Garden Thyme: Planning a Fall Garden in Texas
Whether you are new to gardening or an avid gardener, there are several advantages to planting a fall garden in Texas. Gardening is an excellent hobby with health benefits such as exercise and getting out into the sunshine, apart from the simple satisfaction that growing your own food and other plants can bring.
While gardening in the spring and summer is generally optimal, it can be an extra sweaty and uncomfortable endeavor in the extreme heat and dryness of a Texas summer. However, since fall time in Texas is relatively milder, some people prefer this time of year to plant a garden. When planting a fall garden in Texas you might enjoy:
- Fewer bugs as the weather cools
- Less frequent watering in less extreme heat
- Leafy greens are slower to overheat/fry from too much sun
- As days get shorter many vegetable crops store more sugar and have better flavor than spring-grown crops
For these reasons and more, you might be itching to try your hand at gardening this season. However, if you’re new to gardening in the fall, there are some differences from gardening in the spring and summer. Follow along with this guide for some helpful tips for planning a fall garden in Texas!
- Choose what to plant in your fall garden in Texas
- Create a layout plan
- Prepare the soil
- Planting your fall garden in Texas
- Watering and care for your fall garden in Texas
1. Choose what to plant in your fall garden in Texas
The first thing you need to do when planning a fall garden in Texas is to decide which vegetables you want to plant. Although the fall and winter months are more temperate in Texas than elsewhere in the U.S., it can still get chilly. Therefore, there are some plants and veggies that are simply more challenging to grow in the fall, while others are able to thrive.
For instance, plants producing edible vegetable parts such as leaves, tubers, and roots are excellent for a fall garden in Texas. However, plants that require flowers to bloom to bear fruit will not do well in the chilly air. An exception here might surprisingly be tomatoes if conditions are right. Here are some common veggies that grow well in cooler temperatures:
- Brussels sprouts
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- And more!
When it comes to choosing which cool weather veggies to grow in your fall garden, simply choose what you like and will actually eat. Even though turnips do well in the cold, there’s no point in growing turnips if no one in your family likes to eat them!
2. Create a layout plan
Once you’ve chosen which vegetables you want to grow in your fall garden in Texas, you can plan your layout. You can plan your garden layout the old-fashioned way simply with a pencil and some graft paper. However, there are several online apps and resources you can use to help plan your layout if that’s more your style. Especially if you are new to gardening, using an app can be also helpful with extra tips and guidance.
3. Prepare the soil
Now that you’ve chosen your veggies to plant and have your garden laid out, it’s time to start digging! Preparing your soil before you plant is crucial for a fall garden in Texas. Making sure soil conditions are optimal and nutritionally fortified will help your plants grow in the colder weather.
Begin by breaking up the soil several inches, at least 3 to 6 inches, to allow room for the plants to take root and grow. Fortify this soil by mixing it with nutritionally dense compost. If you don’t actively compost, you might substitute with bags of soilless potting mix.
You might also want to add fertilizer to further enrich your soil. Just make sure to research the best types of fertilizer to use and the best methods, depending on whether that soil has been previously fertilized in a spring garden or not.
Lastly, you should consider mulching with natural materials such as leaves, grass cuttings, or straw. Fall weather in Texas can still be relatively warm, and mulching will help trap moisture around plant roots.
4. Planting your fall garden in Texas
Now it’s finally time to plant! When planting a fall garden in Texas, you want to make sure you get your seeds in the ground well before the first freeze. Take this into consideration depending on which region of Texas you live in. Generally, you want to get your seeds planted in September through early November.
Another factor to consider is whether to start with a seed or use a transplant. Some vegetables grow best when started from a seed, while others fare better in cold weather when given a head start as a transplant. Starting as a transplant is especially important if you try to grow a tomato plant in your fall garden. You can grow your own transplants ahead of time indoors or in a greenhouse, or you can simply purchase them from a nursery.
5. Watering and care for your fall garden in Texas
Congratulations, you now have a fall garden in Texas! Now you just need to make sure you provide it with proper care and water to produce a harvest of home-grown fall veggies.
Take special care to make sure you are giving your plants the proper amount of water. Both overwatering and underwatering your garden can be detrimental to the health of your plants. Also, knowing when to water your garden is just as important as how much. You can determine when to water your garden by looking at the soil, not the actual plant. If the soil is still moist an inch deep, you can wait. If the soil is dry an inch deep, it’s time to water. Generally, an inch or two of water given once a week should be enough. However, check the soil regularly and water accordingly depending on your current climate.
Lastly, you might run into extremely cold temperatures and occasional freezes as the season progresses. Some vegetable plants are more frost-tolerant than others. If you suspect a frost or a freeze, cover your plants with a breathable cloth overnight to protect them. You could use linens such as old sheets, pillowcases, or table cloths – whatever you have on hand. You can remove them when the temperatures rise above freezing again. For less stable cold-weather plants, you might want to move them inside a garage or your house to further protect them. For this reason, it might be best to grow plants such as tomatoes in containers to make them easier to transport and protect in the cold if needed.