Too hot to stay outside in the garden very long? Even inveterate North Texas gardeners want to hide indoors from the intense and prolonged summer heat. However, we do not stop thinking about our vegetable garden. So, what gardening activity can you do in July? How about planning your fall vegetable garden?
Growing your favorite vegetables in the fall offers several advantages over spring vegetable gardening including:
- Fewer bugs as the weather cools
- Less frequent damaging weather
- Leafy greens are slower to bolt from the heat
- As days get shorter many vegetable crops store more sugar and have better flavor than spring-grown crops
Create a plan
You can plan a garden layout using one of several online applications or with pencil and graft paper while sitting in air-conditioned comfort. The University of Illinois Extension Services offers an evaluation of several online gardening and garden planning applications for you to check out.
To match plants to your space, measure the size of the area and note the availability of sunlight—remembering that sun angles change in fall and winter and days become shorter. Consider the types of plants you want to grow, the sun light and space requirements of those plants and the size of the gardening area. Layout the blank garden space for your plan.
Decide what to plant
If this is your first fall vegetable garden, choose plants that produce edible roots, tubers and leaves. Plants that need flowers to produce fruit can be challenging to grow successfully in cooler weather, but chances of success with tomatoes and peppers, for example, improve by choosing the right variety and planting during the optimum times.
Select vegetables you will eat. Yes, you can grow Brussels sprouts in North Texas. But, if no one in your family will eat them, you may not want to use up space. If you still want to sneak in some healthy Brussels sprouts, consider serving it a new way such as roasting, stir-frying with other vegetables or sprinkling roasted sprouts with parmesan cheese or dried cranberries.
In a fall vegetable garden, you can grow pole or bush beans, chard, lettuce, spinach, and many other family favorites. See Resources below for websites to help select the best varieties to grow in North Texas. And, don’t forget herbs. Cool-season herbs including parsley, dill, cilantro, sage and thyme can be planted in the fall. They will tolerate frost and even a light freeze adding flavor to your cooking well into winter.
When to plant
Some vegetables are best started from seed while others prefer a head start with transplants. If you are itching to get your fingers into the soil and work with plants even in the summer, consider starting some plants indoors. Vegetables that do best when added as transplants include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, leeks, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. Maturing from seed to transplant worthy seedlings usually takes about 6 weeks. However, read the seed package for recommendations on timing or size for specific vegetables. Texas A&M AgriLife Research Extension recommends the following times for planting a fall vegetable garden: