To most homeowners at Harvest by Hillwood in Argyle/Northlake, vegetable gardening in North Texas means an abundance of fresh produce that will soon be part of a tasty, healthy meal. But for the inexperienced, starting a vegetable garden may seem like a daunting task. Don’t worry. Every successful gardener was a beginner once. Our guide to vegetable gardening for beginners provides the fundamentals on how to start a garden.
The basic requirements for a successful garden are soil, sunlight, water, and warmth.
Plants need good soil that contains nutrients like potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus to thrive. The soil should be loose, not compacted, so the roots of your plants can grow and expand. The soil should also drain well so that plants don’t remain soggy after a rain or irrigation.
Different plants have varying sunlight requirements, but most crops require partial or full sun. This will affect where you choose to place your garden. Be sure to find a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day.
Your garden will need to be watered regularly. While rain may fulfill some of your water needs, it’s best to select a location with easy access to a hose. You should water your garden when it is dry to the touch, not on a set schedule.
Plants, like people, have varying tolerances for heat and cold. Experienced gardeners know that crops are generally divided into two groups: those that grow and produce a yield in warm weather and those that perform better in cool weather.
Because of this, we think of vegetable gardening as having two seasons, spring and fall. The weather in North Texas can be similar in spring and fall so many crops will produce in both seasons but there are relatively few that thrive in the dog days of Texas summer. Some warm weather crops will continue to produce during the hottest weather, but many will go dormant.
Many warm weather vegetables can’t tolerate freezing temperatures at all, so we must wait until the threat of frost is gone before planting. Your North Texas gardening experience will be most successful if you keep your location’s USDA Plant Hardiness Zone in mind when selecting your crops. Most of Denton and Dallas Counties are within zone 8a but check the map to be sure.
Armed with the basic principles of vegetable gardening, you’re ready to get started. Every successful garden begins with a good plan. Before you start, decide on the location of your garden and its layout and understand what you must do to prepare the soil for planting. Once this is done, you can decide on the plants you will include!
As we already know, your garden must receive plenty of sunlight to be successful. Note the sunlight received in the various locations you are considering and pick one that gets at least six hours of sun per day.
The structure of your garden can take many forms. You can create a garden in the ground, in raised beds, or even in a series of containers. Unless you already have a bare patch of ground, planting your garden in the ground will likely involve removing grass, weeds, and any large rocks that are there.
Planting a garden in a raised bed is an attractive alternative. With a raised bed, you can start with the ideal soil for your crops and enjoy the bonus of less stooping to check your progress. Harvest residents love gardening in the raised beds at our Harvest Farm. Residents of our agrihood can rent their own private garden plots to plant vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs or a combination! And no previous experience is required because there is a full-time farmer on site to lend a hand and answer questions.
If you’re a beginning gardener, it’s best to start small. If this is your first foray into vegetable gardening in North Texas, you might start with a few different varieties in some large pots. Then next season, you can expand to a larger garden after you’ve gained some confidence and experience.
Preparing the bed for your garden is extremely important. If you are planting in the ground, the first step in preparation will be to remove existing grass manually, by smothering it, or by “solarizing” it. Find instructions on how to do this here.
The next step in bed preparation is to loosen and improve your garden’s soil by adding organic matter. This means turning it with a pitchfork or tiller, then adding compost, soil conditioner or other organic matter, and mixing it in. If you are starting your garden with a raised bed, you can buy garden soil, which will already be rich with organic material, from your local garden center.
What are the best vegetables to grow in North Texas? Here are some of the most popular crops you can grow in our area:
Plant warm season crops in spring so you can harvest in the summer, or in mid- to late summer to harvest in the fall.
These crops can be planted in winter (February/March) for a late spring harvest and also in late summer for a fall harvest.
Should you start your crops from seeds or from seedlings? There’s no right or wrong answer.
Seeds are less expensive, and you can find a greater variety of crops. But growing a garden from seeds requires more patience, can be harder, and more complicated. Some seeds are best started indoors and then transplanted outdoors and it can be tricky to calculate the right time to transplant based on when the crops will be ready to harvest.
Seedlings are easier to plant and they produce faster results than seeds, but they cost more, and you will have fewer choices. If you are a beginner, you will not be planting too many varieties of plants. Your local garden center should have plenty of choices to satisfy.
Experienced gardeners usually end up using a mixture of seedlings and seeds to grow the combination of crops they prefer.
To start a garden, you need sunlight, nutritious soil, seeds/plants, some tools, and a water source. You can plant your garden in the ground, in a raised bed, or containers such as pots, whiskey barrels, an old suitcase, or any other container that holds soil and will drain well.
Vegetables and fruits like peppers, okra, onions, melons, and squash do very well in warm weather and others, like lettuce, cabbage, and kale, do well in cool weather. Therefore, there are gardening tasks to keep you busy all through the year in North Texas.
For example, you can plant seeds for broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, tomato and more indoors in January and transplant the seedling into the ground in March. During April and May, you can plant cantaloupe and watermelon seeds outdoors then harvest them later in the summer. Other seeds like squash, cucumber, and okra can be planted in late spring.
Many varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs grow well in North Texas. Some examples include onion, garlic, okra, tomato, broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, lettuce, rosemary, basil, sage, thyme, peppers, zucchini, spinach, pumpkins, potatoes and beans.
You can start a garden in virtually any sunny location that has a water source. You can garden on a patio or a balcony by planting in containers or a raised bed.
If you’re craving an agrihood lifestyle, Harvest by Hillwood may be just what you are looking for! Our award-winning new home community is packed with amenities for people who value convenience and a farm-to-table way of life. Take a virtual tour to see what we’re all about, shop for a new home online, or contact us for more information.