Big Country Master Gardeners: It's not too soon to start work on your fall veggie garden

·3 min read

Believe it or not – now is a great time to start your fall vegetable garden.

In Texas, it is possible to have two vegetable gardening seasons because of our mild and short winters. The main perk of a fall vegetable garden is that we get to garden in cooler temperatures and there are fewer garden pests that are active throughout the winter. Many beans, root vegetables and leafy green vegetables can be planted in August for fall harvesting.

As always, understanding the vegetable’s growing habits and planting according to them is the key to a successful fall garden.

There are frost-tolerant vegetables and frost-susceptible vegetables. As the name implies, frost susceptible vegetables are vegetables that will likely be killed by frost. Plan on removing frost susceptible vegetables from the garden after the first frost so that the beds can be prepared for the next season. These vegetables include squash, peppers, tomatoes, and beans.

Summer squash can be planted in the middle of August for one more round of cooking or to preserve and use all winter long. These vegetables will generally do better if started from transplants either from plants bought at a nursery or from a plant that you started from seed inside. This allows the root systems to grow enough to support active plant growth.

Frost-tolerant vegetables can survive even as temperatures fall to below 32 degrees, and they can be productive throughout the spring. These vegetables might not continuously produce if hit hard by cooler temperatures, but often they will come back into production once the temperature has warmed back to above freezing.

Some frost tolerant vegetables include beets, broccoli, kale, lettuce and spinach. This makes the fall garden ideal for making winter soups.

All of the spring vegetable garden rules apply, in that the soil needs to be properly prepared by removing the weeds and making sure that there is plenty of compost and organic matter in the garden beds.

Further, fall gardens still need plenty of sunshine, so it must be planted so that the vegetables will get approximately eight hours of sunshine even through the shorter winter days. And make sure to keep consistent soil moisture and do not over water the plants in the cooler months.

Another strategy for fall gardening is to keep your spring garden alive until the fall. Right now, my tomato plants are not producing tomatoes, but I am keeping them alive in anticipation of a great tomato crop once the whether cools off. These of course are not the fall varieties that I would normally plant this time of year, but hopefully I will still get a good harvest.

One year I had a large crop of green tomatoes in my fall garden. Because there was an impending early freeze, I harvested all of the green tomatoes and brought them inside to ripen. The process took longer inside, but they ended up being just as delicious as if they ripened in the garden. So, if you are worried about not having enough time for your fall tomatoes to mature, you might want to remember this tip. Happy gardening!

For more information, go to the AgriLife website: agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/browse/featured-solutions/gardening-landscaping/fall-vegetable-gardening-guide-for-texas.

Also, let us, the Big Country Master Gardeners, know if you have any questions! We hope that you will like our Facebook page and visit the Big Country Master Gardeners at bcmgtx.org for information and future events!

Sarah Adams is a member of the Big Country Master Gardeners.

This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: It's not too soon to start work on your fall veggie garden