By Michelle Hobbs, Bexar County Master Gardener
Spring is almost here, and this is the time of the year that I become a bit distracted, dreaming of my vegetable garden. To some, starting a vegetable garden may seem like an overwhelming proposition. However, one thing that I have learned is that starting small can lead to great results. Like many things, when we start too big, we can easily become overwhelmed.
A good way to get started is to consider integrating vegetables into an existing garden bed. There are many vegetables that are quite attractive peeking out of your flower beds. Consider growing eggplant, summer squash (or compact winter squash), onions, peppers, cabbage, spinach, or peas in an existing bed. Another easy way to get started is to grow vegetables in pots, utilizing a support cage, as with tomatoes and peppers. Cucumbers, supported by a trellis, green beans (bush), and squash are other great options. The only requirement is full sun, consistent watering, and extra fertilizer. This resource from Texas A&M AgriLife ( Easy Gardening) provides more detailed information. Start small, with a few plants, and grow things that you love. Even a small pot of arugula can spice up your salad.
There are several vegetables that are very easy to start from seed, such as green bush beans, cucumbers, summer squash, and kale. A variety of online seed companies will often have a section of “easy to grow” or “direct sew” vegetables that may give you some more ideas. When buying seeds online, I look for varieties recommended by Texas A&M AgriLife (Spring Vegetable Planting), if available, and/or options that indicate a high level of heat tolerance for our hot climate. Soil temperature matters when starting seeds, and this calendar makes it easy to know when to get started. (Vegetable Planting Calendar) When starting plants from seeds, make sure you keep your seed bed watered daily (sometimes 2 times per day) until the seeds germinate and peek out from the soil.
If starting vegetables from seeds seems a bit overwhelming, visit your local independent garden nursery to check out what vegetable plants they have in stock. Local nurseries work hard to ensure they offer a selection of vegetables that will do well in our hot climate. Using the vegetable planting calendar, I start calling nurseries a couple of weeks before the recommended planting time to see what is in stock.
I like to get there early for the best selection and healthiest plants. If you buy plant transplants a bit early in the season, you may need to place your new plants outside in the morning and bring them inside if the temperatures are going to drop into the 40s at night. If there is wind, you will want to protect these delicate plants. Lastly, daily watering is typically necessary as plants in small pots can dry out quickly.
Once you have checked out the weather forecast and it looks like there are no major storms (wind and/or rain), freezes, or frosts predicted, it is time to get your transplants in the ground or in pots. This guide can help to ensure your best chance of success. (Easy Gardening – Planting)
I urge you to give vegetable gardening a try this spring, if you have never done so before, because it is a great joy to eat something out of your garden and you can’t beat that “home grown” taste!
All photos by author