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It's Not Too Late to Start a Veggie Garden
By Mark Bowen

It seems like everyone I run into lately is trying to make every excuse possible to stay outside since the weather has been so nice so far this month. Veggie gardeners have been out in full force gearing up their gardens, and there is still tons of time to get yours going if you have not jumped in yet.

Here is a list of a few veggies that can be planted the latter half of this month by seed:
Asparagus beans, bush snap beans, lima beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, peanut & malabar spinach.

And then in May, the following veggies' ideal planting times arrive:

Eggplant (transplants), jicama, okra, southern peas, sweet potato spinach (plants), Tahitian squash, sweet potato (sets), and Italian squash (cucuzi).

For a complete list of vegetables to plant and specific recommended varieties, swing by the Urban Harvest office (visit for directions) or one of our five farmers markets and get the book, Year Round Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers for Metro Houston by Bob Randall, Ph.D. This field manual style book has all the information you will need to get your garden started or to take it to the next level if you are ready to branch out.

This is also a great time to get rolling with the following gardening activities:

-- Mulch veggie beds with screened recycled native mulch or alfalfa hay once your veggies have grown up enough to not be smothered by the mulch. Native mulch does a great job of helping build up the quality of your soil as it decomposes, and alfalfa hay can really help slow weeds down and it supplies a slow but steady stream of nutrients to your plants as it decomposes.

-- Get your drip irrigation system in place or repaired before mid-May arrives. If you prefer to water manually, consider getting a hose bib added in the immediate area of your garden or to the end of each bed.

-- If you have not built your beds yet, I recommend constructing 4-5 feet wide beds with 3-4 feet wide paths in between them that are raised 8 inches high with compost enriched bedding soil. Common bed lengths range from 12-20 feet.

-- Consider using two layers/courses of concrete Windsor Wall border retainers to hold your soil in place. Each border unit is 4" tall. Or if the budget is tight, use 8-inch cubed solid concrete blocks (available through Camp Logan Cement in Houston). The advantage of concrete borders is that they are not treated with toxic preservatives, they are permanent and gardeners can sit on them as they work.

-- Think about going vertical and adding trellising down the middle of some of your beds. You can maximize production and minimize pest and disease problems by growing some crops like cantaloupes and cucumbers on a trellis. You can often grow additional crops on the bed edges.

-- April is the perfect month to plant native nectar-producing plants around the perimeter of your veggie garden area to attract beneficial insects that will help pollinate and keep garden pests in check.

-- Fertilize most new veggie plants with a balanced slow-release pelletized organic fertilizer such as Microlife, Earth's Essentials or Soil Food. On a general basis, scratch in 2-5 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed prior to planting. Some veggies will benefit from more specialized fertilization regimens.

-- As they say, compost happens. April is a great month too for it to start happening. Set up two 3-foot cube compost bins. A common compost bin construction material these days is plastic-coated wire. Visit the local manufacturer C.E. Shepherd at to get a couple of these inexpensive yet attractive bins for your garden.

It's best to have at least two bins going so you can have one that is finishing up and one that is getting started. Otherwise, many people end up with one bin that is always in process. The simple approach involves adding 80 percent brown waste (brown means carbon rich materials such as dry leaves, sawdust from untreated wood, old grass clippings) and 20 percent green waste (green means nitrogen rich materials such as manure, coffee grinds, veggie waste). Cut or grind all materials before adding so that nothing going in is bigger than 2-3 inches. Avoid meat products and woody branches. Turn the pile periodically to aid decomposition and to improve oxygen content (also if the pile gets too soggy) and water if it gets bone dry to keep the microbes happily digesting everything.

That's enough for now. I hope you have lots of fun out there in the garden!

Mark Bowen is the Executive Director of Urban Harvest. For more information about classes, community gardens, farmers markets and gardening events, visit