In the October Vegetable Garden

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Fall Finally Arrives in the October Vegetable Garden

I am so thankful for fall weather. Shorter days and cool mornings have brought back the gardening enthusiasm that the relentless heat of summer usually drains. If you haven’t already, take advantage of the mild, frost-free weather this month and get cole crops, root crops, greens, and garlic established in the garden.

Try Garlic This Year

Garlic makes a great addition to any garden as long as you pick the right variety for the time of year you plan to harvest. I plant very early varieties to make sure that I get a good harvest in mid May. Usually May is our rainiest month, and in my heavy clay soil, the garlic heads will rot if I don’t get them out of the ground. For the rest of you with better soil, you’ll want to plant cloves this month and harvest no later than June.

Garlic hanging on rack to dry in the June vegetable garden

Early maturing garlic varieties can be easy to grow.

Some online garlic sources are starting to sell out, but your local nursery may still have seed garlic in stock. You can plant them in a row, a raised bed, or even in your landscape. Prepare a planting area in full sun and add 3-4”
layer of well-decomposed compost to help improve soil structure. Garlic likes to grow in fertile free-draining conditions. Plant the cloves 1-2 inches deep, 6” apart, with the pointy side up. Water regularly throughout the winter and fertilize every 2-3 weeks with fish emulsion, blood meal, or other high nitrogen fertilizer. Full sun and high fertility are needed to produce large bulbs. Cultivate lightly to eliminate competition from weeds being careful to not damage garlic’s shallow roots.

Two Categories of Garlic

There are two categories of garlic: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck is the type that forms a flower stalk or scape as it matures. It grows best in colder climates but you might have some success growing it in Central Texas, especially if you refrigerate it a few weeks before planting. Hardneck varieties include Purple Stripe, Music, Ajo Rojo and Metichi.

I’ve had much better luck with softneck garlic because it’s better suited to our mild winters. Varieties to look for include California Early, Lorz, Inchelium Red, Creole Red, Cuban Purple, and Texas Rose. My favorite variety is Chinese Pink, but I’ve not been able to find it these past two years.

There are hundreds of garlic varieties and every year I experiment with at least one new variety. When you find one that works for you, make sure to write down the name for next year.

October Vegetable Garden Checklist

If garlic isn’t your thing, here are some other items in your October vegetable garden checklist:

Fertilizer

  • Fertilize garden vegetables with a water-soluble fertilizer or fish emulsion every 1-2 weeks. You want to give plants every opportunity to grow before our first freeze hits in late November or early December

Water and Irrigation

  • Water as needed. Monitor the moisture in your planting beds by using a hand trowel. Dig down to a six-inch depth and use your hand to feel for a soil dampness.
  • Newly planted seeds and transplants will need extra water to get established. Water more frequently until seeds and transplants put out new leaves.

Planting

Collards

  • Plant garlic any time from mid-October thru early December.
  • Start planting lettuce and spinach as the temperatures begin to cool; a little shade above the plants will help with establishment if warm weather lingers. Look for nursery transplants or plant seed directly in the garden.
  • Cool-season herbs planted now, including cilantro, dill, chives, fennel, parsley and sage, will add zest to meals throughout the winter. Plan to let them flower in the spring to attract beneficial insects.
  • Plant cover crops in fallow areas to improve the condition of the soil. Cool-season
    options include Elbon rye, clover, Austrian winter peas and hairy vetch. Elbon rye is also a good rotation crop if you have nematode issues. It forms thick root mats that nematodes invade but can’t reproduce in, thus reducing the population in the planting area. Elbon rye is also called “cereal rye” and most independent nurseries in Austin sell it. Make sure you are buying the rye grain, not ryegrass.

Diseases and/or Pests to Look For

Cabbage loopers and other caterpillars can damage fall vegetable crops

Inspect plants regularly for caterpillars that can severely damage leaves of cole crops. Row cover or netting can be used to protect plants from moths that lay the eggs.

  • Keep an eye out for fall pests such as caterpillars, aphids and harlequin bugs. Look for and destroy eggs. Handpick caterpillars. Use a
    strong spray of water to dislodge aphids from plants.
  • Use row cover over brassica crops to keep the moths and butterflies from laying eggs on the foliage.

Maintenance

  • Weeds love fall weather as much as vegetables. Keep them in check by regular pulling, hoeing and mulching. An extra bonus is that many weeds can be chopped up and added as a green to the compost pile.

Harvest

  • Sweet potatoes are generally harvested this month as their growth begins to slow down. Cut back on irrigation 2-3 weeks before you
    plan to harvest so soil is dry. Dig carefully to avoid bruising, brush the dirt off and place in a dry, shady location to cure for 5-10 days
    before storing or eating. Keep pests like squirrels and rats from helping themselves by covering the drying rack with chicken wire and/or netting
  • Harvest winter squash and pumpkins when the rind is hard. Use pruners to cut from the vine, leaving 1-2 inches of stem attached. Be
    careful not to nick or scratch the skin as this could invite decay should you decide to store them.

Additional Resources

Watch the Vegetable Gardening in Central Texas Webinar

Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Travis County

Vegetable Seed Sources

Vegetable Gardening in Austin

Plant Rotations, Successions and Intercropping

Sustainable Food Center Farmers Markets

Texas Farmers Markets

Monthly Gardening Calendar for Austin and Central Texas

About Sheryl Williams

Photo of Sheryl WilliamsSheryl Williams has been a Travis County Master Gardener since 2010 and currently works as the Horticulture Program Assistant at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Travis County. She was introduced to gardening by her mom and grandma and has been an avid vegetable gardener most of her life. Sheryl believes that there is nothing more satisfying than growing and preparing your own food. She likes gardening in Austin year round and concedes that means pulling weeds every day. She practices organic gardening principles and enjoys the challenge of outsmarting garden pests. Occasionally she loses these battles, but doesn’t mind sharing a good meal.

