May Zone 8-10: Lets Harvest!

May Zone 8-10: Lets Harvest!

Ashley van Raad

It’s that time of year again—a time of shared excitement among us gardeners in Houston, zone 9. The garden is bursting with a bountiful harvest, and the flowers are beginning to bloom. My backyard bees are buzzing, a testament to the vibrant life in my garden. I’ve been busy tending to my plants, and I hope you are also enjoying your gardening journey.

What am I planting this month?

Do you know the saying, April showers bring many flowers? Well, it proved to be especially true this year. We ended April with many consecutive days of rain, and ever since, all of the flowers in my garden have been going crazy. I have zinnias, marigolds, sunflowers, and Gomphrena growing and flowering.

Here in gardening zone 9, Houston, Texas, May marks a shift in the weather. While the average temperature hovers around 77F, don’t be deceived. We often experience high temperatures in the low 90s this month. This means it's time to focus on our summer season crops. It's crucial to start planting as early in the month as possible. As we approach June, the heat can make it challenging to start new crops. So, seize the opportunity to maximize your growing season.

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This month, I am planting the following crops:

  • Summer Squash—My summer squash has survived without being touched by squash vine borers, so I will continue practicing succession planting. Last month, I planted Costata Romanesco and Black Beauty every two weeks, and I will plant them one more time at the beginning of this month. I forgot how much I enjoyed growing summer squash in the spring/summer season.
  • Okra- Although I am not the biggest fan of Okra, if you ask me, a summer garden would not be complete without this crop. So, it is only fitting to drop a few seeds in my garden. This year, I am growing the Clemson spineless and the burgundy variety.  These are both highly high-yielding varieties that will produce until the first frost. I don’t keep okra growing for that long in my garden. I usually remove the okra in early fall to make room for my leafy greens. I enjoy growing okra because it is easy to process and freeze, so you can eat it year-round. Another remarkable fact about okra is that you can dry and roast the seeds to create a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Oh yeah, don’t forget that okra flowers are edible.
  • Basil- Can you tell me an herb more synonymous with summer than basil? I can’t think of one. With so many different varieties, there is a basil variety for everyone. I intended to plant basil last month but never got around to it. Luckily, some of my basil plants from the previous year self-seeded, and now I have Genovese basil popping up in various spots around my garden. I have already started planting more seeds throughout the garden and will continue to plant more weekly. This year, I am growing the Genovese and Tulsi varieties.
  • CucumberAnother crop that reminds me of summertime is cucumbers. So, how can I have a summer garden without them? I grow the Suyo Long variety yearly because it produces so well here, but not this year. This year, I am growing three varieties, two of which I have never grown. I am growing Marketmore, which I have grown many times, Hokus Gherkin, and Telegraph Improved: two pickling varieties and one for eating fresh while working in the garden.  I have grown Mexican gherkins before, so I am curious how this variety compares to the Mexican gherkin.
  • Corn- I don’t know how successful this planting will be, but I must try. Many of my corn seedlings were destroyed by caterpillars over the past two months. I planted over 50 seeds and now only have 12 corn stalks in my garden. But since I have gotten a handle on the caterpillar issue, I will now try planting more corn. To help combat the extreme temperatures I expect the corn to receive in my garden during the summer, I will plant the corn on the side of the house in an area that receives less sunlight than other areas of my garden. I am still growing the same Peaches and Cream variety I planted in February and March.
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What am I harvesting this month?

I am still trying to grow at least 600 pounds of produce in my small urban garden. Last month, I started harvesting potatoes and summer squash. I harvested 15 pounds of potatoes and 13 pounds of summer squash and still have more to harvest this month.  I am currently harvesting tomatillos, tomatoes, blackberries, summer squash, arugula, and herbs. This will be one of the most productive gardens I have had in a while.

What worked well?

All the stars have aligned for me this year regarding growing summer squash. For the first time in five years, I decided to grow summer squash in the spring/summer despite constantly battling squash vine borers, and somehow, everything is working in my favor. Maybe it is because I let the chickens roam free and eat the overwintering bugs hiding in my garden. Whatever the reason, I don’t care; I am just thankful.

Also, the companion planting of sweet potatoes and peppers is growing well. The vines provide shade for the soil, helping to reduce soil temperatures and keep weeds at bay. I will keep the vines trimmed and throw the cut pieces back on top of the soil to act as mulch. My only concern is how the peppers’ roots will respond when I harvest the sweet potatoes.

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What else am I doing around the garden?

I added another fruit tree to my garden, a Peters Honey Fig tree. This tree produces yellow figs that are supposed to be sweeter than honey. I only grow figs that ripen to a green or yellow color, so I do not have to compete with the birds and squirrels for my harvest.

Now that May is here, I expect my harvest numbers to increase, helping me achieve my goal of growing at least 600 pounds of food in my small urban garden.

Don’t sit back and let time pass you by. There is no better time than the present to get outside and start gardening.

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