Gardening in Texas: Part 10 – Growing Your Cold Season Vegetable Patch
By Ebony Porter, October 24, 2016, Green
Welcome to Gardening In Texas from Bounce Energy! We hope this series will steer you in the direction of planting a green Texas garden with a eco-friendly lifestyle in mind. We’ll discuss shaping a garden that uses less water, grows in harmony with animal and insect life in the area, and provides you with more than just a pretty view.
This time of year in Texas is the prime season to start your vegetable gardens for the late fall and winter months. While we don’t have anything approximating a long winter in most of this state (hence, the reason I titled this post “cold season vegetable patch”), the cooler overnight temperatures provide optimal growing conditions for rich greens and other nutritious vegetables – straight out your back door!
Unlike succulents and Texas natives, growing vegetables will require that you pay active attention to soil maintenance and adequate watering. But with enough sunshine and attendance, you’ll have continuous harvests of organic nutrition all winter long.
If you’re new to growing vegetables, don’t be afraid. Use these six tips to get started, and you’ll be on your way to growing food in no time. Loading up on your vegetable intake is also crucial this time of year as a way to ward off colds and other bugs that wear down our immune systems.
1) Select Your Location
The cardinal rule of growing vegetables is the need for six or more hours of direct sunlight each day. With the shifting of the sun during the fall and winter months, be sure and select a location on your property that will receive this amount of sunshine.
2) Prepare the Beds
A raised bed is the ideal place to grow veggies since it’s easier to have at least 6 inches of fertile, well draining soil for growth. But if you don’t have raised beds, you can amend an area of your garden to grow a few winter veggies by adding composted manure, straw, extra soil, and/or organic compost before you begin planting.
I recently got rid of my raised beds and have instead planted kale, lettuce, and other fresh herbs throughout my flower beds. They are growing wonderfully well, despite not having their own little exclusive place.
3) Vertical Gardening
Beans and peas are easy growers, so growing beans is one way to grow vegetables where you don’t have a lot of horizontal space. You’ll need to install a trellis in your garden, or along the edge or middle of your bed for the beans to grow upward. This is also important so that the bean doesn’t sit on the ground rotting when it reaches full maturity. Having it on a trellis allows it to air out and breathe.
4) Selecting Your Crop
It’s a good idea if you have limited space, but big dreams, to draw out your garden before you plant it. For example, you can’t grow pumpkins in a small space. They need room to sprawl and stretch.
Do your research and plan ahead. Even a loose sketch on a piece of paper will allow you to begin visualizing how your crop will take form.
5) Seed Vs. Seedlings
Many growers prefer to start their veggie beds with seedlings, so they can monitor their progress by seeing how the leaves are responding to water and sun, This also lets them feel a little more accomplished at the start as opposed to patiently waiting for seed to shoot.
If you do select seedlings, make sure they are organic. Many nurseries will sell seedlings that are unmarked, and while it’s great to grow them to maturity avoiding the use of pesticides, there’s no guaranteeing the seed wasn’t a GMO variety. When you buy an organic seedling, you can be sure it’s a non-GMO varietal.
That being said, growing from seed is my choice when it comes to growing food. For one, I can source organic heirloom varieties from online, and starting them in my own soil under my own watch allows me to have full control of the plant from inception to harvest. Growing from seed is also far more cost effective, and if you’re a member of a garden club, perhaps you can share your plethora of seedlings with other growers and vice versa.
I also feel that growing from seed produces a stronger plant overall. Lastly, I enjoy the process, and being patient while my garden slowly comes to life. It’s another level of satisfaction growing it from such a small seed into a jungle of edible goodness.
6) What to Grow?
In Texas, we are in zones 9 and 10. Read the labels on seedlings and backs of seeds to discover what the seed or plant needs, and whether or not it will grow here. Cool weather crops to consider are lettuce, spinach, kale, rainbow chard, parsley, potatoes, carrots, turnip greens, mustard greens, arugula, sugar snap peas, cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli.
Are you a lover of cool winter Texas crops? Share with our readers what your favorite crops are, as well as your tips if we didn’t include them!