With the final threat of frost and freezing temperatures likely behind us, it’s time to get that spring garden started. The upper Texas coast is perfect for growing a large variety of vegetables that can go from garden to table.
The spring veggie garden, which actually extends into the summer months, is good for starting plants from seeds or transplants. Both will produce a good harvest if the garden is properly prepared, Galveston County Master Gardener Maria Luisa Abad said.
“We wait until after the last freeze and then start amending the soil,” said Abad, who works with Master Gardener Alysha Davila on the community garden beds where all of the food produced is donated to local food banks and charities.
Abad and Davila begin by removing all roots and debris from earlier gardens and then start increasing the new organic matter in the soil, they said. They prefer to work on raised beds because the clay soil prevalent along the Gulf Coast isn’t ideal for plants.
“The main thing is the soil,” Davila said. “The plants will grow if they are cared for and not neglected.”
They then begin introducing a balanced fertilizer with the compost before the new seeds or plants are put into the ground.
Beginning in March, seeds can be sown for beans, cucumbers, peas, all kinds of peppers, squash, carrots, cauliflower, kale, cantaloupes and watermelons. Remember, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupes and watermelons spread across the top of the garden and need lots of room. Peas and beans are best grown in vertical gardens.
By March, use transplants for Brussels sprouts, cabbage, eggplant and all varieties of tomatoes. These need to be transplants because it will get too hot for them to grow if they’re started now from seed.
Abad and Davila amend the soil with cotton burr and mushroom compost, which add nutrients, break up dense soil and introduce beneficial microbes. Cotton burr comprises the seeds, stems and leaves left over from the cotton plant after the fibers have been removed.
Once the plants are in the ground, Abad and Davila water every other day for 10 minutes. But during those dog days of summer, they water early and daily.
“You don’t need a lot of expertise to grow vegetables, just time and dedication,” Davila said.
Not all vegetables need to be planted in the ground. In fact, many vegetables thrive in containers and can provide a family lots of meals, Abad said.
After harvesting the vegetables, work in the garden isn’t done. This is when preparing for the fall garden begins.
Pull up the roots of whatever is left in the garden, water it and then cover the area with a layer of clear plastic. This process, called solarizing, will rid the soil of unwanted pests, nematodes and weeds because the heat from the sun will “cook” the soil. Leave the covering for four weeks. There should be a layer of condensation under the plastic throughout the solarization process. If you stop seeing condensation, the bed has dried out. Remove plastic, re-wet soil and replace plastic.
Solarization rids 96 percent of all the weeds in an affected area, according to a 2002 study by Texas A&M University.
Once the plastic is removed, the process of amending the soil with compost begins again.
Abad and Davila will then prepare for their fall community garden.
“It is really great being able to grow these vegetables and give them away to the food bank,” Avila said. “They are super grateful.” ￼
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