Advice on veggies and fruits for new to texas

ani_t(bellevue, wa)June 8, 2013

It took me years to learn to grow vegetables and other things in the short short season in the seattle area. I started with knowing nothing and made big mistakes like buying a house with pine trees all around. I managed to find a community garden and grow some... Now i am moving again.

This time to Austin.
What is the biggest growing challenge in Austin ? For me it was lack of sunshine and clay soil ( which took lots of hard work to ammend but was doable) i gave up on trying to grow somethings like melons...

What should i not even dream of growing in texas that grows in the pnw area ? I live berries can they be grown in texas ?
What veggies grow oh so easily that i would feel blessed gardening ?
How about them seasons ? Like when should i not even think of gardening ?

Any other advice you would give a new transplant ?

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phyllisb2008(8 DFW)

I'm not in the Austin area but melons are grown all over Texas and Blueberry,Strawberry,Dew berries which looks like a Blackberry and taste just as good. Rain is hard to come buy and not to worry about sunshine it's very plentiful. You can have a Spring and winter garden and grow almost anything you would like. If you can have a rain water collection system that would be a great thing. Good luck and Happy gardening

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 3:30PM
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Bryan Scott

Welcome to Austin!

Depending on the area you are moving to, some have gardens in-ground and others utilize raised beds due to bedrock just below the surface. Poke a screwdriver in the area of your yard you are wanting to do a garden and see how far down it goes.

Water Restrictions:
With the exception of the rainfall we have been having this year, we are usually in drought restrictions. Austin has been in stage II restrictions for a few years now and will probably stay there. Google City of Austin watering restrictions ( to read up on them, as this will detail watering rules (days, times, etc.)

rainwater-harvesting'>Rainwater Harvesting:
While it would take a 10 foot diameter, 60 foot high water silo to provide enough water to supplement the average rainfall during the summer months for my third acre lawn, watering a garden requires watering about every three days or so down here, depending on weather. If you can afford to go the trending (and beneficial) route, get you some rainwater harvesting barrels/cisterns to capture rainwater off your roof/through your gutters. The hose spigot usually attached to these will allow you to supplement your watering needs from our rainfall.

Things to grow:
You can grow just about anything down here as long as you have the proper amount of sunlight (about 6 hours direct sunlight minimum), though some plants require more or less sunlight than others. The other thing is that although we generally can grow almost year around here in Austin, you grow certain things at certain times. Some vegetables are cools season plants while others are warm season plants. I generally do warm season gardening and my favs are sugarbaby watermelons, tomatoes, peppers of the "hot" nature, and fresh okra.

Some Austin places to go visit and talk to people are:

Boggy Creek Farms (I love this place and the people who own it!)

The Natural Gardener

The Great Outdoors

Red Barn Nursery

Travis County Master Gardener's Association

Coalition of Austin Community Gardens

City of Austin Grow Green website

There are more resources out there, but this is a good starting point. Another wonderful thing is to go visit one of the Austin/Austin area farmer's markets. These local growers are a wealth of information and are passionate about talking gardening.

Hope some of this helps,

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 1:51PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

I spent years gardening in Oregon before moving to Central Texas. Wow, what a difference. Night and day.

#1 is the seasons. There are two growing seasons here. March-June, and maybe August-November. The 8b designation means squat. That's just when the freeze dates are. Did you know that the Willamette Valley in Oregon and Austin are both 8b? Bwaahahah.

July and August here are simply "to be endured".

#2 is the heat. I mean HOT. Think many weeks over 100F. Nighttime temps above 80F It can get over 100F in March. What will grow through long periods of that? Forget about greens. Peppers/eggplant/okra, and maybe tomatoes and squash. Most plants won't fruit when the nights are hot, but you can try to keep them alive until it cools.

That being said, winters are nice. If you protect things in the winter, you can frequently overwinter stuff. Peppers are a perennial, if they don't freeze. You'll get your first crop in March! Peas do nicely over the winter too. Peas in March. They'll take temps down to the low 20s, which we don't get often. That's also when you want to grow greens.

#3 is alkaline soil. Berries are hard to grow. You can try to acidify the soil, but the tap water is mildly alkaline. So unless you collect rainwater, it's a losing proposition.

#4 Squash vine borers. Sigh. The West Coast doesn't have these pests, which will decimate squash and cukes. Back there, I used to plant zukes, and count on an abundance for friends, relatives, and even enemies. Here you cross your fingers, spray the hell out of them, do surgery on them, and cover them with netting.

What have I missed ... ? Water, mulch, water, mulch, water, mulch. But welcome to Austin, you'll have fun, once you reacclimate.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 6:54PM
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Another former Yankee here. Daninthedirt's post made me laugh. How many springs did I start planting things in late April/May and I couldn't figure out why they were fried by the end of June. Mostly it's a matter of shifting your planting dates. Just like up north winter is the no grow time, summer is the maybe/barely/just keep things alive until fall. Winter/spring is awesome though.

I always have good luck with string beans, eggplant, Mediterranean herbs, peppers (lots of kinds) in warm weather. Cool weather- chard, kale, all kinds of greens, carrots, leeks. Austin is a pretty active gardening community- the resources listed are a great start. I always try to get to Natural Gardener when I'm there.

Overall IMO I think you have to work a little harder to grow veggies here, but that just means the rewards are that much more appreciated.

Welcome - Lisa

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 9:36PM
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Daninthedirt's post is 100% spot on. Also forget trying to grow lettuce in any season other than winter. For June-August: okra, eggplant, basil, and tomatoes (if you water and mulch the tomatoes heavily-careful of hornworm though). Speaking of bugs, Texas is home of every bug known to mankind & since we don't have harsh winters to kill of the populations, don't plant the same thing in the same spot that had an infestation the prior year.

If you remember to mulch, collect rainwater, mulch, install drip irrigation, mulch, and use shade is possible to grow all year here.

In case no one knows...Texas is one of the larger grape producers besides California. Also, blackberries grow wild here, so that's another good one to plant, but keep bird netting over it if you have a thornless variety.

Hardest to grow in Texas:
Melons (our heavy, infrequent rains will either cause powdery mildew, or drought will kill the vine)
Squash (same issue as melons plus Squash vine borer-only issue if you grow organic)
Cole crops-cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, etc (bugs will destroy them if the heat doesn't get them first. It is not uncommon to have a 30 degree day followed by a 80 degree day in December. Heck, a 40 degree jump or drop could happen in the same day)

Sweet potatoes (literally a weed around here)

Also, most things that other parts of the country think of as annuals are actually perennials here: peppers, sweet potatoes, most herbs. I even grew a tomato plant more than a year and it kept producing!

Also, if you get a good water system set up, then you can experiment with tropicals!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 8:39PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Oh, right. I forgot about basil! Yessss ... Pesto-city. I actually put my plants in in March, and I just pulled them all last week. They were getting big, and starting to bolt in the heat. June is pesto-factory month around my house. Of course, now I have a big empty space where the basil was. I'm thinking of trying to start beans, which won't set fruit in the heat, but ideally will be big enough when it cools off.

I never knew about blackberries. Really? That would sure be nice. I thought they did best in acidic soil, but indeed says to give them a go.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 8:56PM
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