What to Grow and When in the Local Llano Region
Growing and maintaining a garden on the Llano Estacado is a feat fit only for the most determined, fierce, and fearless of gardeners. It's not impossible, but it is somewhat a rollercoaster of emotions. As gardeners, we don't just grow the vegetables and herbs but we create relationships with our produce. The ambivalent and wavering weather of our region is a daily crux. We learn to check the weather twice daily, the risks of farming, and patience.
I want to share some information I came across to help plan your garden, but keep in mind that certain things don't always work out on the Llano. There's a lot more to be done than said, but we will do what we can to go through these issues together as the seasons change.
In our area, starting seeds indoors is a great way to fight off the weather. It also helps get the ball rolling with vegetables that take a long time to grow from seed to harvest, like tomatoes. Tomatoes are a needy vegetable that doesn't grow well in the cooler beginnings of spring. Because they are so timely, the fall frost will likely beat you to them before you can harvest. Therefore, tomatoes are great candidates for indoor starts and transplanting after the last frost. (Hopefully, we don't catch another late-May frost ever again, but we'll talk more on that later.)
Here's a guide for some vegetable indoor starts:
- 2-4 weeks before (last spring frost) - cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squash,
- 4-6 weeks before - lettuce
- 6-8 weeks before - broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, tomatoes
- 8-10 weeks before - peppers
Starting seeds indoors can be troublesome and comes with its cons, but it's exciting to see them start and a great way to get your kids involved. It's pretty fun seeing the seeds change as they begin to sprout. My daughter loves it, and checks the seeds daily for me! Just be cautious and transplant carefully. You can alternatively choose to transplant plants that have already grown and are ready to brave the outdoors, though this is a bit more costly, it will save time.
When transplanting make sure to allow a few days or weeks to give the seedlings time to prepare for the transition. Much like a newborn, seedlings and indoor plants won't be ready to go outside right away. Take them out for a breath of air, and let the sun hit them for a bit. A deck or patio would be perfect locations for this transition period. Transition slowly and strictly; you might choose to let them sit out for a couple hours, then four the next day, etc. increasing their exposure slightly each day. This will allow them to prepare for the outdoor elements such as the wind and unfiltered direct sunlight.
For the courageous that choose to start outdoors, I have a guide for you as well. You will have to be more cautious and have your weather app open often, but I'm not sure there's much better than sitting or kneeling in the cool dirt and reminiscing the days of starting gardens with my mom, pops, and brothers. Not to mention the water fights we tended to start while mom was yelling at us to get away from the garden. Sorry, mom.
Outdoor vegetable start:
- 4-6 before (last spring frost) - spinach, peas
- 4 before - onion sets
- 3-5 before - carrots
- 2-3 before - broccoli
- 0-3 before - parsnips
- 3 before - 3 after - beets
- 1 before - 1 after - cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, radishes,
- Anytime after - beans
- 1-2 after - corn, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squash
Keeping in mind that we live in a tumultuous weather region prone to inconveniently late freezes. You can protect your plants by a number of methods like covering them with burlap or bed sheets. Check out this earlier post of ours on building an outstanding DIY cold frame. Remember to water your plants before a freeze to help conserve moisture in the soil instead of on top of it.
I hope this helps and is a quick reference for you. Remember gardening on the Llano isn't the easiest, but it is the most rewarding. Just have fun with it, and get your kids involved. It will hopefully forge relationships and memories in a way only gardening can.
I used The Old Farmer's Almanac website for additional resources and here's a great article about transplanting from Mother Earth News.