Time for fall and winter vegetable gardening

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Bob Hatton
| Especially for AGN media

Most readers know that I am an ornamental gardener. I haven’t grown vegetables in the garden in many years and never in Amarillo. Today I’m trying something new. I will share information I have received from courses, meetings, and reading with those of you who run vegetable gardens.

I will focus on growing crops in the cool season that, as some argue, are easier and more pleasant to grow in our climate. I’ve seen a lot of information about those who grow vegetables in northern climates which are much colder than ours, and there is plenty of information online that compliments the information I am going to give here.

Using certain methods and working with our climate rather than trying to have our gardens produced when the weather is not so favorable for growing certain things will not only get better results but also be easier for the gardener. There are plenty of cool season vegetables like greens, peas, and lots of root vegetables that are perfect for fall and winter gardening. Many of these vegetables taste even better when exposed to cold temperatures.

These methods do not require greenhouses or the cost of providing heat. Rather, they use site-specific microclimates and / or inexpensive materials such as row covers made of polypropylene fleece and polyethylene films to protect the plants from cold, wind, snow and ice. These materials allow sunlight to penetrate and provide insulation against the cold.

By planting cool season vegetables in time to reach ripeness before the first deadly frost, which usually occurs during the second to third week of October, you can harvest well into late fall and early winter. Planting one at a time during the harvest can mean that fresh produce will be harvested well into the New Year.

If you grow the plants in cool weather in the fall instead of in the spring, or in addition to the spring, and use some of these strategies, the harvest will be much longer than the spring planting. The unpredictable weather, winds and heat of spring often result in poorer and shorter harvests of crops in the cool season. If you grow these in the fall, you will also have to do less other gardening work (hence more time for vegetables), weeds are not that big a problem, less water is needed and the weather is nicer for the gardener.

Texas Gardener magazine published Autumn Planting Guidelines in its July / August issue. Some of the planting guidelines for the Amarillo area are Swiss chard and cabbage will also work if planted soon. By the way, autumn peas should have been planted on June 15th.

When the weather gets cooler, keep an eye on temperatures to know when to protect endangered plants from the cold. By covering and uncovering as needed for protection, the harvest can continue for months.