Pecan is the State Tree of Texas. Bluebonnet is the State Flower of Texas. Less natively, jalapeno pepper, Capsicum annuum, is the State Pepper of Texas. It is naturalized there from Central and South America. Jalapeno pepper is merely one of countless varieties of the species though. Furthermore, it comprises several and various culinary subvarieties.
Jalapeno pepper typically grows as a warm season annual vegetable. It has potential to be perennial. Overwintering is likely more work than annual replacement though. Mature plants can grow almost three feet tall. They may produce nearly two dozen fruits through summer. They crave sunny and warm exposure, rather rich soil, and consistent watering.
Mature fruits, or jalapeno chile peppers, are firm and crisp. They should be between two and four inches long, and as wide as an inch and a half. Their smooth and glossy skin is deep green, but can ripen to red, orange or rarely yellow. Red fruit is preferable for some culinary application. Jalapeno pepper may be the most familiar of the ‘hot’ chile peppers.
Almost all corn that grows in home gardens is sweet corn (Zea mays convar. saccharata var. rugosa). It is among the most popular of the warm season vegetable plants. Popcorn remains uncommon for home gardening. Other types of corn are mostly grains and other agricultural commodities that are rare within home gardens. Some corn becomes biofuel.
Corn stalks can grow as high as twelve feet! Most popular varieties grow only about half as high. Each stalk should produce one or perhaps two ears of corn. Each ear produces many kernels of corn in very neat formation on a central cob, all within a tight foliar husk. Male blooms protrude from the tops of stalks like antennae. Foliage is coarse but grassy. Stalks resemble giant reed, except smaller.
Of the various warm season vegetable plants, corn is one of the more consumptive sorts. It occupies significant area. It requires methodical and generous irrigation. Also, it craves rich soil, but depletes nutrients. Corn grows best from seed sown directly into the garden. Squared orientation, rather than typical rows, improves pollination and ear development.
Warm season vegetables, or summer vegetables, can occupy a garden systematically. A few lingering cool season vegetables may continue production for a while. Warm season vegetable plants can replace them as they finish. Several warm season vegetable plants should start as early as possible. Others grow in a few later phases through their season.
For example, indeterminate tomato plants are productive throughout their entire season. They can start as soon as convenient. However, determinate tomato plants produce only for two weeks or so. After their initial phase of a single plant or a few, subsequent phases can start about every two weeks. Each phase continues production after its predecessor.
Bush bean and several varieties of eggplant and pepper also produce for brief seasons. Okra and cucumber might produce for most of summer. Secondary phases may increase their production as well though. Of all warm season vegetable plants, corn benefits most from phasing. Each phase tends to mature so uniformly that it finishes within a few days.
Pole bean, squash, some cucumber and Indeterminate tomatoes need no phasing. Such warm season vegetable plants perform from spring planting until frost. Winter squash are warm season vegetable plants, but their fruit finishes for autumn. Indeterminate tomatoes are less profuse than determinate types. Cumulatively though, they are more productive.
It will soon be time to sow seed for corn, beans, root vegetables and most greens directly into garden soil. Seedlings for these warm season vegetable plants are not conducive to transplant. Besides, too many are needed. Cucumber and squash grow either from seed or small nursery seedlings. Only a few plants are needed, and they transplant efficiently.
For the same reasons, tomato, pepper and eggplant can grow from seedlings rather than seed. Moreover, since they are so vulnerable as they germinate and begin to grow, seed is less practical than seedlings. Varieties that are unavailable at nurseries can grow from seed in flats inside or in a greenhouse. Ideally, they should have started early enough for transplant into a garden during appropriate weather.
Suburban landscapes must seem like an incredible waste of space to those of us who enjoy growing vegetables. The climate and soil of the Santa Clara Valley are just as excellent for vegetables now as they as they were for the vast fruit and nut orchards that were here earlier. Not only are summers just warm enough for warm season vegetables without being too unpleasantly hot, but winters are so mild that cool season vegetables can be productive from autumn until spring.
While cool season vegetables are still productive, a few types that grow quickly can still be sown. Radishes, carrots and even small beets still have time to grow before the weather gets too warm. Peas sown now will get an early start for spring. If leafy lettuces are being exhausted, more can be sown to replace them. Only large vegetable plants, like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, need to wait until autumn so that they have a whole cool season to grow through.
It is still a bit early to sow seeds for warm season vegetables directly into the garden. However, seed for some vegetables can be sown in greenhouses or cold frames, to produce seedlings for the garden later. Although beans, corn, most squash and other fast growing vegetables should be sown directly into the garden during warm spring weather, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants prefer to get an early start as seedlings.
(Outdated information regarding gardening classes has been omitted from this recycled article.)
