Chanel from My Urban Garden ATX is sharing what to plant NOW for a thriving garden!
It may be the dead of winter, but it seems like a summer solstice with temperatures topping over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The unique weather of Central Texas can have you switching from sweaters to sandals in the blink of an eye. These unseasonably warm days can fool us into thinking that is time to plant our spring crops, but I would not spring into warm weather crops just yet.
Plants in the nightshade family (tomatoes, eggplants, sweet potatoes and peppers) are the most popular among home gardeners. These plants need about 6 to 8 hours consistent of sunlight and soil temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. We also must consider that even though it is warm during the day, the days still may be too short to provide adequate sunlight for plants like tomatoes, peppers and okra to thrive.
Don’t worry all is not lost even though Punxsutawney Phil and the Farmer’s Almanac are predicting cold winter days ahead, there are vegetables you can plant NOW to get a jump on your Spring Garden.
Snap, snow or shelling; peas love cooler weather and can be frost tolerant. The pollinators appreciate these early blooms after their hibernation (diapause as it is referred to in the insect world) since much of their food supply they worked so hard to store all year has been nearly depleted over the winter.
Much like peas, beans are somewhat cold hardy as well. Its good to get them in ground now so they have a chance to establish roots and secondary leaves before the intense heat sets inBeans are quick germinators and are not very picky about their grow medium. Some of my favorite is the Trionfo Violetto a (purple string bean) and Rattlesnake Pole Beans (can be eaten as a pod or a mature beans) and the Cherokee Wax Bean(a yellow string bean variety) Legumes and beans are “nitrogen fixers”. The nodules on their roots convert atmospheric nitrogen into a nitrogen compound that is better absorbed by other plants. Plant beans now, your tomatoes will thank you.
Lettuce is the number one consumed vegetable in the US. (sorry potato) The consistent demand coupled with the aggressive thrip-borne viral infestation in America’s Salad Bowl (the agricultural region between California, Arizona and Nevada responsible for 90% of Lettuce production in the US) the price of lettuce has skyrocketed. In many parts of the country restaurants are charging for extra lettuce as if it were guacamole. Now is the perfect time to get some lettuce into the ground. I have found the best lettuce variety is the Parris Island Romain. It is a heat tolerant variety that will resist leaf wilt and bolting as we head into the summer months. Green Leaf Lettuce and mesclun mix are family favorites. These varieties differ from your standard iceberg head of lettuce because they are a “cut and come again” crop. That means you can cut the salad greens you need, leave the roots in place and they will regenerate more delicious lettuce for you without the clamshell packaging. Planting early allows lettuce to establish a strong root before the aphid population becomes active here in central Texas.
The allium family of veggies are also very regenerative. Alliums include veggies like leeks, onions, bunching onions, chives, scallions and garlic. Many people may have garlic and onion planted, but you still have time if you want a July Harvest. My favorite Allium varieties are Red Creole Onion, soft neck garlic and Lisbon bunching onion. Onion starts are available now at your local nursery. Many alliums are available at the grocery store. Plant those separated garlic cloves around the perimeter of your garden beds to ward off pests. Bury the while root parts of you scallions, and leeks close to where you want you peppers and tomatoes to be. Nightshades and alliums have a symbiotic relationship and can help each other thrive.