East Texas gardeners face two special challenges that many gardeners across the United States rarely have to face at once: Poor soil and hot weather. Soil in East Texas is mostly clay in structure, which means that it is poorly drained and slippery in spring and rock-hard during dry summer periods. East Texas also falls between USDA hardiness zones 7, 8 and 9. Summer temperatures in East Texas can climb to more than 100 degrees.
Test your soil to determine the clay content and pH. A soil test can help you determine what soil amendments to add to improve the nutrient structure and drainage of your soil, as well as how to improve the pH of soil. Texas A&M University maintains a soil testing laboratory in conjunction with its community and continuing education program. You can submit a soil sample to this lab by contacting your county's Texas A&M Extension Service.
Break up your soil using a rototiller to a depth of 8 inches. Spread soil amendments over the surface of your soil in a 4-inch-thick layer. Determine which soil amendments to add based on the recommendations made in step 1. Common soil amendments for clay soil in Texas include organic materials to improve drainage, nutrient content and soil structure. These may include compost, peat moss, manure or cotton husks. Additionally, gypsum will help to break up clay soil and lime will raise the pH of soil. Mix your soil amendments into the soil with the rototiller.
Select heat tolerant hybrid vegetables for your garden. Cold-season vegetables may be planted in winter, but will wilt or bolt in spring and summer.
Dig furrows for your seed that are twice as deep as the seed's thickness. Place your seed in the ground and close the furrows behind. Dig planting holes for plants that are twice as wide as the plant's root ball. Place the root ball into the planting hole and cover with soil.
Wind a soaker hose around your plants at the root level. A soaker hose will provide just enough water at the root of the plants without causing water to evaporate in the Texas summer heat. Use no more than 100 feet of hose near each spigot.