- All About Growing Lettuce
- When to Plant
- How to Plant
- Harvesting and Storage
- Saving Seeds
- Pest and Disease Prevention Tips
- Growing Lettuce Tips
- In the Kitchen
- Zone 8 Winter Veggie Garden: Growing Winter Vegetables In Zone 8
- Can You Grow Vegetables in Zone 8?
- Why Grow a Winter Garden in Zone 8?
- Cold Season Vegetables for Zone 8
- All About Growing Winter Squash
- When to Plant Winter Squash
- How to Plant Winter Squash
- Preventing Winter Squash Pests and Diseases
- Winter Squash Growing Tips and Ideas
- Cooking With Winter Squash
- Vegetable Gardening in Late Winter
- What to do in the Vegetable Garden in February
- Vegetables that can be Harvested in February
- Vegetables that can be Sown Outdoors in February
- Fall vegetable planting guide
All About Growing Lettuce
For more information about types of lettuce and our recommended varieties, see our Lettuce at a Glance chart.
When to Plant
In spring, sow lettuce in cold frames or tunnels six weeks before your last frost date. Start more seeds indoors under lights at about the same time, and set them out when they are three weeks old. Direct seed more lettuce two weeks before your average last spring frost date. Lettuce seeds typically sprout in two to eight days when soil temperatures range between 55 and 75 degrees.
In fall, sow all types of lettuce at two-week intervals starting eight weeks before your first fall frost. One month before your first frost, sow only cold-tolerant butterheads and romaines.
How to Plant
Prepare your planting bed by loosening the soil to at least 10 inches deep. Mix in an inch or so of good compost or well-rotted manure. Sow lettuce seeds a quarter of an inch deep and 1 inch apart in rows or squares, or simply broadcast them over the bed.
Indoors, sow lettuce seeds in flats or small containers kept under fluorescent lights. Harden off three-week-old seedlings for at least two or three days before transplanting. Use shade covers, such as pails or flowerpots, to protect transplants from sun and wind during their first few days in the garden.
Harvesting and Storage
Harvest lettuce in the morning, after the plants have had all night to plump up with water. Wilted lettuce picked on a hot day seldom revives, even when rushed to the refrigerator. Pull (and eat) young plants until you get the spacing you want. Gather individual leaves or use scissors to harvest handfuls of baby lettuce. Rinse lettuce thoroughly with cool water, shake or spin off excess moisture, and store it in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Lettuce often needs a second cleaning as it is prepared for the table.
Lettuce varieties are open-pollinated, so you can save seeds from any plants you like. Be patient as your strongest plants develop yellow flowers followed by ripe seedpods. Stake plants if necessary to keep the ripening seed heads from falling over. Gather the dry seed heads in a paper bag, and crush them with your hands. Winnow or sift to separate the seeds from the chaff, and store the seeds in a cool, dry place for up to a year. In some climates, plants grown in spring will reseed themselves in fall.
Pest and Disease Prevention Tips
- Slugs chew smooth-edged holes in outer leaves. Collect them with a gloved hand during drizzly weather, or trap them in pit traps baited with beer. You also can spray cold coffee on slug-infested plants to stop feeding.
- Aphids sometimes feed in groups between the folds of lettuce leaves. Try rinsing them away with a spray of cool water. Natural predators such as syrphid fly larvae often bring the problem under control.
- Prevent soilborne diseases by growing lettuce in the same spot no more than once every three years.
Growing Lettuce Tips
- As the seedlings grow, thin leaf lettuce to 6 inches apart, thin romaines to 10 inches and allow 12 inches between heading varieties. After thinning, mulch between plants with grass clippings, chopped leaves or another organic mulch to deter weeds and retain soil moisture.
- Replace old lettuce seed yearly, because low germination is usually caused by dead seeds. Expect spotty germination from lettuce seeds that are more than one year old.
- In late winter, grow lettuce inside a cold frame or plastic tunnel. Seedlings often survive temperatures below 20 degrees when they are protected with sheet plastic or glass.
- For extra flavor from your salad bed, sprinkle in a few seeds of dill, cilantro or other cool-season herbs.
- If your garden is small, try miniature lettuce varieties, such as ‘Tom Thumb’ or ‘Minetto.’
- Should hot weather hit just as crisphead lettuce is reaching its peak, cover the plants with a shade cover made from lightweight cloth (such as an old sheet) held aloft with stakes. If possible, cool down the shaded plants by watering them at midday.
- Never allow the soil to dry out while lettuce is growing. In most soils, you’ll need to water lettuce every other day between rains.
- Perfect lettuce does not last long in the garden, especially when the weather gets hot. Harvest lettuce when conditions are good, then store it in the refrigerator.
In the Kitchen
Bumper crops of lettuce can’t be preserved, so plan ahead for daily salads when lettuce is in season. Stock up on big flavor toppings such as olives, dried fruits, nuts and smoked salmon. Be generous with snippings of fresh herbs as you create original salads. Lettuce rolls stuffed with grain or meat mixtures, held together with toothpicks, make a great appetizer. Dark green or red lettuces have more vitamin A than varieties with pale leaves.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
Zone 8 Winter Veggie Garden: Growing Winter Vegetables In Zone 8
United States Department of Agriculture zone 8 is one of the warmer regions of the country. As such, gardeners can easily enjoy the fruit of their labor simply because the summer growing season is long enough to do so. How about cold season vegetables for zone 8? Can you grow vegetables in zone 8 winters? If so, what winter vegetables are suited to grow in zone 8?
Can You Grow Vegetables in Zone 8?
Absolutely! You do, however, want to consider a couple of factors before choosing winter vegetables in zone 8. The most important thing to consider is your microclimate. Zone 8 is actually divided into two sections – 8a and 8b. In zone 8a, temperatures will dip as low as 10-15 degrees F. (-12 to -9 C.), and in zone 8b it can drop to 15-20 F. (-12 to -7 C.).
If you live near the ocean, for example, your microclimate is likely to be more temperate. Topography from roofs or hilltops will affect your climate and make it warmer, as will areas that are protected from winds or are near heat absorbing buildings. Conversely, locations in valleys tend to be colder than average.
The approximate last freeze date for zone 8 is March 15 and November 15 for the first freeze date in the fall. That said, there are no hard and fast rules; these are just annual averages. Some crops can be damaged during a light freeze and others are hardier and can withstand the cold temperatures.
An excellent resource would be your local university’s extension office. They will be able to guide you regarding cold season vegetables for your particular region of zone 8.
Why Grow a Winter Garden in Zone 8?
For certain areas, planting a winter garden in zone 8 may be the best time to get cool crops like broccoli, carrots, and spinach to grow well. For many zone 8 gardeners, the impending fall months mean rain. This means less work on your part with no need to water.
