By: Justin Butts Photos by: Rachel Benavides
To get the greatest production from your garden, plant as early as possible in the proper season.
For plants, seasons are like windows of opportunity that open and close. The window to grow a particular set of plants is open only for a few months each year, so plant your seeds or transplants as soon as possible, to get the most from your vegetables before the season ends and the window slams shut.
The last average frost date in The Bend is February 9. Begin planting your warm-weather vegetables – such as corn, beans, squash, and tomatoes – around Valentine’s Day or soon after.
It should be noted that even warm-weather plants don’t like too much heat. Tomatoes require a nighttime soil temperature between 55 and 70 degrees to set fruit, which means tomato production in South Texas typically shuts down by June or July when the sun bakes the soil like a clay oven.
Most warm-weather vegetables require at least two to three months to mature. You want these plants fully grown as early in the season as possible. This gives them a longer period to set fruit before the heat shuts them down. Not only that, pests are much worse in summer; the sooner fruit ripens, the fewer pests will attack it.
The window opens in the lovely days of late February to plant tomatoes, corn, squash, pumpkins, melons, beans, eggplant, and peppers. Get your plants in the ground soon to make the most of the season before summer heat shuts down the garden.
Most Popular Spring and Summer Veggies in The Bend
Tomatoes: Plant on a sturdy trellis. 36” spacing. Transplants only (not by seed) to make the most of the season. Early Girl and Juliette mature in only 54 days, and Heatwave and Solar Fire keep producing in hotter weather.
Corn (Sweet and Field): For best results, plant in Three Sisters method (go to thebendmag.com “Home+Garden” archives for details) with squash and pole beans. Best field corn: Oaxacan and Cherokee White Eagle. Best sweet corn: Silver Queen.
Summer Squash (Bush): Plant in Three Sisters method or 24” spacing on the center row. Black Beauty Zucchini, Lemon Squash, Grey Zucchini, and Scallopini.
Winter Squash (Vining): Plant in Three Sisters or plant three seeds at 36” spacing and let vines sprawl. Japanese Red Kuri, Butternut, Delicata, Blue Hokkaido, and Thai Rai Kaw Tok.
Watermelons: Requires 100 days or more to mature; plant early. Plant three seeds at 5’ spacing and let vines sprawl. Heavy vines can pull down other plants. Large: Jubilee and Black Diamond. Personal: Japanese Cream-Fleshed Suika, Sugar Baby, and Black Tail Mountain.