Winter vegetable gardening in central Texas

Kendalia, TX

Anyone out there planting winter vegetable gardens in central Texas? I'd be interested to know what has worked for them. I live north of San Antonio. For me, Swiss Chard grows well in the winter. Frost does not kill it. There are just enough days of freezing to kill most things, which is a shame, since most other days are warm here, if not downright hot. I keep looking for easy ways to plant to keep things alive during the brief freezes. I'm thinking of planting some things under plastic bottles (with the bottoms cut out). Don't know if that will be enough protection. Any thoughts?

Weatherford, TX(Zone 7b)

I now live in Weatherford, but lived in Hewitt by Waco for 14 years. My fall or winter garden consisted of Tomatoes - I would pull up the plants just before a good freeze and hang them in the garage so the tomatoes could continue to grow and ripen, Cabbage, radishes -plant every 2 weeks, lettuce - plant every month, garlic, onions. As for south as you are, you probably could grow just about any cool weather crop you wanted.

Kendalia, TX

Hanging tomatoes. Interesting!
I haven't been able to grow garlic. Maybe I should try lettuce, though. Onions grow well.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Why have you had difficulty growing garlic? What was your success or failure?

Do you know your zone? I am not in central TX but thought garlic would do well all over. I planted mine in OCT. Got a bed started and will leave it in ground harvesting only what I need. I also do root crops. Radishes, carrots, onions and some cooler leaf lettuces too. There are many different cole crops that should do well for you.

Kendalia, TX

Hi, I'm in 8b. It can get below 20 here. My guess about why my garlic dies is that my soil is very alkaline. If you are in East Tx, your soil is far more acidic.

Kendalia, that's odd, because garlic LIKES alkaline soil and can grow in very alkaline conditions. Also, garlic seems to be one of those plants that "acclimates"; i.e., if replanted from saved bulbs each year, it adjusts to your garden to do better each time. My crop had gotten larger, with bigger cloves each year. And I live in the Jura on limestone soil! Try again?!?

Also, all the Asian green, like Pak Choy, Mizuna, Tat-soy, Komatsuna, as well as collards and other mustards (I love Ed Hume Seeds' "Tendergreen") should do well. Mine, planted about 3 weeks ago, are doing really well. So are my endives and my escaroles. But my lettuce is not so good. [I suspect, however, that the darn crows are stealing my baby lettuces!].

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I was wondering why as there are garlic types that do better in warmer or colder climates. Wonder if maybe that caused the failure...
I am actually in 8a so the cold is not the problem in growing it.

Garlic does need a period of cold to perform well. I'm slow. Just prepared the bed for it today. Will plant both garlic and shallots this week. Onions, too, if I can find sets.
I am growing a 5th generation of 'Germidor', and it does great here.

Kendalia, TX

Interesting! It is useful to know it is not the alcalinity of the soil. Maybe I need more cold. If I plant some now I might get enough cold.
Bok choy grows well. I might plant some again.
To deter birds you may try some plastic bottles used as cloches?

The crows seem to snatch the baby lettuces just after they come up and before they seem to be big enough to cover. But you just gave me an idea; I could cut some bottles lengthwise and put them over the row of seed. That should be good until the seedlings are big enough to thin.

Yes! Get your garlic in now!

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Fall is the time to plant the garlic. Mine is just coming up now. It will grow thru winter and after the blooms and scapes die back, it will be harvested usually around May or June. If I recall, you want the softneck garlic to grow in the warmer climates. I also have multiplier onions just coming up right now as well as garlic chives and walking onions. The regular chives will get frostbit but will come back in springtime. LOL can you smell me from here? I really don't eat all that much of the Alliums. I love their appearance and ease of growing...

I ran out of garlic between harvests this year, but last years shallots finished just as I was beginning to harvest this year's crop, which was even bigger! Meaning I can use more! And I got a great crop of garlic this year, so they just MIGHT last until next year's crop comes in. Unfortunately, this year' onion crop was nearly a complete failure; only good for eating "green"; not a thing to keep! Last year I had lots! Go figure!

Kendalia, TX

I had similar bad luck with shallots last spring. Seems I should plant it now if I can find some.

