It’s Time for Fall Gardens

San Antonio Express News
Sunday, July 25, 2004


When it's hot enough to fry eggs on concrete, it is hard to think about fall gardening. Your spring garden is now tired and worn out. It's time to be ruthless and pull out all of those old plants. Get rid of them, spider mites and all.

Experienced gardeners will know that the most important aspect to growing vegetables is the proper location of the garden. Vegetable gardens need FULL SUN! According to Extension Vegetable Specialist, Dr. Jerry Parsons, “Full sun means at least 8 to 10 hours of intense, direct exposure. That means you must be able to sunbathe in the garden for that amount of time.” Shade after 4 pm or so is okay.

Many non-productive gardens result from lack of light. Don’t expect quality or quantity unless your garden meets the needed light requirements.

The second item on the list to produce a quality vegetable garden is getting rid of all the weeds. This especially means Bermuda grass. All grass must be removed BEFORE tillage begins.

Glyphosate products such as Roundup, Kleenup or Eraser will work well. Vinegar (20%) with orange oil will top kill, but a repetitive application will be probably be needed for long-term results. If you don’t get the grass out before you till, you will be fighting the grass problem all season.

Good, loose soil is needed for bountiful production. Rototillers will not penetrate the soil deeply enough in new beds. The garden should be shoveled to the depth of 10 to 12 inches, then rototilled. Apply at least three inches of organic matter, such as compost to the soil before tilling.

The addition of fertilizer is the next step. There are several options. First, you can apply a slow release fertilizer, using 2 to 3 lbs. per 100 square feet of garden area. Second, you can apply one pound of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) per 100 square feet of garden. Either application of your choice should be followed with additional ammonium sulfate every three weeks at the rate of one tablespoon sprinkled around each plant and watered in. Manures should be used at a rate of 60 to 80 pounds per 100 square feet. Fowl manure (turkey or chicken) should not be used unless it has composted for at least three months prior to usage.

Fire ants are a major problem in vegetable gardens. Killing fire ants before you till will save you headaches and stings! Greenlight Fire Ant Control is an organic method using the ingredient Spinosad. Apply one week before planting in the area. Plant oils may repel ants away from the area, but not kill them. Other products are Extinquish Fire Ant Bait (s-methoprene) with a six week lead time, Ortho Bug B Gone Garden and Landscape Insect Killer Granules (carbaryl) with a three-day lead time and Spectracide Triazicide (lambda-cyhalothrin) with a three-day lead time.

Vegetable transplants will survive the heat if properly cared for. The larger the transplant, though, the larger the root system and the better the chance of survival. Transplants need adequate moisture to survive, water at the base of each plant! Drip irrigation works well. Look at the wet spot, formed by the drip emitters and plant on that wet spot, being sure to place vegetables at the proper spacing. Daily moisture should be provided to transplants. Too much water will cause root rotting and possibly transplant death.

Gardening Zone
Hardiness Zone
Minimum Temp
Zone 1
Zone 6
-10 to 0 F
Zone II
Zone 7
0 to 10 F
Zone III
Zone 8
10 to 20 F
Zone IV
Zone 9A
20 to 25 F
Zone V
Zone 9B
25 to 30 F

(Refer to the USDA Hardiness Zone Map at to compare the temperature extremes in your area to those of the Texas zones when making planting decisions.)

Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable. High quality tomato varieties for fall are Heatwave, Merced, Celebrity and Carnival. Heatwave is a variety that will set flowers and fruit during the heat of September and are the earliest maturing tomatoes of fall. Merced offers the firmness of fruit and ability to develop a deep red color. Check our website for a complete list of varieties and planting dates. Go to, follow the “Horticulture and Gardening” link to “Best Plants for Bexar County” and the “Fall Vegetable Varieties.

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