In the September Vegetable Garden by Patty Leander

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Still Sizzling in September Vegetable Garden

Central Texas is known for parched, sizzling summers but what a difference the unexpected and well-timed rains made in our gardens and rain barrels in June and July. Peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes, especially cherries, produced longer than usual, okra flourished and even Austin’s hiking trials are verdant and dense. It’s hard to imagine that earlier this year Texas was was hammered by a record-breaking deep freeze.

Vegetable gardeners welcome the arrival of September because it means that cool weather is on the way. Though the days are still hot at some point this month we will start to see a gradual shift in the nighttime temperature and that minor change will take a little heat stress off of plants and make gardening a more pleasurable endeavor.

September Vegetable Garden Checklist:

Water

  • Frequent watering is important for new transplants during the first few weeks as they put down roots. If rains don’t come in September plants will depend on you for water. Dry conditions in a vegetable garden can lead to delayed maturity, low yields and poor quality.
  • When planting seeds water the soil before planting, then keep it moist until the seeds have germinated.
  • Avoid watering in the middle of the day because water can be lost to evaporation.
  • Most vegetables have a growth stage when water is most critical: during head development for broccoli and cauliflower; during flowering and pod enlargement for beans and peas and during root enlargement for radishes, beets and carrots. Lettuce and other leafy vegetables do best with a fairly consistent supply of moisture from planting to harvest.

Soil/Mulch

Newspapers laid on ground and covered with leaves for mulch

Use newspapers and mulch to protect soil and suppress weeds.

  • Keep soil covered to conserve moisture, moderate temperature and deter weeds. One low-cost way to protect soil is to spread a few layers of newspaper over the soil, wet it down, and top with dried leaves, grass clippings or shredded mulch. This method can be used over fallow ground or around the perimeter of vegetables. Place drip or soaker hoses underneath the leaves, grass or mulch.

Fertilize

  • Sidedress vegetable transplants 3-4 weeks after planting. To sidedress, pull back mulch, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of fertilizer around the perimeter of the plant (vegetable or turf fertilizer works fine here), scratch it lightly into the soil, water well and replace mulch. Repeat this application of fertilizer again 3 weeks later to maintain healthy and vigorous growth.

Plant/Transplant

  • If transplants have been grown indoors or in a greenhouse it’s a good idea to acclimate them to outdoor conditions before planting in the garden. Start by setting them in a shady spot for a few hours, gradually exposing them to more sun each day over the course of a week.
  • The best time for setting out transplants is in the evening or on a cloudy day; if it rains just after you plant that’s even better.
  • Use transplants for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
  • Plant kale and collards later in the month after temperatures have cooled off slightly. They grow easily from seed but can also go into the garden as transplants for a quicker harvest.
  • Plant seed of root crops – beets, carrots, turnips and radishes – directly in the ground because they do not like their roots disturbed.
  • Swiss Chard with white stems more cold hard in the September vegetable garden

    Swiss chard varieties with white stems, such as ‘Fordhook’ and ‘Silverado’, are more cold-hardy than chards with colored stems.

    Swiss chard is both beautiful and tasty and makes an excellent container plant. Plant it from seed or transplants this month. Harvest the small tender leaves for salads, sandwiches and wraps; slice larger leaves into ribbons and add to omelets, soups and casseroles.

  • Purple flowers and pods of 'Sugar Magnolia' snap pea

    ‘Sugar Magnolia’ is a climbing variety of sugar snap pea with beautiful purple pods.

    Sugar snap peas and snow peas are a real garden treat. The best time to plant is mid to late September. ‘Super Sugar Snap’, ‘Amish Snap’ and ‘Sugar Magnolia’ are tall vining varieties that grow well on a fence or trellis. ‘Snak Hero’ is an All-America Selections winner from 2020. It produces slender, edible pods on two-foot vines.

  • Grow some herbs for fragrance and flavor. They can be incorporated into the landscape or vegetable garden and they also make great container plants. Good options for fall planting include dill, fennel, sorrel, chives, cilantro and parsley.

Diseases/Pests

Caterpillar damage

Tiny but hungry cross-striped caterpillars bring insatiable appetites to the garden.

  • Fall armyworms, cabbage worms, cabbage loopers and cross-striped cabbage worms can be an issue this time of year, especially on cole crops like broccoli, kale and cauliflower. Cover new plantings with row cover to exclude the moth that lays the eggs or treat plants with a product containing Bacillus thuriengensis (Bt), which comes in either dust or spray form. Bt is deadly when consumed by caterpillars but does not harm other insects. Read the label and follow directions carefully.

Harvest

  • Use clippers to harvest peppers; the stems are brittle and can break easily.
  • Continue to harvest warm season greens such as Malabar spinach, amaranth, purslane. Add the young and tender leaves to salads, sandwiches and wraps or sauté them with corn, peppers, squash, okra or other fresh vegetables.
  • Harvest blooms and leaves of garlic chives and add to stir-fry dishes or sautéed vegetables.

Tips

  • Try new recipes or preparation methods for your garden produce. Magazines, cookbooks, food blogs and other websites offer fresh ideas and pretty pictures for inspiration.

Additional Resources

Watch the Vegetable Gardening in Central Texas Webinar

Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Travis County

Vegetable Seed Sources

Vegetable Gardening in Austin

Plant Rotations, Successions and Intercropping

Sustainable Food Center Farmers Markets

Texas Farmers Markets

Monthly Gardening Calendar for Austin and Central Texas

In the Vegetable Garden with Patty G. Leander

 

 

Patty G. Leander is a contributing editor for Texas Gardener magazine and an active member of the Travis County Master Gardeners Association with an Advanced Master Gardener specialty in vegetables. She has been growing vegetables year-round in her Austin garden for over 20 years, encouraging the use of sound, horticultural principles that will lead to a bountiful harvest.