October is an excellent time to start a zone 8 winter veggie garden. The soil is still warm, but the intensity of the sun has waned. There are fewer insects and diseases that are likely to attack your crops. The cooler weather allows seedlings and transplants to ease into maturing.
Along with the possibility of more rain, soil holds moisture in longer in the fall. Weeds grow slower and the temperature is more comfortable to work in. Also, there’s not the rush to harvest that occurs in summer heat since the plants will hold in the garden longer in the cooler temps.
Cold Season Vegetables for Zone 8
Prep the garden by turning the soil, weeding, and amending the area with compost. While the aforementioned rains mean less watering in some areas, such as the Pacific Northwest, constant rain means rotting plants, so consider growing in a raised bed.
So what crops should you consider planting in a winter garden? All the cool season veggies are good choices, such as:
- Fava beans
Tender greens are good too, like:
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
These cool weather crops can be planted in winter and early spring for late spring harvest and early summer harvest respectfully, and in late August and September for harvesting during the winter. Be sure to add an organic fertilizer at or just after planting time.
The mild temperatures of zone 8 allow seeds to be planted early in the season and cool weather crops can tolerate light frosts, especially if you use a cold frame or other protective covering. Plus, a winter garden in zone 8 often produces crops with better flavor, size and texture than if they were grown in the heat of summer. Just don’t be expecting to grow tomatoes, eggplant or peppers, but there are still plenty of cool weather crop options to choose from.
All About Growing Winter Squash
Cylinder-shaped delicata squash and pumpkin-shaped dumpling squash produce single-serving-size, ivory fruits with green stripes that turn orange in storage. Fast to mature, these are among the easiest winter squash to grow in cool climates. Fruits will store for three to five months.
Acorn squash are ribbed, round fruits that have gold or green rinds. They mature quickly and will store for at least three months, making them popular in areas with short summers.
Spaghetti squash are full of stringy fibers that resemble pasta. The oblong fruits have smooth rinds that range from tan to orange, and they will store for three to six months.
Cushaw squash produce big, bulb-shaped fruits with dense, sweet flesh. Plants need a long, warm growing season and will store for at least four months.
See our chart of winter squash species for more information to help you find the perfect winter squash for you.
When to Plant Winter Squash
In spring, sow seeds in prepared beds or hills after your last frost has passed, or sow them indoors under bright fluorescent lights. Set out seedlings when they are about three weeks old. In Zone 6 and warmer, you can plant more winter squash in early summer, using space vacated by fall-planted garlic or early spring lettuce. Stop planting winter squash 14 weeks before your expected first fall frost.
How to Plant Winter Squash
Winter squash grows best in warm conditions, in fertile, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Choose a sunny site and prepare 3-foot-wide planting hills within wide rows, or position them along your garden’s edge. Leave 5 to 6 feet between hills. Loosen the soil in the planting sites to at least 12 inches deep. Thoroughly mix in a 2-inch layer of mature compost and a light application of balanced, organic fertilizer. Water well. Plant six seeds per hill, poking them into the soil 1 inch deep. After seeds germinate (about 10 days after sowing), thin seedlings to three per hill. Set up protective row covers as soon as you’re done planting. (See The No-Spray Way to Protect Plants for more information on how to guard your garden crops with row covers.)
Fruits are ripe if you cannot easily pierce the rind with your fingernail. Never rush to harvest winter squash, though, because immature fruits won’t store well. Unless pests or freezing weather threaten them, allow fruits to ripen until the vines begin to die back. Expect to harvest three to five squash per plant. Use pruning shears to cut fruits from the vine, leaving 1 inch of stem attached. Clean away dirt with a soft, damp cloth, and allow fruits to cure for two weeks in a spot that’s 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Store cured squash in a cool, dry place, such as your basement, a cool closet or even under your bed. Check every two weeks for signs of spoilage.
If you harvest your winter squash after the fruits have fully matured, saving seeds is simply a matter of rinsing, drying and storing the biggest, plumpest seeds that come across your cutting board. If stored in a cool, dry place, winter squash seeds remain viable for up to six years. Be sure to isolate varieties of the same species by planting them at opposite ends of the garden, or by growing one variety early in the season and another from midsummer to fall. Also keep in mind that acorn, delicata, dumpling and spaghetti squash can cross with summer squash, which is of the same species (Cucurbita pepo).
Preventing Winter Squash Pests and Diseases
Winter squash face challenges from squash bugs, squash vine borers, and cucumber beetles. To defend your plants from all three insects, shield them with row covers held aloft with stakes or hoops until the plants begin to bloom. Big, healthy plants will produce well despite pest pressure. Among diseases, powdery mildew is a common problem best prevented by growing resistant varieties, which often have “PMR” (for “powdery mildew resistance”) after their variety names. In addition, a spray made of 1 part milk and 6 parts water can suppress powdery mildew if applied every two weeks during the second half of summer. To see other readers’ squash bug prevention tips and post your own — and for instructions on how to make Mother’s own squash bug squisher — check out Homemade Squisher for Squash Bug Control.
Winter Squash Growing Tips and Ideas
Grow open-pollinated varieties so you can save your own seeds for eating and replanting. Only choose hybrids if you need a space-saving bush habit or a special form of disease resistance.
Try growing winter squash in an old compost pile located along the edge of your garden. Small-fruited varieties do well if allowed to scramble up a fence.
Cooking With Winter Squash
Old-fashioned squash pies laced with cinnamon and ginger will never go out of style, but newer trends in winter squash cuisine favor savory risottos and creamy, squash-stuffed ravioli. Sage is a great accent herb for winter squash, and some cooks brush maple syrup or honey onto chunks of baked (or grilled) squash to create a caramel glaze. Make large fruits easier to cut by lopping off a slice from one side using a sharp, heavy knife, creating a flat surface. Cut large fruits into chunks before removing the rinds. Winter squash seeds are also edible and delicious! Roast the rinsed, dried seeds at 275 degrees Fahrenheit until they just begin to pop, about 15 to 20 minutes. Season with sea salt and enjoy.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
February is a busy month for the kitchen gardener. In many regions, indoor and outdoor sowing and planting is underway. Some gardeners already have seed in the ground. In the coldest regions, where there is snow on the ground, February is still the time for making plans and preparing for spring. Here are some of the actions you take this month to get your garden growing:
Plan and design. Plan the spring and summer garden on paper. Sketch a base plan. Consider the location of house, garage, shed, fences, walls, and large trees that will cast shadows across the garden. Vegetables require at least 6 hours of sun each day to thrive. Locate your garden near a water source. If you’ve grown a vegetable garden before consider new crops this year and plan out succession plantings. Consult garden books for suggestions. If this is your first garden, monitor your planting area and map where the snow melts first, these will be good spots for planting early crops. Consider the light, water, and nutrient needs of each crop and crop family. Plant crops with similar needs or crops from the same families close together.
Consider your time and effort. If your time and space is limited, choose six varieties to grow this year. You’ll get the most for your money and effort from tomatoes, snap beans, carrots, and greens such as lettuce and chard.
Succession and companion plantings. Succession planting (growing one crop after another during the growing season) takes advantage of every day in the growing season. Plan succession crops by plotting germination and harvest days for each crop and then plan which crop can follow the crop before given the length of the growing season, an example, warm-weather bush lima beans can follow cool-weather peas. Companion cropping matches a fast-growing small crop with a slow-maturing crop, an example, quick growing radishes planted between slow-maturing carrots, or shade tolerant peas planted beneath corn.
Record keeping. Set up your garden record keeping system now. Keep track of dates of varieties, sowing, transplanting, blooming dates, and notes about each crop. Planting and harvest dates can be used for planning succession crops. Make a garden map to keep track of just what was planted where; this map will be invaluable should your garden labels become misplaced or illegible. These records will help you plan your garden in following years.
Seed orders. Study on-line and mail-order catalogs and order seeds and plants for spring.
Garden tools and frames. Clean and repair tools early this month. Repair cold frames and hotbeds and make sure they are ready for use.
Seed sowing items. Assemble flats, soil, and tools for sowing. Use flats about 5 inches deep for slow growing seedlings. Use a seed starting mix or a soil mix of two parts garden loam, one part sand, and one part leaf mold or humus. A hand seed-sower may be helpful.
Indoor seed sowing in cold regions. Check seed packets to determine the number of days from sowing to germination. Sow hardy and half-hardy vegetable seeds about 6 to 8 weeks before seedlings can be hardened off in the coldframe or under cloches in the garden–usually 6 to 8 weeks before the average last frost date in spring. Do not start seeds indoors too early. Sow cool-weather spring corps first: beets, cabbage family crops, celeriac, leaf lettuce and salad greens, bulb onions, parsley, radish, spinach, and turnips. At the end of the month, sow the seeds of tender warm-weather summer-harvest vegetables such as eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes that require 12 weeks or more indoors. When the seeds sprout, place them beneath bright lights. Set seed starting cell packs in water trays with a copper-based fungicide to prevent damping off. Ventilate the greenhouse or hotbed on warm days to prevent the buildup of diseases in the damp environment.
Cold frame in mild-winter regions. Sow cool-weather spring crops in the cold frame in milder regions: beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce and salad greens, onions, and parsley. Make sure that the soil in the seedbed is not overly nitrogen rich; this will cause succulent growth when early season plants are better strong and stocky before transplanting. Plants that have been started indoors can be hardened-off in the coldframe before being planted out in the garden. Ventilate the coldframe when the outside temperature rises above 40ºF. Close the frame again before sundown. If the soil is dry in the cold frame 6 inches down, provide a slow, deep watering directly in the soil on a warm day. Avoid wetting plant leaves
Rhubarb. Plant rhubarb roots in compost-rich soil spaced three feet apart. An open, sunny place is best. Rhubarb likes plenty of water during the growing season and is a heavy feeder; apply aged-manure heavily and turn it under.
Spring onions. Plant small onion sets closely in a flat or box and cover with about 1 inch of soil and provide moderate light for spring onions next month.
Tomatoes. Tomato seed sown in February will result in plants with one truss of bloom for the garden by mid-May.
Garden soil preparation. Check winter mulch around perennial vegetables, brambles, and fruit trees and add more if needed. Press frost-heaved plants back into the soil. Where weather permits and soil is dry enough to be worked, prepare planting beds this month. Turn, spade, or till the garden when the soil is not wet. Add lime if your soil is too acid. Mow winter cover crops and green manures and turn them under if the soil is dry enough to cultivate. Add 2 inches of aged garden compost to planting beds. If you won’t be planting for 6 weeks, add an inch of well-aged manure to each bed.
Direct seed. Take a handful of garden soil and give it a squeeze; if the soil crumbles and fall apart, you can direct sow crops. To warm the soil for early sowing, cover the bed with polyethylene. Carrots, onions, and early potatoes can be seeded in warm, sandy soil. Other cool-weather crops that can be sown where the soil is workable are beets, cabbage plants, carrots, cauliflower plants, chard, lettuce, mustard, onions plants and sets, peas, Irish potatoes, salsify, spinach, and turnips. Check seed packets to make sure the varieties you are planting are suitable for early sowing. Most seed requires a soil temperature of 45ºF or greater to germinate; use a soil thermometer to check before you sow. Delay planting until the soil is warm otherwise you risk seeds rotting or poor germination. Be ready to cover plants with cloches, row covers, and plastic tunnels if the weather turns cold.
Compost. Start new compost bins this month.
Squash boxes. Make cheesecloth covered frames to put over melon, squash, and cucumber hills to keep out cucumber beetles and squash bugs later this spring. A cover should be about three feet square and one-foot high.
Fruit trees and vines. Transplant deciduous fruit trees and vines during the dormant season. Give new transplants plenty of water, both at planting time and afterwards.
Prune fruit trees and vines when the weather allows: apples, pears, berries, brambles, and grapes. Remove broken and damaged branches. Complete pruning while the plants are still dormant.
Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries. Cut vines that fruited last autumn back to ground level. Raspberries planted last spring should be cut back to about 12 inches above soil level. Tip back summer-fruiting raspberries to just above the top wire and cut down newly planted canes to about 9 inches. Prune back the stems of newly planted and two-year-old gooseberries by about one-half. Spray gooseberries and black currants for gooseberry mildew.
Spray fruit trees for over-wintering pests with dormant oil spray when the temperature is greater than 45ºF; this must be completed while plants are still dormant. Spray peaches, nectarines, and almonds with a copper-based fungicide to prevent peach-leaf curl. Spray apples and pears prone to scab infection. Spray fruit trees no later than when buds begin to swell. Apply a second spray to trees susceptible to peach-leaf curl about 14 days after the first application.
Plant fig, blackberries, blueberries, currant bushes, raspberries, and strawberries. Fertilize established citrus and tropical fruits.
Mulch all newly planted trees, bush, and cane fruits with well-rotted compost. Mulch grapevines and gooseberries with well-rotted manure or compost.
Regional garden guide for February:
Regional gardening suggestions. These suggestions are divided into 4 major geographical areas: North and East and Midwest (zones 2 in the northern most areas to 6 along the coast), the South (zones 7 in the north to 10 in the far south), the Southwest and California (zones 7 in the coolest areas to 11), and the Northeast (zones 5 in the highest elevations to 8 along the coast).
North and East and Midwest. Plan the spring and summer vegetable garden. Force rhubarb and endive. Sow indoors early cabbage, cauliflower, celery, radishes, peppers, and tomatoes. Late in the month where the ground can be worked, set out asparagus roots, horseradish, onion sets, and rhubarb. Lift over-wintered parsnips. Late in the month, plant early potatoes in hotbeds.
