Cool season gardening

Cool Season Gardening

  • Frost- tolerant vegetables include beet, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, chard, collard, garlic, kale, lettuce, mustard, onion, parsley, spinach, and turnip.

  • Frost- susceptible vegetables include bean, cantaloupe, corn, cucumber, eggplant, okra, pea, peppers, Irish potato, sweet potato, squash, tomato, and watermelon.

  • Work compost and slow release fertilizer into the top of the beds

  • Water 1-2” a week. Deep watering is better than light watering

  • Light watering leads to poor root development

  • Proper plant spacing is required for optimal growth

  • If using transplants- purchase the largest ones you can find.  

Fall Gardening is my favorite time of year to garden.  Cooler temperatures allow you to stay outside longer without that Texas sun beating down on you. Here we are able to grow many of the same crops that are usually reserved for spring gardening in the fall.  We can grow crops such as- beans, beets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, peas, potatoes, radish, spinach, and turnips.

Some of the fall crops are able to withstand a light freeze while others are damaged by a frost. Plan and plant accordingly by grouping and planting similar types together.  

   There is no need to build an entirely new garden.  With a little bit of work, you can revitalize the soil, replacing the depleted minerals. The same plot where your spring and summer garden was located will work just fine. If you are building your first garden, then you will want to make sure you receive full sun which is around 8 hours of direct sunlight.

   If using the same location as the previous season garden, you are going to want to remove any and all plant material that may remain from the prior season.  This includes old plants, weeds, and grasses that may have crept in. Doing so will give you a clear pallet to begin your fall garden.

Next, I recommend having the soil analyzed through a soil test.  This will give a concrete answer on what is missing from the soil, what needs to be reapplied and at what ratio.  It is hard to have a high yielding, efficient garden with minimal setbacks without a soil test. If you decide against having the soil analyzed then work 1-2” of sound, sifted, fungal-based compost back into the top layer of the beds.  Apply an organic, slow-release fertilizer to the soil and thoroughly water. The compost will help fix any immediate deficiencies, and the slow release fertilizer will help the crops begin and maintain a healthy growth cycle.

Due to the cooler temperatures, the germination rate of seeds is decreased.  This is one reason why it is vital to start most of the fall crops listed above inside and transplant them to the garden.  That means you will need to start some of these crops at the end of the summer. During the times when it is extremely hot, the starts will need to be watered at least twice a day.  

If you do not have the necessary tools to start seeds than make sure you purchase transplants from a reputable nursery.  Purchase the largest transplants you find. These will usually have a stronger root system which should lead to healthier plants that produce faster.  

Plant spacing is just as crucial with fall vegetables as with other seasons.  Improper spacing will lead to crowded plants which are more susceptible to pest and disease.  Also, irregular spacing will hinder the growth of the crops, stopping them from reaching their full potential.  

Proper watering is also key to production. Improper watering techniques can lead to problems such as an increase in disease, reduced yield, and poor quality end product.  Fall temperatures alleviate one of the many challenges of gardening in Texas, the heat. With the cooler temperatures watering is done as often as in the spring or summer.  Watering once a week is sufficient. Remember when watering, do not water lightly every day, this can lead to poor root development. Instead, water deeply enough to wet the top 6” of the soil.  

Each crop will have a different maturity date. Record your planting/ seeding date and use this to calculate your harvest window. Harvesting at the inopportune times negatively affects taste and available nutrients in the crops.  Some root crops such as carrots can be stored where they are grown, in the ground, and harvested whenever ready to eat.

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