The fall garden produces the biggest variety of vegetables and if you have not already started planting, now is the time before it gets too late.
Check seed catalogs for new varieties that perform well under south Texas heat, in USDA Hardiness Zone 9b, or hit the local stores for seed.
Additionally, decide what your family eats. Don’t plant six rows of beets if you are the only one who eats beets! Instead, plant a small amount of beets every two weeks, so that you can enjoy beets from November through April.
Locate your garden in the sun. Vegetables, especially those producing a fruit, or a root crop, need a minimum of 6 hours a day of sunlight. A partly shaded area can support lettuce and some herbs. The shady spots will also support flowers that feed the pollinators and beneficial insects which can help to improve pollination and reduce unwanted pests.
Also, space your plants based on their mature size. To reach full potential, the plants will need space to grow and not be crowded by each other. If you planted seeds you can always thin them out once they germinate. Proper spacing allows for good air flow reducing issues with fungal diseases.
Vegetables require good drainage. Build raised beds with landscape timbers, cedar, or cement blocks; or, till the native soil. Either way, planting beds should be a minimum of 8 to 12 inches higher than the surrounding soil and 3 to 4 feet wide. Build beds you can reach into the center to harvest. Anything wider is not practical. Pathways need to accommodate tools and carts.
Choose the line-up carefully. Our climate allows for a long harvest season and planting most crops every two weeks will extend your harvest. If space is an issue, plant varieties you can trellis, like cucumbers, peas, and beans. If you’re interested in canning some of your vegetables, plant those varieties in abundance.
For a vegetable planting schedule, go to https://hidalgo.agrilife.org, click on “Gardening”, then “Vegetable Planting Guide.”
Plant some insurance. Some years the weather does not cooperate with our plans. So plant favorite vegetables in more than one place. For tomatoes, purchase transplants of varieties that have a good track record and plant them on both sides of the house, or the front flower bed. Cherry and grape varieties tend to do better here and for larger, beefsteak type tomatoes Tycoon is a good variety. One of the biggest challenges with tomatoes in our area is the yellow leaf curling virus that is transmitted by white flies and tycoon does have some resistance to this virus.
Rotate your crops. Plan everything on a three season rotation and write it down. Insects and diseases never take a nap in south Texas, so add lots of compost for healthy soils and do not plant the same crop family in the same place. Plant squash where you planted tomato last season and next season plant crowder peas or beans; then follow with beets or carrots. You reduce disease problems by rotating. Want to learn more? You can also go to https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and select Vegetable Resources to find a fact sheet on every kind of vegetable with plenty of information on each one.
Ashley Gregory is the Horticulturalist for Hidalgo County with Texas A& M AgriLife Extension Service.