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The Ultimate How-to Guide for Gardening in Houston

The Ultimate How-to Guide for Gardening in Houston

Let’s start with a caveat: you should know that the weather and soil in Houston can be difficult if you are planning to establish your first garden here. 

That being said, it’s possible to garden successfully in Houston with a little preparation and resolve. While only you can provide the latter, we can help with the former. 

Read on for all you need to know about gardening in Houston! 

How do I garden in Houston? 

How do I garden in Houston

To garden anywhere in Houston, you need to choose an ideal location, prepare the soil, do some planting, water your garden, fertilize, add mulch, do regular maintenance like weeding and trimming, and do pest control on your garden. 

To assist you in getting your garden established, we have compiled a step-by-step guide along with tips and tricks to help you make the garden of your dreams. 

1. Choose an ideal location for your garden 

Choose an ideal location for your garden

The best site for your garden is one that gets at least eight hours of sunlight per day and has deep, nutritious soil that drains properly. 

Also, the ideal location would be near a water source and free of any existing bushes or trees that could cast too much shade. 

With some adjustments to cultural practices and the selection of appropriate adaptive plant species and types, the agricultural output may be increased in virtually any site. An example of a practice that can help you with your garden is the use of raised beds.

Tips on Building and Use Raised Beds

The ideal dimensions for a raised bed are 12 to 18 inches in height, 4 to 6 feet in width, and 8 to 10 feet in length. The ideal materials for building a raised bed include cinder blocks, reused railroad ties, and landscape timbers. 

The next stage, when the beds have been built, is to fill them with a growth medium. When you plant a tree or shrub, it’s best to use a mixture of one-third topsoil, one-third sand or coarse perlite, and one-third compost or bark mulch to ensure optimal growth.

But remember that soil quality is an issue in many parts of Houston. If the soil is dense with clay and doesn’t drain well, you’ll have a special obstacle when you try to build raised beds… so check your soil profile first!

2. Prepare the soil for your garden 

Prepare the soil for your garden

In most cases, soil amendments are required to enhance drainage and airflow. The addition of organic matter or sand to heavy clay soil may prove to be helpful, in that respect. 

First, add one to two inches of high-quality sand and two to three inches of organic matter to the top of the garden site. 

Next, turn the mixture under in the late winter or early spring to improve the physical quality of the soil. 

Remember: when preparing the soil, a depth of 8-10 inches is optimal. 

And for every 100 square feet of clay soil, add 6-8 pounds of gypsum. As a result of adding gypsum, the soil’s structure and drainage are improved. 

Additionally, focus on enhancing the soil’s physical state over the course of several growing seasons rather than trying to build acceptable soil in just one or two seasons. 

Compost, peanut shells, rice husks, grass clippings, and other organic materials should be added on a regular basis.

Soil Tips

  • Do be careful when adding organic waste to your soil. You can easily overdo it, so start slow.
  • Do not dig in garden soil that is still wet. Soils with a high percentage of organic matter are more manageable than thick clay soils when they have a higher moisture content. 
  • Do see if the soil can be worked, scoop up a small amount and squeeze it in your hand. If the substance can’t be easily broken apart by applying light pressure with the thumb and finger when rolled into a ball, it’s too wet to work with.
  • Seeds have a better chance of germinating in well-worked soil than in soil with lumps and uneven areas. When all the groundwork has been laid, there will be a lot less work involved in planting and caring for the crop. 
  • Do not over-prepare the soils. The dirt should be granular, not fine and powdery.

3. Plant your garden from seedlings or transplant your plants

Plant your garden from seedlings or transplant your plants

Planting your garden early in the spring and fall will give your plants the best chance of survival as they mature. Transplanting at the appropriate time allows for earlier harvests and longer productive periods for wide varieties. 

As for seeds, cover the seed with soil to a depth of two to three times its biggest dimension when planting. 

Green beans, cantaloupes, sweet corn, cucumbers, and watermelons have exceptionally large seeds, for example. Large watermelon seeds might require a planting depth of an inch.

Meanwhile, planting depths of between ¼ and ½ of an inch are frequently adequate for small-seeded crops like carrots, lettuce, and onions.

