Garden View: Start planning your fall vegetable garden

We are halfway through summer and the hotter the days get the less I want to work in my yard. While you may not feel like being outside right now, this is a great time to do prepping for your fall vegetable garden.

Some key factors to remember when planning your vegetable garden: select varieties for our area, plant at the right time, prepare your soil, provide adequate moisture and make sure you have plenty of sun.

Fall is the ideal time for a vegetable garden in South Texas. Traditionally, September has been the recommended time to start planting most of our cool season crops. Seems like the summer heat drags on longer and longer, so you may want to hold off until mid-September if the days are still really hot.

Unfortunately, many of the varieties that you will find at the big box stores are not well suited to our area. Local plant nurseries tend to have a better selection, but you will find the most options shopping from national seeds companies like Burpee, Twilley, Johnny’s and others. These sites have more selection and can recommend varieties suited to our growing zone.

A soil analysis can provide nutrient availability information, organic matter content and detailed salinity information, among other details of your soil. Not only does this tell you what your plant may be lacking, but it also prevents the application of unneeded fertilizers, avoiding excess nutrients from ending up in our waterways. If you have drainage issues and want to plant in ground, consider building up beds just with the soil to help improve drainage around the roots.

Unlike our landscapes, vegetable gardens need to be watered almost daily.

A drip irrigation system is recommended for the most efficient application as it will deliver the water directly to the root zone. If you have to water overhead, make sure to do so early in the morning to avoid the plants being wet for prolonged periods of time.

With our high humidity excess moisture can quickly create favorable environments for pests and disease.

While you may be tempted to plant your garden in the shade of a nice tree, remember that most fruits and vegetables need a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sunlight.

There is a great variety of vegetable resources on the Aggie Horticulture website to check out the Easy Gardening Fact Sheets for homeowners for some reliable information.

For more information on soil testing visit http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/.

Ashley Gregory is the Horticulturalist for Hidalgo County with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She can be reached at the Hidalgo County Extension Office at (956) 383-1026 or by email at ahgregory@ag.tamu.edu.