Texas has a widely varied climate, with communities lying in hardiness zones 6B to 9B. This means annual winter lows of -5 F for zone 6B, or winter lows of 25 F in zone 9B. Texas gardeners must also contend with hot summer weather, which some crops cannot handle. Gardeners can grow a wide array of vegetables in their long growing season; some prefer the milder temperatures of spring and fall, while other crops do best in the hot summer sun.
Texas gardeners can grow a wide variety of hot peppers, from the well-known poblano, Anaheim, jalapeno or habanero to lesser-known varieties of hot pepper. Hot peppers can be started from seed or from transplant and grow best in full sun. Because of the plant's small size, hot peppers are ideal for container growing. Peppers are ready for harvesting 10 to 12 weeks after planting. Gardeners should wear gloves when harvesting hot peppers, since touching the pepper skin may cause irritation if the pepper is quite hot.
Collards and Kale
Because these green vegetables do not fare well in summer's heat, Texas gardeners can plant collards and kale as a spring or fall crop (or both). The vegetables both prefer a temperature of 60 to 65 F and dislike monthly temperatures above 70 F. Collards are ready to harvest in 70 to 80 days; kale is ready in 60 to 90 days. The greens are popular braised, stewed and stir-fried and are a staple of traditional Southern cuisine. Gardeners can cut down the entire plant to harvest or strip off individual leaves.
Sweet potato vines with orange, gold or cream-fleshed potatoes are a staple of Texas gardens. The edible potato is the plant's root, which rests just barely under the surface of the ground. These vegetables prefer the heat of summer and do best above 72 F. Sweet potatoes grow well from vine cuttings, or they can be started from transplants. Potatoes are ready to harvest in 90 to 150 days.
Texas gardeners in southern Texas will want to choose a heat-set variety of tomato, such as Heatwave, Sunchaser or Florida 91. Gardeners in central and northern Texas have greater flexibility when choosing tomatoes. Tomatoes perform best in low humidity and with some rainfall, with 60 to 70 F temperatures at night and 80 to 85 F temperatures in the daytime. Most tomatoes mature for harvest in 60 to 100 days; a good indication of ripeness is when the tomato begins to turn red (or another color).
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