Garden View: Vegetable varieties for spring

We still have two more months before its officially spring, but no one told the plants because they have been blooming like they’ve never heard of winter.

The mild temperatures are important to note, especially if you are planning a spring vegetable garden. We have some general windows in which we recommend to plant different crops throughout the year and it seems like every year those windows change a little bit. Typically, the cutoff date to plant many of our leafy green crops is mid-February.

However, according to the National Weather Service our average temperatures for January were about 7 degrees warmer than our historic norm. Which means at this point I would avoid planting any more leafy greens.

Things you can start planting in February would be beans, cantaloupe, honey dew, watermelon, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, squash and tomatoes.

According to our local Extension Vegetable Specialist, Dr. Juan Anciso, there are six general guidelines for a successful vegetable garden:

>> Select the recommended varieties

>> Plant at the right time >> Prepare your soil >> Control weeds, disease and pests

>> Have adequate soil moisture

>> Harvest at the right time If you are thinking of planting something in the legume family green beans, pinto/black beans, and southern peas are the easiest to grow in our area. Texas Gardener recently published “20 in 20: Outstanding Vegetable Varieties to Try in 2020” and some of their suggestions included: ‘Big Boy’ Southern pea — a compact heirloom variety that performs well anywhere in Texas, and ‘Red Noodle’ yardlong bean — a close cousin to Southern peas, these are best harvested around 12-15 inches and are great in stir fry.

Melons can be a little more challenging; keep in mind that you will need plenty of room for your vines to spread out and the young, tender vines are sensitive to our strong winds. Consider some type of wind break to protect the vines early on.

Sugar baby is a long-standing watermelon variety that has performed well here.

The cucurbit family is another with some easy options for our spring garden; cucumbers and both summer and winter squash are good choices.

For slicing cucumbers, General Lee is a wellknown variety and for pickling Max Pack has the broadest diseases resistance. ‘Bossa Nova’ zucchini was one of the selections from the 20 to try in 2020 and was selected for its excellent taste and texture, and it’s fast growth and high yield. No garden is complete without tomatoes; Dr. Anciso recommends Roma, cherry and grape varieties for our area.

Our biggest issue with tomatoes is the yellow leaf curling virus which is transmitted by white fly. Look for varieties that have resistance to this disease and keep your eye peeled for those white flies.

Eggplant is tropical so it does well here; some suggested varieties for Texas include Black Bell and Black Magic. Ichibon and Tycoon are Orientaltype varieties that perform well in Texas.

For more detailed information on these crops please visit Aggie Horticulture; (aggiehorticultuer.tamu.edu) under the vegetable resources section you will find a wealth of information, including Easy Gardening Fact Sheets for homeowners.

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.