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The Fall Garden Season: Get Ready, Get Set, Go!

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July is the time to start that autumn vegetable garden for which this part of the country is famous.  By July you should have a tray or two of germinated seedlings or starts about ready to transplant.

Sturdy little eggplants, tomatoes, salad peppers (all members of Mr. and Mrs. Nightshade’s family) get a kick out of July’s heat with the clear understanding they need plenty of mulch and a good drink most days until their roots grow deep.  Mature vegetable plants may look limp on late afternoons, but you can count on that or worse if you ignore seedlings.

Stick a table knife in the ground near your plants.  If plenty of damp dirt clings to the blade when you pull it out, you can hold off on the water.

If you’re feeling adventuresome plant a few mounds of cantaloupe, pumpkins and watermelon seeds with plenty of well-rotted manure in early July, and you’ll get a late crop.  They’re vines that grow all over the place so give ‘em room.

After your starts are in the ground, it’s time to inventory your seed supply.  In early August you can sow directly in the ground: broccoli, beets, cabbages, cauliflower, most beans, carrots, greens, sweet corn, cukes, lettuces, more okra, parsley, and squashes.

Remember seeds slurp in water during germination, which can take several weeks, so plan for a thorough daily soaking.  It is possible to over-water seeds and seedlings in the ground, but I haven’t figured out how to do that in July/August in this part of Texas.

Vegetables do not require separate garden beds, but they do need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight a day.  Scatter plants among your ornamentals, or try them in containers.  Mature companion plants help shade and cool the ground around your vegetable and fruit roots.  This is good.  You can move containers around to follow the sun.

Fruits and veggies like food.  Translation: feed them, and they’ll feed you. BUT do follow the directions with fertilizers or you’ll have a plant cemetery instead of a garden.

The average first frost date in this area is mid-November, but it’s been known to come later.   Can I ever remember it coming earlier?   There’s no good way to predict that or the last frost date in the spring so pay attention to the planting calendar suggestions from Texas AgriLife Extension Service, then as the French say, “Bonne chance!” or good luck.

If you want to know species cultivars that are particularly well suited to our area, the Extension Service can help you there too. Find them online at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.

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