LATE FALL VEGETABLES – Byron Chitwood
After our hot summers, we are all looking forward for a change to a cool fall. With this cooler weather coming on, now is the time to plan for late fall vegetables in our garden plots. The first ones that come to mind are turnips and beets. Both of these vegetables are prized for both their greens and roots. Both can be planted from mid- August through the end of September. After cleanup of the spaces allocated for the two vegetables, till and rake the soil until it is level and clods are suitably pulverized. Turnip seeds are usually mixed with powdered soil or fertilizer and broadcast over the area that has been selected. Some folks plant them in rows and I have tried both methods and both work well. After the seed mixture has been broadcast, lightly rake the soil with the back of a rake and water in the seeds. Within a week, the seeds should germinate and sprout. Some thinning might be required after they have sprouted.
Beets should be planted in rows at a depth of a half or more inch with spacing of 2 inches and rows about 16 inches apart. They take longer than turnips but should sprout within two weeks.
Mustard greens can be planted like turnips or beets but should be thinned to a much less dense stand than either turnips or beets. If the weather is good and the soil is moist enough, mustard greens will sprout in less than a week.
Collards, kale, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, Broccoli, cauliflower and chard are greens or vegetables that need to be in the ground during the month of August. All of these can be started from seeds and will have time to mature before the first killing frost. However, they can all stand temperatures below freezing provide it doesn’t get to cold and the cold remains for days on end. If the winter is not too severe, collards, kale and chard can survive the winter and will be productive in the very early spring before any other vegetable comes up. Sometimes, mustard greens have survived a mild winter.
My favorite vegetable to plant for a fall garden is green beans. There are several varieties that do well and maybe more, but I prefer contenders and as a second choice, Italian sometimes known as Roma flat green beans. In a taste test with 18 Master Gardeners, the Romas scored the highest. Regardless of which one they like the best, I never have any trouble giving away my surplus.
There are many other vegetables that can be planted for a late fall harvest. These include tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, squash and potatoes. They all do well and yields sometimes exceed spring harvest. The exception is potatoes. They almost always yield about a third of what you could expect in the spring.
The last thing to plant is garlic in October. It will not be mature until the following June.
Fall Tomatoes by Byron Chitwood.
It might sound like it is too early to plant fall tomatoes, especially when the ones that were planted in the spring are at the height of their production. However, if fall tomatoes are expected to mature before the frost gets them, they should be planted now or very soon. Unfortunately, not many transplants are available this time of the year, but if you are lucky enough to find some, buy and plant them as soon as possible. They will require more care than the ones that were planted in the spring but the results will be well worth it.
Some folks manage to keep their spring tomato plants alive until fall with good results but I have never been able to do so with the exception of a few improved cherry tomato plants. If you have some fairly healthy spring tomato plants, you might try keeping them alive and if so, can expect them to produce tomatoes before that first killing frost. Another trick is to bend some of the limbs on these plants down to the ground and bury them in a shallow trench without detaching them from the mother plant. These limbs will develop their own root system. When they are firmly rooted, detach from the parent plant and you have developed a clone.
Another way to start tomatoes is to cut some of the healthy main shoots from the spring planted bushes and plant them in either a pot full of potting soil. Keep these pots in a cool place with the soil being moistened and the cuttings will eventually develop roots and can be transplanted to the garden. You can also plant the cuttings directly into the garden and with luck, they will develop roots and grow. If your soil is a tight gumbo or clay, it would be very helpful to dig holes about four to six inches in diameter and fill with potting soil before planting the cuttings directly into the garden. Do all this in advance of making the cuttings and then when you do take the cuttings, speed of getting them into the soil or potting mixture is of essence. One of our florist friends advised to do this within 20 minutes since the cuttings will start to scab over just as soon as they have been cut from the parent bush.
You can also plant tomatoes from seeds. No doubt you have some tomato seeds in your hoard or maybe they are still available at your favorite nursery. Buy several varieties for diversification since some varieties will do better than others. Follow the directions for planting the seeds. They can be started in pots indoors or sowed directly into the garden soil. Some stores sell their apples or other fruits in clear plastic containers. These make excellent little hot houses for germinating seeds when planted directly in the garden. After they sprout, uncover them. It will help to build a shade to protect these seedlings from the afternoon hot summer sun. If you have plenty of garden space, try some or all of these methods for starting fall tomatoes.
Just before the first killing frost, pick all your green tomatoes and store them indoors out of the cold. You will be eating tomatoes as they ripen through the Christmas Holidays. At the Christmas dinner table with those ripened tomatoes, you can say “the old pro has done it again”!
Water Wise Ways by Byron Chitwood
We are currently out of the woods on water supply and soil moisture compared to what we have been through in the past. However, knowing Texas and the hot summers, there is no time to conserve like the present. We might need to do that in the present.