South. Sow or plant in the garden where the ground can be worked asparagus, beets, black-eyed peas, broccoli, cabbage plants, carrots, cauliflower plants, chard, collards, endive, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, onion sets or plants, parsley, peas, Irish potatoes, radish, spinach, turnip. Be sure to check the average date of the last frost in your area before setting out transplants. Late in the month in far southern regions where all danger of frost has passed set out starts: tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers (be ready to protect these crops should the temperature drop). Sow indoors early this month warm weather crops: bush and pole beans, limas, butterbeans, squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and watermelons. Most of these crops will require 7 to 8 weeks of growing before they will be large enough to transplant into the garden.
Southwest and California. Early in the month, plant perennial vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, rhubarb, and horseradish while roots are still dormant. In warm, sandy soil, plant potatoes. By mid-month, set transplants out into the early spring garden: beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, chard, Italian sprouting broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, mustard, onion seedlings and sets, parsley, Irish potatoes in well-composted soi, radishes, and turnips. By the end of month in all areas, sow indoors warm weather crops: bush and pole beans, limas, butterbeans, cantaloupe, cucumber, eggplant, peppers, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, and watermelons. Do not place any warm-season plants in the garden until the night temperatures stay above 50°F. Avocados can be planted this month to ensure they develop good leaf growth before summer. Young trees can be protected against trunk sunburn by constructing simple shade cloth frame to shade trunks on south and west.
Northwest. Early this month where the soil is sandy and warms more quickly, sow carrots, onion seeds, and early potatoes. Do not plant in cold, wet soil. Where the weather remains cold, make a cold frame or hot bed. About the third week of the month, start cool-weather crops: asparagus roots, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, onions, peas, early potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, turnips. By the end of the month make a second planting of peas.
Vegetable Gardening in Late Winter
What to do in the Vegetable Garden in February
If you have a heavy clay soil, finish any deep digging as soon as possible, so that late frosts can break it down into a workable tilth in readiness for sowing and planting. There is no need to dig now if your soil is light and sandy. Once the ground has dried out enough for it to be cultivated, lightly fork it over and cover it with cloches or polythene, to keep it dry and warm-it-up ready for the main sowings next month.
Vegetables that can be Harvested in February
Many vegetables will still be available for use from the garden and in storage. Spinach beet, probably some Brussels sprouts, cabbages and savoys, and weather permitting, celery, leeks and parsnips. Those being stored could include carrots, onions, shallots, swedes and turnips, potatoes and any Dutch white cabbages still hanging up.
Vegetables that can be Sown Outdoors in February
Only the hardiest and large seeded vegetables should be sown this month and protected with cloches or polythene tunnels. Autumn-sown seedlings in frames and cloches will benefit from a little ventilation on mild days.
Early sowings of carrots, lettuces, radishes, salad onions and summer cabbages may be made under cloches or tunnels, at the end of the month, once the weather shows signs of warming up. Space rows at 23 cm (9 in).
Make additional sowings of broad beans and peas at the end of the month for successional crops
Broad beans can be sown in the open when conditions are right. The ‘Longpod’ and ‘Green Windsor’ types are the best for sowing now. Place the seeds in rows 5 cm (2 in) deep, with 11~12 cm (4.5 in) between seeds, and 45 cm (18 in) between rows. If space is limited, grow one of the dwarf varieties, such as ‘The Sutton’ or the slightly taller ‘Feligreen’. Space the seeds at 23 cm (9 in) each way.
Shallots can be planted now with the tops just showing above the ground, 15 cm (6 in) apart, with 30 cm (12 in) between rows. Plant them quite deeply to prevent birds pulling them out of the ground before they have rooted.
If conditions allow, parsnips can be also sown outdoors now to get a head start. Sow sparingly, as they will need thinning to at least 20cm (8 in) apart once germinated.
Chit seed potatoes if you did no do so in January.
Jerusalem artichoke is also a good vegetable to plant now. It is a relative of the sunflower and is very tough, surviving in even the poorest of soils. Plant tubers at 37 cm (15 in) apart, about 10 cm (4 in) deep. Remember that these plants grow enormously tall and may overshadow other vegetables. On the other hand, they make good windbreaks for the edge of a vegetable patch, and can always be planted in any rough bit of ground in an unwanted corner. Plant at least 1 m (3 ft) away from the nearest row of other vegetables.
Preparing a Runner Bean Trench
Runner beans should be grown full sun, although they can tolerate some shade. Choose a sheltered spot away from high winds that can knock down the tall plants and their supports. Runner beans are usually grown in a double row, with 60 cm (2 ft) between the two rows and 15 cm (6 in) between plants. 180 cm (6 ft) canes or supports can be added at planting time.
Start now by prepare a deeply dug trench, approximately 60 cm (2 ft) deep, by 1 m (3 ft) wide, filling it with a good mix of soil and bulky organic matter (compost or manure) you can also use shredded cardboard and newspaper. Also add lime if your soil is acidic as acid conditions are undesirable. This can be done now in readiness for sowing or planting the beans later on in April.
When to Sow Runner Beans
Runner beans are very susceptible to frost, therefore seed should be sown indoors or under cloches from April onwards.
Vegetables that can be Sown Under Glass in February
Celery, celeriac, cucumber (outdoor variety), aubergines, peppers and tomatoes can be sown now in containers filled with moist seed, compost. Scatter the seed evenly on the surface and just cover with the merest dusting of finely sieve, compost. Aubergines can take up to three weeks to germinate, tomatoes and peppers are quicker and the seedlings should be visible at the end of a fortnight.
Start off these vegetable on a warm windowsill or in a greenhouse, providing a constant temperature of at least 16°C (60°F). Heated propagators make economical sense if you don’t want to heat your greenhouse to this temperature. But you will need to think about where to keep the young seedlings once they are too big for the propagator. One way is to gradually harden them off indoors before transferring them to the cooler greenhouse conditions. Their growth rate will slow down temporarily, but will quickly pick up again once the outside temperature rises.
Next Page >> What to do in the fruit garden in February >>
It’s already mid-February and I’m behind posting notes on the blog, mainly due to lots of educational programs are going on this month. Here are a few tips for gardening in the month of February.
Planting. Even though it’s still wintertime, there are many types of plants that can or should be planted at this time of year. Early to mid-February is vegetable planting time for cool season crops including onions, Irish potatoes, radishes, greens, lettuce, spinach, sugar snap peas, carrots, broccoli transplants, beets, Swiss chard and turnips. Early planting assures a good harvest prior to the arrival of summer heat.
Don’t be in a hurry to plant summer vegetables such as tomato, peppers, and squash – the average last winter freeze for the Tyler area is mid-March. A late frost or freeze will result in repeated plantings of frost-sensitive vegetables. Summer vegetables not only require warm air temperatures, but also warm soils to quickly establish and grow vigorously.