Jim (if I may) next time you might put seeds in soil in the bottles with the bottoms cut off, and push the bottles into your soil. Then the seedlings can grow protected and you can leave them in there until they are a good size.

Crows I don't have. Instead I have rabbits, raccoons, possums, armadillos and all sorts of insects. Deer too, but they are fenced out.

You can actually "fence out" deer? What kind do you have there? Legless?

Kendalia, TX

Ha. My six foot fence keeps them out. They could jump it, but never do. (If they did, I'd put up an 8 foot fence!)

Kendalia, TX

Podster, my chives never freeze here.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

My regular chives are potted and they do die down overwinter for me. The garlic chives are just starting new growth and do well all winter, dying back in the spring. Mine might be a different variety.

We've about an acre under fence and the deer are around but not in... of course a pair of dogs and a pack of viscious snarling house cats may be the reason. LOL

Kendalia, TX

Scary cats! I have about the same under fence.
The garlic I've planted are just cloves from storebought garlic. Could that be my problem? Wrong variety?

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

That could likely be the case. The hardneck variety does well in colder climates and stores well. The softneck can remain in ground year around, harvesting as needed. There are many old beds of this garlic growing around this area.

Kendalia, TX

Podster, I'd offer to trade for some of the "softneck" variety, but I don't see anything in your "want list." If you get a moment, check out my "have" list, and see if I have anything you want.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Kendalia ~ I just relocated this thread... you now have dmail. pod

Ashdown, AR(Zone 8a)

I'm 8 just about 20 miles or so from Tx. border. I started growing year round 3 yrs ago. Things I'm not sure of,I cover w/ my tomato baskets opened out and covered w/ remnants of geenhouse film...although clear painters plastic will do...thickest mil you can get. Only last 1 seasons where as the greenhouse film I'm using last 4 yrs.


Thumbnail by bigred
Kendalia, TX

Hey, Red. Thanks for the idea. I've tried similar things here. Problem is that every so often I get winds of 30 or more mph. That makes any covering with fabrics a problem, unless I really nail it down, and then it is not easy to uncover, as I'd need to do when it get too warm.

But I'm determined. This time around I'm going to try homemade cloches.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Tell us about your homemade cloches?

Kendalia, TX

I'll use plastic liter water bottles with the bottoms cut out, and with soil and seeds inside. I'll push these firmly into the soil of my garden (with the cap side up). I already know that the wind will not blow them away. With the cap on loosely, moisture is retained very well, and watering infrequent. It ought to take a while for plants to fill the bottle, and then I can pull off the bottle. What I'm not sure of is whether this will keep certain things warm enough. But in really hard freezes I can cover the bottles with fabric, and the bottles themselves will protect the plants from being crushed. This will keep out pests, too. (I just googled 'cloche'; turns out lots of people use bottles as cloches.)

This message was edited Nov 16, 2008 10:35 AM

This message was edited Nov 16, 2008 10:36 AM

This message was edited Nov 16, 2008 10:45 AM

Ashdown, AR(Zone 8a)

We have lots of wind here too. I allow for some extra plastic on the sides then use my cane poles use to make my teepees that I grow pole beans on,to roll up the extra on then pin the pole and plastic to the ground with big landscape staples...otherwise I'd be chasing plastic all winter and spring.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

That ought to work.... if you keep the caps on at night, you may have to remove them during the sunshine part of the day or the delicate plants will scald.

Kendalia, TX

I think so too. After plants are established I expect to cap the bottles only during freezes. I wonder what the French did when they used cloches. Theirs didn't have any openings to uncap. Guess they must have removed the cloche entirely during warm weather. If so, the bottles will be more practical. Less to disturb the seedlings.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I have used the glass cloche and I tilted it slightly at the base with a stick.

Y'all done got too 'Texas' for me!
Guess y'all got that there special weather.

If I could ever convince my best friend that he lives on the same planet as I do, I might convince him that gardening in Texas is no more special.

BTW, we "French" are still using cloches; it's not a "technique ancienne", Kendalia!