First of all some facts are that agriculture and water management are a global issue. The population is increasing while the supply of water worldwide remains about stable. Less than 3% of the world’s water is considered fresh which includes all water with less than 500 ppm so dissolved salts. 97% of the world’s water is ocean. The world’s fresh water as a percentage of total water is: glaciers, ice caps and snow account for about 2%; ground water and soil moisture is about 1%; swamps and rivers are about 0.01 percent and the atmosphere is about 0.04%
Human needs range from about 11 to 53 gallons per day per person while farm animal require from 2 to 15 gallons per day per animal. Minimum crop needs in our area require a minimum of 25 inches of rain per crop year. May was an exceptional good month for rain in our area. After the soil became saturated, the rest ran off and filled the lakes. I remember when I was a kid, the Guthrie city lake went dry and the only water we had for all needs was well or cistern water, neither of which was plentiful enough for all our needs or wants. A pipe line was laid from the Cottonwood Creek and the water sure didn’t taste good but it was wet.
I mentioned cistern water in the previous paragraph. Nothing is new about that. The first source of water for the early settlers was creeks or springs until they were able to hand dig a well. The well water wasn’t always good. My granddad’s first farm had a hand dug well and the water was “gypy” and not good for human consumption. I suspect the water was slightly salty since the farm was less than a mile away from the Cimarron River which was highly salty. The cows, horses, hogs and chickens didn’t seem to mind it but they didn’t have much of a choice. After farm homes and barns were built, the farmers constructed cisterns most of which were concrete lined and underground. The pumps were hand cranked and had a multitude of small buckets attached to a chain and emptied into a catch device that delivered the water to an outlet. To be on the safe side, cistern water needed to be boiled since the cisterns were not mosquito or critter proof.
If you are interested in constructing a cistern or “rain water harvesting system” you can obtain plans at the Hunt County AgriLife Extension office or on the internet at AgriLifebookstore.org. All your houseplants, garden crops just love rainwater and you will do your share in helping conserve one of our precious natural resources.
Texas Turf Grass by Wanda Loras.
Seven years ago, I moved to Hunt County. My neighbors told me the soil in our neighborhood would not grow anything. I had many oak trees, sand, weeds and a miniscule amount of Bermuda grass. In my ignorance of what was best for my site, I chose St. Augustine grass.
It would take a book to explain all the problems I have encountered with my St. Augustine turf in the last six years. Due to diseases and not understanding how important soil samples are, I have replaced my lawn two times. Ignorance again.
I was introduced to the Master Gardener program my fourth year in this county and my life changed. Through this program, I learned where I could access a wealth of information on anything Horticulture in nature.
My research for Turf grass recommendations for North East Texas with an emphasis on Hunt County led me to http://aggieturf.tamu.edu. This site will give you much more information than space for this article can possibly cover.
When deciding what turf is best for your location, it is important to select a species adapted to your specific location. Site considerations include: shade or sun, soil depth and quality, intended use (lawn, golf course, or athletic field), amount of traffic, amount of rainfall or irrigation, and level of maintenance.
There are five species of turf that are well adapted for Northeast Texas. Warm season grasses are Bermuda, Centipede, and Zoysia grasses. Cool season grasses are Ryegrass and Tall Fescue.
Bermuda grass has a very low tolerance for shade. Water requirements are moderate to low. Drought tolerance is very good to excellent. Traffic tolerance is high. Cold tolerance is moderate. Salinity tolerance is moderate to high. Disease potential is low to moderate. Mow every 3 to 7 days to maintain a height of 1 to 2 inches. Establish with seed or sod. The seed can be found at garden centers and your local Farmers Co-op.
Centipede grass has a moderate tolerance for shade. Water requirements are moderate. Drought tolerance is moderate. Traffic tolerance is low. Cold tolerance is low. Salinity tolerance is low to moderate. Disease potential is low to moderate. Mow every 7 to 10 days to maintain a height of 1.5 to 2.0 inches. Centipede is especially good for east Texas due to its tolerance for more acidic soils. Centipede is best suited as a low maintenance lawn grass and is best established with sod since seed is slower to cover. However, seed is available for the patient grower.
Zoysia grass has a moderate to high tolerance for shade. Water requirements are moderate. Drought tolerance is very good. Traffic tolerance is moderate to high. Cold tolerance is moderate to high. Salinity tolerance is moderate to high. Disease potential is low to moderate. Mow every 5 to 10 days to maintain a height of .5 to 2.0 inches. Sod is best for establishment.
One section of my yard is now in Zoysia grass. It is doing great. I have Bermuda in sunny locations. My St. Augustine is doing much better but I will eventually replace it because it requires too much water and is prone to so many diseases. I have a section of exposed slightly acidic soil in moderate shade with soil erosion. I think this plot is a good candidate for Centipede grass.