 

Leaffooted Bugs Common in Summer Vegetable Gardens by Wizzie Brown

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leaffooted bug specicimen

Figure 1: Leaffooted bug displaying the flattened leaf-like back legs.

Leaffooted Bugs and Stink Bugs Closely Related

Leaffooted bugs are sometimes mistaken for stink bugs, which are a closely related insect. However, Leaffooted bugs are larger than stink bugs and have an elongated body. Some leaffooted bugs have an expanded region on their hind leg that looks similar to a leaf, hence the name leaffooted bug (Figure 1).

Identifying Traits

Adult insects are fairly large and grayish-brown. Immatures, or nymphs, look similar to adults, but may differ in color and lack the expanded region on the leg until closer to adulthood (Figure 2). Nymphs also lack fully developed wings. Leaffooted bug nymphs look very similar to Assassin Bug nymphs, which are a beneficial insect. You can tell the difference by their behavior. Assassin Bugs usually are found by themselves, leaffo0ted bugs are found in large groups.

Leaffooted Bug Adult and Nymphs

Figure 2: Leaffooted Bug Adult and Nymphs

Tomatoes Are a Favorite Target

These bugs feed on a variety of fruits, nuts and seeds, but we most often get calls from people who have them on tomatoes, peppers or sunflowers. The insects have piercing-sucking mouthparts and puncture fruit or seeds to suck out plant juices. The opening left behind can allow access to secondary invaders or rot.

Best Ways to Control

There are three ways you can manage these insects:

  • hand-picking (be sure to wear gloves if utilizing this method),
  • sucking off the plant with a hand-held vacuum,
  • spraying plants with pesticides. If choosing to use a pesticide, read the product label and make sure it can be used in the area you are treating (i.e. vegetable garden).

Additional Resources

Leaffooted Bug Field Guide

Integrated Pest Management

Fall Armyworm Populations Active in Austin Area

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an armyworm can be light tan to light green with a brownish-black head

An armyworm can be light tan to light green with a brownish-black head.

Fall armyworm larvae, or caterpillars, are light tan to light green with a brownish-black head. These caterpillars have a white line between their eyes that forms an inverted Y-shape. Larvae have yellowish and black banding along their body as well as four large spots at the end of the abdomen. Adults are small moths with a wingspan of 1.5 inches with mottled brownish-grey wings.

how to identify fall armyworms

These caterpillars have a white line between their eyes that forms an inverted Y-shape.

Fall armyworms overwinter in the pupal stage in south Texas. Once adults emerge from the pupal stage, they migrate northward during spring as temperatures rise. Larvae feed for about 2-3 weeks and then enter soil to pupate.

Many Types of Plants Attacked

Armyworms attack many types of plants. Small larvae feed on the green layer of leaves, causing a windowpane effect while larger larvae completely strip leaves. The last two larval stages eat about 85% of the total foliage consumed. Fall armyworms feed any time during the day or night but are most active in early morning or late evening. Fall armyworms strip foliage from plants and then move onto a new food source. With high populations, larvae appear to march side by side to new food sources, thus giving them the name of armyworm.

Outbreaks Tied to Rain or Irrigation

Various predators help keep armyworm populations from becoming too large. Parasitoids, such as wasps or flies, lay their eggs in armyworm eggs and/ or larvae causing death of the developing egg or larvae. Predators, such as ground beetles, also help reduce armyworm numbers by eating larvae. Many other animals like birds, skunks, and rodents consume large numbers of armyworms. Even with these natural controls, there are certain conditions that can cause outbreak populations. Typically outbreaks occur for fall armyworms in late summer or early fall after heavy rain or irrigation.

Control Options to Fight Armyworm Attack

To determine if populations are high enough to justify control, count the number of armyworms in a square foot for 8 different areas. Thresholds for lawns can vary, but treatment should be considered when there are 3 or more larvae per square foot. Look for products labeled for armyworms for use on lawns or turf. Active ingredients may include Bacillus thuringeinsis var. kurstaki, spinosad, bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, carbaryl, or permethrin.

For more information or help with identification, contact Wizzie Brown, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Program Specialist at 512.854.9600.

Additional Resources

Armyworms in Turfgrass article by Insects in the City

Texas Vegetable Garden Insects Guide

Tomato Time – Join us for an EPIC Tomato Talk

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Plant or Plan – Think About Next Tomato Crop Now

Juane Flamee Tomato

Juane Flamee Tomato

Savvy Central Texas Gardeners know that we actually have TWO gardening seasons here in Austin. The first starts around February 25th and ends with the arrival of summer. The second garden season starts in late August or September and ends with the arrival of the first frost on about November 29th. Unfortunately, our summers are just too hot for most plants and gardeners.

There’s a Reason Your Tomato Harvest Dwindles in the Heat

Tomatoes are a good example of plants that just don’t like the heat. For people from the north that sounds crazy. But the reality is that many tomato varieties have a survival mechanism that kicks in when nighttime temperatures start to exceed 76 degrees. The heat stress causes pollen to become sterile. Tomato breeders have responded with some varieties that handle the heat better than others, but in these days of extreme temperatures, yields are often reduced. Interestingly enough, cherry tomatoes don’t seem to suffer the same effects.

All of this means that you might as well just pull up your tomato plants once you’ve picked the last fruit in late June or July and start back in August or September with a new transplant.

Learn How to Grow Your Own Epic Tomatoes from the Expert – Craig LeHoullier

With this in mind, we’ve scheduled a very special guest to help you up your tomato game. Craig LeHoullier is a garden author and popular lecturer on growing tomatoes and other vegetables. His book, Epic Tomatoes, is a favorite of many of our Travis County Master Gardeners. In addition to writing, Craig is a tomato advisor for the Seed Savers Exchange and co-leads the Dwarf Tomato Breeding project.

