Fall Vegetable Gardening

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One of our stalwarts for the summer garden is purple hull peas. A staple for many in this area, would you believe a local grower just finished a major harvest of zipper creams, lady fingers and pinkeye purple hulls?


It is a commonly overlooked fact by gardeners that there are indeed two seasons to have a vegetable garden each year: spring and fall.


Long time pea grower, Otis Harbuck, just finished up a fall harvest last week from his pea fields just east of Lufkin. His bushels of peas are nearly all sold at a time of year that we traditionally think of pumpkins and mums.

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Otis Harbuck, with a few of the many bushels of his final crop of southern peas.

The obvious effort was in planning for a fall garden. Harbuck re-worked the soil after his summer harvest of peas wrapped up in July. He then replanted three different varieties of southern peas in the month of August with the intention of harvesting in October.


Looking at the details of his efforts, his last picking of purple hull peas was on Monday, October 27. He planted three different varieties of purplehulls: Mississippi Pinkeye, Texas Pinkeye, and Coronet Pinkeye. It was later in the week on Thursday, October 30 he finished his last harvest of Lady Finger Cream peas and Zipper Cream peas.


While his plantings took place throughout August, wrapping up near the end of that month, Harbuck states, “you got to be ahead of the frost” for harvest.


Our average first frost for this area is mid- November. The key word is average. Sometimes it may be near Christmas, and other times it will be prior to Halloween. So when choosing what to plant, keep in mind how long it takes each vegetable to reach harvest stage


Most warm season vegetables traditionally grown in the spring/summer have a hard deadline. They must beat the frost. Southern peas normally take about 60 days. Counting backwards from a mid-October harvest puts the planting at mid-August. Pumpkins need about 90 days and radish is just over a month.


Establishing a fall garden is different as you have to work in the heat up-front. This warm soil will be to your advantage as it helps germinate vegetable plants much sooner than cooler spring soil temperatures in our spring gardens.


A school garden at Huntington Elementary plants summer squash at the beginning of the school year and have crook neck squash before Thanksgiving. Indeed, this is another summer vegetable planted in a fall garden as late as early September.


The biggest proponents of fall vegetable gardens will always brag on the harvest. Harvested produce at this time of year in milder weather are reported to taste better. The time spent harvesting, choosing which tomato or what size cucumber to pick, is obviously more comfortably done.
The bottom line is that here in east Texas our spring and fall gardening seasons are short, sandwiched between frosts and blistering hot summer conditions that cause many crops to stop production. Variety selection and proper planting time are critical to success.




Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu


Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.

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