Plant

Plant: Green Beans

Dreaming of cooler weather? We are in the last week of August, and in the throes of back-to-school for North Texas. You may be wondering what you could plant in your garden now (easily and quickly before you dive back into the AC) - perhaps even something fun and easy for your kids or grandkids to try at home. Consider growing green beans at home!

There are two basic types of ways that beans grow, in a bush format or in a climbing format (often called ‘pole’ beans). There are two very different sets of rules for growing these guys, so be sure before you plant that you decide which path you are going to take and have your growing space prepared. Check out this guide for planting tips.

Here are some reasons we love to plant and grown beans:

  1. they germinate (begin to grow) quickly, and they are low-maintenance

  2. they like sunlight and are fairly tolerant of various soil types

  3. if watered well, you can harvest a good amount of beans at home until a hard frost (they will produce during the first months of Fall here)

  4. they are healthy to eat (a good source of Vitamin C and A)

  5. they provide a fun and easy kitchen activity for kids helping to cook at home

For recommended varieties of green beans for North Texas, see this link.

Plant: Okra

Okra is an easy and nutritious vegetable to grow in your backyard. And, if you want to try and have a fall crop, now is the time to plant! (Texas A&M recommends planting at least three months before the first frost date…)

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Be sure and plant your okra in full sun and give each plant enough space. The good news is that okra doesn’t need a lot of water once it is established. Once the plant starts producing, you should harvest pods daily (if you don’t they will get too long and chewy making them rather inedible). You will be shocked at how quickly the finished pods will grow even in 24 hours. This excellent tip sheet from Texas A&M suggests specific varieties of okra (and other vegetables) suited to our area of North Texas.

Once you start harvesting okra at home, you will want to grow it every year. You will be able to cook your own home-made gumbo, okra and tomatoes, pickled okra, fried okra…(Bonus, you can harvest the seeds from 1-2 pods of this year’s garden for next year’s urban garden.) Pictured here is a particularly beautiful variety of okra we’ve tried called, “Red Burgundy”…The pods are bright red, surrounded by yellow flowers, and variegated leaves.

Plant: Peppers

If you want an easy and productive plant in your home garden, think about planting some hot peppers. They love our Texas heat, and they will prolifically produce peppers (can you say that five times quickly…) for months until winter arrives. And, you can save them in a variety of ways for use throughout the entire calendar year!

In our Dallas urban space, we’ve had good luck with serrano peppers, cayenne peppers, and jalapeño peppers. You can plant them directly in the soil in your landscape bed, or in a container for your patio. The most important thing is to give them at least six hours of direct sunlight every day. Water deeply, when you do water them.

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Once you start harvesting hot peppers from your garden, here are some creative ways you can use and save them at home. [Please note if you are getting hands on with these guys, the interior flesh and seeds can cause irritation to your skin, so use caution; and, if you must, use gloves when handling…]

  1. Use them whole in soups or to add some kick to your homemade stock.

  2. Slice or mince the whole pepper, and use in your everyday dishes depending on how spicy you want them to be.

  3. Dehydrate them whole in your oven, dehydrator, or if you want a cool aesthetic in your kitchen - string them up and hang them to air dry.

  4. Pulse/chop the dried peppers in your blender and save in your pantry. You can also mix them with other dried herbs and powders for a homemade rub on grilled summertime meats and seafood.

  5. Make a homemade pepper sauce.

Lastly, check out this wonderful tip sheet from Texas A&M on recommended pepper varieties and growing tips for our region. Happy planting, friends! Pick some plants to grow in your urban space that love our climate, and can feed your family.

Plant: Onions

Onions are one of the easier vegetables to grow in your urban backyard garden (or patio containers). They are also one of the first (and only) vegetables you can plant outside in January/February and not worry about the cold temps.

Now is the time to purchase and plant onion transplants in our local garden nursery stores. We bought one package of white, and one package of red (fyi, they are readily in stock at Redenta’s, North Haven Gardens, Ruibal’s). One bunch was plenty to spread amongst several homes and friends.

Here are three basic planting tips:

  1. Find a sunny spot (they need at least 6 hours of sun/day) and loosen the soil where onions will be planted (use a trowel or spoon to break up any compact spots; if soil is hard and dry, moisten it).    

  2. Plant each onion base (the part with roots) in the soil approximately four inches apart from each other. Don’t plant more than one inch deep.

  3. Water the soil deeply around all of the onions you’ve just planted. Keep them watered every week in the spring until they get growing. But do NOT overwater!

You should have mature onions somewhere between May and July. Here’s a helpful tip sheet from Texas A&M on planting and growing onions.

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