We’ve scheduled him for a September 1 webinar on “Epic Tomatoes from YOUR Garden – some history, stories, and tips and tricks for success”.

Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier

Packed with photos from his various gardens, Craig will spend the first half talking about the tomatoes themselves, providing all you will need to plan your own successful tomato adventure. After a question break, Craig will return to share how to make it all happen, from planting seeds to harvesting and saving seeds, including different ways to grow your crop – traditional garden or raised bed, container or straw bales – ending with some favorite recipes. Be sure to have all of your tomato growing questions ready.

Click Here to Register Now for Early bird Price of $25

Program cost is $25, increasing to $35 on August 30. Due to technological constraints, the webinar has a limit of 100 attendees. Only registrants can access the live session. Once the live session has reached capacity, a recorded version will be available for purchase.

There will be a short break at approximately 11 am. The webinar will end at 12:00 pm.

You can submit questions during the webinar and get answers live as time allows. Afterward, questions that don’t make it to the webinar will receive emailed answers.

About Craig LeHoullier
Craig LeHoullier holding epic tomatoes

Craig LeHoullier lives and gardens in Hendersonville, North Carolina (as of January 2020; prior to that, he and his wife and pets resided in Raleigh, NC, for 28 years). A Rhode Island native, he caught the gardening passion from his grandfather, Walter, and dad, Wilfred. Craig achieved his PhD in chemistry at Dartmouth College, which resulted in a 25 year career in pharmaceuticals that ended in 2008.

Craig’s gardening obsession, which started the year he and Susan were married (and their first garden, in 1981), is passing through several stages. His love of heirloom tomatoes began with his joining the Seed Savers Exchange, an organization for which he continues to serve as adviser for tomatoes, in 1986. He is responsible for naming and popularizing many well known tomatoes, such as Cherokee Purple.

In 2005 he added amateur tomato breeding to his garden resume, and continues to co-lead the Dwarf Tomato Breeding project, responsible for creating 125 (and counting) new compact growing varieties for space-challenged gardeners. His writing career kicked off with a 2012 request from Storey Publishing to write a book on tomatoes, resulting in Epic Tomatoes (2015). His second book, Growing Vegetables in Straw bales, soon followed (2016). Book 3, focusing on the Dwarf Tomato Breeding Project, is in progress.

His current and upcoming projects include a self-published garden cook book, a weekly Instagram Live each Friday at 3 PM Eastern from his garden, and additional opportunities on podcasts, webinars and speaking opportunities, as they arise.

Additional Resources

Buy Epic Tomatoes directly from Craig LeHoullier

Sign up for Travis County Horticulture Event Notifications

Monthly Gardening Calendar for the Austin Area

Top Tips for Terrific Tomatoes

Vegetable Gardening in Austin

Vegetable Gardening Calendar

Top Performing Vegetable Varieties

Beat the Heat by Watering From the Bottom Up By Kirk Walden

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Reservoir Planters Help Beat the Heat

Group of pots with reservoir inserts

Figure 4: These planters utilize reservoir inserts.

When I moved to Austin in 1998, our first house had a balcony outside our master bedroom. I was delighted that I would be able to wake up every morning to a beautiful array of flowers arranged in pots right outside our windows. It worked well in March. By June, I was watering the pots twice a day. By August, I couldn’t keep anything alive. That’s because the balcony faced due west and had no roof. I gave up until fall.

It was years later that I discovered the solution — reservoir planters, sometimes called self-watering pots. These pots come in various shapes and sizes and all include a false bottom, below which is a chamber filled with water. You water from the top as usual. And, you water from the bottom up, by filling the chamber from a tube at the top of the planter. As the water begins to evaporate, it is drawn up through soil, keeping it moist longer, even in the scalding sun and heat of an Austin August.

Build Your Own Grow Box

My first reservoir planter looked much like the tub style in Figures 1 and 2.

grow box style reservoir planter

Figure 1: Reservoir planter modeled after the Travis County Master Gardener Grow Box.

reservoir planter with single wicking hole

Figure 2: Reservoir planter with single wicking hole in the converted plastic tote box.

To my amazement, I went from watering twice a day, to watering every other day. I enjoyed healthy daisies and bright salvias all summer.

Convert Regular Pots to Reservoir Planters

illustration of how to include a water reservoir

Figure 3: You can convert almost any existing container.

These days there is an array of clever options that incorporate the reservoir chamber, as seen in Figure 4. You can convert a regular pot into a reservoir planter using an insert as shown in Figure 3.

Go Big!

On a larger scale, reservoir planters can accommodate practically any plant. Last year, I found a wound-trunk, tree-like bougainvillea. Then, I found the pot in Figure 5. Note in Figure 6, not only does it have a false bottom, but it also has cellulose tubes that rise into the soil for more evenly dispersed watering. In Figure 7, see that the fill tube also has a bob gauge to tell you when it’s time to refill. Figure 8 is the finished product. In full sun, the bougainvillea can go five days between watering.

large pot

Figure 5: Don’t be afraid to go big!

cellulose tubes inside the planter

Figure 6: Cellulose tubes help to disperse water.

planter bob gauge attached

Figure 7: This fill tube an bob gauge indicates when water is needed.

bougainvillea trained as a standard in the reservoir planter

Figure 8: The reservoir planter allows this bougainvillea to flourish.

