Even though it was 106 yesterday, it is time to get your zone 9 gardens ready for fall planting. I have to admit, with all of the talk of water restrictions, I am debating how much of a garden I am going to have this fall. I really cannot imagine not planting a garden, but I do think that I am going to scale back. No row garden for me this fall. Instead, I will be doing all of my planting in my potager (if you are a reader of Texas Gardener magazine, check out this month’s article that details how I built my potager).
Preparation – Before you plant, you need to get the garden ready. For me, this is a fairly simple process. I practice no till gardening in my potager. So, to get my beds ready I do the following things. Note: these steps work well for flower beds as well. Since most beds have a mix of annuals and perennial, they are typically no till as well.
1. Remove all plant material that is left over from the spring garden. If you have not pulled up those cucumber or pole bean vines, then now is the time to do it. Also, if there is plant litter on the ground, remove it and destroy it (burn if you can, haul off if there is a burn ban). Old plant litter can hold a lot of pests that can “bug” you in the fall and then again in the spring. Squash Bugs over winter in plant litter so DO NOT move this debris to the compost pile. The squash bugs will actually thrive in the warm compost environment and be ready for another invasion in the spring.
2. Remove weeds. Thank goodness, weeds are not as aggressive in the fall. A good weeding now will reduce the number of times you will have to weed in the fall and winter. If there are no seed heads on the weeds that you pull, go ahead and put them on the compost heap.
3. Fertilize. Since I grow organically, I fertilize with various forms of compost. I use primarily mushroom compost but I will occasionally add in composted cow manure, rabbit manure, cotton bur compost and an alfalfa and humate blend. All of these are good sources of nitrogen. However, for good flower production (and ultimately vegetable production) you also need phosphorus. I use rock phosphate. Also, don’t forget about the potassium. Potassium (or potash) helps plants use water. Clay soils generally have enough of this in our area. However, since we are in a drought, I am going to add a little supplemental potassium this year. The best source of potassium for the organic garden is greensand. You can also add wood ash but it is high in lime so it can lower your pH.
Planting – In my humble opinion, fall is the best time of the year to garden in Texas. The temperatures are falling to a bearable level, the rains generally pick up and weeds are not nearly as much of a problem. Also, my favorite vegetables are the brassicas that thrive in the Texas fall. There are a million fall planting guides out there. Google one up for your specific area. Caroline Homer of “The Shovel Ready Garden” has several for the Austin area in the sidebar of her blog. Below is a list of things I usually grow. If you live in Zone 9, then all of the below mentioned vegetables should do well for you if you plant close to the estimated planting date.