Just as warm season annual flowers that bloomed through spring and summer get removed to relinquish their space to cool season annuals, summer vegetable plants need to vacate the garden for cool season vegetables. Fortunately, removing vegetable plants is not as unpleasant as removing the pretty flowers might have been, because most have finished producing whatever it is that they were grown to produce.
Besides, cool season vegetables are even cooler than warm season vegetables, since some have distinctive foliage that is appealing beyond the vegetable garden, in borders, pots and mixed plantings, out in the landscape. Swiss chard is a striking foliar plant, whether it gets eaten or not. The outer leaves can get eaten without compromising the appeal of the inner leaves that continue to grow and fluff outward to replace them. Arugula, kale, mache, loose lettuce (non heading) and collard, mustard and turnip greens do the same.
This ability to function in more places in the landscape is a definite advantage since cool season vegetables are not quite as productive as warm season vegetables are. They would certainly like to be as productive, but grow slower through cool weather.
Most cool season vegetables should be sown into the garden as seed. Root vegetables, like beet, carrot and radish, might be available as seedlings in cell packs, but do not recover very well from transplanting. Besides, seedlings of such plants in cell packs are either too abundant and crowded, or to sparse to produce much. Leek, loose leaf lettuce and most of the greens likewise grow best if sown as seed in rows instead of planted in tight clumps as they are grown in cell packs.
Only greens that are grown as individual big plants, like chard, kale and collard green, can be as productive from cell pack seedlings as from seed. However, each cell pack produces only six plants, maybe with some extras. A package of seed costs about the same, but contains more seed than most gardens can accommodate.
Actually, the only cool season vegetables that might be more practical to grow from cell pack seedlings than from seed are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprout. These vegetables grow as even larger plants, so minimal quantities, like one or two or perhaps three cell packs, are sufficient.
Like so many of the warm season vegetables, many cool season vegetables should be planted in phases every two to four weeks to prolong harvest. By the time the first phase finishes, the next phase will be ready. The frequency of phases depends on the growth rate and duration of production of the particular plants. For example, chard has a long duration of production, so does not need many phases.
Like most warm season vegetables, tomatoes, Solanum lycopersicum, are actually seed bearing fruit. They are both the most diverse and the most popular home grown produce. Grape tomatoes are smaller than little grapes. ‘Beefsteak’ can get wider than five inches. Although mostly red, some are yellow, orange, pink, green, brown, purple or pallid white.
The most popular varieties of tomato for home gardens are indeterminate. They produce fruit sporadically throughout the season, on irregularly sprawling stems. Tomato cages or stakes support their growth. Shrubbier determinate varieties seem to be more productive only because all of their fruit develops within a brief season. They work well for canning.
Small tomato plants in cell packs and four inch pots, which are available from nurseries, should grow efficiently in the garden as the weather warms through spring. Varieties that are unavailable as small plants can grow from seed in cold frames through late winter, to be ready for the garden after last frost. Directly sown seed can be vulnerable to mollusks.
Warm season annuals for next spring and summer are already replacing the cool season annuals that bloomed so dutifully since last autumn. As this happens, it is also getting to be about time for warm season vegetables to replace cool season vegetables. Strangely continuous warm daytime weather since December accelerated this process somewhat.
Removal of cool season vegetables that are still productive is as unpleasant as removal of cool season annuals that are still blooming. Fortunately, most cool season vegetables are finished by now, or will be soon. Few linger into warm weather as some cool season annuals might. Regardless, warm season vegetables will need their garden space soon.
Unlike most cool season vegetables, which actually are vegetative, the majority of warm season vegetables are actually fruits. The plants that produce them generally continue to bloom and produce more fruits throughout their respective seasons. Some, such as bush bean and determinate tomato, exhibit brief seasons. Many produce continually until frost.
Therefore, indeterminate tomato, pole bean, squash, cucumber, many varieties of pepper and some varieties of eggplant need no replacement within the same season. Cucumber can get tired enough by early summer to justify replacement in midsummer though. Okra, as well as several varieties of eggplant and pepper, produce for relatively brief seasons.
Phasing prolongs production of warm season vegetables that produce only once or only for a brief season. For example, corn that matures so uniformly that it is ready for harvest simultaneously lasts only a few weeks in a garden. Phases for seeding that repeat every two weeks or so develop in two week cycles. As the first phase finishes, the next begins.
Because so many individual plants are desired, and the seedlings do not transplant well, corn seed prefers direct sowing into the garden. So does seed for bean, root vegetables, and most greens. For tomato, pepper and eggplant, and perhaps cucumber and squash, small plants transplant well, and are not numerous enough in a garden to be expensive. Warm season vegetables grow slowly during cool weather, but accelerate as the weather warms.
