Early August Gardening
If you’ve ever lived up North, you know how delightful a spring garden can be as it matures in the warming days of May, June and even July. But here in Texas, those soon become “boiling” days, and spring crops often don’t get to mature before it’s too hot.
Turn to a fall vegetable garden. The crops mature as temperatures cool and rainfall returns. Most of the summer pests abate by the fall, and you’re not so stressed by all the other spring activities.
Your short steps to success
• Rework the garden soil by rototilling 2 or 3 inches of additional organic matter (compost, rotted manure, peat moss, finely ground pine bark mulch) to a depth of 10 or 12 inches.
• Be sure the soil won’t dry and form an impenetrable crust that could inhibit germination of your vegetable seeds.
Beans: Bush beans are quickest and most dependable. Planted now, they’ll have full time to mature before the first frost. Contender, Tendercrop, Golden Wax and Purple Royalty are all fun and easy to grow. This is a great plant for a child’s first experience. Sow beans 2 or 3 inches apart. Thin to stand 4 to 5 inches apart.
Cucumbers: Grow them on tripods of poles, and plant 2 or 3 seeds per pole. Space the separate tripods 5 or 6 feet apart. (See squash for pollination tips.)
Squash: Summer squash, crooknecks and zucchinis are best in the fall garden. Larger types may not have time to mature before frost, but summer squash will. Remember that the first flowers that appear will be male flowers (pollen, but no primordial fruit at the bases of the petals). After a couple of weeks the female flowers will begin to appear. If they abort two or three days after they close, you may not have good bee activity. Pluck off male flowers and peel away their petals. Use them to daub pollen onto the female flowers on the plants. Plantings of 4 or 5 seeds should be 5 or 6 feet apart.
Corn: Fast types that produce ears in 70 or 75 days will be best in most of Texas, so the ears can develop before it turns cold. Corn is pollinated by wind, so your corn planting must be 20 by 20 feet. Anything smaller and you’ll get partially filled ears. Sow the seeds 4 or 5 inches apart in their rows. Thin as needed to stand 6 or 8 inches apart in rows.
Cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale) are planted mid-August. Leafy and root crops are planted later in the month. More details here later.
Wondering where tomatoes and peppers are in my lists? They came earlier. We talked about them here at the proper planting times. Tomatoes must be set out by the last week of June, first week of July to realize their full productivity. Peppers should have been planted around mid-July. They can both be planted somewhat later, but with tomatoes you’ll want shorter, determinate types that are suited to pots so you can bring them indoors when early freezes are forecast.
(Note about the timings I list. These are based on the middle third of the state, generally from the Hill Country and Austin to Bryan, and then north to the Red River. If you’re south of that very general line, you can delay the times I have given by a couple of weeks. If you’re in the Panhandle, these are really urgent dates for you. You might want to do these things just a bit earlier next year.)