Dig in now: Get ready for fall gardening

August 19, 2004
Victoria County Master Gardener

While it hardly seems like time to be thinking about fall, it is time to prepare for the fall vegetable garden, which in some cases is very similar to gardening in the spring.

Most vegetables that grow in the spring garden in South Central Texas will also grow well in the fall. Some, such as cauliflower, cabbage, carrots and broccoli, will do even better in the cool nights and warm days of fall. It has been said by some gardeners that the spring garden is just practice for your fall garden.

Soil condition is always very important when planting a vegetable garden. Adding liberal amounts of composted material helps keep the soil pliable and helps lower the pH in alkaline soils in this area of the state. Additional nutrients can also be added to poor soils. Using fertilizers, either organic or chemical, at the proper rate will build the soil for the fall garden.

Proper planting is very important. The most important water your crops will get is the pre-plant irrigation necessary if it has not rained an inch or more in the week prior to planting. Give the ground a deep soaking. Plant seeds slightly deeper than their width (not more than three times their width), and cover them with a light mulch of hay or pine needles to give them a slightly cooler environment.

Transplants can be protected with shade structures such as old shingles or license plates placed on the southwest side of the plant. New plants should be mulched with about 2 inches of material to help moderate the hot temperatures. Organic matter such as hay, leaves, grass clippings or sawdust will increase water filtration and will add organic matter as it decomposes.

Selecting proper plant varieties is very important. There are many different varieties of garden vegetables available, but only a few varieties of any one vegetable are well suited to our particular area of Texas. Experts suggest planting several varieties of each vegetable when available. Some years one variety may produce well, and some years the same variety may not produce satisfactorily due to temperature, moisture or other external variables. Always choose recommended varieties. Avoid being influenced by catchy names or ready availability.

Fall garden plant varieties recommended by Texas Cooperative Extension for planting in our area are illustrated in the chart with this article. Note that several varieties are listed where available.

The second illustration is a fall direct seeding guide and a transplant guide indicating the last optimum dates that planting should occur if maximum yield and high quality are expected. These dates are based on the average date of the first killing frost of fall for our area. Notice that direct seeding dates precede transplant dates by three to four weeks.

Often the weather is too hot for vegetable seeds to germinate. The optimum soil temperature for seeds of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, corn, okra, cantaloupe, pumpkin, squash, turnips and watermelon is 90 degrees F. Seeds of snap beans, beets, carrots, eggplant, onion, pepper, radish and tomato love a soil temperature of 85 degrees. Lima beans, lettuce, parsley, parsnips, peas and spinach will not tolerate soil temperatures above 85 degrees, but will thrive when the soil temperature is 75 degrees.

This means it will be hard to germinate seeds of some vegetables at the proper time. Use transplants of these crops instead.

When establishing your garden plot, plant long-term, frost tolerant vegetables together including beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots cauliflower, chard, collards, garlic, kale, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, spinach and turnips.

Group short-term, frost susceptible vegetables together so that they can be removed when they become damaged by frost. Vegetables in this second group include beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, summer peas, tomatoes and watermelons.

Fall vegetable gardens have some advantages over the spring garden, such as cooler temperatures during most of the growing season, fewer problems with insects, and more comfortable working conditions for the gardener.

Stay tuned for next week's article on garden-grown tomatoes. While it is time to transplant tomato seedlings, if you opt to grow tomatoes from purchased plants instead, it is recommended to plant them immediately and definitely by the end of this month. Next week's article will provide all kinds of tips on growing tomatoes in your fall garden.

And speaking of fall gardening ... look for upcoming information on the Victoria County Master Gardener Fall Symposium and Plant Sale planned for Saturday, Sept. 18. It will be at the Victoria Regional Airport with access to the master gardeners' Victoria Educational Gardens for training, plant viewing and purchase. It is being held on a Saturday to encourage attendance by those who work during the week - and for anyone interested in learning about good gardening practices.

Don't let this fall season jump-start you! Dig in NOW and plant some veggies, make plans to attend the symposium, and decide what plants you want from the plant sale for very reasonable prices. Fall will be here before we know it!

Fall Garden Plant List



Asparagus – UC 157, Jersey Giant, Jersey Gem

Beans – Snap: Topcrop, Tendercrop, Tendergreen, Kentucky Wonder, Greencrop

              Pinto: UI-114, Dwarf Horticultural, Luna

              Lima: Jackson Wonder, Florida Butter, Henderson Bush

Beets – Pacemaker, Detroit Dark Red

Broccoli – Packman, Baccus, Green Comet

Cabbage – Bravo, Rio Verde, Red Rookie

Carrots - Texas Gold Spike, Orlando Gold

Cauliflower – Snow Crown

Chinese Cabbage – Jade Pagoda, Monument, Napa, China Pride

Cucumbers – Slicers: Poinset 76, Sweet Success, Dasher II, Sweet Slice

                      Pickling: Calipso, Carolina

 Eggplant – Florida Market, Florida High Bush

Oriental Eggplant – Tycoon

Garlic – Texas White

Greens – Collards: Blue Max, Georgia Southern

                Chard: Lucullus, Ruby

Kale – Vates, Blue Knight

Lettuce – Crisp head: Mission

                Loose leaf: Prizehead, Red Sails, Black-Seeded Simpson

                Butter head: Buttercrunch

Melon – Cantaloupe: Mission, Primo, Caravelle

               Honey Dew: TAM Dew, Honey Star

Mustard – Green Wave, Tendergreen, Southern Giant Curl

Okra – Clemson Spineless, Lee, Emerald

Onions – Bulb: Texas 1015 Y, Early Grano 502, Granex 33

                Green: Evergreen Bunching, Crystal Wax

Peppers – Bell: Supersweet 860, Capistrano

                 Hot: TAM Mild Jalepeno, TAM Hidalgo Serrano

                 Sweet Jalepeno-shaped: Rio Grande Gold

Potatoes – Irish: Red LaSoda, Norland

                  White: Kennebec

                  Sweet: Beauregard, TAMU Corder, Centennial, Jewel

Pumpkin – Large: Connecticut Field, Big Max

                   Medium: Jack O’Lantern, Funny Face

                   Small: Jack-Be-Little

Radish – Cherry Belle, Sparkler, White Icicle

Southern Peas – Purple hulls: TX Pink Eye

                           Cream: Cream 40, Champion

                           Black-eye: California #5

                           Crowder: Mississippi Silver, Zipper

Spinach – Savoy: Green Valley II, Ozark II, Fall Green, Coho (semi-savoy)

Sweet Corn – Summer Sweet 7800, Sweet G-90, Kandy Korn, Silver Queen, Guadalupe Gold

Tomatoes – Bingo VF, Carnival VF, Heatwave VF, Celebrity VFNT, Merced VF,  

                    Surefire VF, SunMaster VF, and 444.

Cherry Tomatoes – Small Fry, Cherry Grande

Turnips – White Lady, Royal Globe II

Watermelon – Standard: Jubilee, Royal Charleston, Royal Jubilee, Royal Sweet, Sangria,  

                        All Sweet

                       Seedless: Tri X-133, King of Hearts


Fall Direct Seeding Guide


July 10

Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers


August 15

Southern peas: Black-eyed, cream, purple hull, crowder


September 10

Beans, snap bush, sweet corn, cucumbers


October 1

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage cauliflower, kohlrabi, potatoes, summer squash


October 20

Swiss chard, collards


November 1

Beets, parsley, leaf lettuce


November 20

Carrots, garlic


December 1

Mustard greens, onion, radish, spinach, turnip





Transplant Guide


August 10

Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers


October 20

Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage