Houston Vegetable Garden – Growing vegetable gardens in Houston

November 24, 2009

First Winter Vegetables

Category: Beans & Peas,Cole & Greens,General,Other Winter Veg – Robert 9:37 pm

The green beans I planted I planted around October 1 (much later than recommended) are now producing very well.  The Contender beans came in about a week before Derby, a plus for late fall plantings.  It will be interesting to see if the Contenders produce multiple waves of crops as Derby does.  Of course, weather may interrupt this experiment because of the late planting. This year I planted beans in my best bed and the crop is much better.  I am not really sure why this bed is best, but it is probably because it gets the most sun.  As the days get shorter and the shadows of building and trees get longer, locations good in the spring may not get enough sun.  Last year I planted them on the most southern bed that starts getting some shade from the house in the fall.  I made a crop but not nearly as much as this year.  Of course, the weather has also been ideal.  It is hard to run gardening experiments because of too many uncontrollable variables.

Lettuce is being picked and the white turnips are ready–the purple tops still have a ways to go.  Beets are just beginning to form bulbs.  We have been eating bok choi and pak choi for a couple of weeks also. (I can’t tell the difference between them; maybe it is just different spelling translations from Chinese)  Mustard greens are also ready to be harvested.  I won’t be buying very much at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market for a while.

My Contessa onion order will be shipped on December 15; the leeks in early January.  I saved plenty of room for them.  Sugar snap peas will be planted in mid December.  I may try to get some “super” sugar snaps.  They are supposed to be more mildew resistant.  I always lose the plants to mildew, but usually they are about through producing anyhow.

October 22, 2009

Fall Garden Fully Planted

Well almost fully planted.  I planted pak choi (will be interested to see how it differs for bok choi which I also planted), turnips, beets, carrots and green beans directly in the garden.  I started mustard greens, collard greens, some bok choi, fennell, lettuce, arugula, and chervil under the grow light.  All of these have now been transplanted to the garden during these cloudy days and with a forecast of cooler temperatures.  Sugar snaps will be planted in mid December as will onions and leeks.

I am trying a few new varieties:  Yellowstone carrots (I could not find kimbi for a yellow carrot), Red Ace beets and Contender green beans.  I will plant some more lettuce in a couple of weeks and save a lot of room for Contessa onions and leeks.

September 20, 2009

Fall Garden

Category: General,Other Winter Veg – Robert 4:41 pm

It is time for the fall Houston vegetable garden.  Tender, long-season plants such as corn and tomatoes should already be well along.  Even when I lived in Houston full time, I generally did not bother with these and concentrated on the cooler weather crops and left these to the spring garden.  Ideally, green beans should be planted in early September, or even late August if you don’t mind watering twice a day.  I have had reasonable luck planting them as late as early October.

For the more traditional fall and winter crops such as turnips, various types of greens, cole family, lettuce, etc, I generally wait until October to plant.  Turnips can certainly be started earlier because they come up so fast.  But, generally I prefer not to battle the heat because there is really no reason to do so.  All of these crops can stand a mild freeze.  It has been a number of years since we have had an early freeze, or for that matter any hard freeze.

I considered planted some seed here in Montana and bring the plants down to get a jump start, but three days in the car is hard on plants even if you try to put them where they can get some light.  With a dog traveling with us this year, it did not seem a very worthwhile effort to try and bring seedlings.

I saved lettuce, arugala and purple mustard seed this spring.  I tested them here and all came up well and true to the variety.

January 5, 2009

Tomato Seed Planting

Category: General,Other Winter Veg,Root Vegetables,Tomatoes – Robert 7:55 am

Seems rather a cold day to be thinking of tomatoes for the Houston spring vegetable garden, but it is time to start the seed indoors.  In posts from last year I described the method so I won’t repeat.  This year I planted 2 of my remaining Merced seed.  Merced is (or was) a great tomato for here but no one sells the seed any more.  I also planted Sweet Chelsea, Floramerica, Celebrity and Homestead.  I have not tried Floramerica before but it is recommended for the area.  I gave up on Champion after last year.  It is recommended here by various experts but I have never had good luck with it.  Homestead is an old variety that we raised commercially when I was a kid so it has been around for a while.  I have not planted it in many years–will be interesting.  I normally plant Sun Gold, but found that I had run out of seed.

The seed will probably come up in 3 or 4 days and be ready to transplant to 4″ pots in a couple of weeks.  I will then put them in gallon pots before ultimately planting them in the garden in mid February.  In the old days on the farm we started the seed in “hot beds” and transplanted to “cold frames” before finally planting them in the field.  We raised about an acre.  It was hard manual labor but at least the work was in a pleasant time of the year.  The market collapsed in the early 1950s when mechanized planting in the Rio Grande Valley started.

I also threw is a few lettuce seed to get a late crop.  The lettuce planted in October is now in full production.  The mustard greens are about finished, but it has been a great crop.  I really like the Osaka purple; beautiful plant and a nice milder flavor.  I will let it flower out and save the seed, but I am not sure if the seeds will come back true or not.  The collards planted later are now producing well–may be sick of greens by the time the winter is over.  Parsley and cilantro are everywhere from reseeding.  Next year I will try to find some chervil seed.  Chervil is from the same family and has a mild licorice flavor.

I planted my remained turnip seed to get a second crop.  The Royal Crown turnip seems to be an improvement over the regular purple top.  The turnips stayed sweet even when they got quite large. 

December 14, 2008

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar snaps are one of the highest reward vegatables for the Houston vegetable garden.  I planted them yesterday, a little earlier than the recommended date of between Christmas and New Years.  I prefer to get them started a little sooner before really cold weather typically comes.  Some people plant them as early as Thanksgiving, but you must wait until the chances of weather in the 80s are low.  A fence of at least 6 feet is needed.

Other vegetables are coming along fine.  We have more greens and turnips than we can eat.  I have really been pleased with the Osaka purple mustard greens.  They have done well, are beautiful in the garden and have a very nice flavor–somewhat milder than traditional mustard greens.  The Derby beans gave one last burst and I will have enough for 2 people for one more dinner.  They were burned a little by the frost last week.  After this picking they will be heading for the compost pile.  Lettuce is being harvested by clipping off leaves.  The bok choi is ready as “baby bok choi”.  Beets are doing well but it will be a while yet.  Cilantro and parsley are coming up everywhere and they have to been thinned for control.

I have been putting last year leaf compost around the vegetables.  The plants are big enough now and I need to make room for this year’s leaves.

November 24, 2008

Houston Winter Garden

Category: Beans & Peas,Corn,General,Other Winter Veg – Robert 8:15 pm

My corn stand was not very good but the quality of the produce was excellent.  I hand pollinated because of the sparse stand.  To hand pollinate take the seed like pollen from the tassels and put it on the silk.  It helps both with sparse and thick plantings.  Last spring I got some poor pollination because the leaves hid the silks in the thick plantings.  I will plant sugar snap peas where the corn grew, probably about mid-December.

The Derby green beans are about finished, but production has been excellent.  With the corn and beans gone, I now refer to it as a Houston winter vegetable garden, rather than a fall garden.  We ate the lone kohl rabi; we used it in a salad much like jimaca.  Bob Randall calls it the most under utilized vegetable in Houston.  If you close your eys and ignore texture, it tastes like cabbage.  We never raised it on our farm growing up, but the neighboring Czechs always planted it.  The purple mustard greens are now being harvested and are excellent; perhaps a little milder than traditional mustard greens.

Beets are growing nicely.  I plant beets outside, rather than under the grow lamp.  Each beet seed will produce about 5 plants; each nodule is an independent seed.  Somewhat surprisingly they transplant rather easily.  The carrots are a reasonable stand.  I just broadcast the seeds.  Perhaps I would get better germination by being more careful with the planting.

I also planted some “bright lights” Swiss Chard; it will be a landscape plant, but we will eventually eat it.

All the vegetables started under the grow lamp are now planted in the garden; lettuce, collards and bok choi.  They are doing nicely but it will be a while before harvest.

We had some great potatoes from the Bayou City Farmers Market this week also.  I may try potatoes again.  Previously, they had nematodes or some fungus disease.

January 18, 2008

Winter to Spring Gardening

Category: Cole & Greens,General,Other Winter Veg,Tomatoes – Robert 10:07 am

TomPlantsThe picture shows the status of the tomato plants that I planted on January 5.  They will be ready to transplant to 4″ pots next week.  Then in a couple of weeks before I leave for a trip to New Zealand they will be transplanted to 1 gallon containers.  I may go ahead and plant some directly with a frost cloth wrapping.  Wrapping works well for tomatoes and peppers for Houston vegetable gardening.

