In the Spring of 2010 I tilled and planted a 12′ x 12′ back yard garden in McKinney, TX. I’d had sporadic gardens over the years, usually ending in frustration and disappointment, but thought I’d give it another go.
Since then I’ve grown increasingly infatuated with my garden, and over the subsequent months and years the original 12′ x 12′ plot morphed into what I now call my “farm,” complete with rain water irrigation, chickens, a beehive, an incredible composting process, and even a vermicomposting bin (I love telling people “I’ve got worms…”).
In fairness, though, lab would be a more accurate term than farm, because you never really learn something until you do it, and doing something unfamiliar inevitably results in mistakes, disappointments, and setbacks.
Fortunately, no one else has the slightest interest in my farm, which allows me to make all sorts of mistakes in utter isolation and anonymity—and therefore without fear of ridicule.
In June of that first year I wrote, “Gardening in North Texas sucks. The soil sucks. The climate sucks. The bugs really suck…. If I can learn to successfully garden in Texas, I could garden anywhere.”
Today I realize that Texas is actually a great place to garden—and yes, I still say this after the horrific drought and heat wave of 2011—but it is definitely more difficult here than in other parts of the country (or so I’m told by people who have moved here).
The “secrets” to successful gardening in North Texas don’t necessarily require extra time or work, but they do demand a commitment to follow some rules. Presumably your dog (or cat) doesn’t demand too much of your time or effort each day, but it does require consistent, daily care. So in that respect, a garden is just one more pet—though admittedly not as affectionate….
This website is intended to be a truly practical help to others who desire to “grow their own” here in the North Texas area. My garden could be certified Organic—I have not used chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides in the past 3 years. Therefore all my advice will involve organic methods. I didn’t believe organic gardening was possible in Texas when I started; now I realize it honestly makes things easier (see my blog post The Tao of Gardening).
Some of the challenges I’ve faced and found solutions to:
- Local nurseries often do not carry the optimal varieties of edible plants for this area (I know this sounds ludicrous but it’s true)
- Texas clay soil is actually rich in nutrients, but you must know the trick to “unlocking” them
- Raised beds are better than in-ground gardens—but the start-up cost is higher
- High quality compost is the key to success for both in-ground and raised bed gardens
- Composting is less intimidating than I’d always perceived it to be
- One of the key ingredients for raised bed soil mix—vermiculite—is difficult to find, and often expensive when you do
- Fall gardens are better than Spring gardens in Texas, yet very few people even attempt them, therefore often garden centers aren’t much help
- I’ve had great harvests over the past three years yet have never performed any type of soil test. What’s the pH of my soil? No clue. Someday I may become converted to this practice, but if the hassle of testing your soil has prevented you from getting started, please trust me: you can successfully garden without it.
There are 12 million people in the DFW urban/suburban metroplex, and millions more in the greater DFW “viewing area.” I would love for every single house, apartment, townhome and condo in this area to have some sort of garden growing some sort of fresh, organic produce all year round.
One of the key services of this site is to inform you when to plant what. Please sign up for the free real-time alerts. You may only be interested in one or two crops, or you may want to try everything. Regardless, the alerts will remind you when it’s time to do what.
So if you’re willing to give this a try, I’m here to help you be successful.