The Deets for your Fall Garden
Before I finally moved back into TAMU-Commerce, I recognized at my previous nursery job that many individuals were looking for tomatoes to start or add to their gardens...in July. Unfortunately for them, it is probably one of the most harmful times in Texas to plant gardens (due to the harsh sun and EXTREME heat). Tomatoes will produce fruit, but it will reduce its production at temperatures reaching over 95 degrees Fahrenheit (which in Texas, is hard to maintain below that temperature within June and July). I have then recommended individuals to start their gardens in the August/September, which some were actually surprised by when I mentioned a fall garden. Usually, everyone plants tomatoes, jalapeños, and other popular vegetables in February-April (depending on the crop), but you can also start planting in August and September too. When it comes to a fall garden, it can actually be more beneficial and can bring better production due to the cooler temperatures within the fall. On the "Texas Master Gardener" website, I have found an article called "Denton County Master Gardener Association", which stated why a fall garden is actually better to plant. The points made included:
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 stores more sugar and have better flavor than spring-grown crops
I decided to hop on and watch a seminar provided by the TAMU Agrilife System and Agrilife Water University that discussed how to prepare and start fall gardens, which gave me some insight on how to plant and keep up with my own. That is where I thought, "Why not share my notes to the public?"....so with that, here are some tips that will help you get ready for that wonderful garden this upcoming fall:
For Gardens, make sure you are getting FULL SUN (6-7 hours a day). HOWEVER, be careful with what is surrounding the area because tall trees or houses can shade over the garden area and block the sun from getting to the plants (be sure to observe carefully).
Find somewhere you can clearly and easily examine your garden to identify plant issues, see if they need irrigation/fertilizer, and detect if the harvest is ready before something else catches it before you.
Make sure you have access to water (do not place it in an area that will not have hose access nor some sort of irrigation access). This can be difficult if you do not have irrigation access due to plants needing a lot of water for fruit production.
Have space to get around your plants and yard so you can get to plants that need attention or that are harvest-ready.
If you are a first-timer, start small before going too big.
If you want to start with growing in the containers, it is great for starting out with! You can move it around to prevent overwatering when it rains, or if there are cooler nights, you can bring containers in to prevent them from freezing.
How will you get the water to the garden? Rain, hose, drip irrigation? Determine how you will get that water to the garden and have it ready before you plant your seeds/starters.
Not sure if you are over/under watering? You can get a moisture meter to use for your garden! It will let you know how moist/dry the soil is (which is extremely helpful for beginners).
Water slowly for your soil to absorb the water better and to prevent overwatering/puddles.
Aim your water hose/system at the root of the plant to prevent mildew leaves.
If you decide to use drip irrigation, it helps lower water bills and will hit the root system better, but the system will need to be replaced more often than a hose.
Soil prep is KEY to a successful garden
Compost is highly recommended for gardens due to the nutrients it provides, its water retention, and it is easy to make with your own resources (materials you can use to your right). Just add 3 inches of compost to your garden and mix it into the surface of your soil.
Expanded Shale: This product is GREAT for holding water and helps create "fluffy" soil (which is great for your plants to get some airflow). However, it is costly but does not need to be replaced as often.
Gypsum: Great source of Calcium and Sulfur for your gardens, however, it can be overused (only use if you over-applied minerals and salts).
Mulch: Can retain water well, prevents weeds, regulates temperatures, and can add density to your garden. the seminar recommended that you use crushed leaves, bark, or hardwood.
Need to know what you need in your soil? Send in a sample to Agrilife System or test it on your home with a soil test kit. You can purchase these online or at your local nursery store.)
Have your list of vegetables to pick out and measure the spacing in your garden to determine if it fits in your size properly.
Raised Beds: Best for areas with poor soils, retaining water and nutrients better, and for individuals who cannot bend over easily. (be careful using cinder blocks because it can create fly ash.)
Traditional Rows (Ridges): recommended to use the double reach method (where the whole area is 2x the length of your arm)
Focal Point/Accent: Use your garden either as a main attraction OR even hidden in the back of your house. (be careful with Pinterest ideas...use proper spacing.)
Trellis/Vertical Gardens: Some say this helps with harvesting and can be beneficial for those with physical concerns that restrict them from bending over and squatting down. It can prevent some animals from eating your harvest as well!
Plants for this Season:
Herbs (Basil, Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Lavender)
Starting from the seed:
It is recommended to start seed indoors or in a greenhouse to promote stronger growth due to more control of temperature and specific factors (sun, water, bugs, etc.).
Always, always, ALWAYS read the packets of the seeds. The spacing, time to plant, and instructions are always there to guide you to properly where the plant can grow to its fullest potential.
Have a question? Use your resources! Tamu Agrilife and Agrilife Water University are always available to help (there is a TAMU Planting guide).
Till vs No-Till: If you till, you could potentially disrupt the decomposer's environment, bring up underground weeds, break soil structure. It is recommended to NOT till, but if you wanted to smother weeds, use cardboard (it can also add moisture in the soil)!
No blooms, no fruit
Have a nutrient deficiency or have uncommon coloration in your leaves/plant? Contact TAMU Agrilife system OR use the link I have attached below to get a better idea on what the problem may be and how to solve it!
Perennial Plants: Asparagus, artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, onion/garlic chives, sorrel
Shade Tolerant Plants: Arugula, Asian greens, Chard, Chives, Cilantro, Kale, Lettuce, Mesclun, Mustard, Beets, Carrots, Radishes, Spinach
For max flavor, harvest the day of canning, eating, or freezing
Edible Flowers (for fun, decorations, or even to actually eat):
Roses (edible or fragrant)
*Research before eating ANYTHING you are unfamiliar with! You can also see which flowers are best for specific dishes, teas, etc.
For more information or to ask questions about your garden, do not hesitate to email the TAMU Agrilife system for extra detailed information! This was just from a seminar I took notes over called "Grow Your Own Vegetables (Fall)" presented by the AgriLife Water University. Links and information will be provided below.
Due to classes starting up and my year of involvement and service planning, I will potentially not be able to post blogs weekly. HOWEVER, stay posted on my social media to see when blogs are posted and which events I am involved with! Once again, thank you SO MUCH for y'all's continuous support and good luck with your fall gardens! Go Local!
Sources and Links
Aggie Horticulture: https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/
Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab: https://plantclinic.tamu.edu/
TAMU Agrilife Extension: https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/
Planning a Fall Vegetable Garden: https://dcmga.com/north-texas-gardening/vegetable-gardening/planning-a-fall-vegetable-garden/
Guide to Symptoms of Plant Nutrient Deficiencies: https://extension.arizona.edu/sites/extension.arizona.edu/files/pubs/az1106.pdf