Thus, keep in mind the size of the seed when cultivating plants. 

Additionally, when planting new plants, be sure to use the appropriate depth for the container, whether it be a standard nursery pot or a peat pot. If you plant too deeply or too shallow, the roots may not have enough time to develop before you transplant them. 

Why does this matter? Planting too deeply exposes pots to the surface, which can cause root death from drying out. 

Some plants are best transplanted into pots, while others can be moved bare-root. 

Regardless, applying a starting solution before transplanting plants is a must, especially for plants that thrive in high temperatures, like tomatoes and peppers. 

You can purchase starter solutions from local nurseries, or you can make your own by blending three to two cups of fertilizer with five gallons of water.

Although, make sure to use the lower rate when dealing with light, sandy soils. Two and a half to one pint of the starting fluid should be poured into each hole for a transplant before planting. 

Also keep in mind that the amount of starting solution needed is based on the size of the plant. More plants can be grown without depleting the supply of the older ones.

To get the finest potential out of your seeds, plant the seeds as tightly as possible with the intention of later thinning them out. You shouldn’t overwater the soil, but you also shouldn’t let it become too dry or crusty during the germination process either. 

4. Don’t forget to water your garden

Don’t forget to water your garden

To ensure adequate root development, the soil must be soaked with water to a depth of 15 cm or 6 inches. 

If you want to get the best potential harvest out of your garden, you should water it at a rate of about an inch per week during the growing season. 

Soils that are sandy and lighter in color typically require more frequent watering. Using sprinklers to water your plants is fine, but it’s preferable to do it first thing in the morning so the leaves can dry before dusk. 

This method is useful in preventing foliar diseases, which affect most plants and flourish in damp, cool conditions. Using water from irrigation systems as a source of supplied water also has its own set of benefits. 

However, the water-saving and mulch-friendly irrigation method mentioned here is the best option for most situations.

5. To keep your garden healthy, fertilize it

To keep your garden healthy, fertilize it

Choosing the correct fertilizer for your garden is another important part of successful planting. The amount of fertilizer needed is dependent on both the kind of soil and the crops being cultivated. 

From deep blow sands to rich, well-drained soils to heavy, black clays topped by layers of caliche rock, Houston is home to a wide variety of soil types. 

Do note that plants grown in sandy soils benefit from high potassium levels, while those in clay soils do not. However, fertilizer can be administered to heavy clay soils at planting time in much higher amounts than to sandy soils. 

Furthermore, fertilizer retention and uptake are reduced by a factor of three to four in sandy soils compared to soils rich in clay and organic matter. 

Thin, sandy soils have the highest fertilizer requirements, yet they cannot be treated as heavily as other soil types while still protecting plant health. 

Full preplant fertilizers like 5-10-10 or 6-12-12 applied at a rate of one to two pounds per 100 square feet are recommended if your garden’s soil is deep and sandy. 

It is okay to apply a fertilizer with a low phosphorus and potassium content, such as 10-20-10 or 12-24-12, at a rate of one to two pounds per one hundred square feet in a garden with a high clay content. 

Once the ideal amount of fertilizer for a pre-plant treatment has been determined, it can be applied a few days before planting. Use a spade to dig the garden plot, then spread the fertilizer by hand and turn the soil once or twice to incorporate it. 

Extra Fertilizing Tips 

  • If you want to plant seeds or seedlings in acidic soil, apply 1-20-0, often known as superphosphate, directly under the row. 
  • One to two pounds of superphosphate should be spread at a depth of two to four inches below the seed or the plant’s roots at a rate of 100 feet of row per two pounds. 
  • Nitrogen-containing substances should not be banded directly beneath the row. Apply some additional nitrogen in the form of a furrow or side-dress application. 
  • Two to four pounds of ammonium sulfate  applied per 100 feet of each garden row and watered in should be sufficient for most soil types.

6. Make sure to add mulch to your garden  

Make sure to add mulch to your garden

Mulching has the potential to increase production by preventing soil drying out, halting the spread of weeds, lowering the soil’s temperature, and minimizing rotting losses. 

Straw, leaves, grass clippings, compost, bark, and sawdust are all good examples of organic mulches. 

