Gardening has long been the No. 1 hobby in America, but the impact of COVID-19 in 2020 brought renewed interest in vegetable gardening and growing food at home. That increased interest continues today, and there are many in the Concho Valley seeking info on how to get a garden started.
There are many different styles and methods for growing fruit and vegetables, but it’s important to have a strong understanding of the basics and know what works best in West Texas. Some may want to till up a bit of ground and keep it as inexpensive as possible and others may prefer to build large raised beds to help with limited mobility or to just look attractive and fit into the landscape design. However you choose to do it, start by choosing a location with full sun, access to water and well-drained soil. If the soil is heavy and compacted, till it up and incorporate compost. If building raised beds, ensure they drain well and fill with a high-quality top soil.
The cheapest way to get vegetables going is to start from seed, but some vegetables are easier to establish from a transplant. For example, if starting tomatoes or peppers from seed, plant in a seed starting tray in a sunny windows inside and carefully plant in pots once germinated. Allow to grow in the pot until a sturdy root system forms, then harden off by placing outside for a week or two before planting in the garden. Or purchase healthy, vigorous transplants from a local nursery or garden center.
Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive, but I do recommend investing in drip irrigation and mulch if possible. Drip irrigation will make it much easier to keep plants healthy and productive with less effort and without wasting as much water as sprinklers. A battery timer can be added to make watering even easier – program it to water as long and as often as needed. Drip irrigation applies water more slowly, so unlike sprinklers which might run for 20-30 minutes, drip irrigation should be left on for an hour or two. Mulch will also make a big difference in plant health – it will promote better growth, conserve water and reduce weeds.
Choose crops that grow well in the Concho Valley. For example, blueberries and raspberries will not grow easily or thrive without exceptional effort, but blackberries work quite well. Also plant in the appropriate season – warm-season vegetable like tomatoes, squash, okra and sweet potatoes can’t handle freezing temperatures. But tomatoes like it cooler in the spring and fall, while okra and sweet potatoes love the heat of summer. Cool-season crops like spinach, broccoli, and lettuce should be planted in the fall through early spring.
There are lots of good resources out there to help get started, visit the website https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/easy-gardening-series/ for helpful guides on various topics. Also consider subscribing to the Concho Valley Horticulture Update newsletter (https://tomgreen.agrilife.org/horticulture) to get articles on landscaping and gardening topics, and find out about local classes and educational opportunities. On Friday, July 15, we will be offering a Lunch N Learn class on fall vegetable gardening.
Allison Watkins is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent for horticulture in Tom Green County. Contact her at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on San Angelo Standard-Times: Here are the basics for starting a home garden