Learning to Grow in Long, Hot Summers! (notes from Austin, Texas)

Happy May! Many learning experiences include input from others. In the first week of every month, I’d like begin to introduce everyone to gardeners, permaculturists, teachers, spiritual mentors and friends who have inspired and supported my journey. If you are interested in contributing, contact me directly at stephdvy@yahoo.com. Thank you!

As the first guest writer, I would like to welcome E. Ray Gard! E. Ray is a gardener, educator and designer in Austin, Texas. He writes his own blog, called Agricrafty.com. Enjoy his article! And thank you, E. Ray!

Learning to grow in long, hot summers! (notes from Austin, Texas)

Hi there, our growing season here in Austin and the rest of surrounding Central Texas is a bit of a head scratcher to most people in the Northern parts of the United States. You see, we’re not quite tropical, thanks to those occasionally cold, albeit short, winter freezes that we get, but we’re not quite temperate, because our seasons are most accurately described as Summer and Fall/Winter?…well, maybe Summer and Not Summer?

Anyway, just like anyone with an unusual shoe size or uncommon first name can tell you, when you are outside of the norm, a perfect fit can be hard to come by, whether it’s shoes or good gardening advice.

So, while the rest of the United States is shuttering their garden sheds for the winter, we find ourselves filling up our greenhouses with seed trays full of kale, cabbages and spinach, getting ready to grow as many greens as we possibly can over the mild winter.

The tricky part (and this is where Florida might recognize the tune) comes in the middle of summer, while our friends to the north are rolling in verdant hills of delicate strawberry plants covered in glossy red fruit, we are staring at wilted fields of explosive, but exhausted squash, okra and tomatoes. By the middle of August, with the hot days followed by hot nights with low or high humidity, a Texas summer can kill or stunt most any vegetable.

On that note:

Tips for Gardening in Long, Hot Summers!

  1. Plants like rest!
    When the long hot days are followed by long hot nights, your plants, even if they’re well-watered, are constantly having to use energy (sugar) and other nutrients to cool themselves and maintain normal function. With this in mind, get to know your plants natural light requirements and be ready to plant some in partial shade because it might mean they can be slower to mature, but maintain productivity throughout the summer and be awesome fall producers once the temperatures start to lower.
  2. Keep your soil safe and hydrated!
    Too much rain can compact bare soils as well as wash nutrients like phosphorous, calcium, magnesium and sodium away, which makes them more acidic. Here in Central Texas, we have a lot of limestone in our soils, so low pH (acid) soils aren’t that common, but the rain can still be a powerful frenemy depending on how much and how often it comes to visit. If you are getting daily rains, be sure that your plants are located away from excessive runoff or pooling, unless they are adapted for that kind of pond living. Lots of water on a regular basis can wash away the smaller components of your soil (like humus and compost), which can actually reduce your soil’s ability to hold water when it’s not raining as well as rob your plants of necessary nutrients.
  3. Plants love great soils!
    This one might seem like a no-brainer, but to the point above about washing too much of the good stuff out of your soils, not only do those plants need water to survive the heat, they need tons of rich soil to pull a wide variety of nutrients out of. In people, this is like thinking that all you need after a run on a hot day is water, no food, no electrolytes, just water. Now imagine that you are running every single day, only drinking water to recover. I think you get my point, you have to feed your soil so your plants can have access to everything they need to run that race every single hot day of the summer.

I hope you found something helpful for learning to grow in Florida in these tips from a fellow gardener a few states to the West in Texas! I write about my own gardening experience and journey into permaculture and regenerative agriculture over on my blog at Agricrafty.com, so feel free to stop by and take a look for more useful information.

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E. Ray Gard is a cowboy way down deep. He loves to experience other cultures and has lived and worked in France, Italy, Ecuador, Honduras and Syria, but currently calls Austin, Texas home. When he’s not covered in dirt and bits of vegetables, he’s learning to play the fiddle, training capoeira or BJJ, or working on his scifi novel. He grew up on a ranch and farm in rural New Mexico and has stayed in agriculture his whole life. He started teaching gardening as a bright-eyed Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador after college and has been sharing agriculture as a way to help people improve their health, environment and quality of life ever since. Since then, he’s studied permaculture, holistic management and more recently the Regrarian’s design platform as paths to be a better student of and partner with the land. E.Ray is passionate about healing the problems of the world in a garden. He believes deeply that nurturing a piece of land makes us better dreamers, warriors, lovers and human beings in general.

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