A layer of one to two inches of organic materials distributed over the surface around actively growing plants should be sufficient. 

Do it after harvesting as well. Tilth, air content, and drainage are all enhanced when organic mulch is mixed into the soil after a crop has been harvested.

However, the exact amount to use is type-dependent. Organic mulches should be turned under before planting subsequent crops, and an additional pound of fertilizer per 100 square feet should be spread over the soil. 

This will increase the activity of soil organisms and decrease the amount of nitrogen lost when organic matter is decomposed by soil microbes.

7. Use the proper pesticides and learn about plant diseases 

Use the proper pesticides and learn about plant diseases

Houston gardeners fret over a range of unwanted visitors, from insects and diseases to rodents and birds. Extremely high insect populations can flourish in regions with long growing seasons and mild winters. 

This means that gardeners have a major problem to deal with. However, it’s best to avoid spraying whenever possible. 

When pesticides are unavoidable, only those that are approved for their intended purpose should be used. Pesticides should be used only on the types of plants for which they were designed. 

Learn the proper use of pesticides by reading and following all instructions on the labels. 

When it comes to plant diseases, prevention is far preferable to cure. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms of a disease become apparent, the damage may have already been done. 

So it is important for gardeners to learn about the common illnesses that affect the crops they grow as well as the conditions that can encourage their spread. 

The many different types of diseases that can be found in gardens thrive in the cool, damp conditions that are typical there. Keep an eye out for signs of the disease, and treat it as soon as possible if the conditions are right.

What herbs grow well in Houston?

A wide variety of herbs, including rosemary, Texas sage, thyme, chives, basil, mint, and a host of others can be cultivated in Houstonian backyards. 

Rosemary 

Rosemary

The warm climate of Houston makes rosemary an ideal plant for beginners. It can be grown from seed, cuttings, or ground layering, with the latter two techniques being far superior to the former. 

Rosemary thrives in either direct sunlight or partial shade. It thrives in soil that is somewhat alkaline and has good drainage.

Texas Sage 

Texas Sage

Houston’s warm environment is perfect for growing Texas sage. Cold is intolerable for this plant, and it thrives in warm, humid summers.

It can survive in dry conditions for extended periods of time with only moderate watering. 

Thyme 

Thyme

Thyme adds a special flavor to meat dishes that you can’t get any other way. It’s also a great complement to heartier winter meals because it dries well and keeps its flavor. 

Growing thyme is simple, and it does well in a variety of settings, such as garden beds and containers. To determine which variety of thyme has the flavor and scent you want, it’s best to try a couple.

Chives

Chives

In spite of widespread cultivation, chives are frequently thrown away once they have been harvested. 

The mild onion taste also makes them perfect for dishes that could need some extra flavor but don’t want to be swamped by onion.

Basil 

Basil

To the vast majority of people, basil is one of the most recognizable and beloved of all herbs used as a seasoning. As a result of its rapid germination and rapid development, basil is a great plant for first-time herb gardeners.

Plant a large crop of basil for culinary use. It’s essential to regularly prune your plants if you want full, bushy shrubs. 

Mint 

Mint

Growing mint in your yard is smart for a number of reasons due to the plant’s versatility. We recommend including mint in your garden of culinary herbs, whether for use in teas or simply to attract beneficial insects. 

You can grow mint in full sun or light shade. It spreads quickly and responds well to multiple prunings once established. 

What flowers grow well in Houston? 

What flowers grow well in Houston

The flowers that grow well in Houston are the eastern purple coneflower, Texas lantana, black-eyed Susan, and Indian blanket. 

Eastern Purple Coneflower

Eastern Purple Coneflower

Texas is home to several beautiful flowers, including the eastern purple coneflower. The center of this flowering plant is shaped like a shiny cone, and its petals are a pale lavender tint. 

This plant is in bloom during the spring and summer when butterflies are most active. Tall blooms last for about a week before they start to droop, making this a perfect choice for a vase.

Texas Lantana 

Texas Lantana

The bright yellow and orange blossoms of the Texas Lantana shrub are a butterfly magnet. Their dry, salty tolerances allow them to grow in Houston and coastal places. 

