FALL GARDENING SITE SELECTION
by Jerry Parsons, Ph.D.
Horticulture Specialist, Texas Agricultural Extension Service
in San Antonio
It's time to start it all again!
It seems like it was only a few weeks ago that
I was picking baskets full of fresh tomatoes and gobbling
down the best tasting produce in the U.S. But, as I survey
my garden plot today, it looks
alot like Hell with the fires out!
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we
don't want to be blinded by "what used to be". Yes,
the cute little seedlings and transplants that you raised
from infancy were productive, and we all appreciate their
efforts on our behalf. But all good things must come to an
end and it is time to put your plants to rest-in the garbage!
Gone but not forgotten! Those discarded plants
will not be alone. They are accompanied by hordes of spider
mites. Not to mention the multitude of eggs and immature stages
of every size, shape and description of every destructive,
plant sucking bugs known to man. Plus, every spore-forming
fungus that can possibly annihilate a garden. Now, I know
that you have enjoyed annihilating those persistent devils
with every pesticide known to man (or woman!), but the fun
is over-put all of your pest grief in the garbage.
Now is the time to re-start your gardening experience,
so that more pleasant memories will be generated this fall.
Some gardeners think that it's too soon to
begin again. They want to take a break from gardening and
eat all of the frozen and canned spring produce. That sort
of thinking will only lead to regret this fall when neighbors
who paid attention to the following sound gardening advice
are harvesting fresh tomatoes, huge heads of broccoli, beautiful
cauliflower, sweet carrots and healthful spinach.
You may try to convince yourself that canned
and frozen is just as good as fresh. Good luck! Remember,
if you do start a garden now, you will not begin significant
harvest until October which should give you a long enough
dietary rest from fresh produce to be craving it once more.
Also, be aware that procrastination or waiting until it's
too late to start is one of the primary mistakes that would-be
fall gardeners make. Spring gardening is just practice for
the joys of fall gardening.
Ok, so now is the time to start, but let's
do it right this year. Some folks have trouble with fall gardening
but fall gardening does work in this area if you do the right
things at the right time with the right plants. Fall-growing
has been successfully accomplished in this area for more than
100 consecutive years by local farmers. For a listing of what
to plant and when to plant in your area, see:
For a listing of recommended varieties, see:
Let's start with the basics. Let's determine
whether you should even attempt a garden, or just find a source
of fresh fall produce such as a local farmer's market. The
basis of this initial "yea-or-nay" decision is sunlight.
If your proposed fall gardening location does not receive
at least 8 to 10 hours of direct (no shade) sunlight each
day, you will never produce maximum yields. Few gardening
locations receive continuous direct sunlight all day but you
need at least 8 to 10 hours of direct sun exposure at some
time! Shade in the afternoon (after 3 p.m.) is wonderful;
shade in the morning is acceptable.
There are vegetables that produce passably in
the shade. Generally, those crops such as greens, broccoli,
cauliflower and root crops such as carrots and turnips which
do not produce a fruit with seed will yield sparingly in semi-shaded
areas. But even these crops will do better in a full sun condition.
Crops such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans
and cucumbers may not produce anything if grown in the shade,
and the plants will grow tall and spindly. The production
potential of the garden's most popular vegetables depends
solely on the amount of direct sunlight they receive.
Many non-productive gardeners deny that their
main problem is a lack of sunlight. I don't know whether they
want to garden so badly that they don't want to admit their
efforts are doomed because of the absence of sunlight (the
necessary element for success), or if they just enjoy working
in the cool of the shade. Instead of recognizing and admitting
the truth of shady-garden failure, they will blame such gardening
variables as varieties, fertilization, watering, pests, etc.
Remember the old saying: "You can't make a silk purse
out of a sow's ear". Don't expect quantity and quality
production from a shady, "sow's ear" garden location.
Be realistic when you evaluate your garden location. You must
be able to sunbathe in the garden area for 8 to10 hours during
ORNAMENTALS FOR THE FALL
In areas of dense and mature trees, and large
buildings, shade is the primary gardening problem.
Shade "problems" can become opportunities
for beauty if the right choice of plants is made. However,
at this time of the year you had better be precise on your
definition of "shade". At this time of
the year temperatures can be over 90 degrees F. in the shade.
This means that some normally "shade-tolerant" plants
will quickly perish when planted in a "shady" spot.
The "morning sun only" situation which is usually
beneficial to shade-lovers can spell disaster at this time
of the year.
Some of the best shade tolerant annuals are:
Vinca (periwinkle): If full sun conditions
prevail, periwinkle can be used. It will also perform well
in partial shade. Vinca (periwinkle) should not be confused
with the perennial groundcover of the same name. Flowers of
pink, white or violet are often highlighted with a contrasting
red eye. This is one of a very few annual flowers which the
deer won't destroy.
Begonia: The begonia is one of the least planted,
most adapted, spectacular bedding plants of this area. Many
people confuse the very adapted seed-begonia type with the
next-to-impossible-to-grow tuberous begonia, which is not
suited for this area. Tuberous begonias thrive in the northern
areas of the U.S. For those people who devote their tender,
loving care to nurture these sensitive plants, they are rewarded
with large, showy blooms. But most of us aren't going to go
to all that time and trouble. For that reason, when someone
says "begonia", people mentally think "trouble"!
But just the opposite is true of begonias that are grown from
seed. The plants are inexpensive, the bloom is spectacular
and the life of the plant and bloom is lengthy. The plants
are well adapted to this area's "soil". If planted
in a somewhat protected area, the plants will many times overwinter
and provide another spring and summer bloom as well. Seed
begonias are available in many colors with even different
colored foliage (red and green). So don't be "turned
off" by that word begonia--you may be avoiding the best
annual, sometimes bi-annual, of them all! The Vodka series
is one of the best.
Regardless of the choice you have to make because
of the growing conditions available, the previously mentioned
flowering annuals when properly planted and nurtured can transform
the barren, wasteland which you call your "flower bed"
into a beautiful late summer and fall display which you and
the neighborhood can be proud of. For a striking display of
color, make large plantings of the same flower type. For a
listing of other flowers for fall planting and their growth
Some nurseries will sell flats of transplants
cheaper than if you brought them as individual transplants.
Ask around! Make a floral statement this fall. We need more
beautiful statements in this world! The psychological rewards
will far outweigh the physical and financial inputs required-I'll