Kendalia, TX

Hey, L'Texas, c'est moi, pilgrim! ô¿ô

So y'all still use them thar cloches! I reckon ours are bigger. . .

C’est ça! Toutes les choses en Texas sont trés grandes. ¿N’est pas?

Kendalia, TX

C'est exact! (Les cliches trop.)

Ouch. That hurt my brain, trying to recall my college French, which is almost gone.

It hurts my brain just trying to recall today's French.

Carrollton, TX(Zone 8a)

Hello Texans! Please forgive me for going back a couple of conversations, but I have a couple of questions about growing onions and garlic. These are two veggies I put in my grocery cart every week and would love to grow my own. How are they grown (I've never done anything like them) and would it be way too late to put them in now? What does it mean to "harvest as needed," Podster? Is the garlic constantly growing, or do you just leave it in the ground once it's done growing and dig up what you need as you need it? Any information (especially links or pictures) would be greatly appreciated.

A little info - I'm gardening near Dallas in 1.5' raised beds (way too much clay in my soil to ammend an in-ground plot...)


-Greener Beaner

Ashdown, AR(Zone 8a)

I put my last onions in early Oct. as well as garlic. I leave mine out in the open all winter and they stay green. I have a few onions I could pull right now and some that need to stay in the ground longer. The garlic bulbs/cloves aren't big enough to harvest right now but I cut the green part when I want garlic in a dish.

You can find onion plants and bulbs at your local garden centers starting in Feb. probably and it's prefectly safe to plant them out as soon a s you find them.

Right now I have pots of onions from seeds growing in my un heated lean-to to be seperated and planted out in Feb.


Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I've never tried onion from seeds aren't they are more cold sensitive?

Most folks here plant onions and garlic in Oct, Nov and I don't think too late even yet. In January, February you will see onion sets in the garden centers to be planted.

Many here keep an establish bed of garlic. They only harvest the stalks after the foliage has browned and died down. They have a preference to only harvest the stalks that have bloomed, leaving the rest in ground for the next year. The garlic will not rot in ground even in clay. The bed will regenerate from the cloves left in ground. It can also be "harvested as needed" when cooking using the green stalks or digging a bulb. Fresh garlic can be plucked from the ground rather than the grocers shelves. If you have a minute, this is a link of info I had saved in my journal and the sequence of photos on the garlic growth and blooms.

I also keep multiplier onions that I usually dig up in summer. They produce clumps of bulbs that can be separated and replanted in fall. I also have a small bed of walking onions that I leave in ground full time. Again, a similar link on the multiplier onions. and on the Egyptian or topsetting onions.

Ashdown, AR(Zone 8a)

I started the onions(and chinese chives) under light on a heat mat then when they were big enough,transfered them to the unheated lean-to. They're happy as clams out there. By the first of Feb.I'll start easing them outside for a few mins. at a time for about a week then line them out in the garden by 2 or 3 week. If there's any weather reports of bad weather,I'll throw a lo-polytunnel over them.

This is only my second attempt at growing onions from seed. I tried bunching onions first and only got a about a dz. plants then I started gleaning info from different garden sites. Learned that they will germinate better if soak about 12 hrs(changing water a couple of times)in hot water before sewing. I'll probably be doing a lot more from seed now that I know the secert.Except for a few I kept for our use,I sold out on green onions at market last year and I have tripled the amt. I had set out in'06 so it maybe onion-onion-onion everywhere an onion next year....LOL

My onion seedlings pictured.I need to give them a hair cut so they'll concentrate on making roots/bulbs
I have two more pots but they were older seeds so they're just now sprouting...better late than never.

Thumbnail by bigred
Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Probably everyone will be growing/selling onions and then, no one will be buying them! That is just too predictable! LOL

Tell me how much "hair" you can take off on the seedlings? Do you need to leave enough that they will still draw growth energy from the sun?

Ashdown, AR(Zone 8a)

Now don't go and jinks me....LOL. Everybody had onions last year. Only me another vendor sold out every time.

I'm gonna give those puppies a haircut back by half I do believe.Probably be a real pain the way they're all tangled. Break out the manicure scissors and magnifying glass..LOL

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