Start tilling that garden

     What a change a year has made. Last year at this time, fall gardening was on the bottom of our stack of mental post-it’s. Even thinking about it made us start to sweat. With the cooler summer and much appreciated rain, it seems easy to start dreaming about planting tomatoes, lettuce, onions and the rest. If you have never put in a fall garden…why not? Have you looked at the price of lettuce lately? Imagine not throwing half a bag away every week. Think about getting home and looking forward to playing in the garden as a way to wind down. It’s cooler, fewer pests are active in the fall and gardening in the dark is fun for the kids, miners helmets are a blast. So, let’s get started.

Bed prep

     Whether you are planting in pots or in dedicated veggie beds, the most important thing, is the soil. Good soil will make you veggie rich and made you feel like a gardening god/godess…bad soil is a waste of your time, effort, money causing you no end of frustration and disappointment. Crop failure  is the #1 reason people give up the 1st year.  The initial investment in good soil is worth the cost. In the second season, your cost on bed prep is almost nothing. Maybe a few bags of humus, manure or compost is all you will need to add. Turning over last year’s properly prepared garden is like digging into a chocolate cake. Good garden soil has a consistent texture and will not have weed seeds. Personally, I dragged home close to 2 pallets of Landscapers Pride Landscaping Mix last year. I used it in pots, my veggie beds, on my shrub and to level my lawn. I think it’s the greatest bagged soil of all time.

     Don’t buy gimmicky soil. You know, the ones that promise bigger, better plants. Those gimmicks won’t last long. Most of them contain chemical fertilizers, which dry your soil out quickly. They also will turn your plants into fertilizer junkies, it’s your garden take control of the fertilizer you use. Plus, you’re going to eat it, just say no to chemicals when you can. Gimmicky soils are more expensive and less environmentally friendly. Most are made with peat moss and you know how I feel about that.  

Plant what you like!

     There is no sense in planting things you won’t eat. But, if you have kids, and they help you in the garden, they are more likely to try new things. Lots of different fall veggies are available in the nursery now, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, and many members of the cabbage family. Seeds are another way to get your garden going and is more economical. Other than getting plants for tomatoes, peppers and herbs, I always plant seeds. Careful spacing of seeds is important and saves work down the line. On things you only eat a few of, try planting just a few seeds or a partial row every week or two. That way, you won’t get stuck trying to give away hundreds of radishes one week, and be without any for the next month. As you harvest one crop, be ready to sow more seeds in the same place. One thing I learned, last year, was when harvesting a head of lettuce, don’t pull the plant out, cut the head loose. Leave the top of the root in the ground and it will sprout a new head or two!

 Need more help?

     There are some really great resources in Houston. First of all is a book we refer to as the “Gardening Bible”. It’s real name is Year Round Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers For Metro Houston By Bob Randall, Ph.D. This is the only book we refer to for vegetable gardening…it is awesome! You can order it from Urban Harvest or pick it up at most independent nurseries. Speaking of Urban Harvest, they have a great web site with tons of info and they offer classes.  Lastly, you can take classes with the Harris County Master Gardeners, a part of the Agricultural Extension office and A&M. 

      If, by any chance, you grow too many vegetables, we will gladly take them off your hands and sacrifice them on the range-top of the gardening gurus here at the nursery. Good gardening = good eating!