Ask a Question forum: Back yard growing

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nathanalan
Nov 29, 2015 8:45 PM CST
I am new at this and only have a small space to grow. In the spring I planted tomatoes and jalapeños and both produced great. Is there anything I can plant this late and still have something produce?
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Nov 29, 2015 8:56 PM CST
Welcome! nathanalan,
We could answer the question better if we knew your location/climate/zone.

Look on the left side of the screen and find "Goodies"; click on that and find "Planting Calendar". Add your zip code and you will find planting calendars for your area.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Nov 30, 2015 4:43 PM CST
Welcome to ATP!

Assuming you're in the Northern hemisphere, you probably have fall frosts coming soon, or already present.

So things that become edible very quickly, AND are cold hardy, would seem to be your only chances, unless you have a good tight greenhouse or plastic film hoop tunnel or cold frame.

Even with those, short daylength might prevent many vegetables from producing until spring, even if they do germinate and survive.

Being a new gardener, I would urge you to at least consider leaving the harder gardening challenges for future years. What you're suggesting is classic hard-core gardener behavior called "pushing the zone", where we WANT to grow something where and when we WANT to ... not when the plant wants to grow. Gardening is always easier when you can give plants everything they need - in this case, long daylength and warmth or at least no-frost.

It may be too late for you to get in a good crop this winter. Greene's suggestion about "Goodies" | "Planting Calendar" is smart. Also, no one can give any good advice until they know your location, and first frost date, and how variable your fall weather is.

A few things like garlic and onions are happy planting shortly before frost because they grow a little in the winter and are all ready to shoot up in early spring. Some seed varieties will advertise "may overwinter with some cover". But those are usually cold-tolerant variety-by-variety, and be hard to generalize about.

It MAY still be possible to produce SOMEthing edible this winter, but you might put three years worth of work into it and get very little reward. Spending that energy instead on planning NEXT year's fall crops and hoop tunnels would get you more reward. Just no fresh greens THIS winter!

The key thing is to estimate "days to maturity" from the seed packet plus research, plus estimating the difference between seed-packet-optimistic "days to maturity" (which usually assumes perfect weather and ideal soil), and ACTUAL "days to maturity" , reflecting your actual temperatures, daylength, soil, and water availability.

When you know realistic "days to maturity" and YOUR average first frost date, you can count backwards from the estimated frost date and know when to transplant out or direct sow. For transplants, look up around how long it takes to germinate and grow to 2-4 inches - add that to "days to maturity" and know the latest date you can start seeds and reasonably hope for a crop before frost.

The first few years, give yourself a few weeks or a month extra, to allow for variables you learn as you gain experience. Consider TWO sowing of anything you really like, so that one of them is likely to be closer to the best date.

Realistically, plant something for fall as soon as the prior "summer" crop in that area has been harvested, if your summers are cool enough to do that. Record the date you sowed it. record the date you could harvest anything from it, and record the date it was really ready for harvest.

Now figure out how many weeks remain of weather that would be good for that crop (say, 3 more weeks).

Now you know that, next year, you could sow that fall crop as late as 3 weeks later than you did this year. Since weather might vary by more than 3 weeks, you would r4cord a RANGE of times to sow that crop for fall. The early dates will get you some results even if frosts come early next year. The later sowing will get you something even if a late heat wave kills or stunts your earliest sowing.

However - if you're looking for a challenge and have time and energy to spare this winter ... it is a time-honored gardening custom to attempt "the impossible" and prove it to be merely "very difficult".

Does anything become edible faster than salad greens?

Most lettuce varieties are cool weather crops, and so are most Brassica greens.

Some B. rapa varieties are VERY cold-tolerant. Like Tyfon / Holland Greens. Bland but very cold-hardy.

If you can get them to germinate and grow a little before days get very short, and they have enough weather protection to avoid frost, they will probably survive until spring. But between now and then you might not get rapid growth unless you have a lighted, heated greenhouse.

In mild-winter areas, you might get some growth and eat that winter growth using "cut-and-come-again" harvesting. Then let it regrow. Even if some frost hits, you can wait for it to recover and grow back.

If you had started leafy crops a month or two before first frost, and some were very cold-hardy like Tatsoi or Tyfon, they would have kept growing through mild frosts and even some freezes. But it might be too late for your area to start seeds outside this late.

nathanalan
Nov 30, 2015 5:28 PM CST
Thank you for this very informative response. I will follow your advice and spend the energy planning for spring. I am located in Houston,TX. Have a very small garden in the back yard. Also have a larger garden about 2 hours west of town in a more sandy soil. I am working on building up those beds with better dirt. Spring was my first attempt out there. Everything came up but then constant downpours over the spring ended up killing everything.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Nov 30, 2015 6:01 PM CST
Wow, sandy soil gave you some chance of surviving constant rain. Too bad that didn't work out, but it's great that you're still eager to try.