 

Use Blocks in Really Big Planters

This year, I was emboldened to try an even larger scale. How can the four-foot-tall pot in Figure 9 be self-watering? By utilizing a cinder block to support a specialized insert. The two-foot-tall insert is in three parts. The two nesting pieces in Figure 10 combine to create the reservoir with watering holes on each side, Figure 11. Then a cellulose fabric liner, Figure 12, is added to aid in moisture wicking. A cinder block is placed on end inside the exterior pot, Figure 13. The reservoir planter sits atop cider block, Figure 14. In the part-sun conditions on the porch, the succulents can go a week or more without adding water.

tall planter with succulents

Figure 9: Giant pots can be adapted with reservoirs.

two nesting pieces form the reservoir

Figure 10: These two pieces nest together inside the planter.

fully assembled reservoir showing top watering holes

Figure 11: The fully assembled reservoir features watering holes at top.

Fabric liner for the plant reservoir

Figure 12: A cellulose fabric lines the reservoir.

cinder block placed inside planter

Figure 13: A cinder block is placed inside planter to hold up reservoir.

succulent plants inside the reservoir

Figure 14: Even succulents can use a little watering help in Austin summers.

Reservoir planters might not be suited to every situation. But, they’re an effective defense against the dog days of summer. Just like an ice-cold glass of lemonade. Bottoms up!

About Kirk Walden

Kirk Walden

Kirk is a hands-on experiential gardener. While he appreciates the cerebral aspects of gardening, he revels in the visceral experience of digging in the dirt. When he moved to Austin in 1998, the home had virtually no landscaping, mostly just limestone and cedars. His determination to beautify it led to an avocation as a serious gardener that culminated in Travis County Master Gardener Certification in 2014.

 

Additional Resources

Watch Kirk’s webinar: Drought to Deluge: Water-Wise Ways

Monthly Gardening Calendar for the Austin Area

How to Water Efficiently in Central Texas – tables listing water output and methods

Water Education in Texas – information hub from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Earth-Kind® Drought Preparedness

Texas Evapotranspiration Network – use for weather information, current and average evapotranspiration data, and irrigation watering recommendations

The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting – from the Texas Water Development Board

Making a Rain barrel – from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Basic Landscape Design

In the August Vegetable Garden with Patty Leander

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 Transition Time in the August Vegetable Garden

August is a transitional time in the vegetable garden as we clean up the remnants from summer and plan and prep for the milder days that will come. The first frost in Central Texas usually arrives in late November or early December which means we have over 3 months of frost-free weather ahead. Many gardeners concentrate on the array of cool season vegetables that thrive in fall’s cooler temperatures though there is also time for a fresh planting of green beans, cucumbers and squash, which start producing about two months after sowing seeds.

August vegetable garden produce being preserved for winter consumption

Preserve your tomato harvest by freezing, canning or dehydrating.

Create your Fall Gardening Plan

The size of your garden and what you like to eat will largely determine what you decide to plant. Think about the space each vegetable requires to reach harvest size, sketch your plan for fall and check the Vegetable Garden Planting Guide for recommended planting dates. It may seem counterintuitive to start planting during the hottest and driest time of the year but if you wait until the temperature is just right, which could be October or even November, that first frost could damage young or tender plants. In spring we plant early and protect our plants from cold weather and high winds and in fall we plant early and protect our plants from excess heat and blazing sun. That’s gardening in Texas!

August Vegetable Garden Checklist:

Water

  • Be sure to watch the forecast and turn off automatic sprinklers or timers if rain is in the forecast.
  • Water new seedlings regularly; direct sun combined with high temperatures can be a death sentence for a tender seedling without an established root system.
  • Water container plants often, daily if needed, to provide sufficient moisture.

Soil/Mulch

  • In preparation for planting spread a 2-inch layer of compost over garden beds and mix it in lightly. Water the area well before planting seeds or transplants.
  • A layer of mulch is an important component for the vegetable garden; it moderates soil temperature, deters weeds, helps conserve moisture and gradually breaks down and enriches soil. Dried grass clippings, leaves, organic straw, partially decomposed compost and shredded bark are suitable options.

Fertilize

  • As tomatoes, eggplants and peppers begin to flower and form fruit give them a boost with an application of water-soluble fertilizer according to label directions. If using a granular garden fertilizer spread 1-2 tablespoons around the base of each plant, scratch it in lightly and water well.

Plant/Transplant

Window screen used to shade garden plants in the August vegetable garden

An old window screen provides temporary shade and protects new plantings from intense sun and heat.

  • Shade young seedlings and transplants from direct afternoon sun. Use what you have on hand – an old window screen, shade cloth, sheets, cardboard or umbrellas. Get creative. It isn’t permanent and it doesn’t have to look pretty but it will give your plants a fighting chance.
  • If you have decided to grow green beans, squash or cucumbers plant seed in late August or early September. For best results choose varieties that mature in less than 60 days and be prepared to water regularly until they are established.
  • Take into account that milder temperatures and shorter days will slow the growth of fall plantings.

Diseases/Pests

  • Watch for aphids on tender leafy growth; they can be easily dispatched with a strong spray of water.

Harvest

  • Thanks to generous rains and milder temperatures in July many gardeners are still harvesting good-looking tomatoes. Make the most of the bounty by freezing, canning, oven-roasting or dehydrating.
  • Pick peppers, eggplant and okra frequently. Okra pods should be picked when they are about 3-5 inches long and still tender.

    Okra pod ready for harvest

    The edible quality of okra is best when pods are 3-5” long.

  • Eggplant should be shiny and firm, and most peppers can be consumed when green or can be left on the plant to mature to red, orange, purple or yellow, depending on variety.

    eggplant ready for harvest

    Harvest eggplant when the skin is still shiny; the variety determines the shape, size and color.

  • Southern peas can be harvested when pods are immature and peas are tender or pods can be allowed to dry completely on the vine, then peas can be shelled and stored for delicious and nutritious winter meals. Either way be sure the pods make it to the compost pile.

    black-eyed peas with pods

    Southern peas, like these black-eyed peas, can be dried and shelled for winter meals.