Notable Texas Public Gardens, Continued by June Morgan
Venturing further from the Greenville area and going east and south are The Tyler Rose Garden, The East Texas Arboretum, The Riverside Nature Center, Peckerwood Garden, The Lynn R. Lowrey Arboretum, The San Antonio Botanical Garden, Moody Gardens, Shangri La Botanical Gardens, Beaumont Botanical Gardens, Mercer Arboretum, and The Houston Arboretum.
The Rose Garden Center, with its museum and gift shop, serves as the gateway to the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden and is located at 420 South Rose Park Drive in Tyler. The garden covers 14 acres with over 38,000 roses plus azaleas and camellias. The museum has memorabilia of the rose parades including many of the beautiful dresses worn by participants. The garden is open from dawn until dark seven days a week with free admission. The Garden Center admission is $3.50.and is open 8-5 weekdays, 9-5 Saturdays and 1-5 Sundays. While the azaleas will be blooming in the spring, the best time for the roses is in October. This purports to be the largest rose garden in the U.S. Available for special events. Phone: 903-531-1213.
The East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society covers over 100 acres at 1601 Patterson Road, Athens, TX. This non-profit centers on education, preservation and conservation, and includes historical buildings, many native plants, hiking trails with a combination of wetlands and forest. Children will enjoy a large play area and especially the replica of a one -room school house. The 1851 Wofford house is a living museum complete with period furnishings and a backyard kitchen garden. This place is surely a jewel of Henderson County. Admission is $2.00 and is available for private events. Phone: 903-675-5630.
The Riverside Nature Center is a non-profit arboretum with a wildlife and native plant sanctuary located on the Guadalupe River at 150 Francisco Lemos St. Kerrville, TX. Since 1992 after extensive clearing and planting it has become an arboretum with over 140 tree species, 200 species of wildflowers, cacti, shrubs and native grasses. In addition to a butterfly plant garden there is a unique sensory garden with signs in Braille. The river trail is a great place for a picnic, bird watching and identifying native and drought resistant plants. Improvements are always in the works. Free admission. Open 9-4 weekdays, 10-3 Saturdays, 1-4 Sundays. Phone: 830-257-4837.
The Peckerwood Garden in Hempstead, located on FM 359 just a few miles south of Highway 290, is another gem hidden in plain view. The design skills of architect Professor John Fairey are fundamental behind the fluid and graceful arrangements of the numerous beds with their unusual juxtaposition of shapes, textures, and colors. Of special interest is a large collection of endangered plants from Texas and Mexico which are now in a painstakingly recreated ecosystem. While the garden is not set up for unrestricted access, private tours can be arranged as well as visits on open days for a 1 hour guided tour. This season’s open days are mostly on Saturdays and tickets can be purchased online for $10 at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone can purchase seeds online at www.peckerwoodgarden.org/seeds. Phone: 979-826-3232.
To be continued……….
Late Spring Gardening by Byron Chitwood
This spring has been a wet one, so much so that gardeners were unable to get in some vegetables such as lettuce and spinach. Also late to get planted were the Cole family including broccoli, cabbage and kale. They are still for sale in your favorite nursery or do it yourself stores so if you have not planted them yet, go ahead and give it a try. I planted some of these earlier but for some reason, the broccoli bolted and flowered real early. The cabbage and cauliflower looks alright. Maybe those few hot days mad the broccoli think it was time to set seeds.
My red potatoes are looking fine but the Yukon Gold ones have not even sprouted yet. I hope they didn’t rot in the ground due to the early rains that we received.
Although there is still some time left to plant the following, hurry every chance you get: southern peas such as cream peas, black eyed peas and purple hulls. All these are of the legume family and if nothing else, will put some nitrogen in your soil as well as serve as a cover crop. However, they will probably bear a good crop of peas. Harvest them when the seeds in the pods have swollen to their maxim but have not yet started to dry. They are excellent eating and easy to hull if harvested at just the right time. Also, after you have hulled more than what you want to cook immediately, freeze some in freezer bags for the winter time when very little else is available in your garden. I put about a cup of water per quart of peas in the freezer bag and squeeze all the air out of the bag before sealing. Then dry off the outside of the bag to keep the individual bags from freezing together in the freezer. It is too late to plant English peas. They should have been planted in late February.
Other crops that can still be planted are green beans, Lima beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, egg plants, mustard greens, okra, peppers of all kinds, pumpkins, squash and watermelons. I am running a test on which is the most productive: contender or Italian (flat) green beans. So far, the contenders have germinated almost 100 percent but the Italian ones are struggling to even sprout. Maybe it is because I used seeds that were purchased last fall. However, I did keep them in the refrigerator over the winter and have never had any trouble with green bean seeds that were stored this way. I’ll keep the readers of these articles posted on the results of this test but so far my conclusions are that you can’t go wrong with contenders.
It is a little early yet but fall tomato seeds need to be started between June 1 and June 20. Purchase some seeds of your favorite varieties while they are still available and store them in the refrigerator until then. Fall is my favorite time to garden in this area, but that will be discussed in a later article.