One of the blessings of living in Central Texas is that we get not one, but two chances to start up a garden each year. As fall approaches, many are gearing up to replant vegetables and herbs. My favorite part of having a garden growing is knowing that I will be using produce that I tended. Not having to hope there will be no recalls on your food is peace of mind you just can’t buy.
<h1>Prepare and Plan</h1>
With the cooler temps our growing season in the fall is much more like what I had back in Montana. Growing peas, lettuce, carrots, and beets are great pantry items. They all (depending on variety) can withstand a light frost and can keep growing here into the holidays if tended. You can go to one of the area Master Gardener meetings or look up the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension site to learn more about the best varieties to plant.
To prepare your beds for the new plantings you will want to clear out any weeds or remaining plants that you do not expect to produce. Once you have a clean slate bring in some good quality compost. You will want something that will bring nutrients back into your soil. Many types of manure are excellent, including rabbit, chicken, cow and horse. You don’t want anything that is too fresh as it will be too “hot” and can hinder root growth. You can find someone with the animals, or you can purchase from a local gardening store. When you add it to your bed, you will want to thoroughly till it into your soil.
<h2>Structures and Support</h2>
Once you have your seeds or starts in the ground you will need to consider if there is any supporting structure your plants will need. While peas and beans can just splay across the ground, it can be a far more efficient use of space to create a climbing trellis for them. You can purchase dowel like rods, or thin bamboo and tie 4 or more of them together to shape a tee-pee style base. You can make it as small or big as you like. It can even become a fun hiding spot for hide and seek if planned properly.
Another option is to use a post at about a 3 foot interval and wind a gardening twine between them to construct a fence for them to climb.
<h3>Thinking Outside the Kitchen</h3>
Beyond growing for the garden, you can also grow for the medicine cabinet. A Killeen local, Zuania Molina, has taken to growing herbs and plants with medicinal properties. In her garden she currently has Lamb’s Ear, a lovely plant with a peach fuzz soft leaf. This plant can be used as a make-shift bandage and has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and super absorbent properties.
Zuania also enjoys growing lavender. While it can be used in making soaps and oils, it is mostly known as being used in aromatherapy. It grows well and is a perennial in our area. Lavender will prefer sun and well drained soil, don’t place it at the end of the gutter down spout!
Balloon flower is another beneficial plant she grows. It is grown largely for its roots which are used in medicinal teas. Chinese medicine has believed in its ability to stimulate dilation of the bronchial vessels to help with coughs, sore throats, and other respiratory malady.
While you are gardening you will certainly stumble across odd critters and problems that you will be unfamiliar with. There are Facebook gardening groups in the area which can be quite helpful in diagnosing any issues, but they are far from the only ones. You can get in contact with the local extension offices. They keep Extension Agents on staff for gardening among numerous other tasks. Perhaps the best part of the program is that they can be found across the country and have a vast network of information to pull from.