You mean I need to start my winter garden now?
Ahhh mid summer – can’t be outside past noon, garden needs a major haircut, okra is abounding and malabar spinach is pumping. It is outrageously hot right now, but we must look beyond the hot hot heat to get prepped for the next major planting season, which starts . . . now. Huh? I need to think about my winter garden in August?
There is a great argument to be made that fall and winter gardening beats out summer gardening hands down in Austin. Its a great time when summer hold overs still produce and the cool season crops are bountiful. This includes most greens, root crops, lettuces and all members of the brassicacea family – the mustard family, cabbage family, crucifers or just brassicas – including kale, collards, cauliflower, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, Chinese broccoli (seriously – try Gai Lan if you get a chance) and mustard greens. These guys produce and keep on producing – just take one or two leafs at a time from each plant, and move on to the next.
Because of the heat and sun, it is extremely difficult to keep the soil surface moist enough to sprout seedlings. With many of the brassicas, it is best to start these guys in 4” pots or soil blocks. Or just allow the pros around here to grow the starts for you and get them in September (YardFarm starts hundreds of plants each season and we cheerfully deliver). You will start seeing these in September at all quality area nurseries.
Lettuces and other tender greens can be most economically grown from seeds in flats, or cell trays (or direct seeded, but it is hot out there and most of us are pretty busy). Indoor garden stores and the Natural Gardener sell these for 3-4 bucks a piece and they can have anywhere from 70 -250 cells. Roots crops however MUST be grown in the soil and you still have a month or so to get them in. Try putting in beets and snap beans right now – their germination rates are similar.
Carrots can go in as well, but can take up to two weeks to sprout. It took me years to get my first carrot crop. For persnickety seeds, try using paper or cardboard to cover the soil where seeds are about to germinate. Check seeds once a day and remove paper immediately if you see growth. Keep them moist and don’t forget about them. This will hopefully reduce watering needs to once a day or less. Bare soil will need a gentle shower up to three times a day.
There are 3 major planting calendars in this area. They all tell a slightly different story and each probably applies to some years more then others. Check ‘em out: Austin Organic Gardeners , Travis County Extension Service , and the Travis County calendar from A&M. Have fun and call us or the extension service with any questions. We would be happy to come out and talk gardening or bring you plants any time!