February is time to plant many types of shrubs and trees including roses, bare rooted fruit and nut trees, grapes, blueberries and blackberries. Hardy container-grown trees, shrubs and groundcovers can also be planted this month.
Some other gardening items for February include:
- Prune and fertilize peach trees
- Check trees and shrubs for scale insects, and treat with horticultural oil if present
- Prune roses in mid- to late February
- Prepare beds and garden area for spring planting. Till in several inches of compost, composted pine bark or similar material
- Sow seeds in flats or containers to get a jump on plant growth before hot weather arrives. Petunias, begonias, and impatiens should be sown in February. Warm temperature plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, and periwinkles, should be sown in early February
- Need to move shrubs or young trees to a new location? Now is the time.
- Cut back perennials and ornamental grasses before new growth begins
- Fertilize pansies and other cool season flowers
- Check compost pile and turn
- Apply pre-emergent herbicide in mid- to late February to lawns for weed control (but ONLY if weeds were a problem last summer. No need to apply herbicides to thick, healthy, weed-free lawns). A pre-emergent herbicide will not control existing weeds.
- Wait until April to fertilize St. Augustine and Bermuda grass lawns
- Keep bird feeders stocked for both winter residents and migrating species
- Get bluebird and other nest boxes ready
- Check junipers, other narrow-leaf evergreens and roses for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs over-winter in the pouch, and start the cycle again by emerging in the spring to begin feeding on the foliage. Hand removal and discarding of the pouches reduces future damage.
Larry Stein and Joe Masabni*
Most gardeners plant their vegetables in the spring to harvest in late spring to early summer. In most areas of Texas, it is possible to have a fall vegetable garden also, but it will need to be managed somewhat differently than a spring garden.
Locating the garden
If your spring garden was successful, the same location should work well in the fall. When planning a new garden, keep in mind that vegetable crops must have at least 8 hours of direct sun each day and should be planted where the soil drains well.
Preparing the soil
If you’re using an established garden area, pull out all plant material—the remains of your spring crop and any weeds that have grown up in the garden. Don’t put plant residue from a spring garden into your compost bin because it is likely to be contaminated with insects and disease pathogens.
For a new garden site, remove all the grass. Just tilling it into the soil will not eliminate all the grass sprigs; they will continue to grow and interfere with the garden. Likewise, for a raised garden, remove all turf before building the frame and filling it with soil.
Grass and weeds can be killed with an herbicide that contains glyphosate. Several products are available, including Roundup® and Kleenup®.
After removing the grass, shovel the garden area to a depth of 10 to 12 inches. Rototillers will not penetrate adequately, but they can be used to loosen and mix shoveled areas.
Spread 1 to 2 inches of coarse, washed sand and 2 to 3 inches of organic matter on the garden surface and till it into the soil to improve the soil’s physical quality. The soil will need to be improved over time rather than in just a season or two. If you are building a raised bed garden, don’t skimp on the soil. Use weed-free loam or sandy loam soil.
Adding fertilizer is the next step. You have two options:
- Apply 1 pound of ammonium sulfate (21- 0-0) per 100 square feet (10 feet by 10 feet) before planting. Then sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ammonium sulfate around each plant every 3 weeks and water it in.
- Or, apply 2 to 3 pounds of a slow-release fertilizer (19-5-9, 21-7-14, or 25-5-10) per 100 square feet of garden area. Apply 1 tablespoon of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) around each plant every 3 weeks and water it in. This second method should produce a more abundant harvest, especially with hybrid tomatoes and peppers.
Do not add too much ammonium sulfate, and do not put it too close to the plants. It can seriously damage them.
Horse or cattle manure may be substituted for commercial fertilizer at a rate of 60 to 80 pounds per 100 square feet of garden area. Never use poultry manure on a fall garden.
After adding fertilizer, mix the soil thoroughly and prepare beds on which to plant rows of vegetables. These beds should be 30 to 36 inches apart so you can move easily through the garden area when the plants grow larger. Pile and firm the planting beds.
Then water the entire garden with a sprinkler for at least 2 hours. Allow the area to dry for several days, and it will be ready to plant.
Fall crops generally do better when started from transplants than from seed. Transplants should always be used for growing tomatoes and peppers.
The trick to establishing healthy transplants during late summer is to make sure they have plenty of water. Transplants in peat pots or cell packs with restricted root zones require at least 2 weeks for their root systems to enlarge enough to support active plant growth. Until that time, they may need to be watered every day or the plants will be stunted or even die.
However, too much water is just as harmful as not enough. Soaking-wet soil will cause root rotting and subsequent stunting or death. So check the soil moisture by feeling the soil before applying water. If the soil balls together, it still has enough water; if not, apply water.
Buy the largest transplants possible. Even though larger transplants cost more, their root systems will spread faster and the plants will produce more fruit sooner.
Or, grow your own larger transplants by planting small ones in potting soil and evenly mixing in slow-release fertilizer pellets such as Osmocote®. Add a water-soluble fertilizer to the irrigation water and place the plants in full sun (with shade after 3 p.m.). Keep the transplants moist, but don’t over-water them.
Plant shade-tolerant crops between taller growing vegetables such as tomatoes. Planting at the proper time is probably the most important factor in successful fall gardening. Table 1 lists average planting dates for each region.
When making planting decisions, compare the temperature extremes in the USDA Hardiness Zone Map at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/wildseed/info/hardiness.jpeg in your area to those of the Texas zones. With these dates in mind, determine which frost-susceptible vegetables to plant, when to plant, and whether to use transplants or seeds.
Fall vegetable crops are categorized as long-term and short-term crops. The duration of these crops depends on the date of the first killing frost and the cold tolerance of the vegetables.
Group the plants according to their frost tolerance. Plant long-term, frost-tolerant vegetables together. Frost-tolerant vegetables include beet, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, chard, collard, garlic, kale, lettuce, mustard, onion, parsley, spinach and turnip.
Also, plant short-term, frost-susceptible vegetables together so that they can be removed after being killed by frost. Frost-susceptible vegetables include bean, cantaloupe, corn, cucumber, eggplant, okra, pea, peppers, Irish potato, sweet potato, squash, tomato, and watermelon.
Search for these Texas varieties
Although many varieties of garden vegetables are available, only three or four varieties of any one vegetable are well suited or adapted to a particular area of Texas. Choose the varieties that are proven to do well in your area of the state.
The varieties listed below are recommended for Texas gardens. Your county Extension agent may have lists of other varieties that should do well for you.
Fall is for herbs
Herbs are plants that are used as flavoring in foods. The common herbs used in cooking are referred to as culinary herbs. Mild or savory herbs impart a delicate flavor to food, while the stronger or pungent herbs add zest. Herbs are also planted for their ornamental value.
Planting and propagation
Select a sunny, well-drained location. At planting, apply a slow-release fertilizer at the rate of 2 pounds per 100 square feet.
