The beautiful city of Austin rises up along the banks of the Colorado River in south-central Texas, 165 miles northeast of Houston. The subtropical climate provides hot, humid summers with temperatures typically in the 90-degree F range. Austin is situated in plant hardiness zones 8-9, and gardeners enjoy a growing season that is nearly year-round . The biggest challenge to growing vegetables in this area is the poor soil, which is typically very low in organics.
Select a site for your vegetable garden. Vegetables need at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day, so choose an exposed area away from trees and shrubs. Place stakes to mark the corners of the plot and tie string around the outside. Remove lawn grass by cutting it into 1-foot squares with the spade, and lift the squares out with the garden fork.
Turn the soil to loosen the top 6 to 8 inches, and spread about 2 inches of organic material such as compost or manure over the entire plot. The soil types in the Austin area include dense clays, thin horizons over limestone and loam. The best way to amend the soil is to put the organic material on in stages and dig it in as you go. Continue adding 2 inches of organics at a time, and blend with the soil each time until you have added about 8 inches in total to the garden. Remove the outline stakes and string.
Make a drawing of your garden and plan the arrangement of the crops. The typical row spacing for most vegetables is about 18 to 24 inches apart. Melons, squash, cucumbers and corn are a few of the varieties that need more room. Rows should be roughly 3 to 4 feet apart for these varieties. Tall crops such as corn, okra and pole beans should be planted on the north side of the garden so as not to shade other plants.
Place stakes at either end of the rows according to your drawing and tie string between them. Use the hoe to mound up the soil to a height of 6 inches below the string lines. Following the directions on the seed packets carefully, plant your seeds at the right spacing and depth. Cool-season vegetables are planted first. Peas, asparagus, potatoes and carrots are just a few of the varieties that get an early start.
Water your garden by soaking the soil rather than spraying the plant foliage. Wet leaves increase the chance of disease. Vegetables need at least an inch of water per week, especially in the first four to six weeks after planting. Hand watering in May and June can be reduced, as these are the wettest months in Austin, averaging about 4 inches of rain per month.
Use the hoe to remove weeds as soon as they appear. Weeds will starve young vegetable plants of nutrients and can also attract undesirable insects. Check your plants often for any signs of insect damage or disease. Indication may include partially eaten leaves, discolored foliage or leaves with holes. Contact your local county extension office for treatment advice if a problem arises.