Comal Master Gardeners, Donna and Mike Welch presented a program on fall gardening. It was geared to the novice but this crusty gardener learned a lot. We are zoned between 8 and 9 so our planting dates differ from Austin and San Antonio. We were reminded of proper soil preparation. In the Texas Hill Country, we can have clay soil, sandy soil, caliche or no soil. Most of us have no soil...just lots of rocks. Raised garden beds are the sure fire way to have a successful crop. They can be made from cement blocks, landscape timbers or planks of wood. It is not advisable to use railroad ties for these are treated. The jury is still out on whether one should use treated lumber. Remember to build your raised bed about 4' by 8.' If you make the bed wider than 4 feet, you will not be able to reach across the other side.
To determine what kind of soil you have (if you choose not to have a raised bed) contact your local County Extension Office. Most likely, you have soil high in ph or too low. That is why raised beds are ideal. Your soil should be a combination of good, organic soil, compost and fertilizer. Some gardeners plant in just compost. Their gardens are beautiful! Your soil should be fine. No clumps. It should smell rich, not sour. You should be able to run your fingers though it without it sticking to your hands. If it clumps you need to rake more and take out rocks. If it clings to your hands you need a bit more compost.
Next, make a list of vegetables you like. There is no sense in planting something you are not going to eat, unless you plan on donating it to your local food bank. Wait! There is a hummer right outside my window! I will report this to migration watch so they can keep track of migration patterns. OK, where was I? Right...make a list of the veggies you like. Go to your handy-dandy chart provided by the Extension Office to see what date these are to be planted. Here is the important part: check how many days to harvest. If your choice takes 80 days to harvest you must count backwards to the suggested planting date. This is how you determine when to plant certain plants. It freezes here, so veggies that have 40-60 days to harvest may be ok for me. But anything over that will freeze or not produce because it will be too cold or will be lacking in sun light.
When you have decided what works for you, draw a plan and label where your veggies will be planted. Also, write the date down that you planted them. You will refer to this next year so you do not plant the same plant in the same spot. Never plant tomatoes in the same place year after year. You will have a dissappointing crop.
Here is a good site for those of you in the Texas Hill Country.
Other good sources are: www.thepeppergal.com
Don't forget to plant companion plants that bloom. Not only are they pretty but they will help pollinate your veggies.
There is lots more information I can share with you. If you have any questions, just e-mail me and I will find the answer or refer you to a good site that can give you the answer.