Black Eyed Susan 

Black Eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susans get their name from the dark spot in the middle of their blooms. The yellow petals of this flower curve downward and are quite flexible. 

In addition to its vast growth potential of up to five inches, it also resists drying out during periods of drought.

Indian Blanket 

Indian Blanket

Its name comes from the fact that it has both red and yellow flowers. There is a gradual transition in stamen color from yellow at the center to red at the outermost petals and back to yellow at the very tip. 

It’s a type of self-seeding wildflower, and its colorful blossoms keep getting better every year.

What fruits grow well in Houston? 

A few fruits that grow well in Houston include lemons, pomegranates, plums, persimmons, and figs. 

Lemons 

Lemons

To get the most yield from your lemon tree, you should plant it in a warm, humid, tropical, or subtropical climate—making Houston an ideal location. 

It’s possible to find both dwarf and normal lemon trees. If you want to plant a lemon tree, the best time to do it is in February. 

Planting lemons in February allows them to establish a deep root system before the warmer months of the year begin to take their toll. Keep in mind that although there is a broad selection of lemon trees, not all of them can withstand the cold winters in Houston. 

Pomegranates

Pomegranates

Pomegranate trees thrive in tropical and temperate settings, where they can be grown as shrubs or, with proper pruning and upkeep, as small trees. 

Pomegranate bare-root plants and pomegranate ball and burlapped plants should be planted after the last spring frost in late April. 

So, if you plant pomegranate seeds in the spring, you can harvest your fruit in the fall. Do note, though, that there are several kinds of pomegranate trees, each with its own special flavor and characteristics. 

Plums 

Plums

Despite their picky reputation, a few varieties of plum trees do well in Houston. The success of your plum tree will depend on your selection of a variety well suited to the climate. 

The best time to plant a plum tree from bare roots is in the late winter or early spring when the tree is dormant and will suffer the least amount of stress from the transplant. 

Persimmons

Persimmons

Houston fruit lovers can grow both American persimmon and Asian persimmon. 

In temperatures as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit, the American persimmon has been known to flourish. The Asian persimmon, on the other hand, can survive temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If you want your persimmon tree to have time to establish its roots before it starts to grow, plant it in the fall. Bare-root persimmons should be planted in the winter. 

Persimmon trees can be found in both astringent and non-astringent varieties. 

Astringent persimmons are best eaten when they are quite ripe and mushy. Non-astringent persimmon types have lower levels of tannins, making them tasty and enjoyable even when the fruit is not fully ripe. 

Figs 

Figs

If you want to plant a fig tree, Houston is ideal because of its Mediterranean-like climate. Planting fig trees in the spring or fall in Houston should be delayed until after the last spring frost. 

Fig trees come in a wide variety, so be sure to pick the right one for your environment. If you’re not sure which one, you can always ask the staff at your local nursery. 

What vegetables grow well in Houston? 

Vegetables that grow well in Houston are cilantro, radishes, mustards, collards, kale, beets, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, onions, lettuce, and carrots. 

Cilantro

Cilantro

You have from October through February to plant your cilantro seedlings. This herb can be planted from seed indoors or outdoors with little trouble. 

When the temperature rises above 75 degrees, it begins to grow and produce seeds.

Radishes 

Radishes

In addition to providing vitamin C, radishes can be harvested in just 30 days. It grows well in the fall and winter months of October through February. 

A ‘cool’ radish will result from consistent irrigation. Dry conditions and warmer temperatures result in a radish with more heat.

Mustards, Collards, and Kale

Mustards, Collards, and Kale

In terms of mineral content and overall health benefits, mustard greens, collard greens, and kale are unrivaled. 

These greens are easy to grow in your garden directly from the seed. 

Beets 

Beets

Plant bulls blood, chiogga, and golden beets for a colorful and flavorful garden and dinner table. With good soil, consistent irrigation, and cool temperatures, you can grow a crop from seed to harvest in just 45 days. 

Broccoli and Cabbage 

Broccoli and Cabbage

Brassica vegetables like broccoli and cabbage require a lot of nitrogen to grow. Feed your brassica plant once every two weeks with a completely organic plant food once it has been fully established. 

