by Roger “Doc” Stalker, El Paso Master Gardener*
The full onset of summer’s heat usually means the end to harvesting many vegetables planted for spring gardens. But summer doesn’t necessarily signal the end of vegetable gardening for many people who look forward to planting cool season vegetables. Late fall, winter, or even early spring can all be successful growing seasons with the right plants, under the right growing conditions, and the right care.
Cool weather vegetable gardening offers many advantages, not the least is the wide choice of crops that can be grown. You can have a long producing vegetable garden with minimal effort, keep harvesting in your garden into the fall, and maybe even into the winter months. Disease and insect problems are minimized (but not eliminated) with the start of cooler daytime temperatures. Fall sometimes might also bring a few showers in El Paso as the monsoon season winds down. Weeds, while not quite as prevalent, will still need to be controlled. Cool weather also allows plants to accumulate sugars for a sweeter taste.
When trying to decide what to grow, ask yourself a few questions: Will my family and I enjoy what I choose to plant enough to care for, harvest, and eat it? Will I have the space for the garden? Will the selected plants grow in West Texas?
In addition to traditional cool weather vegetables like leafy greens and root crops, the introduction of vegetables from the Far East increases the number and diversity of plants that may be planted for fall harvests. Even some cultivars of warm season vegetables with shortened maturity times may be included in a fall garden for successful harvests before the usual arrival of frost in mid-November.
If you enjoy using growing your own fresh herbs, a cool weather garden is ideal for some of herbs that thrive in cooler weather like cilantro, parsley, dill, fennel, lemon balm, mint, rosemary, oregano, thyme, chamomile, and sage.
See the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Fall Vegetable Gardening Guide for more complete information. It is important to note the Fall Vegetable Gardening Guide recommends readers compare the USDA Hardiness Zone for their location to the Texas Gardening Regions map on page 3 of the Guide. Although the Guide map includes El Paso County within Texas Gardening Region II (comparable to USDA Hardiness Zone 7), USDA maps place El Paso in USDA Hardiness Zone 8, comparable to the Texas Gardening Region III in the Guide. It is recommended readers, therefore, use Texas Gardening Region III dates in the planting tables on page 2 and page 3 of the Guide.
Below is a USDA Hardiness Zone Map. A full version of the USDA West Texas map may be found here.
Charles McGuire, former El Paso Master Gardener, was the author of an earlier version of this article.
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