Ask the Permie Pro

By Dick Pierce

Dear Gardening Folks, Thinking-about-its and Wannabes,
It’s June in Central Texas and our long, hot summer is here. Gardens and gardeners are stressed over the hot temperatures ahead. What to do? 

If you’re one of the lucky or smart ones that planted in mid-January through March, you’ve probably had a good harvest. April through June has been one of the best spring gardening seasons in years. Congratulations! Now it’s time to finish up the harvest and put your beds to bed under a cooling, moist blanket of compost mulch for the long, hot summer. Several of your veggies—most notably tomatoes—will go semi-dormant in the hot weather, but if you cut them back, mulch them well and water them occasionally, they’ll wake up in September and use their extensive root system to zoom back to life for a second crop.

If you missed the glorious spring season, or you simply don’t wish to take a summer siesta, there’s still some work you can do.

Compost does very well this time of year. There should be lots of veggie scraps from watermelon rinds, carrot tops, cabbage leaves, stems and grass to utilize, and hopefully there are bags of leaves left from spring cleanup, or lots of shredded paper from the office. Use them to start a new compost pile that will be ready just in time to mulch fall garden beds. This is also a good time to plan any garden expansion or redesign for fall, and to line up the materials and volunteers to help. Be sure to include native and dwarf fruit trees, nuts, blackberries, dewberries and grapes in your plans.

June is also a great time to enjoy the local food bonanza at one of the many farmers markets. They’ll have exciting, fresh produce and meats long into the summer, so use them as your season extenders until your fall garden takes hold.

And, get ready for the BIG ONE: the fall gardening season unique to Central Texas. It’s a gift; a second glorious chance to grow food. Mid-August through September is the planting time for this gardening season that runs until early December and beyond. This is also when Citizen Gardener courses resume. Classes start on August 14 and 28, as well as September 11 and 25. Each offers two Saturday mornings of fun, hands-on experience with a Wednesday-night session in between.

Have a great summer, get some rest and relaxation, turn the compost, water and mulch your garden, patronize and enjoy our farmers markets and get ready to enjoy our fall gardening season. Best wishes to all.

For more information on Citizen Gardener courses and enrollment, visit citizengardener.ning.com. For the fall permaculture course, visit austinperm.com.