I had my first experience with veggie gardening this past spring and I’m hooked! There is something so gratifying in planting a seed and watching it grow. I thought it may be helpful to share a little bit of what I have learned through my first planting season. When I was getting started, it was difficult to find someone’s actual experience with gardening in Houston, so I hope you find this to be helpful!
First of all, let me say that we are so lucky in Houston because we have two great planting seasons with our mild weather. Except for July and August (mainly because it is too hot to go outside and water!), you can just about grow year round.
My veggie garden is in a raised bed. My super handy dad built them for me here and more pictures can be seen here. Maybe I can talk him into writing a how-to post for me on the blog : ) Raised bed soil was purchased from The Ground Up.
Keep in mind, I am such a novice here, but this could be helpful to you, from one beginner to another. One huge tip I can give is to buy this book (you can purchase it at Buchanan’s Native Plants Nursery):
My other secret is Buchanan’s Nursery in the Heights. They have the most beautiful selection of plants and an unbelievably knowledgeable staff! This is where I get everything that I start from plant (vs. seed).
I have also recently discovered Southwest Fertilizer where they have an unreal selection of seeds and even some you can purchase by the scoop (so much cheaper than packs!). I’ll definitely be getting most of my seeds there from now on : )
Here is what I planted and my thoughts on each:
Sugar Snap Peas
Huge success and wish I would have planted more! Even after planting them from seed two months later than recommended, I had a bumper crop. These were so delicious, I rarely had enough left to take inside after eating them straight off of the bush. They seem to be low maintenance and are so delicious – win, win!
A note on the trellis – mine was 4 feet high and I think I would have gotten more peas had I made it taller. Also, as they grow taller and top-heavy, you may need to use some gardening tape and tie them to the trellis. This is the type of tape I use:
- Super Sugar Snap Pea variety purchased from Park Seed
- Plant December through January (or apparently into march!)
- Provide a good trellis (4 ft absolute minimum height – check your variety for height)
- Utilize gardening tape
My first try at carrots was a total flop. I’m not sure if it was the weather or not enough water or what, but no success here. A few friends have told me that their first try in the spring was unsuccessful, too.
- Nantes variety purchased from Park Seed (this variety was recommended for Houston)
- Plant from seed September through January
Same as the carrots – no luck with my first go.
- Chioggia variety purchased from Park Seed (also recommended for Houston)
- Plant from seed October through February
I had so much fun growing lettuce! It seems to start slow and then, before you know it, you have more lettuce than you could ever use! The added bonus of lettuce is that it is so beautiful with all of the colors and textures – great addition to the garden.
From the types that I grew in the Spring, the standout favorite was Majesty and the arugula was trailing in second (although my variety was sooooo peppery – sticking to regular in the future) . The Majesty lettuce had super textured leaves and maintained its crispy texture after topped with dressing. I can’t say that I was a big fan of the others (Jericho, Red Sails and Buttercrunch).
- ***Majesty variety from PS ***
- Jericho variety from PS
- Red Sails variety from PS
- Buttercrunch variety from PS
- Spicy arugula from Buchanan’s
- Plant from seed late September through March
- Thin and eat as they grow!
Like the sugar snap peas, cucumbers were another nice surprise. I tried planting mine on a decorative trellis – big mistake. Cucumber plants needs serious support and my trellis couldn’t handle it. I think it really limited the cucumber production so I’ll try a more substantial trellis next time. I was fairly neglectful to my cucumbers towards the end of the summer (hello…July in Houston is the least pleasant time to get outside and water) and one of my plants was completely overtaken and killed by aphids – probably avoidable. Now, what I was able to get off of the plant was delicious and pretty ample.
- *Alibi variety from Park Seed*
- Cool Breeze variety from Park Seed
- Plant from seed late March through April
- Provide ample support
[something like this seems ideal for cucumber support]
My dad has always said this and I’m going to listen from now on – forget the big guys and just stick to the little cherry tomatoes! With cherry tomatoes, you don’t have to worry about splitting and you don’t have to try every trick in the book to make them taste good. Cherry tomatoes are perfect for salad, bruschetta and snacking. Buy plants, rather than starting from seed, and I recommend getting them at Buchanan’s, or your local nursery, rather than online (probably obvious to most but I learned the hard way). Local nurseries will have them at the proper planting time while ordering online is a little unreliable.
Don’t be deceived when you bring home 6″ tall plants – they will be monsters before you know it! Be sure to snap off any sucker branches and don’t worry about losing blooms – trust me, you will have enough. Sucker branches compete for nutrients from the main branches and will make for an out-of-control, huge plant.
[sucker is the one sprouting from inside the 'Y' of the other branches]
You also want to be sure to cage tomato plants and be sure to adjust branches as they grow. You will probably need to carefully move the branch up to the higher rung so it is well supported.
Final note is on fertilizing. Be sure to fertilize regularly, probably every few weeks. If you stop fertilizing, your plant will likely stop producing tomatoes (learned this the hard way!).
- *Supersweet 100 plants from Park Seed*
- Big Beef plants from Park Seed
- Plant cherry tomato varieties in June and again in September (buy at Buchanan’s Nursery and confirm proper month for planting based on each variety)
- Be ruthless with the suckers
- Provide support for branches
- Fertilize regularly (I use MicroLife which can be purchased at Buchanan’s)