Maintenance

  • Pull or hoe weeds around the vegetable garden – they compete with young plants for water and nutrients. Green, leafy weeds are an excellent nitrogen source for the compost pile.
  • Prune out dead stems and rangy growth of thyme, oregano, sage and other perennial herbs.

Tips

  • If possible, garden during the mornings or evenings. If you must be outside during the hottest time of the day apply sunscreen, wear a wide brim hat, stay hydrated and take frequent breaks.
  • Mosquitoes can be a major pest, especially with July’s unseasonable wet weather. Eliminate breeding grounds by cleaning out any sources of standing water and treat water in birdbaths and rain barrels with a product containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). When working outside wear loose fitting, light-colored long sleeves and long pants and spray clothing with a repellent containing DEET or oil of lemon or eucalyptus. A mosquito hat or head net, found at camping stores or online, can be very effective at keeping mosquitoes away from the face.

Additional Resources

Watch the Vegetable Gardening in Central Texas Webinar

Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Travis County

Vegetable Seed Sources

Vegetable Gardening in Austin

Plant Rotations, Successions and Intercropping

Sustainable Food Center Farmers Markets

Texas Farmers Markets

Monthly Gardening Calendar for Austin and Central Texas

In the Vegetable Garden with Patty G. Leander

 

 

Patty G. Leander is a contributing editor for Texas Gardener magazine and an active member of the Travis County Master Gardeners Association with an Advanced Master Gardener specialty in vegetables. She has been growing vegetables year-round in her Austin garden for over 20 years, encouraging the use of sound, horticultural principles that will lead to a bountiful harvest.

 

In the July Vegetable Garden by Patty Leander

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Colorful pepper harvest

Healthy peppers, eggplant and small-fruited tomatoes that are mulched and watered through the summer will produce a bumper crop this fall.

It’s Time to Take a Break in the July Vegetable Garden

For most gardeners July is a slow month in the vegetable garden, some might call it a dormant season. The heat and lack of rain can adversely affect growth and pollination, so after the tomato harvest winds down, the beans peter out and the squash succumbs to heat and pests, it’s a good time to take a break and focus on the upcoming fall season.

Start Planning the Fall Garden

Check your seed inventory and peruse seed catalogs for varieties you want to plant. Vegetables for the fall garden include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, kale, beets, Swiss chard, carrots and sugar-snap peas, as well as bush beans, cucumbers and summer squash. In choosing frost-tender varieties look for those that have a short ‘days to harvest’, generally less than 65 days, so that plants have enough time to mature and produce before the first anticipated frost in Central Texas, which typically comes the end of November or first week of December.

July Vegetable Garden Checklist:

Water
  • Irrigate deeply and as infrequently as possible to encourage deep root growth.
Soil
  • Mulch all bare soil. Clean up spring planting beds and add a layer of compost, then mulch.
Fertilize
  • Over-fertilizing in summer is a common plant killer. Excess fertilizer (especially nitrogen) can burn plants in dry weather. This happens because the salts in fertilizer draw moisture out of plants that they are not able to replenish from soil moisture or retain due to evaporation on hot days. Lack of moisture results in scorched leaves resembling fire damage, or “burn”. Use liquid fertilizers and be sure to water deeply.
Plant/Transplant
  • Tomato transplants should be planted in the garden by late July or early August in order to set fruit and produce a harvest before the first freeze. Unruly tomato plants that are still in good condition can be cut back to one-third of their height to encourage healthy, new growth.
  • Zinnia flowers

    Plant zinnia seeds now for a vivid fall display.

    Plant a small patch of zinnia or marigold seeds later this month and enjoy their vibrant blooms in the fall garden. A small grouping of plants is easy to tend to (they will need to be watered regularly) and will make a colorful impact when they start to bloom.

  • Sketch out a rotation plan for growing vegetables. Crops within the same family are often susceptible to the same pests or diseases. Moving or rotating them to a different location helps break the pest/disease cycle.
  • Broccoli seedlings

    It takes about 6 weeks to grow a broccoli or kale transplant from seed.

    Save money by growing your own transplants of cole crops indoors under grow lights. Start planting seeds of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and other cole crops later this month so they will be ready for setting in the garden by mid-September.

Diseases/Pests to Look For
  • Spider mites thrive in dry, hot conditions and the warmer days will make aphids prevalent on stressed plants. Remove both with blasts of water to the underside of leaves. Remove any heavily infested plants from the garden.
Maintenance
  • Pull up any tomato plants that are infested with pest damage or disease. Whatever malady they are suffering from will get worse, not better, during the stress of summer heat. Use green tomatoes for roasted tomato salsa, chow-chow relish, fried green tomatoes, or chop and add to a vegetable sauté.
  • Peppers and eggplant handle Texas heat better than tomatoes. Keep them watered and mulched and, even if they pause production during summer’s peak, they will power through and produce a bumper crop this fall.
  • Maintain a small oasis for feathered friends. Whether a birdbath or a shallow saucer, provide fresh water daily during the summer. Place the birdbath in an open area with shrubs or trees nearby where birds can have easy access and observe possible threats.
Harvest
    • White and red potatoes

      Check stored potatoes and onions occasionally for signs of spoilage

      Don’t let one rotten onion or potato spoil the whole bunch. Check your stash of onions or potatoes occasionally for signs (or smells) of rotting.

    • Harvest okra pods frequently before they get too big; over-grown okra is tough and stringy.
Cucumbers ready to cut up for salad or infusions

Save the perfect cucumbers, such as the ‘Suyo Long’ at the bottom, for salads and dips and slice the not-so-perfect specimens for infused water.

    • Moisture stress, excess heat and poor pollination can cause misshapen cucumbers. While they may not be the cream of the crop, they are perfect candidates for infused water. Add thin slices of cucumber and lime to a jar or pitcher of water, add a few springs of mint and chill for a refreshing and hydrating beverage. Refill with water throughout the day and toss in the compost when the infusion has lost its freshness.

