Listen to your climate

Like I said last week, I am a transplant to Austin. I grew up in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, a fertile place with four distinct, but not too extreme seasons. When I started gardening here three years ago, I expected the same results here as in Virginia.

My mom and my daughter picking peas in Virginia.

I started with sugar snap peas. I planted earlier than I would have in Virginia, early-mid March. I asked my gardening neighbor and she said I'd planted way too late. I just couldn't believe it, I had helped with peas for years (in Virginia). This timing had to be just right.

Imagine that--my neighbor who had been selling produce from her organic garden for years at the Farmer's Market was right. I got a handful of peas, mostly small, pathetic looking things with half empty shells.

Next was green beans and lima beans. The harvest was dismal for the limas. The green beans probably would have been okay if I would have watered them every day. I didn't, so I picked squishy shelled green beans.

The next year was different. I gave up the traditional crops I longed for and opted for more of what is thriving in my garden now - tomatoes, squash, and peppers in the summer and broccoli, lettuce, and spinach in the winter. I've learned to listen to those who have been gardening in this extreme climate (at least summers are pretty extreme) instead of thinking that I knew what I was doing because I helped in a garden 1,500 miles Northeast of here.

I finally got my tomatoes in at a reasonable time this year, the end of February. I transplanted those, peppers and a basil plant. I am still hesitant about starting tomatoes from seed. This year, I did take a little risk. Yesterday my daughter and planted a bunch of Genovese Basil plants from seed. In places North, I may be worried about cutting the growing season too short by planting seeds now. Here, I am not worried. I transplanted a small basil plant last August and it produced until our first freeze in November or December last year.

I am counting on my former skill with seeds to hold true; I don't know what we'll do with 10 basil plants otherwise. Hostess gifts? We went to Home Depot and bought peat moss seed flats and organic potting soil. My daughter had a great time filling the flat with dirt, poking little holes for the seed, and then very carefully putting a couple of seeds in each hole. We covered them up and she proceeded to flood the poor little seeds.

My daughter carefully filling the flat with potting soil.

I am not sure if they will come up. I thought I'd try though. Transplants are good, but sometimes I need something I've started (and learned) myself instead of something started by someone else. I am aiming for one or two basil plants. It's a learning experience and my daughter thought it was great to help plant something a little differently than we usually do. After her nap today she asked if we could garden again. I need to find some more seeds to start!


MissoulaChick said...

Holy geez. You plant your tomatoes WHEN?

If we don't want to greenhouse/cold frame them, we have to plant tomatoes June 1st. And sometimes they still need to be covered at night once or twice to prevent frosting.

Melani said...

Tomatoes went in last week of February/first week of March.

Yeah, it's hot in Texas...it's been in the upper 80's all week this week. We have reverse weather than anyone else---summer (August/September) is the least productive time of the year. It's take a little getting used to.

Jeremiah McNichols said...

Melani, we're just a bit north of you and we planted our tomatoes the third week of March, feeling like suckers for waiting until the last expected frost date. Then we got night temps dipping down into the low 40s and now our tomatoes plants are stunted! We're hoping we can fertilize them out of a funk...