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Growing Your Own Groceries: April

By Dawn Oldfield, CCMGA Public Relations Chairperson

You may ask, why bother with growing your own vegetables and herbs when grocery stores are full of "fresh" produce all year long? But how fresh are they really? Some varieties are harvested from far-away places and stored for months before they arrive at the supermarket. Have you ever bought a beautiful red tomato only to get home and find it is mealy and bland?

One strategy to avoid spending your hard-earned money on low-quality fruits and vegetables is to grow your own! There is absolutely nothing that compares with the taste of a home-grown tomato. What's not to savor about that sweet-tart flavor of a fresh tomato as the juices drip down your chin? Combine with fresh-picked peppers and make a salsa that sings summertime!

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. Texans produce some of the best crops in the nation: tomatoes, peppers, onions, potatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, spinach, pecans, blueberries, peaches, squash, beans, pumpkins, and more.

If you haven't already, choose a 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.


April is a great month to plant vegetable and herb transplants. Consider planting tomato varieties that produce small to medium-sized fruit.

Red Cherry Super Sweet 100 Roma Better Boy Super Fantastic
Yellow Pear Porter Early Girl Heatmaster Patio

 

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.

Pepper transplants can also be planted now. Bell Peppers, Jalapeños, Yellow Banana Peppers, Anaheim, Poblano, Serrano, and Cayenne are just a few peppers that do well in our area. Mild or hot, you're sure to find a variety that suits your taste buds.

Now is the time to plant cantaloupe transplants. Cantaloupe is a low-calorie, nutrient-rich fruit. It is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C. It is also rich in potassium and folic acid. Cantaloupe planted now can be harvested between June and November.

Did you know Texas ranks 3rd in the United States in watermelon production?
Watermelons are vining blooming plants that are pollinated by bees. Suppose you want to grow this sweet, nutrient-rich superfood plant now. You'll know when it's time to harvest when the ripe fruit develops a dull, muffled sound when thumped. Remember that watermelons are space hogs, so ensure you have abundant room for them!

Also, plant snap beans, cucumbers, sweet corn, squash, warm season greens, eggplant, potatoes, pumpkins, and a last chance for radishes. Don't forget okra if you're an okra fan. Okra is to the South as rhubarb is to the North. Plant okra now, and you'll be rewarded with a plentiful harvest. 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.

Don't forget herbs!
Herbs don't just come in a jar from the grocery store! Once you start growing your own and using fresh herbs in your favorite recipes, you'll never go back to store-bought again. Plant dill, fennel and parsley not only to eat but also to host plants for swallowtail butterflies. Other culinary favorites are basil, chives, mint (plant mint in a container, or it could easily take over your garden), oregano, rosemary and thyme. Other popular herbs include catnip (your favorite feline will thank you!), chervil, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, and sage.

For more information about vegetable gardening, explore the vegetable and herb resources provided by the Collin County Master Gardeners Association. And don't miss A Walk in the Park on June 1, 2024, at the beautiful Myers Park and Event Center in McKinney! This free event is a wonderful opportunity to stroll each of the Earth-Kind® Gardens, which include the vegetable garden, potager garden, herb garden, perennial garden, annuals garden, vineyard, shade garden, shrub and grasses garden, crape myrtle garden, as well as our most recently added greenhouse and the new pollinator garden.

Explore this website and aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu for more information and recommendations for plants for North Texas.

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