Oh, Texas! How gardeners love the easy way we can garden year round! Fall and winter gardens are some of the best of the year, because of the many days of pleasant weather we have, and the absence of heat and bugs in the garden! There is less watering required, because the plants use less, and less evaporates in the heat. You will be hooked once you try it!
We’re going to focus on herbs and vegetables in this article, because there is the same opportunity to feel proud and gratified when you cut broccoli or kale from your own garden as with any juicy red tomato you grow during the summer months. Eating closer to the source of your food is good for your health and the environment, and Central Texas is big on “farm to table” and supporting our local farmers!
If you’ve got containers, you can grow kale and chard; and lettuces until it gets really cold. It’s the perfect time to plant broccoli, cabbages, kale, collards, bok choy, cauliflower, and mustard into tubs or garden patches. Turn in some compost into the soil, and you can harvest these nutritious veggies into January.
If you want to carry them through until spring, you can set up some protection from the worst of our winter weather, typically in February. If you are planting in a garden, row covers are simple to make from PVC pipe and two-foot lengths of rebar. Pound the rebar into the soil, slide the PVC pipe onto it, then do the same thing on the other side of the row to make a hoop. Repeat the hoops at two-foot intervals down the length of your row, and when the freeze is impending, cover the row of hoops with row cover cloth, available at garden stores like The Natural Gardener. This is a simple and inexpensive way to take your veggie garden all the way through until it’s time for your spring garden to start! If you are planting in containers, you can drape row cover or an old blanket over the pots on the coldest nights.
It’s also a perfect time of year to start perennial herbs, which will go wonderfully with your home grown greens and other vegetables! Rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay laurel, marjoram, mints, fennel and dill, all do well in cooler weather and can be transplanted now. We recommend digging in compost to keep the soil soft and nutrient-rich, and as the weather begins to turn colder, you can snug up a blanket of mulch around the plants to keep the soil and the plant roots warm. They will thank you with healthy, fragrant plants that can be used for cooking, drying, teas, and health remedies. You may wish to cover them on the very coldest nights, but even if you don’t, they will generally live and just need to be cut back a bit.
We hope you will give Texas fall and winter gardening a try!