We’re excited to feature Janice Brown, founder of Hobby-area business Girl on the Grow, as our next Local Voices community contributor. After many years as an educator, Janice shifted her focus to sharing the joy of gardening with children, adults and corporate companies. Learn more about Girl on the Grow and connect with Janice to schedule garden coaching and private gardening parties.
Houston is an international city, which means that we have residents hailing from all over the world, including other parts of the United States. I meet a lot of former northerners through my gardening business who are seeking advice after being frustrated by using the same planting calendar they used up North. These initially frustrated gardeners are always delighted to find out that using a different planting calendar than they’re used to may mean no tomatoes in the summer, but they’ll get to have an active vegetable garden year-round. If you’ve been wanting to start a vegetable garden, now is a great time to start planning.
Fall and Winter are the times for leafy greens in the Houston area and December is a great time for garden planning. There are also a few things you can plant this month—let’s grow!
Where to Plant
If you don’t have a vegetable bed yet, take this month to build one. With a raised bed kit and some bags of quality soil, you can build a vegetable bed in under 30 minutes. Do a little research and decide what materials you’d like to use, then go for it. My favorite materials for building are cinder blocks and landscaping bricks because they’re easy to maneuver and very durable. Another option for apartment dwellers, businesses, or those who just want to start small, is a barrel planter. Garden and home improvement stores often run specials on these in winter months, so now is a perfect time to get one. Just make sure you purchase one with a drainage hole in the bottom.
Situate your vegetable bed in a place that gets plenty of sun. Vegetables need 6-8 hours of sun a day, so make sure to place it out of the way of shade trees. For those of you living in the Garden Villas area with those beautiful old spreading oak and pecan trees, you might have to work a little harder to find a sunny spot in the yard.
What to Plant
After you have decided on a location comes the fun part: deciding what to plant. As I mentioned earlier, unlike our neighbors in the northern U.S., we have a variety of things we can grow in the cooler months.
This month you can plant these from transplants:
From late January-February you can plant all the vegetables listed above, plus the following:
(Most of these will do better if planted from a transplant, but for a few, seeds are best. These are noted with an asterisk.*)
How to Plant
To get your vegetables off to a good start, choose a good organic, all-purpose, slow-release, dry vegetable food to mix into the soil prior to planting. Mix it in at the rate suggested on the package. Plant your plants and then water them well with a quality organic, liquid food mixed at half strength. Water plants two to three times weekly, depending on how much rain we get. Also, keep in mind that planters dry out faster than in-ground plantings, so they may need more water.
A good way to determine if your plants need water is to simply poke a finger into the soil about three inches. If your finger comes out dry, your plants need a good watering. If it comes out a bit moist with a bit of soil sticking to it, water moderately. If it comes out wet or muddy, do not water.
Bi-weekly, water with the same liquid plant food you used at planting but use it at the full strength suggested on the package. Vegetables are heavy feeders and the more nutrients you give them, the more they give you.
With just a small amount of effort those of us in the Hobby area can get a garden going this winter. Surprisingly, just being south of I-10 allows us a bit more planting leeway than those north of the interstate, so take advantage of our location and get your garden started!