Additional Resources

Watch the Vegetable Gardening in Central Texas Webinar

Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Travis County

Vegetable Seed Sources

Vegetable Gardening in Austin

Plant Rotations, Successions and Intercropping

Sustainable Food Center Farmers Markets

Texas Farmers Markets

Monthly Gardening Calendar for Austin and Central Texas

In the Vegetable Garden with Patty G. Leander

 

 

Patty G. Leander is a contributing editor for Texas Gardener magazine and an active member of the Travis County Master Gardeners Association with an Advanced Master Gardener specialty in vegetables. She has been growing vegetables year-round in her Austin garden for over 20 years, encouraging the use of sound, horticultural principles that will lead to a bountiful harvest.

Mosquito Repellents by Wizzie Brown

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Mosquito

Protect yourself with the proper mosquito repellents

Mosquitoes are out in masses and since they are capable of disease transmission, it is important that you protect yourself when spending time outside. Of course, you can wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt in light colors to reduce the number of mosquitoes that can reach your skin when outside, but this is not always the option people choose with temperatures on the rise. Another option to protect yourself is mosquito repellent.

How to Properly Apply Mosquito Repellent

Apply repellent only to clothing and exposed skin; do not apply repellent underneath clothing! If you want to apply repellent to your face, spray your hands with repellent and rub it onto your face. Do not spray repellent directly into your face or near eyes or mouth. Make sure to apply repellent outdoors. Do not allow children to handle repellents and seek advice from a physician regarding insect repellent use for children under two years of age. Wash hands before eating, smoking, or using the restroom.

Look For These Active Ingredients

To reduce disease transmission from mosquitoes, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using a product registered with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) containing one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-methane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.

DEET

DEET, also known N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N, N-diemethylbenzamide, was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 to protect soldiers in insect-infested areas. Pesticides containing DEET have been used by the public since 1957. Do not use DEET products on children younger than 2 months of age (read the label and check with your pediatrician if you have questions). DEET has a slight odor and may have a greasy feel to some people. It may damage plastic, rubber, vinyl, or synthetic fabrics. DEET may be irritating to the eyes and skin for some people and comes in a wide variety of concentrations, so choose one that will work best for your situation.

Picaridin

First made in the 1980’s, Picaridin resembles a natural compound called piperine (found in plants used to produce black pepper). It has been used in Europe and Australia for many years but has only been in the U.S. since 2005. Picaridin is non-greasy and odorless.

IR-3535

IR-3535, or 3-[N-Butyl-N- acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester, was developed in the mid- 1970’s and became registered for use in the U.S. in 1999. It is registered as a biopesticide by the EPA because it is functionally identical to a naturally occurring substance (an amino acid). It may dissolve or damage plastics and may be irritating to the eyes.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) and PMD

Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) and PMD (para-menthane-3,8-diol) are essentially the same thing; PMD is the synthesized (lab created) version of oil of lemon eucalyptus. “Pure” or “essential” oil of lemon eucalyptus is not labeled as a repellent and has not undergone testing and should not be used as a repellent product. OLE/PMD has been on the market in the U.S. since 2002. Do not use OLE/PMD products on children younger than 3 years of age. The natural product (OLE) has known allergens within it while the synthetic version (PMD) has less of a risk to allergens. This product is classified as a biopesticide. OLE/PMD has a varying range of residual, some offering about 20 minutes of protection while other products may last up to two hours.

2-undecanone (AKA methyl nonyl ketone or IBI-246)

The product 2-undecanone is also known as methyl nonyl ketone or IBI-246. It is a colorless oil that can either be produced synthetically or extracted from plants such as rue, cloves, ginger, strawberries, or wild grown tomatoes. This product is fairly new to consumers.

How Long Will it Last?

Many factors play into how long a repellent will last for a person. Some of these are:

  • The concentration (or percent of active ingredient) of the product. You can find the percentage on the product label.
  • Person’s attractiveness. Some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others (and no scientific research has proven that it is because of eating garlic, taking vitamin B, using tobacco products, etc.). A person’s genetic code plays a large part on what makes a person so attractive to mosquitoes.
  • Frequency and uniformity of application. In other words, how often is the repellent applied and how good of coverage did you get?
  • Activity level of the person. The more active the person is, the more sweat they produce which can cause the repellent to wash off the surface of the skin.

Word of Caution about Product Combinations

As a word of caution, there are products that combine sunscreen and insect repellent. The CDC recommends that if you need sunscreen and repellent, that you choose two separate products. Reapply sunscreen more often than repellents.

For more information or help with identification, contact Wizzie Brown, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Program Specialist at 512.854.9600. Check out her blog at www.urban-ipm.blogspot.com

This work is supported by Crops Protection and Pest Management Competitive Grants Program [grant no. 2017-70006-27188 /project accession no. 1013905] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The information given herein is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service or the Texas A&M AgriLife Research is implied.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service provides equal access in its programs, activities, education and employment, without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Additional Resources

Urban IPM – Blog by Wizzie Brown

Integrated Pest Management

Insects in the City

About Wizzie

Wizzie Brown

Wizzie Brown
County Extension Program Specialist – Integrated Pest Management
Email:EBrown@ag.tamu.edu

Wizzie has been with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service since 2002 and has been playing with insects since she was a toddler. She is an Extension Program Specialist with the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. Wizzie holds a B.S. in entomology from The Ohio State University and a M.S. in entomology from Texas A&M University. The integrated pest management program provides identification, biological and management information to whomever needs help. Wizzie’s research focuses on imported fire ants, including community wide fire ant management. Wizzie also is happy to provide programs to area groups on a variety of arthropod-related topics. You can find insect and other arthropod information on Wizzie’s blog.

