Tips for planting fall produce

It’s never too early to start thinking about planting your late summer/fall crops. This is one of our favorite planting times, and we are already preparing for our fall-harvested garden at the Arboretum.

If you’re working on your own garden, we recommend starting with tomatoes, though they do require some work. If you want something less fussy, we suggest peppers, squash, okra and eggplant. These can handle the North Texas summer heat (which can remain with us well into the fall) as long as you keep them watered well within guidelines until they are established. Plant these now for a crop that’s ready for an early fall harvest. Also, anything you would normally plant in March can be grown starting at the end of August for a late fallharvest. Make sure you select varieties that work well in our area. The Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service and the Dallas Arboretum Plant Trials website can both be very helpful in making your selections.

When working with seedlings, here are some tips for a successful harvest.

Water is very important. Make sure to water your new plants well within guidelines until they are established.

Add a Cal-Mag supplement. It will prevent blossom-end rot and produce healthy fruits and veggies.

Plant your veggies in full sun. No matter how hot it gets, they will thrive there.

Buy high-quality seeds. We have found sites such as Johnny’s Selected SeedsBaker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.Park Seed and Seed Savers Exchange offer a wide selection of new and interesting heirloom varieties.

Once you have your seeds, you’re ready to prep the soil for planting. If you’re in Dallas-Fort Worth, you need to amend the soil with compost and expanded shale to help break up the clay. Till in your amendments and then till again. Did we say amend and till?

Ensuring that pesky weeds stay out of your garden requires good old-fashioned elbow grease. Mulch is recommended but may not always be the answer. The best way to keep weeds out of your garden is to pull them. Remove the weeds as they come up and keep a close eye on your plantings.

Eventually, you will be ready to harvest your crops—our favorite part! Note that root crops such as turnips and beets tend to take the least amount of time, along with any greens such as mustard or collard. You can start planting melons now, too, but know that they are slow to advance from seed to harvest.