Maybe a raised bed and sandy soil would give them SUCH fast drainage that not even a monsoon could drown their roots. Or have some hoops in place over the bed so you can give them a rain umbrella if you want. (But the soil UNDER the bed will still be flooded if the water table rises.)

In some parts of Texas, your winters might be pretty warm. But I would still expect it to be easier to get something to grow in cold weather if it was under at least a floating row cover of some non-woven modern fabric, or, better, plastic film stretched over hoops and then sealed to the ground with dirt on top of the draped plastic, or 2x4s holding them tightly against the ground (to keep heat in).

If you start doing that, however, watch out for a sunny day cooking everything under the plastic!
On cold days and at night you need to seal the plastic to keep heat in.
On sunny days, you need big vents to prevent "steam heat".

One thing that many people neglect when choosing crops: grow what you like to eat!

Home-grown will taste better than anything from a supermarket produce section, but you have to like it, to start with, for it to be worth growing.

If you can find a chat thread in the Texas regional forum discussing "what are you growing right now?", that would be a good thread to eavesdrop on or ask focused questions about specific crops or problems.

Texas Forum:
http://garden.org/forums/view/texas/

I don't see many threads like that right now, so you might have to start one, like "Sowing Times in the Houston Area". It would be smart to show your familiarity with the Goodies / Garden Calendar as a starting point, when asking for more advice.


For example, "I was thinking of starting these (A, B, C) indoors 2 weeks before my average first frost, what do you think? Is Houston summer heat likely to cook them before they're mature?" Or "I wanted to grow D, but last year they all drowned."

Someone there should know the "special situations" for your region, like "In TEXAS, those will need afternoon shade June through August". Or the amazingly weird rule that you can grow tomatoes in the SPRING or FALL, but not mid-summer.
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Horntoad
Nov 30, 2015 6:15 PM CST
Welcome! to ATP. Lots of Houston area and Southeast Texas people here. Join us in the Texas Gardening Forum.
http://garden.org/forums/view/texas/
wildflowersoftexas.com
texasnatureonline.com


Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Nov 30, 2015 6:36 PM CST
P.S.

You can find ATP members who live near you by using the member map or by searching the Member List.

The member list link is at the bottom o0f every ATP page "in the fine print".
http://garden.org/users/memberlist/

The Member Map can be found under "Goodies":
http://garden.org/users/memberlist/map.php

Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
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ShadyGreenThumb
Dec 1, 2015 3:26 AM CST
Welcome Welcome! I'm from Kingwood. But I'm so shaded by the forest I haven't been able to grow veggies in years. My tomatoes grew tall and leggy with no ftuit. However, i was successful with basil. Big yay for that! Hurray! It is in the greenhouse now along with my tropicals to over winter in some warmth. I'll bet somebody in the Texas forum has some great answers for you to start your winter or early spring crops. Thumbs up
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Dec 1, 2015 1:34 PM CST
Oh!

I went to the gardening calender and entered "Houston TX" and found some good stuff.

"On average, your frost-free growing season starts Feb 8 and ends Dec 20, totalling 316 days."

(Hmm - you might have almost three weeks until your first frost! That might be long enough to get some baby lettuce leaves.)

Or maybe not:

" Cole crops like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage can be direct seeded into your garden around October 11, but because of the heat during that time of year, it's better to start them indoors around August 22 and then transplant them into the garden around October 1. Do the same with lettuce and spinach."

Sow peas directly around October 6."

The calendar itself shows not many options for December. Radishes and turnips?

But the Garden Planting Calendar could be helpful for planning your spring crops.

If your legs are as old as mine, pick a FEW things you like, and don't get exhausted trying to grow many things you don't much like eating.

Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Dec 3, 2015 8:53 PM CST
Yup. Down here in Florida the winter IS our season to grow edibles. I'm a zone or two warmer than you, though, so don't get too excited just yet. But soon!

Cool season things like lettuce, peas and spinach can sometimes be sowed indoors (like on a windowsill) a month or so early to give you a head start on spring. Spring can be short down here in the South. I've had some hardy greens go through a mild winter even in Utah - mizuna is one and mache (aka "corn salad") is another that will take being buried in snow, even.

So you could experiment a little bit with cool season greens, just keep sowing a few seeds all the way into winter, and see what comes along. It's worth gambling a few seeds, for sure. Never know, El Nino might grace us with a cool, rainy winter that would be well suited to growing salad.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Dec 3, 2015 10:20 PM CST
" just keep sowing a few seeds all the way into winter, and see what comes along. "

I agree -- it's the best way to find out what actually will work in your situation! Thumbs up
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