Tropical plants are clueless. They do not understand that autumn is just prior to winter, when the weather may get uncomfortably cool. Philodendron selloum continues to develop fresh new leaves that mature slowly in cool autumn weather, and may consequently lack resiliency to frost in winter. Vegetable plants and flowering annuals are not so ignorant, which is why so many that were productive through summer are nearly finished, and some are ready to relinquish their space to cool season counterparts.
Like the many warm season vegetables, most of the cool season vegetables should be grown from seed sown directly into the garden. Only those that produce efficiently from fewer but substantial plants, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprout and some of the heading lettuces, can be grown practically from seedlings purchased in cell packs. Because individual plants produce only once, more can be added to the garden in phases every two to four weeks through the season to prolong production.
Chard, kale and collard greens can likewise be grown from cell pack seedlings if only a few plants to harvest as intact heads or large leaf greens are desired. However, a package of seed costs about as much as a single cell pack of only six seedlings, but contains enough seed for many more mature heads, as well as for abundant production of ‘baby’ greens plucked from many juvenile plants through the entire season. Those to be harvested as heads should be planted in phases with enough space to mature. Those that will get plucked through the season can be sown or planted once early in the season, and perhaps followed by a second phase if productions starts to diminish.
Root vegetables, such as beet, carrot, turnip and radish, really do not recover well from transplanting from cell packs. Individual cells are sometimes crowded with too many seedlings that must push away from each other as they mature. Otherwise, if not crowded, each cell contains only a few seedlings that are not nearly as practical as simply sown seed would be.
Although each individual root vegetable plant produces only once, they all mature at different rates, so most types can be sown in only one or two phases instead of several phases every two to four weeks. If the biggest get pulled first, the smaller ones continue to mature. They are less perishable than other vegetables, so any abundance is not likely to be wasted.
There are three practical ways to grow onions. They are most popularly grown from seed or from ‘baby’ onions known as onion sets. The third and sneakier way to grow them is from separated cell pack seedlings. Cell packs typically contain too many onion seedlings that would develop into crowded clumps anyway. There are often as many seedlings as could be grown from a package of seed!
Peas get sown as seed early in autumn to grow and produce before winter gets too cold. Another phase can be sown as winter ends for spring production.
It always seems that by the time the garden gets as productive as it can, it is already time to get ready for the next season. Pretty soon, cool season annuals will be arriving in nurseries to replace warm season annuals that had been so colorful all summer. If seeds are to be collected from summer flowers for next year, this would be a good time to do it.
Seed for certain cool season vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale, can be sown in flats or cell packs now to have seedlings ready to put out into the garden as warm season vegetables finish in autumn. If there is space available in the garden, turnips, turnip greens and beets can be sown directly. Carrots should probably wait a few weeks or so to get sown directly.
Although corn of a single variety sown in a single phase tends to ripen at the same time, different varieties planted in different phases can extend the season significantly. Those that continue to produce until autumn are greedy for nutrients and water. Squash and tomatoes likewise appreciate a bit of fertilizer and regular watering, even as the weather starts to fluctuate this late in summer. However, fertilizer does not need to be applied in the last month of expected production.
Zucchini should be harvested when they get about six inches long, not only because they are best when immature, but also because the plants are more productive if regularly deprived of their fruit. If plants have the choice, they prefer to concentrate resources into fewer large fruit instead of more small fruit. The problem is that the larger fruit is tough and lacks flavor.
Hubbard, butternut, acorn and other winter squash get the opposite treatment. Each vine should produce only a few fruits. Those that produce smaller fruits can sustain more than those that produce larger fruits. Yet, excessive fruit exhausts resources, which compromises fruit quality. The fruit that will continue to grow and ripen through autumn should already be somewhat developed. The smallest of excessive fruit, or underdeveloped fruit should be removed.
Winter squash grow through summer. This includes spaghetti squash, Cucurbita pepo subspecies pepo. They thrive with warmth, rich soil and steady watering, to mature in late summer or autumn. They store nicely through winter. Technically, spaghetti squash can ripen earlier in summer. However, flavor improves with a bit of age. Mature fruits can stay on their vines until the foliage gets crispy at the end of the season.
Spaghetti squash fruits resemble melons. Most types get about four inches wide and eight inches long. Color ranges through creamy white, pale tan, yellow and golden orange. Fruits with pale color tend to have milder flavor. After cooking, the otherwise solid flesh pulls apart into squiggly bits that resemble spaghetti. The big seeds within may not be true to type. Related squash hybridize freely, particularly with zucchini.
The long vines of spaghetti squash can be somewhat sloppy. This can actually be an advantage. Such vines can sneak about into otherwise unused areas, like pumpkin vines. Alternatively, they might like to climb trellises or shrubbery. They are happy to grow from mounds too, and wrap around the perimeters. Fruits on the ground benefit from occasional turning. Superfluous and fruitless male flowers are good for frying.