Large amounts of food can be grown in small spaces.
By Emmy Ulmschneider and Debbie Roland, Master Gardeners
This year is already proving once again that we cannot predict the weather in West Texas. I have been out and covered my tomato plants twice in an effort to get ahead of a possible freeze and then a possible hail. My efforts were successful, and they are putting on fruit. My peppers are growing as well.
I’m harvesting onions that were planted in early January and giving them away. With warm weather arriving it is time to plant favorites like cucumbers, okra and black-eyed peas, among others. Here are some tips.
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus): This drought tolerant southern veggie loves the heat. It can be transplanted but seems to grow best when planted by seed after soil has warmed. Soak the seeds overnight and plant 12” to 18” apart. They begin to sprout in 5 to 14 days. You should begin seeing mature fruit in 60 to 75 days. The back of your seed packet will give this information according to the type of Okra you are planting. If planted now okra will produce from mid-July to the first freeze. If left on the plant too long it becomes stringy and woody. Harvest when the pod is about 3” long.
Cucumbers (Cucumis sativis). Your fruit will be healthier and easier to pick if it is located beside a trellis of any type (helps keep the bugs off and the water off the leaves when watering). To make your life easier, install the trellis before planting the seeds. A simple tomato trellis will work. Cucumbers should be sown directly into the soil since this is one plant that does not like to be disturbed once sprouted. Sow in warm soil. Plant three seeds about 12” apart. Water often and evenly and, if you can, provide some sort of shade during July and August.
Summer Squash: There are different species of this plant but it is time to plant them now. A trellis is good for these plants as well. Plant 3 seeds fairly close together. When the seeds have sprouted keep the healthiest one and pull the other two. The plants should be 2’ apart. This is one plant that does well with successive planting. Plan to put new seeds in the ground every few weeks. When the first plants are no longer producing as much new fruit, pull them out.
Let’s address squash bugs. Nothing will make your heart drop faster than finding the first squash bug of the year. Once they make an appearance it is very difficult to get rid of them and they can decimate a plant in no time. You can try picking them off, but it is a hard battle to win. Please don’t use a broad-spectrum insecticide even if it is organic. They are just too dangerous to beneficial insects and pollinators. John Cappadonna (Facebook-West Texas Vegetable Gardeners) recommends pyrethrin. Please note, children are very sensitive to pyrethrins. For any product you use always, always read and follow label directions.
Black-Eyed Peas: This crop is easy to grow and can be picked when mature (these have fully formed peas in them) or left to dry on the vine and shelled. A snap is a pod that has not yet developed but is picked to add to other dishes. All are a southern dish and delicious.
If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700.
Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at westtexasgardening.org. Click on “Resources”.
Okra blooms and new okra.