Herbs can be annuals (live only one season) or perennials (grow back from their root systems each year). Annual herbs can be planted in an annual flower garden or vegetable garden. Plant perennial herbs at the side of the garden where they won’t interfere with next year’s soil preparation.
Some herbs can be established by planting the seed directly in the garden or by starting seed indoors for later transplanting to the garden. You can obtain seed from a local garden center or seed catalog, or save the seeds produced by the herb plants for next year’s crop.
To save your own seeds, harvest the entire seed head after it has dried on the plant. Then allow the seeds to dry in a protected location that is cool and dry. After the seeds are thoroughly dry, separate them from the seed heads and discard the trash.
Store the seeds in sealed, labeled jars in a dark, cool, dry location. Some herb seeds such as dill, anise, caraway, or coriander can be used for flavorings.
Perennial herbs can be propagated by cuttings or by division. Herbs such as sage and thyme can be propagated by cuttings. Chives can be propagated by dividing the roots or crowns.
Divide the plants every 3 to 4 years in the early spring. Dig them up and cut them into several sections. Or, cut 4- to 6-inch sections of the stem and place the cuttings in moist sand in a shady area. In 4 to 8 weeks, roots should form on these cuttings.
Care for the herb garden is the same as for a vegetable or flower garden.
Water as necessary during dry periods. Generally, herbs need about 1 inch of water per week, either from rainfall or from irrigation. Mulch will help conserve soil moisture as well as reduce weed growth. Because mints prefer moist soil, they must be watered more often.
The leaves of many herbs, such as parsley and chives, can be harvested for fresh seasonings. Gradually remove a few leaves from the plants as you need them. Don’t remove all the foliage at one time. With proper care, these plants will produce over a long period.
To harvest rosemary and thyme, clip the tops when the plants are in full bloom. The leaves and flowers are usually harvested together.
Basil, mint, sage, and sweet marjoram are harvested just before the plant starts to bloom. Parsley leaves can be cut and dried anytime.
After harvest, hang the herbs in loosely tied bundles in a well-ventilated room. You can also spread the branches on a screen, cheesecloth, or hardware cloth. Spread the leaves on flat trays. Cover the herbs with a cloth that will keep dust off but allow moisture to pass through.
Many of the herbs we grow today are from the Mediterranean region, so hot, dry summer weather suits them perfectly. Herbs need good drainage (they do best in a raised bed) and the right exposure. Most require full sun. Mints and a few other herbs grow well in shade or partial shade.
The herbs below grow well in Texas.
Basil: This is one of the easiest herbs to grow, even from seed. However, basil is tender, so expect to lose it at the first sign of frost.
Many varieties and flavors of basil are available. The most common is sweet green basil. More unusual varieties are cinnamon, Cuban, globe, holy, lemon, licorice, purple ruffled, Japanese sawtooth, and Thai. Not all are used in cooking.
Basil is the herb to use in all tomato dishes. It can be chopped fine and mixed with butter. Add fresh chopped leaves to vinegar, crushed garlic, and olive oil to make an excellent dressing for sliced tomatoes. It is also used in eggplant, pork, roast chicken, scrambled eggs, and squash dishes.
Chamomile: makes wonderful herbal tea. There are two varieties: English and German chamomile. The dried blossoms of either can be used to make tea. The tea can also be used as a hair rinse.
To make tea, pour boiling water over about 1 tablespoon of chamomile leaves for each cup desired and let it steep for about 10 to 15 minutes. Filter it through a tea strainer, and add lemon and honey to mask the bitter taste.
Chamomile is an easy plant to grow from seed. Roman chamomile is a low-growing ground cover.
Catnip: Many cats like to roll all over catnip and any surrounding plants, so it may be best to grow this herb in a hanging basket. Although it is sometimes used to make a hot tea, catnip is of interest mainly to cats.
Comfrey: is a vigorous herb with large, “donkeyear” leaves that look like green sandpaper. A tea can be made from the leaves or roots.
Lemon balm: is a member of the mint family and can be very vigorous. It’s best to grow lemon balm in a confined bed area or in containers. It can be started from seeds, cuttings or roots. Once established, it will spread and self-sow, so give it plenty of room.
The leaves have a strong lemon odor; they can be used to make tea or flavor regular teas. Lemon balm is also added to fish dishes.
Marjoram and oregano: are similar, but the flavor of marjoram is sweeter and more delicate. They’re both easy to grow and can be used year round.
Varieties of marjoram include creeping golden marjoram, pot marjoram, sweet marjoram, and winter marjoram. They are best grown from transplants or root cuttings.
The most common types of oregano in Texas are Origanum vulgare, the low-spreading plant used in Italian or Greek foods, and Lippia graveolens or Lippia palmeri, the bushy shrub known as Mexican oregano.
Marjoram and oregano can be used in the same foods—meats, pizza, soups, stews, stuffing, and spaghetti sauce. The leaves are best used dried.
Mints: There are many mints. The easiest to grow is spearmint; peppermint is more difficult. Most mints are tough, hardy plants. Other mints include apple mint, pineapple mint, and orange mint, which is so vigorous that it soon becomes a weed.
All mints appreciate moisture and do best where they get afternoon shade. A good place to plant spearmint is at the base of a downspout. Mints can be grown from cuttings, roots, or transplants. Mint plants cross-pollinate easily, so hybrids abound. Spearmint and peppermint are used as culinary herbs and to make teas.
Rosemary: There are many forms of rosemary, ranging from a low-growing groundcover to a bush that grows up to 4 feet tall. Rosemary is a hardy plant that thrives in hot, dry climates.
A strong herb, it often used in meat dishes, especially chicken. Use a branch of rosemary as a basting brush for barbecued chicken, or place a few leaves on top of roasts or baked chicken.
Chives: The smallest member of the onion family, chives are easily grown from seeds or transplants. Use this herb any way you would use onions. It can be use it as garnish or added to baked potatoes, cottage cheese, omelets, and sauces.
Coriander is also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley. It is easily grown from seed and can sometimes be found growing wild. To have a steady supply of young leaves, sow seeds every few weeks.
Coriander is used in Mexican dishes. The leaves have a strong, “clean” flavor. Use only young leaves; the older ones are too strong.
The seeds have a flavor similar to orange and are used in pastries, sausage, and cooked fruit. They are also an important ingredient in pickling spice and curry powder.
Dill is one of the easiest herbs to grow from seed. It will easily become a weed if the seed heads are allowed to dry on the plant. The large green caterpillars that eat dill will turn into swallowtail butterflies, so plant enough for you and them.
Dill is used in pickling. It can also be added to fish, cottage, cheese, cream cheese, salad dressings, and most vegetables. The dried seed can be added to bread dough for a caraway-like flavor.
