Like so many times in the past, you may be telling yourself “this is the year I’m going to have a terrific vegetable garden”. North Texas soil and climate can put some obstacles in your way when it comes to vegetable gardening, but if you follow these tips you should be well on your way to some tasty eatin’.
Helpful Tips for Vegetable Gardening
Choose a sunny spot
There’s no way around it – vegetables need lots of sun. And “lots” can be translated into at least four hours of sunshine. Six+ would be better.
Good drainage is vital
A vegetable garden will not flourish in a waterlogged site. Check the elevation of the spot you have chosen to ensure that water will not back up and accumulate. Roots need to have dry time between watering so they do not rot. If possible, build yourself raised beds. All you need is about 6 inches in height and you will eliminate drainage issues.
Many new gardeners are too eager to harvest a huge crop and they over burden themselves. If you can’t keep up with ongoing maintenance, your crops won’t thrive. Pick your favorite 2-3 veggies and start with those. Next year you can expand once you know your limitations and energy level.
Soil prep is vital
Good soil will be the key to your successful vegetable gardening. Turn over or till your spot to at least six inches deep. Then you need to work in a good amount of organic matter. This can be compost, manure products, or a bagged soil amendment that has been developed to enrich North Texas soil. Every season you will need to add more organic matter in the beds.
Plant at the appropriate time for each crop
Yes, different vegetables grow better in certain weather conditions. Each crop will have a 2 or 3 week window in which it should go into the ground. If you plant too early certain veggies will not survive cool weather. But others need a cool climate to thrive. This is where you will need to do a bit of research and think through your planting schedule.
Here are some of the main crops and their timing for vegetable gardening in North Texas:
- Late January: English peas, asparagus (perennial), onions.
- Mid-February: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Irish potatoes.
- Late February – Early March: leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, radishes, carrots, turnips, beets.
- Late March – Very early April: beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, cucumbers.
- Mid-April – Early May: sweet potatoes, okra, southern peas.
Chose vibrant varieties for each crop
If you go to the Texas A&M website you will find lists of hybrids that do well in the North Texas climate. They have been chosen for productivity, flavor, pest resistance and yield. Many of the charming heirloom vegetables, especially tomatoes, are poor producers in our conditions.
Veggies need regular care
New plantings should be checked daily. The first week or two in the ground they need to be watered regularly – a deep watering, not a sprinkle. Plants that are allowed to wilt will have altered flavor. You will need to keep an eye out for pests and keep weeds eliminated. North Texas soil is typically lacking in nitrogen which is an important nutrient. A soil test can tell you if adding nitrogen rich plant food is necessary.
Harvest at the peak of maturity
Maturity for many veggies can be before full size is reached. This is true for cucumbers, okra, lettuce, green beans and summer squash. Leaving produce on the plant too long will diminish the flavor. Get familiar with harvest timing for each crop you plant.
Extend your harvest with fall crops
Many fall vegetable gardens are often more prolific than spring efforts. The produce will come to maturity when hot weather, insects and drought aren’t so dramatic. The only drawback is that you will be doing your planting in the heat of late summer. Give it a try and you should be very pleased with the results.
If you follow these basic vegetable gardening guidelines for North Texas you should be successful in your efforts. And there is nothing more rewarding than biting into a tasty home grown tomato or impressing friends with the bountiful results of your labor.