Skip to the content

The Veritable Vegetable… Harvest Home Grown Happiness

By Dawn Oldfield, Collin County Master Gardener

Things just taste better when they are fresh from the garden. There is absolutely nothing that compares with the taste of a homegrown tomato. What’s not to savor about that sweet-tart flavor as the juices drip down your chin? Combine with fresh-picked peppers for a salsa that sings summertime!

By the time you are reading this article, it is a little late for Texans to plant cool-weather plants like lettuce, radish and onions. But don’t let a date on the calendar stop you! There is still time to grow some of your favorite veggies. Warm-season crops, which include beans, corn, cucumbers, squash, okra, peppers, and tomatoes, can still be planted and harvested until the first major frost.

Whether you are a newcomer to gardening, or find Texas soils and climate too intimidating, not to worry. The Collin County Master Gardeners Association has tried-and-true tips to help you find success in the garden.

Choose carefully when selecting the location for your vegetable garden. Consider a sideyard that has been ignored and abused. Is it a potential space to nurture nature’s bounty?
Plants will perform best in well-drained soil that receives at least 8 hours of sunlight daily. If possible, avoid windy locations, and locate near an easily accessible water source.

Successful gardens are built one step at a time. Each step is as important as the next. First and foremost, you need to amend the soil. It is very important to add organic matter. Organic matter raises the soil's nutrient levels. The soil in Collin County is very alkaline, and Lake Lavon water is also alkaline, which leaches nitrogen. And, nitrogen is what makes plants green and grow. And be mindful about watering. The most critical thing is watering. More plants are killed by over-watering than by not enough. Vegetables need about one inch of water per week, either from rain or irrigation. If rain has been scarce, hand water in the morning or consider a drip irrigation system.

Start small. A 3’ to 4’ wide bed is ideal as you can easily work from either side. You can make it as long as you want. Even with a tiny lot, you can successfully grow vegetables in raised beds, containers and on vertical supports. Almost anything that can be grown in the ground can be grown using any of these methods. Just be sure to space plants accordingly to allow for airflow and mature plant height. If you can plant your plot next to a fence, attach a trellis or wire and use that space for plants that need vertical support. Beans and cucumbers will climb up the fence, leaving you more room in the bed for other vegetables.

While the best time to start your vegetable garden beds is in early spring, you can still plant tomatoes and pepper transplants in late spring. They just won’t produce the yield they would have if planted earlier in the spring. CCMGA recommends planting varieties that produce small to medium size tomatoes, such as a Patio or Cherry. Larger varieties can split in our summer heat. For best results, select varieties that have disease resistance. Look for “VF”, “VFN”, and “VFNT” after the cultivar name.

Cherry tomatoes love summer!
There are many varieties that don’t seem to mind the heat, especially Sweet 100. And, even though their fruit is small, be sure to allow plenty of space for them to grow. They can be very tall and rambling. One standard cherry tomato plant typically yields enough fruit for a family.

It has often been said that to get children to eat their vegetables, encourage them to join you in the garden to help grow and harvest the fruits of their labor. It is important for your kids to be successful. Let them grow a pepper plant or cherry tomato in a pot. Let them plant it, and teach them to water and nurture that plant. They will get a crop. You can get more return – in fruit and smiles – from one cherry tomato plant.

Okra is to the South as rhubarb is to the North. One or two okra plants will easily produce enough for a family of four, as will one zucchini plant. Don’t get carried away with too many plants. You’ll be overwhelmed. Grow small quantities of your favorite herbs and vegetables that you will use in your kitchen. Have an abundant crop? Share with family, friends and neighbors.

Our Texas climate provides seasons that offer an opportunity for a prolonged harvest of fresh vegetables, saving on food costs and giving your family fresh, nutritional produce.

Visit the Aggie website,, for a list of vegetable varieties best suited for Collin County. 

Join our Email List

Stay informed about upcoming events and timely garden topics.