What to plant this winter in the San Antonio kitchen garden and how to protect it from frost

What to plant this winter in the San Antonio kitchen garden and how to protect it from frost

It has been an excellent conservatory season. We still harvest tomatoes, aubergines, okra and peppers – leftovers from the hot plantings – and we harvest broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, chard, radishes, rutabagas and turnips. English peas, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, beets and carrots are coming soon in the autumn.

The great thing is that it is not too late to plant a new crop of many of the same vegetables and even some new ones. Plant broccoli, chard, kale, cauliflower and cabbage as transplants. Plant radishes, beets, carrots, English peas and lettuce seeds. Do not forget that lettuce seeds need to be planted on the soil surface to germinate; it does not work to bury the seed.

Freshly harvested onions

Freshly harvested onions

Compassionate Eye Foundation / Natasha Alipour Faridani / Getty Images

Onion

Expand the garden by planting bulb transplants. Most nurseries in the area have six to eight selections of bulbs to choose from, but go for short-day varieties like Bermuda, Granex, Red Creole, 1015Y or Legend. My two favorite variants are Red Creole and Legend. Legend is an improved selection of the famous 1015Y, and Red Creole offers a slightly stronger flavor than other generally sweet, mild choices.

Large bulbs should be ready for harvest around June 1, when the ripe leaves will tip over to tell you they are ready. Between now and mid-April, harvest two out of three bulbs in the row of green bulbs. The keys to successful onion production are generous fertilization and plenty of space between the plants.

To prepare new soil for bulbs and vegetable plants, incorporate 2 inches of compost and 10 cups of slow release fertilizer into each 100 square foot bed and plant them 6 inches apart.

It's time to replace zinnias with leaf cups.

It’s time to replace zinnias with leaf cups.

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The flower garden

Zinniers in the flower bed had a long attractive flowering period, but now between the cool weather and mildew, they are ready to be replaced by deciduous cups, pansies, alyssum and stands in the sunny part of the flower garden.

You can also still plant sweet peas after seed. They do best when planted against a trellis. Nurseries have the portable trellis for sale, which is secured by pushing them into the ground, but extra tomato cages work just as well. To increase the germination rate, do not forget to soak the sweet pea seeds overnight before planting.

In the shade, the semperflor begonias have done very well this fall, especially the “Whopper” variety. Many beds still look great and it may be a good idea to let them sit to last the rest of the winter.

If not, you can of course plant cyclamen and or primroses. Expect freshly planted cyclamen or primroses to last from now until May if temperatures remain mild. If it gets hot, the spectacular cool weather plants will fall faster than expected. They can also be damaged by temperatures below 30 degrees, so get some Insulate fabric measured and ready to be applied as a protective cover.

Have insulating fabric and heat lamps ready to protect citrus if temperatures drop.

Have insulating fabric and heat lamps ready to protect citrus if temperatures drop.

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Frost protection

It is an excellent time to plant shade trees and shrubs. The plants have the opportunity to develop a root system before the plant faces the challenge of a summer in San Antonio. CPS Energy offers a shade wood discount to its customers.

Small trees that deer do not normally eat include huisache, Texas mountain laurel, Mexican plum, pomegranate, viburnum and vitex. To deter deer from munching on other parts of the yard, apply Liquid Fence once a week for a month.

It still seems to use Cut Vine and Stump Killer on chopped berries, china-mulberries and other deciduous tree species, even though the pruned sprouts have lost their leaves.

Attract insectivorous birds to your suet feeding machines. Use a mixture that contains hot pepper to counteract the squirrel. Bird baths also lure birds in. Make them even more attractive by adding a recirculation pump.


If the temperature drops below 40 degrees, as they did recently, move plants such as oriental hibiscus and bougainvillea in shelter.

Also have frost protection materials available for your citrus. Two coats of a fabric such as Insulate along with Planket work well to protect lemons and limes below 28 degrees with a heat source such as a mechanic lamp or poultry lamp. Make sure the bulbs are old-fashioned heat producers rather than LEDs.

Calvin Finch is a retired Texas A&M gardener. calvinrfinch@gmail.com

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