Get a fresh take on summer by planting—or renovating—a garden. Gardening is easier than you might think with a little information and can also save you money. A thoughtfully planned garden can save you $500 or more on groceries. Gardening teaches kids about science, keeps them active, and is a perfect family activity for even the youngest kids. So take advantage of your gorgeous MorningStar yard and get planting! There’s still plenty of time left in the season.
Gardening Basics: Know Your Hardiness Zone
Georgetown is part of USDA Hardiness Zone 8. This means we have one of the longest planting seasons in the US, extending from April 1 to December 1. For a planting schedule tailored to our zone, click here.
With nearly four months left in the planting season, there’s plenty of time to plant another crop of warm weather vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers. If you really want to commit to gardening, you can even get a small greenhouse or an overwintering box, and keep some plants outside year-round.
Of course, having such a long planting season also presents some challenges. The hot, arid summer weather can be a great environment for fungal and bacterial infections. It’s also too warm for some plants, notably cool weather crops such as celery.
To protect your plants from the burdens of hot weather, invest in a multipurpose antifungal or antibacterial spray, and spray according to the instructions. Most use copper, which is great at killing infections. If bugs are eating your garden alive, blast them with the hose or spray them with neem oil.
What to Plant Now
If you’re already craving a shift in the temperature, it’s safe to begin planting fall seeds. Some great fall crops to try include:
Want to try something new? A great crop for Texas is the Mexican sour gherkin, sometimes called a cucamelon. These tiny gourds look like watermelons and taste like sour cucumbers. They’re flavorful when pickled, and will continue producing fruits well into November. Their tiny size makes them especially appealing to little hands. Because the plants produce both male and females on the same plant, they can pollinate themselves. This means they may drop a few seeds and regrow next year.
Breathe New Life Into Your Garden
Is your garden suffering from the summer heat and looking a little sad? Try these tips to revive it:
- Visit your local garden store and buy some peppers or tomatoes. There’s still plenty of time for them to grow.
- Prune your plants, cutting back any dead or dying leaves.
- Cut back any part of the plant that is crowding other plants or growing out of the cage. Tomatoes and peppers can be “trained” to grow in a compact space.
- Invest in a few hanging flower baskets. Stick a shepherd’s hook in your front yard to hang, and you have a ready-made, low-maintenance bouquet.
- Switch to mums. It’s time to start thinking about fall flowers. A few potted mums can make it feel like fall, even when it’s 100 degrees out.
Get Kids Involved
Gardening is great for kids. Kids are more likely to eat healthy foods when they grow those foods themselves. The garden is also a great spot for hands-on science, making the lessons your kids learn in school more relevant. Some easy strategies for getting kids involved in gardening include:
- Let your kids pick the plants. Kids would rather design their own gardens than feel like they’re doing chores for adults. Get your child a raised planting bed and let them go wild.
- Set aside a separate garden for the littlest kids. Toddlers want to dig and look for worms. Preschoolers may endlessly pick at plants. Let them have their own garden space that they can creatively destroy.
- Make the garden kid-friendly by adding accessories your kid will love. Try building a fair garden, complete with gnomes and tiny doors, or sticking an excavator in a digging garden.
- Talk abut the life cycle of a plant. Gardening is a useful life skill with direct ties to the information your child learns at school. Help your child understand how the lessons they learn in biology play out in their home garden.
Encourage kids to help you cook meals with fruits and veggies from the garden. For some picky eaters, this is the key to a healthier and more varied diet.