 The Packman broccoli planted around October 1 is now being harvested.  Fennel planted at the same time is also ready.  Mustard greens continue to produce faster than we can eat them.  They have lasted longer this year by picking the leaves when they are still relatively small.  I have much better luck with Florida Broadleaf Mustard than with the curly varieties.  In addition to the traditional southern way of cooking (and over cooking) them, I use them is soups with lentils and also by lightly stir frying with onion and then steaming for a few minutes.  They are more bitter with the shorter cooking.

December 31, 2007

Winter Solstice Update

Category: General,Other Winter Veg,Pests – Robert 2:51 pm

A rather slow time in the Houston vegetable garden.  I am picking lettuce, mustard greens and bok choi.  Carrots and beets are coming along but it will be a while.  The broccoli is starting to form heads–I should have started it a little earlier, but it should be ok if we don’t have a real hard freeze.  The mite problem seems to have gone away.  They spread from the turnips to the greens but I was able to control them with insecticidal soap.  I tried just washing them off.  It was easy to get them off, but they came right back up.  On large plants such as roses washing works well because they can’t get back up to the foliage.  Next week it will be time to start tomatoes under my grow light. (see post for how to)

I replanted lettuce where something had eaten the first batch and put some fine mesh wire over it, but the varmint got under it and ate all the Simpson lettuce, but left the Red Sails alone!  I am not sure what it is; I think an animal of some kind.  Snails or cut worms would get one plant at a time rather than all at once.  Also nothing was left of the tops so whatever it was ate everything.  Strangely in this one spot next to the trellis I have had this problem (last time it was peas), but nothing is bothered in the rest of the garden in this manner.  Any clues?

I will be working at the Urban Harvest fruit tree sale again (Jan 19), probably as a grapefruit salesman.  I got one grapefruit on my tree the first year.  The orange tree (2 years old) also had one orange, but the squirrels got it.  I guess they got all the persimmons also.  When we I got back from Montana they were all gone.

October 25, 2007

Fall Planting: Part II

Category: General,Other Winter Veg,Root Vegetables – Robert 3:56 pm

I did find the carrot and other seed at Urban Harvest; still quite an inventory left. The beets planted were Chiogga, a beet most would not recognize as a beet. It is yellow with concentric red bands when sliced. It is supersweet compared to the traditional red beets like Detroit Dark Red. Beets are interesting in that each seed is really a number of seed. Thus you might get 5 or 6 plants from seed. Young beet plants are rather spindly and do not transplant very well. As a result I usually just thin them.

Carrots are planted by broadcasting and then covering lightly with sifted compost or potting soil. I also planted some kohlrabi the same way. I do not normally raise it, but each year I plant something different. This year it was kohlrabi. We usually eat it raw or put it in salads something like jicama. If you stopped 10 people on the streets of Houston I doubt that more than one would have ever heard of kohlrabi. The one that would know likely would be of local Czech ancestry. It was a favorite vegetable of the Czechs I grew up with in central Texas. I planted Kinbi and Touchon carrorts. Kinbi are a pale yellow and quite sweet. Touchon are more traditional looking carrots and a type of the well known Nantes carrot.

October 24, 2007

Houston Fall Vegetable Garden: 2007

When I returned in early October I planted Derby green beans and turnips. Both came up well and are growing. Early October is really too late for beans, but I got a mess or two last year with the late planting. This year I planted them in a location that will get more sun in November. We will see.

I also planted seed of mustard greens, broccoli, bok choi, fennel and lettuce in a planter box under a grow light. (See Main Menu for information on this very good method) Those seed came up well also, but I had to delay transplanting them until the temperature got below 90, a longer wait each year it seems. The cold front this week gave me the opportunity to set them outside. The bright sunlight has been a bit hard on them, but I have watered them each day and I think they will catch on ok.

Next up will be carrots and beets. The weather should be fine for planting them now. I just need to get some carrot seed. I will plant Kinbi and Touchon if I can find the seed. Urban Harvest is stopping their seed selling program because of the time intensity of the effort; however, they probably still have some left. Also will plant some mache’ and some lettuce by direct sowing.

Time also to order my Contessa onions from Dixondale. The last time I checked they showed out of stock, but probably the plants just are not ready yet.