Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Nearly everything in Texas is determined by the weather and that goes for your fall vegetable garden. You’ll see on our Vegetable Planting Guide that, on average, our first freeze of the season doesn’t occur until November 21. However, that’s just an average. Some years it will happen sooner, and other winters may never experience a freeze at all. In any case, freezing weather will mean the end to harvesting many crops. Other edibles like the chilly weather and will happily produce for you through the entire winter and into the following spring.
This fall gardening guide will help you figure out what you can accomplish before that first freeze hits, as well as what will keep on going through the cold weather. We’ll cover what to plant, when to plant it and how to plant it. For more information, check out our library of Grow Guides for details on how to raise and harvest specific crops.
What To Grow
Basically there are two categories of vegetables: ones that “make fruit” (like tomatoes) and ones that make foliage or roots (like lettuce and carrots). Generally, it takes much longer to grow fruit than it does to put on more foliage so usually these need more time to mature and produce before the weather forces them to stop.
Head spinner: In bontany, the term “fruit” is one of many scientific terms for an edible plant part, but vegetable is not a scientific term and is rooted instead in culinary and cultural tradition.
Another key consideration is the size of the edible. Larger fruits take longer to mature than small ones. For example, a Juliet tomato reaches maturity faster (about 60 days to harvest) than a beefsteak tomato (75 to 80 days to harvest), so more good weather days are required for the beefsteak.
Warm Weather Veggies
Tomatoes and peppers are probably the most popular foods to grow. Both of these need warm weather up to the day of harvest and will quickly die when a freeze arrives. Other popular fall choices that depend on warm weather are:
Since our winters are relatively mild and our ground never freezes, root vegetables generally do well through late fall and winter. Radishes and turnips, for example, can be planted all the way into November and harvested during the winter.
Many herbs and green leafy vegetables like cilantro, swiss chard, lettuce and spinach, and “cole” crops, including broccoli and cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, all prefer cool days. The longer the cool season lasts, the larger your bounty will be.
Let’s Get Started!
Once you’ve decided what to plant, it’s time to work out a plan. We’re not talking about anything complicated. You just need to figure out where you’re going to put your plants. You can choose to dedicate a specific area, or you can mix your vegetables in with your shrubs and flowers. Whichever way you go, you’ll need to make sure your plants get plenty of sun. Even winter veggies need adequate sunlight.
Seeds or Starts?
Some plants are super easy to start from seed, while others need a lot of TLC. If you’re willing to start fragile seeds indoors and then transplant them into the ground or into a larger container later in the growing season, then you may prefer to start more cranky plants from seeds. On the other hand, you can visit Marshall Grain and choose from our high quality offerings.
Cranky plants include:
Other cold weather plants are quite easy to start from seed and can be placed directly in the ground without much fuss. These include:
Note: At Marshall Grain, we recommend that you soak seeds over night in Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed to help jump start seed germination and root development.
Leave Room To Grow
One rookie mistake many gardeners make is to plant things too close together so that they crowd each other out. The result is that your plants end up being stunted and produce less because their roots are competing with each other for water and nutrients.
Avoid this by following the spacing guidelines for the food crops you intend to plant.
Prepare The Spot
Maximize your chances of success by enriching the soil with fresh compost. Marshall Grain offers several excellent all-organic composts, including cotton burr compost and Black Kow composted cow manure. It’s best to work these products into the soil, rather than merely spreading it on top. If existing plants make this difficult, try to work around them, or poke some holes into the ground to help the compost reach further down.
Note: Never use raw (uncomposted) manure. The high ammonia levels will burn your plants.
Sowing and Planting
As mentioned above, if you are starting from seed, it’s a good idea to soak your seeds overnight in a dilution of Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed. If you are working with starter plants, we recommend that you use our Organic Planting Recipe. This will fight off transplant shock and stimulate root development. Roots are the foundation of your plant. Without a healthy root system to take up nutrients from the soil, your plants will fail.
Feeding and Nurturing
Remember too that plants need to eat regularly, just like people. The nutrients you worked into the soil at planting time get used up quickly as the plant grows. You need to replenish those nutrients by fertilizing them often with a good quality organic vegetable fertilizer such as Soil Mender’s Yum Yum Mix, or Rabbit Hill Farm Buds and Blooms.
Unless you really want to harvest all your vegetables at the same time (e.g., for canning and preserving), you’ll want to practice succession planting. This simply means putting in a few plants at a time every week or two to ensure a longer and more constant harvesting season.
Marshall Grain is here to help you be a more successful gardener, so don’t be shy about asking us for help! Come in the store and talk with our professionals for free advice on all your organic gardening challenges.
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