Texas Living

Enjoy the Bounty of Fall Gardens

By Leslie F. Halleck 8.29.16

The intense heat of Texas summers keeps many gardeners indoors, but the fall garden offers a bounty we can all embrace.

In fact, fall gardens are typically much more productive and easier to maintain than summer gardens, as night temperatures cool and rain comes back into the forecast. You’ll find you won’t have to water your fall and winter vegetable garden nearly as much, and fall offers up a bigger palette of edibles you can plant and enjoy.

Prepare the soil

As you transition between seasons, you’ll need to refresh your garden soil to give your fall crops their best chance at success. Clear away any weeds and expired summer crops and add them to the compost pile. Work new compost into the beds and add a vegetable fertilizer before you plant. Products such as expanded shale can improve drainage in heavier soils. Spread mulch on all plantings to insulate soil and conserve water.

Know your herbs

Fall is the perfect time to plant cool-season herbs such as chamomile, chervil, chives, cilantro, comfrey, dill, fennel, fenugreek, lemon balm, parsley, and more. These wonderful culinary herbs will continue growing for you all the way through winter and the following spring. Perennial herbs such as rosemary, oregano, garlic chives, and mint also can be planted now. Harvest them regularly to encourage new growth and feed them monthly with an herb fertilizer.

Pick some veggies

September and October are prime planting times for many vegetable varieties. English and edible pod peas should be direct seeded in early September. Transplants of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, collards, and kohlrabi can be planted in mid-September through early November. Carrots, turnips, radishes, beets, lettuce, spinach, kale, and other greens can be direct seeded into the garden throughout fall. You can also plant transplants of all these crops through about mid-November, although root crops do best when direct seeded.

Attack of the cloves

October is the optimal time for Texans to plant garlic cloves. You can purchase garlic for planting at your local garden center, where you’ll find the best varieties for your area. Split the bulb into individual cloves, then plant about 1 – 2 inches deep and about 3 – 6 inches apart. Garlic cloves must be planted in the fall in order to receive the chilling they need to form bulbs the following spring.

Have a berry good time

Did you know that fall and winter are the best times to plant your fruit trees and berries? By planting in the fall when the weather is mild, you’ll give these plants plenty of time to establish before the onset of next summer’s heat. Be sure to select fruit trees that correspond with the number of chilling hours you receive in your area of Texas. When it comes to berries, blackberries are probably the easiest to grow, followed by strawberries, raspberries, and grapes — all of which perennialize in most parts of Texas.

As always, with edibles you’ll need to grow where the sun goes. Most edible crops require a full sun location, which means a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight per day. Plants that produce harvestable fruits and flowers, such as fruit trees, tomatoes, and broccoli, are among those needing a full sun location. Leafy greens and herbs, such as lettuce, spinach, mint, dill, and cilantro can tolerate some shade during the day. If you have a spot that receives less sunlight, be sure to situate your leafy crops in that area.

Don’t put the gardening tools in the garage when the calendar turns to fall. You’ll miss out on the fun and the flavor.

© 2017 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance