Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cool weather is only 3 months away

Now that it's August, it's time to start preparing for the fall garden. In Houston, there's a wide range of vegetables that grow well in our cooler autumn days. Some are vegetables that are also part of the summer garden such as tomatoes and beans, but many are cool-weather crops that cannot survive until our tropical heat abates. The New York Times has had articles recently about summer gardens with carrots, broccoli and spinach. I am filled with envy, because in Houston it's impossible to grow those vegetables until the fall. The wait has not been easy since many of my favorite vegetables, including brussel sprouts, cauliflower and rhubarb to name just a few, are in the cool-weather category. Of course, the trade-off is that we have a much longer growing season here, and we'll be enjoying a whole new harvest when much of the country is buried in snow.

In April, I tried to break the cool-weather growing rules by planting fava beans. I figured that a bean so popular in Middle Eastern cuisine must love the heat (despite the advise of every gardening book and the seed packet). The beans germinated well, and soon become tall healthy green plants. But after a few weeks in the garden, and as temperatures creeped up, they starting turning black and shrivelling. I had no choice but to yank them out, the remaining seeds were sent to my zip lock bags where I store the packets of fall vegetable seeds.

I have all the seeds divided by category, and I've compiled a list to remind me which vegetables should be started each month. I already have the fall tomatoes growing, some still in 4" pots and some already transplanted to the garden. I also planted new pole bean, cowpea, zucchini, and cucumbers seeds directly in the garden. Last weekend, I started winter squash and rhubarb seeds in pots. The squash quickly germinated, but it may be too hot for the rhubarb because nothing has happened yet. There aren't many other seeds I can start with the temperatures still so high, so I'm planting succession crops of eggplant and asian greens instead. It's frustrating to have all my seeds ready, and not be able to get a head start on all those vegetables. But the fava beans taught me not to rush to beat the heat. I have to content myself with getting ready for October, which may be the busiest month yet in the garden.


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