Parsley is probably the most used and least eaten herb in the world because it is used mostly as a garnish. Parsley is a biennial, producing leaves the first year and flowers the next. There are two forms: the flat-leaved or Italian parsley, and the curly or French parsley. Many hybrids of each are available as seeds or transplants.
The seeds germinate slowly, but parsley is worth the wait. It is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It can be battered and deep-fried, or browned with butter and garlic to make a basting sauce for grilled meats.
Sage doubles as a durable landscape plant. It is very drought resistant and can be killed by overwatering. Although sage is best started from transplants or cuttings, it can be started from seed.
Varieties of sage include blue, clary, garden, golden, pineapple, and tri-color. All can be used in cooking.
Sage leaves should always be dried before use. It can be used in black-eyed peas, chicken, egg and cheese dishes, pork, and poultry stuffing. When dried, leaves will keep their flavor for years.
Thyme is a good ornamental in beds and rock gardens. There are more than 400 species of thyme, including common, English, golden, lemon, mother of-thyme, silver, and woolly.
Thyme is used in soups and fish, meat, poultry, and vegetable dishes. Add a pinch of thyme to a tablespoon of honey and mix with drained cooked carrots and onions. Thyme is a key herb in making Cajun gumbo.
Along with sage, rosemary, marjoram, and oregano, thyme should be considered a basic of every herb garden.
Caring for vegetable plants
Many people consider watering one of the most enjoyable jobs in the garden. However, many gardening problems—including diseases, bitter fruit, poor fertility, poor quality, sunscald, and poor yield—can be related to improper watering.
Do not water lightly several times a week, which causes poor root development. Instead, water thoroughly, soaking the soil to a depth of 6 inches, and only when the plants need it. An inch or two of water applied once a week is usually enough for most vegetable gardens in Texas.
Determine when to water by examining the soil, not the plants. If the soil surface appears dry, scratch it to a depth of 1 inch to see if the soil is moist. If so, do not water. If the soil is dry at a depth of 1 inch, it’s time to water.
Light, sandy soils drain quickly and must be watered more often than heavy clay soils, so check sandy soil more often.
One of the best ways to water a garden is with a drip irrigation system. Drip irrigation controls the application of water by releasing it slowly over a long period. When the rate of drip irrigation is adjusted correctly, there will be no puddles, runoff, or saturated soil.
When buying a drip irrigation system, look for one that can be adapted to your garden’s size and shape. The hose will need to be placed along each row to irrigate the plants’ root zones.
Before laying out the drip irrigation hose, firm the soil in the rows to help the water move laterally in the soil as well as downward. For the pre-plant irrigation, you may need to sprinkle the entire garden to settle the soil enough for drip irrigation water to move laterally, especially in sandy soils.
Protecting plants from insects and diseases
Expect insect and disease problems. When they appear, the first step is to identify the cause correctly. For help in identifying insect damage and disease symptoms, refer to publications in Extension’s Easy Gardening series (http://agrilifebookstore.org).
To produce a good yield, protect the plants much as possible. Many pesticides can help protect vegetables from insects and diseases. Before buying, read the product label carefully to make sure it is the right one for your intended use. Always follow the label directions carefully.
Other techniques do not use pesticides; they protect the plants before they are damaged. One method is to protect the plants with covers that keep insects away. Insects damage plants by feeding on them, and some insects—including aphids, whiteflies, thrips, and leaf-feeding beetles—also transmit diseases. Although it is impossible to keep insects away from plants entirely, plant covers can help.
Covers can be of clear plastic or a translucent, fabric-like material known as row cover or spunweb. Covers can be used on row crops but are easiest to use on plants that are caged, such as tomatoes and peppers. Install the cages around young transplants and cover them to the ground with the plant covers. Anchor the covers securely in the soil.
Because heat can build up under plastic covering, ventilate it during the day if temperatures are in the high 70s or more. Ventilate the cages by opening the top and raising the plastic 4 to 6 inches off the ground at the bottom. The cover will still protect the plants because most insects do not enter from the top.
On cold nights, close the covers. Remove plastic covering entirely when the foliage begins to touch the edges and bunch against the sides of plastic. For tomatoes, this will usually be about the time the plant has marble-sized fruit.
Plants covered with spunweb never need to be uncovered. Spunweb will not overheat plants because the temperature inside the material is about 15°F cooler than the outside temperature. Used in the fall, spunweb also gives plants some shading from the hot sun.
However, spunweb does not provide as much cold protection as plastic, so each cage will have to be artificially heated (such as with Christmas lights) if temperatures fall below freezing.
Cover can also protect the plants from wind. Winds as low as 15 mph can significantly slow plant growth, delay harvest, and decrease yields.
You may wonder if plants will set fruit when covered with plastic or spunweb, since no bees or other insects are able to enter. It’s not a problem for tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, which are 85 percent self-pollinated; that is, they don’t need insect pollination to set fruit.
To ensure adequate pollination for other vegetables, shake the covered cages vigorously every day after bloom begins, or thump the bloom clusters daily with your finger. You can also artificially set early blooms by spraying bloom clusters with a plant hormone spray such as Blossom-Set®. The resulting fruit will have fewer seeds.
Spunweb will protect seedlings from birds and other pests, and cole crops (such as broccoli and cabbage) from leaf-eating caterpillars. You can also use spunweb to “vine ripen” fruit.
Nematodes are a common garden problem. They can severely damage all crops except corn, garlic, onions, and nematode-resistant tomatoes. The symptoms of nematode damage above ground are like those of many other root diseases or of environmental problems such as inadequate water or nutrient deficiency: The plants look wilted or stunted, have chlorotic or pale green leaves, and yield less produce.
The most characteristic symptoms of nematode damage are underground. Infected roots will swell and form knots or galls. Fast-growing annuals will have large, fleshy galls; woody perennials will have small, hard galls. Infected tubers, corms, or other edible roots will have small swellings or pimpling on the surface.
There are several ways to combat nematodes. For a spring garden, plant cereal rye (Elbon) in the fall.
For fall gardens, solarize or pasteurize the soil in July by tilling it well and watering until it is very moist; then cover the soil with clear plastic. Seal the edges and leave the plastic in place for at least a month. Do not use black plastic because the soil will not heat up enough to destroy the nematodes. Solarization also helps control fungi and weeds.
In areas heavily infested with nematodes, plant marigolds in the garden area in August. Marigold roots release a substance that is toxic to nematodes. Plant marigolds 12 inches apart and allow them to grow until the fall planting of cole crops (such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard, and turnips) begins in October. Then remove the tops of the marigolds and till their roots into the soil.
Many gardeners avoid planting marigolds because they attract spider mites to the garden. However, the spider mites will be virtually eliminated when the garden is tilled in August for planting with marigolds. Because mite populations decline as the weather cools in the fall, they will not have time to increase to damaging numbers when the fall garden crops are growing.
