Ag Biz News Column
County Extension Agent—Ag/NR
Gardening is still very popular as people get a sense of accomplishment by growing their own fresh fruits and vegetables. Fall and winter months are a good time to begin planning for the spring garden even though we may be months from actual planting dates.
Soil test the area in which you intend to plant fruit trees, vegetables, and other potential crops. The soil test gives you details about your soil such as pH, macronutrient levels, and micronutrient levels present in the soil. Fall and winter months are ideal months to apply lime if needed to raise pH as the lime will have time to break down as we typically get fall and winter moisture.
Seed selection is another thing to begin studying in the fall and winter months. Deciding on which varieties of seeds or transplants to purchase allows you time to locate these so you will not be late in planting. When possible, use greenhouse or other indoor opportunities to start some vegetables as it may give you a head start come springtime. Avoid planting too early as some varieties can get injured due to freeze damage.
Do you have limited room? There are options for you as well. Raised beds, container gardening, and other creative options allow anyone to enjoy the benefits of gardening. Some have even grown a small vegetable garden in their flower beds.
Some people grow in containers and bring the container in and out according to extreme weather patterns. Citrus, for example, is one that may be successfully grown in our area but it will require some attention to do so. Container gardening with vegetables can be successful as well. A number of vegetables can be grown in containers. Vegetables grown in containers include broccoli, carrots, cucumber, tomato, peppers and squash to name a few. Container gardening is also popular with young children to help get them interested in growing a garden.
The location of the garden is important. Select a site that is well drained and in full sun for most varieties of vegetables. Sometimes when vegetables do not grow like they should it is because we planted in an area that has too much shade and not enough sunlight.
Pests of the garden can be a problem. Weeds, insects, and disease of various crops can affect our yields. Mulch can be important as they can help keep moisture near the plant yet provide some nutrients in the organic matter as it breaks down. Mechanically or hand pulling of weeds can keep our garden looking good yet prevent weeds from robbing our plants of nutrients and water.
During fall and winter months, many people begin purchasing bare root fruit and nut trees to plant in their landscape or orchard. It may require some study to determine which varieties you desire to plant but also which varieties will yield well for our area. Train or prune your trees to obtain proper development of the root system. The root system is the basis of the future tree.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has a number of research based educational publications on specific fruit, nut, and vegetables that may be helpful in your gardening venture. We also have planting guides for various fruit, nut, and vegetables that can be helpful as you begin preparation for your spring garden. Soil test information sheets and bags are available at our office as well.
Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.