Fall into Winter Vegetables, Crockett HS Gardeners

Along my front porch sidewalk, firecracker fern (Russelia equisetiformis) keeps cranking out flames for especially energetic hummingbirds fueling up.
firecracker fern Central Texas Gardener
In back, garlic chives’ starry flowers tend to the bees.
garlic chives flowers Central Texas Gardener
But I miss my variegated Cuban oregano, here with potted patio peppers (a delicious combo!). Although I protected its container in winter, one harsh year I lost it anyway. This time, I’ll keep it in a sunny window until spring.
variegated Cuban oregano and patio peppers, Central Texas Gardener
At the Travis County Extension demonstration gardens, it strikes a delicious contrast against other bedded herbs. In the ground, consider it a warm weather annual, like basil.
Variegated Cuban oregano Travis County Extension Central Texas Gardener
Daphne tells us that its name derives from the fact that it’s commonly used in Cuban cooking, not from its native habitat, India. Find out more about Cuban oregano.

Recently, I stopped by the John Gaines Park at Mueller to check out the new community gardens. As hot as it’s been, it looked mighty fine, with huge fruits and lots of bees admiring the flowers.
Mueller Community Gardens Central Texas Gardener
Although temperatures have cooled a bit, the soil is still nice and toasty. While we’re eyeing those tempting fall vegetable seeds, Jeff Ferris from The Natural Gardener reminds us that seeds can’t read planting guides (at least without glasses).
Soil thermometer fall planting time Jeff Ferris Central Texas Gardener
Seeds are smart, though, and fall or spring, they’ll only germinate when the soil is right. To spare the guessing game, Jeff picks your #1 tool: an inexpensive soil thermometer.
soil thermometer Central Texas Gardener
When I got mine a few years ago, I was amazed at how hot the soil was, even though it was “cool” outside. And soil doesn’t squirm if you take its temperature!

Find out more, including the difference between “bolt” and “button,” which happens even in hot autumns.
lettuce bolt Central Texas Gardener

Joining Tom this week, Travis County Master Gardener Patty Leander and Jay White team up to show how to cool things down and prep the fall vegetable garden.
Tom Spencer, Jay White, Patty Leander Central Texas Gardener
Get their take on tilling, fertilizing, favorite winter crops, and how to shade them during hot autumn days. I like Patty’s recycled bamboo fencing idea!
recycled bamboo fencing shade vegetables Bruce Leander Central Texas Gardener
This summer, Lydia Klein Kendrick showed me her trick with an old window screen and office clamps.
old screen window to shade vegetables Central Texas Gardener
Check out Jay White’s website, The Masters of Horticulture, an incredible resource where he personably taps into timing, pitfalls, and joyful harvests of food and flowers.

Watch our video of Jay & Sally’s charming potager in Brenham.
brick path potager Jay White Central Texas Gardener
Get the Travis County Master Gardener planting guide and more right here.

And subscribe to Texas Gardener magazine (online or print) for Patty and Jay’s in depth seasonal stories.
Texas Gardener magazine CTG
Tree questions keep coming in. Nina Roberts, along with Lisa and Desi Rhoden, wonder about this growth on the bark at the base of their oak trees.
white fungal growth on base of oak tree Central Texas Gardener
Daphne tells us: “The good news is that the organism here truly does appear to be growing on the bark. It’s clearly not a shelf fungus, which grow out of the heart of the tree, creating larger, more protruding fruiting bodies, and which cannot be treated.”
tree shelf fungi Jane Shepperd Central Texas Gardener
For Nina and the Rhodens, this could be the result of a rainy spring. To avoid future problems, keep soil and mulch away from the root flare at the trunk of the tree. Find out more.

On tour, Crockett High School students get lots of lettuce—and environmental science lessons—in the aquaponics system and greenhouse.
Crockett High School aquaponics lettuce Central Texas Gardener
Duane Lardon, Construction Technology teacher, works with students like Craig Rose who maintain the system and care for the fish. It’s a team effort, including Marshall Hester, teacher of aquatic science, the art class, and garden club. Duane’s students built it all.
Crockett aquaponics greenhouse Central Texas Gardener
It all started when Science Department teacher Christine de la Torre realized that many students didn’t know how food grows.
Crockett aquaponics and garden Central Texas Gardener
With grants (and stones donated by AISD), the technology team and garden club built the garden. To their surprise, when the cafeteria served up kale chips from their harvests, students chowed them down fast.
Whole Kids Foundation Crocket HS garden grant Central Texas Gardener
Here are a few of the charming seniors from Construction Technology, who worked as a team on every aspect of the design and build. Gilberto Sandoval (in orange) brought out his guitar and played the background music for this segment. From left to right: Jesus Olivares, Gilberto Sandoval, Richard Menchaca, Jose Leyva Rosaldo, Diego Lopez.
Jesus Olivares,Gilberto Sandoval, Richard Menchaca, Jose Leyva Rosaldo, Diego Lopez
The Garden Club team taught us so much! I never learned how to blanch celery, but now I do!
Crockett High School raised bed garden Central Texas Gardener
They’re sitting on one of the picnic benches that the Construction Tech team builds for the school and also sells to the public to help pay for the garden. From left to right: Crystal Guido, Jannatul Mawa, DianaJoyce Ojeda, Alma Romero.
Crystal Guido, Jannatul Mawa, DianaJoyce Ojeda, Alma Romero
I especially thank student DianaJoyce Ojeda for her help on my script and to Crystal Guido (on the Construction Tech team, too) for her help.

Their sustainable future (and ours) is in good hands with these young leaders! Watch their story now.

Finally, we were thrilled to host Linda Gurasich, the winner from our June contest, and her fellow Hays County Master Gardeners. I’m delighted to have these new consultants, who already are steering me to great gardens and experts.
Hays County Master Gardeners Central Texas Gardener
Thanks for stopping by and see you next week! Linda