy printable Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening in Denton County–everything you need to know in five easy steps.

Preserving the Harvest – presentation on freezing and drying vegetables, fruits and herbs includes information on making jam and pickles.

Denton County Weather Facts

* Spring average last frost date (50% probability of no more frost):   March 18
* Spring date of 90% probability no more frost:   April 6
* Fall average first frost date (50% probability that a frost has occurred):   November 15
* Fall date of 90% probability first frost:   December 4
* In January, 2012, the USDA unveiled a new 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zones map.  All of Denton County is now within zone 8a.  The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature.
* The 30-year (1981-2010) normal precipitation for Denton County, from the National Weather Service, is shown below:

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
Normal Precip. (in.) 2.06 2.81 3.23 3.25 5.11 3.59 2.39 2.14 3.09 4.96 2.90 2.56 38.09

Texas Vegetable Gardening Resources:

Veggie gardening basics from Texas A&M and the Texas AgriLife Extension

* Easy Gardening series:  Tips on planting and caring for commonly grown vegetables.
* Texas Home Vegetable Gardening Guide
* Organic Gardening:   Information on gardening using organic methods.  See also the AgriLife Organic Vegetable Gardening page, and the AgriLife Organic Insect Management page.

Selecting a site and bed prep

* Good bed preparation is an essential step in starting a successful vegetable garden.
* Container gardening:   Short on space?   Growing vegetables in containers could be the answer.  Containers can make planting, maintaining and harvesting easier for physically challenged gardeners.
* Raised beds:   Planting in raised beds is often recommended for gardening in Denton County.
* Intensive gardening: When space is limited, intensive gardening can make the most of a small plot.
* Square foot gardening:  A form of intensive gardening, square foot gardening suggests growing plants close together in a grid pattern in small, raised beds.   The square foot gardening site is not associated with Texas A&M University.  It is maintained by the author of a book on the subject. 
* Lasagna gardening:  Lasagna gardening is a no-dig method of bed preparation.  The bed starts with sheets of wet newspaper, followed by layers (hence the name ‘lasagna’) of organic material which decomposes to form compost right in the bed.   There is also a book on this gardening method.

Plant and seed selection

* Recommended vegetable cultivars for North Central Texas from the Texas AgriLife Extension.   It’s important to select proven veggie varieties that do well in our tough Texas climate and soil.   Not all of the varieties that you may find in large garden centers are well-suited for our area.  Also, try the interactive Vegetable Variety Selector.
* Here is a list of recommended heirloom tomato varieties from William D. Adams, author of “The Texas Tomato Lover’s Handbook”:

Black Krim
Cherokee Purple
Georgia Steak
German Johnson
Golden Jubilee
Green Zebra
Homestead
Mariglobe, Marglobe Select, Marglobe Improves VFA
Moskvich
Myagous
Oregon Spring
Persimmon
Purple Calabash
Rutgers VFA
Sioux

* Specialty veggies for Texas that you might try.
* Suggested herbs to grow in Texas.ow about some herbs to go with those vegetables?

Taking care of the plants

Now that you’ve prepared the site, and selected and planted your vegetables, your plants will appreciate some TLC.

* Watering is especially important and can be a challenge in our heat.  This article discusses efficient irrigation in your landscape.  Drip irrigation is one option to consider.
* The amount and type of fertilizer required will depend on the fertility of the soil, so get a soil test prior to planting.  
Texas A&M offers soil testing at its lab in College Station.  There are many vegetable fertilizers on the market, so it helps to understand fertilizers and their uses before you shop.
* Weed control can be an issue in a vegetable garden.  Manually pulling weeds or using a hoe may be all you need.   Mulching the garden or planting the vegetable plants close together may also help.   If you choose to use an herbicide, be sure to read the label and use it only according to directions and on varieties that are listed on the label.
* Mulching  is a great way to reduce water needs and help control weeds and disease.

How do you know when it’s time to harvest your bounty?  Here are some tips for harvesting and handling vegetables from the Texas AgriLife Extension.

Solving Problems

Sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned.   If you notice that your plants don’t look healthy or there are bugs or other critters feasting on your crops, here are some tips:

* Tomato problem solver
* Cucurbit (squash, melons and cucumbers) problem solver
* Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the recommended method of dealing with insect pests in the garden.
* Tips for disease control
* Plant covers:  one option for plant protection

Remember:  if you choose to use chemicals to solve problems, please follow label instructions exactly.

Fall Gardening

Spring isn’t the only time to plant vegetables in North Texas.   Check out the Fall Gardening Guide and 10 Commandments of fall gardening success for tips.

Fun stuff

* Our Vegetable Travelers: This site has some interesting historical facts about the cultivation and use of vegetables that are familiar to us today.
* Building a greenhouse:  Instructions and a demonstration of building a greenhouse.

Some other useful links

* Kitchen Garden Planner from Gardener’s Supply Company has suggestions, tools and information for designing your vegetable and herb garden
* Texas Fruit and Nut Resources from the Texas AgriLife Extension
* Vegetable Crop Guides from the Texas AgriLife Extension.  Detailed information about vegetable crops.
* Producing, Preparing, and Processing Vegetables for Health from the Texas AgriLife Extension.  Tips for growing, nutrition information and recipes.

Questions?

Our Frequently Asked Questions list may have the answer.   If not, send a request to our Help Desk at master.gardener@dentoncounty.com, or call the Help Desk at 940-349-2892.