Sow seeds in November to reap the harvest in December. 

Garlic and Onions

Garlic and Onions

In order to have a harvest around May, you need to plant the bulbs or onion ‘sets,’ which are miniature onion plants, in the middle of October or in early November. 

Planting bulbs and cloves of garlic 3 to 4 inches deep keeps them in cooler soil, which is essential because bulb growth is proportional to the amount of sunlight they receive. 

Whenever the temperature rises above 85 degrees, it begins to blossom and ceases to produce bulbs and cloves. 

Lettuce 

Lettuce

Loose-leaf lettuces like Bib and Romaine thrive in the humid conditions typical of Houston. Simple to germinate and grow from seed in pots. 

You can grow lettuce close together for ‘chop and come again’ harvesting, or you can spread it out for bigger heads. 

Carrots

Carrots

When it comes to carrots, we favor growing and harvesting the smaller, faster-growing types. Carrots require only a single square inch of growing space. 

The secret to a healthy carrot crop is rich, sandy loam soil that is at least 8 inches deep, so this makes it easy to cultivate a bountiful harvest in containers or directly in your garden. 

Planting every two weeks ensures a steady spring crop. 

What shrubs grow well in Houston?

A few shrubs that grow well in Houston are the boxwood, agarita, American beautyberry, flame acanthus, and rock rose shrubs. 

Boxwood

Boxwood

Boxwood, an evergreen plant, can be used to demarcate the outline of beds and maintain orderly borders. Accents of sphere-shaped boxwood can be placed at the beginning or end of the hedge to evoke a more European feel. 

With its tiny leaves and dense branches, boxwood produces evergreen greenery that can be cut and shaped into a hedge year-round. 

Agarita

Agarita

This thorny bush will be a conversation starter in your yard. It has silvery, sharp spines all year long, and in the spring and summer, it is covered in yellow or red flowers that attract bees and scarlet berries that are eaten by birds. 

American Beautyberry 

American Beautyberry

This shrub has stunning purple berries in the fall. As the rest of your garden plants begin to fade away for the season, they will provide a welcome burst of color. 

Flame Acanthus 

Flame Acanthus

The Flame Acanthus is an indigenous deciduous shrub of the Texas Hill Country. It attracts both hummingbirds and butterflies to this because of its brilliant red blossoms.

These robust shrubs are not particular about soil type, need minimal water, and can survive scorching temps. 

Rock Rose

Rock Rose

It produces large clusters of fragrant yellow blooms from April to November, peaking at the height of summer. 

This shrub does well for about three to four years, but then it dies. However, it is not difficult to reseed, and new plants will sprout in its place. 

What are the best plants for Houston weather? 

Some of the best plants for Houston weather are the wax leaf ligustrum, imperial blue plumbago, and the foxtail fern. 

Wax Leaf Ligustrum 

Wax Leaf Ligustrum

Houston is known for its wax leaf ligustrum. Its glossy, dark green leaves can be trimmed into a privacy hedge and make an attractive backdrop for brighter plants and perennials.

Imperial Blue Plumbago

Imperial Blue Plumbago

This plant blooms profusely in Houston from early spring through late fall. Allow it some room to expand to a width and height of 3 to 4 feet. 

You can prune it to keep it at a manageable size. Neither full sun nor partial shade is detrimental to its growth.

Foxtail Fern 

Foxtail Fern

The foxtail fern is an extremely low-maintenance plant. You can leave it in the ground and stop thinking about it. 

Its bright chartreuse hue makes any scenery stand out. By the way, the plant needs either full sun or partial shade. 

FAQs about Gardening in Houston 

How often should I water my garden in Houston?

You should water your garden two to three times a week in Houston. 

What can I plant in front of my house in Houston?

You can plant in front of your house plants that are already adapted to the conditions in Houston, such as native Texas flowers, shrubs, and trees. 

What can I plant in Houston in the cool season? 

In Houston, you can plant cool season vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, collard and seed carrots, mustard greens, lettuce, radishes and turnips. 

What is the best grass for Houston weather? 

Bermuda grass is the best grass for Houston weather. It is the best grass because of its ability to withstand both heavy foot traffic and extended periods of drought. 

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