In the June Vegetable Garden by Patty Leander

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Multi-colored tomato harvest from the June vegetable garden

The wait for juicy tomatoes is finally over!

May brought the rain and pleasant gardening weather and June brings the heat and abundant sunshine to the vegetable garden. And with onion tops falling over, bean pods growing longer, cucumbers filling out, potato plants dying down and tomatoes coloring up it is also a big harvest month for many gardeners.

Storage Crop Harvesting Tips

Here are some tips for harvesting storage crops that usually reach maturity this month:

Garlic
Garlic hanging on rack to dry in the June vegetable garden

Dried garlic plants can be hung in a cool, dark location, cutting off a bulb as needed.

Garlic leaves that begin to yellow are an indication that bulbs are ready for harvest. Dig the plants with a spading fork or shovel being careful to keep the bulbs and leaves intact. Lay or hang in a dry, shady area for 2-3 weeks, until leaves have dried completely. After this curing process brush the dirt away and trim the roots and cut the leaves off an inch above the bulbs. Store bulbs in a location that is cool and dry with good air circulation. Alternatively, leaves can be braided and hung for storage.

Onions
Harvesting onions

Harvest onions when their necks soften and the tops fall over.

Onions signal that they are ready to harvest when their necks soften causing the tops to fall over. Gently pull the bulbs and lay them side by side in dappled sunlight to air-dry for several hours then spread them out in a well-ventilated, sheltered area for about a week. Once the leaves have dried completely cut them off an inch above the bulbs, trim the roots and store the onions in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight. Short day varieties are not long keepers and should be used within 2-3 months. Check regularly for decay.

Potatoes
Potatoes being dug up for harvest

Dig potatoes carefully; any potatoes nicked or bruised during harvest may be prone to spoiling and should be eaten soon after harvest rather than stored.

Potatoes are ready for harvest when the tops turn yellow and die down. Be sure to dig potatoes after a stretch of dry weather as you don’t want to harvest tubers that are moist or wet to avoid the risk of disease. Use a spading fork to carefully loosen the soil as you dig in from the side of the plant, breaking the soil apart with your hands as you check for potatoes. Spread the potatoes in a single layer in a dark, dry location to allow the skin to cure then store in a shallow bin or box in a cool, dark location. Gently brush the dirt away before storing but do not wash until you are ready to eat them. And there is no reason to peel your home-grown potatoes before you prepare them – much of the nutrition is just under the skin.

June Vegetable Garden Checklist:

Water
  • Be prepared to water and provide shade as needed to help plants thrive during the coming hot and dry summer months.
Soil
  • If gardening through the heat of summer isn’t your thing that’s ok. Give yourself and your beds a rest with a layer of mulch or compost.
  • Add a top dressing of compost or mulch to retain moisture.
Fertilize
  • Plants that are ready for harvest usually don’t need additional fertilizer since they are nearing the end of their lifecycle. Add fertilizer to actively growing plants only if needed by scratching the fertilizer into the top layer of soil and watering deeply to quickly move the nutrients into solution. Alternatively, use a liquid fertilizer and a siphon mixer to deliver through your irrigation system.
  • Provide supplemental iron through foliar applications or drench, if needed, before daytime temperatures exceed 80°F. Dr. Larry Stein from Texas A&M University recommends EDDHA water soluble chelated iron because it performs the best in alkaline soils.
Plant/Transplant
  • Start seeds for fall tomatoes this month so you will have transplants ready to set out in late July or early August.
  • If you want to keep your garden growing though the summer with heat-loving vegetables try okra, melons, sweet potatoes, Malabar spinach or Southern peas.
  • Plant buckwheat as a cover crop in empty garden beds. Buckwheat grows quickly and its blossoms attract pollinators.
Diseases/Pests to Look For
  • Spider mites like it hot and dry; watch for infestations on beans, squash, tomatoes and cucumbers. The leaves will have a stippled appearance. Organic controls for spider mites include horticultural oils or sulfur dust. Washing the underside of the leaves with a strong spray of water every few days can also help prevent mites from becoming established.
Maintenance
  • Visit the garden frequently to monitor for pests and disease
Harvest
  • Pick vegetables before they get overgrown. Harvest regularly to encourage continual production. Some crops, like okra, may need to be harvested more than once a day.
  • Squirrel in tree eating a stolen tomato

    Harvest tomatoes before they are fully colored to avoid damage from birds, bugs, and tomato-thieving squirrels.

    Tomatoes are at their absolute best when they have reached full color on the vine. Gently twist or cut the stem from the plant. If bugs, birds or squirrels are an issue fruit can be harvested early (at the turning stage, just after color begins to develop at the blossom end) and allowed to ripen indoors. Though not quite as satisfying as a vine-ripened tomato it is preferable to the alternative of tomatoes pecked, half-eaten or stippled with bug damage. For best flavor and texture, store tomatoes at room temperature.

  • Harvest cucumbers when they are the appropriate length; pickling cucumbers are ready at 3-4 inches, slicers are ready at 6-8 inches and oriental cucumbers may grow to 12-14 inches.

Additional Resources

Join us for the Vegetable Gardening in Central Texas Webinar

Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Travis County

Vegetable Seed Sources

Vegetable Gardening in Austin

Sustainable Food Center Farmers Markets

Texas Farmers Markets

Monthly Gardening Calendar for Austin and Central Texas

In the Vegetable Garden with Patty G. Leander

 

 

Patty G. Leander is a contributing editor for Texas Gardener magazine and an active member of the Travis County Master Gardeners Association with an Advanced Master Gardener specialty in vegetables. She has been growing vegetables year-round in her Austin garden for over 20 years, encouraging the use of sound, horticultural principles that will lead to a bountiful harvest.