Harvesting fall produce
To get the best results from your garden, harvest produce properly and at the right time. Below are some tips to help you.
Beans, snap: For maximum tenderness, harvest beans before maturity when the pods are not completely full. Wash and refrigerate them immediately.
Beets: Pull early beets when they are about 2 inches in diameter. Larger beets are woody, especially in warm, dry weather. Remove all but about 1 to 1½ inches of the tops. Wash and refrigerate them immediately.
Broccoli: Harvest broccoli heads when they are firm, compact, and 4 to 8 inches in diameter. Determine the maximum size by watching the floret development. Broccoli heads are composed of many individual flowers called florets. The head is as large as it will be when the individual groups of florets begin to loosen, emerge from the surface of the head, and are not tightly clustered. Cut the stalk below the head, leaving 8 to 10 inches of stem and attached leaves. Chill the heads immediately.
Brussels sprouts: Harvesting usually begins 3 to 3½ months after transplanting. Early sprouts should be picked several times, taking the lowest on the plant each time; otherwise, they will open and become yellow. The first harvest should occur before the lower leaves begin to turn yellow; otherwise, the sprouts will toughen and lose their delicate flavor.
When picking Brussels sprouts, break off the leaf below the sprout and then remove the sprout by breaking it from the stalk. As the lower leaves and sprouts are removed, the plant continues to push out new leaves at the top, and new buds, or sprouts, are formed. Remove all lower sprouts, even those that do not make solid little heads.
Cabbage: Cabbage is mature and as large as it will get when the head becomes solid and the sides or top cannot be pressed in with the thumb. Mature heads often split open.
To delay the harvest of mature cabbage yet prevent this splitting, twist the entire plant slightly to break several roots. The breakage will reduce the uptake of water from the soil and delay splitting.
Cauliflower: Harvest cauliflower heads when they are firm, compact, and 4 to 8 inches in diameter. Like broccoli, the heads are as large as they will get when the individual groups of florets begin to loosen and emerge from the head. To harvest cauliflower, cut the stalk just below the head.
The yellowish color of the cauliflower surface is caused by exposure to sunlight. To prevent discoloration, when the small bud head appears in the center of the plant, draw the lower leaves of the plant loosely over the bud in a tent-like fashion. Tie the leaves together with a string or rubber band.
The leaves of cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts also can be harvested and eaten as greens.
Carrot: There are many varieties of carrots with different potential sizes and lengths. Most mature fully within 60 to 85 days but can be harvested earlier.
The crown size can indicate maturity. The crown, where the foliage attaches to the root, is usually at least 3/4 inch in diameter when the carrot is mature. Another test for maturity is to pull the largest carrot and examine the bottom or growing tip. If the tip is orange, the carrot is mature. If the tip is white, the carrot is still growing.
There is no need to harvest the carrot crop all at once. Carrots can be left in the ground for several weeks after they mature. In fact, the best place in Texas to store carrots is in cool garden soil.
Cucumber: Harvest cucumbers when they are bright, firm, and green but before they get too large. About 1 to 2 inches in diameter is right, with the smaller size best for pickling.
Discard all nubbins (small, undeveloped cucumbers), and poorly shaped or light-colored fruits. If possible, do not store cucumbers in the refrigerator for more than 2 days. It is best to pickle cucumbers the same day they are picked.
Greens: Harvest greens while the leaves are young and tender and before they start turning yellow or brown. Slight bronze tints are normal on mustard greens. Avoid wilted or flaccid leaves. Wash and chill them immediately.
Peppers: Harvest peppers when they are 4 to 5 inches long and have full, well-formed lobes. Immature peppers are pale, soft, pliable, and thin fleshed. Wash and chill the peppers immediately.
Spinach: Harvest spinach when six or more crisp, dark green leaves have formed. Wash them gently and chill immediately. Cut the leaves from the plant to encourage re-sprouting.
Squash: Harvest yellow crookneck squash when it is 4 to 6 inches long; harvest yellow straight-neck squash when it is 6 to 9 inches long; and harvest white scallop squash when it is 3 to 4 inches in diameter. A glossy color indicates tenderness.
Wash, dry, and store squash in a warm area of the refrigerator. Like cucumbers, squash are susceptible to chilling injury and should not be stored for more than 2 days.
Tomato: Harvest tomatoes at the pink stage, and ripen them in a warm area of the house. Harvesting at this time will not affect flavor, and it may prevent damage by insects and birds.
Download a printer-friendly version of this publication: Fall Vegetable Gardening Guide (pdf)
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*Acknowledgment Jerry Parsons, former Extension Horticulturist, was a coauthor of an earlier version of this publication.
Fall vegetable planting guide
- ‘Blue Wind’ broccoli ‘Blue Wind’ broccoli Photo: National Garden Bureau
Photo: National Garden Bureau Image 1 of / 7
Image 1 of 7 ‘Blue Wind’ broccoli ‘Blue Wind’ broccoli Photo: National Garden Bureau Fall vegetable planting guide 1 / 7 Back to Gallery
Fall’s milder temperatures bring out the best flavors in home vegetable gardens. Insects and disease are less bothersome. And we can grow warm- and cool-season crops.
Warm-season vegetables are frost-susceptible types such as beans, cucumbers and summer squash that can’t take cold. They should go into your garden soon, joining newly planted tomatoes.
Frost-tolerant crops that need cooler conditions include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, spinach and turnips.
• Plant crops where they will receive at least six hours of direct sun daily. Root crops (such as turnips) and leafy vegetables (like lettuce) tolerate some shade, but fruiting types (such as tomatoes and squash) need sun. A south or southeastern exposure is best, and when possible, plant rows or raised beds east-west. A garden that catches the early morning sun will dry more quickly, reducing the chance that harmful fungi or bacteria will develop.
• Good air circulation and easy access to a water source are important.
• Success lies in an organically enriched, loose and well-draining soil.
• Mulch to conserve soil moisture, moderate soil temperatures and discourage weeds.
Beans, bush, seed: September
Beets, seed: September-mid-October
Broccoli, transplant: September-January
Brussels sprouts, transplant: September-January
Cabbage, seed: August-November
Cabbage, transplant: September-November
Carrots, seed: mid-October-November
Cauliflower, transplant: September-January
Collards, seed: September-December 1
Collards, transplant: September-January
Cucumber, seed: August
Garlic, clove: late-September-mid-November
Kohlrabi, transplant: mid-September-November
Lettuce, leaf, seed and transplant: late-September-December
Mustard, seed: September-November
Mustard, transplant: September-January
Onion, transplant: mid-October-November, January
Peas, snap, seed: late-September-October/January-early February
Potatoes, Irish, seed potatoes: mid-August-mid-September
Radish, seed: September-November
Spinach, seed/transplant: October-November
Squash, summer, transplant – early September
Tomatoes, transplant: mid-July-mid-August
Turnips, seed: September-November, January-February