Backyard Local: Growing Your Own (podcast)

Sep 24th, 2017 | By | Category: Featured Articles, podcast, the show
Central Texas early spring garden.

Central Texas early spring garden, Image by Cecilia Nasti

Growing some of your own food is great fun if you’re a home cook. If it’s not for you — it’s not for you. But if you’ve been considering it, what are you waiting for?

Garden writer, Mary Irish, knows the joys and challenges of food gardening first hand. She’s lived and gardened around the country — most recently in Arizona — but she’s a local girl. Mary and her husband Gary moved back to Texas, and now cultivate a large vegetable garden in Castroville, about 25 miles west of San Antonio.

“The majority of Texas offers a nearly year-round gardening climate,” she said. “The challenge is knowing when to grow whatever it is you plan to grow,” she added.

It’s true. Food production takes place in backyards across the state 12 months a year. Knowing when to grow is a challenge as most vegetable gardening books as well as seed and plant catalogs cater to the Midwestern and Northern gardener, where they get a much later start.

“You can find a lot of good information in seed catalogs as long as you ignore what they say about planting dates, and heat tolerance of plants,” Mary said. “In Central and South Texas, for example, gardeners can put tomato transplants into the ground in mid to late February and early March. The vegetable gardening books and seed catalogs might say to plant tomatoes in mid to late May. If Texas gardeners were to do that, they’d be setting themselves up for failure.”

The best place to get information for your area is from your area. Start with gardening neighbors and ask their advice, or find out where the best full service nursery is and then pick the brains of the staff. That’s why they’re there.

Gardening in Texas, or anywhere, takes time, patience and experimentation. Mary mentioned even the best gardeners have at least one crop that just won’t do well for them. She said after two or three failures — quit. “So what if you can’t grow beans, your squash might grow like gangbusters. And if your neighbor has success with beans, then offer to grow squash for them, in exchange for beans they grow for you. It builds community and keeps sanity in check.”

Mary Irish has written a number of gardening books, including Texas Getting Started Garden Guide a how-to that features easy to grow ornamental flowers, shrubs, trees, vines and groundcovers for the home garden. When I asked when she planned on writing a vegetable gardening book, she told me: “Give me a couple more years. I’m still relearning how to garden in Texas, myself.”

Resources for Texas Vegetable Gardeners:

Our themeĀ  music and incidental music provided by Jason Shaw of


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