Time of planting is super critical. There are basically three kinds of vegetable crops you can grow: winter (cool-season) plants, spring and fall (mild-season) plants, and summer (hot-season) plants. The time to plant spring vegetable gardens with mild-temperature loving plants like beans, cucumbers, peppers, squash, and tomatoes is almost here.  These plants are generally planted between mid-March and early-April here, after all danger of frost.

For each growing season, sit down with a paper and pencil and plot out what you intend to grow. We can grow crops year-round here and certainly should. Make a winter list, a spring list, a summer list, and a fall list. When one crop is finished, pull it up and put in the next season’s plants. Many novice gardeners think spring is the only vegetable-producing time we have—not so. And for heaven’s sake if you only grow a garden during the spring, don’t let it grow up in weeds when you stop gardening in the summer. This just ensures that you will have weeds forever. It’s better to keep it covered with mulch or at least weed free when not in production. If you don’t garden during the summer, plant a cover crop of southern peas or sweet potatoes that can take the heat. The same goes for the winter. At least cover the ground with cereal rye, mustard, or turnips instead of letting it grow up in weeds or have your precious soil wash away in a flood instead.

Be very wary viewing social media or looking at packets on a seed racket. I can assure you the seed companies have never posted or printed a seed pack with an ugly picture that says, “This won’t grow in Texas.” Unfortunately, not all crops and all varieties will grow here. Also be very mindful of the season. Just because you see strawberry plants for sale doesn’t mean it’s time to plant them (we plant those in the fall here). Get a good Texas gardening calendar each year that shows the proper planting times and be faithful to them. Our Texas A&M University horticulturists spent many years figuring out what would grow here and when to plant it. Don’t waste that valuable information. To view our East Texas planting calendar visit smith.agrilife.org, scroll down to “Sign up for Email Updates,” and click on “Horticulture Mailing List-Greg Grant.”  You can also order a 2024 Planning Guide and Calendar from texasgardener.com.

And finally, please learn to identify a sunny location. Do not confuse direct sun (when a beam of light shines directly on you) with full sun (a full day’s worth of direct sun from the time it rises in the morning until it sets in the evening). All vegetables need full sun, or at the least eight direct hours of it. As my mentor, Dr. Jerry Parsons, always said, “If you can’t sunbathe there, you can’t grow a vegetable garden, there.” Many folks in Texas like to work in the shade, but if you are working in the shade in a vegetable garden you’ve made a big mistake, and your production will suffer immensely.