Sunday, August 1, 2010

Get Growing in August

Get Growing

Welcome to our ninth Get Growing entry. This series will span 12 months, and is designed to help aspiring vegetable gardeners get out of the kitchen and into the garden. On the first of each month, we will discuss one garden project for the novice vegetable gardener. Because we are located in Houston, Texas, our growing conditions differ from many parts of the English-speaking world. To help guide gardeners in cooler climates, our Get Growing partner is Daphne of Daphne's Dandelions. Daphne gardens in Boston, and she will be providing monthly advice for Northern gardeners (although her excellent site is a wonderful resource for gardeners everywhere). This month, Daphne discusses preserving your vegetable harvest.  Regardless of where you live, her advice is invaluable.

Zone 9 in August

While many parts of the country view August as the last month of summer, here in Zone 9 summer usually stretches into late September or even October.  In fact, it's not uncommon to go trick-or-treating on October 31st in shorts and flip flops.  But August is a great month to start planning the fall vegetable garden.  

There are three components to the fall garden:  summer vegetables that have a second growing season in the fall; succession crops that grow year-round in Zone 9; and vegetables started in the fall for a spring harvest.

In the first category, the most popular summer vegetable to start for fall harvest is tomatoes.  In Zone 9, it gets too hot for tomatoes to flower or fruit during July and August.  Many of our plants are still alive, but we haven't seen a flower in months.  And, it's not a bad idea to replace those plants that didn't survive the heat with new seedlings.  Because the growing season can be short in the fall, choose varieties that are quick to mature.  And be emotionally prepared to lose these plants earlier than expected if there's an early frost.  The flip side is that there may be no frost, or only a mild frost, so these plants may survive for many months to come.

Other several warm weather vegetables that can be started now include snap beans, tomatoes and bush lima beans.  

August is also a good time to plant succession crops of plants that are dying back after a long summer of productivity.  We are planting new arugula, dandelion greens, and basil now.  Herbs in general are ideal to start now.  Cilantro, parsley and dill, all hate the extreme heat of July and August, but will do well all fall (and maybe even winter) if started now.

Another great project for August is to start sourcing seeds to start in September or October when it cools off which won't be harvested until next spring.  These vegetables will not grow much during the cool winter months, but as soon as the temperatures start warming up (usually in February), they will start maturing rapidly.

The list here is long, including carrots, fennel, radish, lettuce greens, collard greens, kale, Swiss chard, chicories, fava beans and chickpeas.  We have not had great luck with broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts in our garden, but if you want to give them a try, they need to be started in October or November.

It has been a long, hot summer.  We have spent as much time as possible indoors, and the garden has had to make do for days at a time.  Luckily, Houston has also had quite a bit of rain, so our plants are thriving despite the extreme neglect.   It is not easy to think about cool-weather crops right now, but if you do, you will be rewarded with an abundant vegetable harvest in the fall and again next spring.


  1. I just ordered my fall seeds. I'm looking forward to a new crop to harvest!

  2. Wabash on Washington Ave has beautiful strong healthy tomato plants. I purchased some yesterday but won't plant til October.

  3. This is a great series Robin. I always seem to let the garden go after July, but I really want to keep adding new vegetables and fruit to the garden year round. We are in a different zone here, with more frequent below freezing temps from December to April, but I know there must be some things that I can plant and grow year round.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

    Bon appetit!

  4. I just found your blog through Daphne's Dandelions. I'm glad because I'm in Florida, so we are in similar gardening zones.

    I'm now your newest follower!


  5. Your vegetables look gorgeous!


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