Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
As I write this it is 107 degrees outside so it is hard to think about setting out tender vegetable transplants for your fall garden. July 31 is the deadline for our area. The heat makes it challenging to get small transplants started but this fall you will thank yourself. I actually enjoy fall gardening much more since I am not having to endure the blistering heat.
Cool season crops and warm season crops will both work in a fall garden. You can replant some warm season crops now (tomatoes, squash, peppers and cucumber) and get a good harvest until the first freeze in November.
Cool season crops like carrots, lettuce, and cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale) should be planted in September and will grow through fall and into winter. I still have producing kale and swiss chard that I planted in the fall of 2018. During the winter I keep it mulched heavily with hay and pine mulch.
Call around to your local nurseries and see who has vegetables. Remember the healthier the plant looks in the store, the better it will grow. When you plant be sure to check the roots when you remove the plant from the pot. I always remove some of the soil at the bottom and spread the roots before setting in the ground and covering.
To keep them alive through August until the weather cools they will need frequent watering and about 3” of mulch to hold the water and keep the soil temperature lower. Helpful tip: Rescue some cardboard boxes from their future at the landfill and cut them in half diagonally. Fold or cut off the ends. During the heat of the day set them on top of your plants, forming a tent to block the direct sunlight until cooler temperatures arrive.
Use light but frequent applications of nitrogen to give your plants as much growth as quickly as possible before the first freeze.
Another idea that has worked for me in the past: If you have tomato plants that have produced well but production is declining, cut them back to about 18” off the ground. Fertilize and you may get another crop this fall.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.