Commercial and amateur vegetable growers are actively seeding and transplanting as much of the state appears to be clear of the threat of frost, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
Growing and planting seasons differ greatly in Texas where the state’s geography and size lends to a wide range of climates and planting zones. Most of the state, aside from the High Plains and North Texas, is beyond the point for typical last frosts.
Growers and gardeners in South Texas have been planting warm-season fruits and vegetables for some time, and many are already harvesting summer items like watermelons, said Dr. Joe Masabni, AgriLife Extension vegetable specialist, Overton.
“The danger of frost has passed, so there is a lot of planting activity,” he said. “Right now, we’re between the cool-season and warm-season crops, so you see a lot of growers and gardeners still planting peas, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce, but at the same time they’re transplanting warm-season crops like beans, tomatoes, eggplants, sweet corn and potatoes.”
Masabni said experienced gardeners and growers know the springtime routine, but there are also plenty of AgriLife Extension publications and materials available, such as the Texas Home Vegetable Gardening Guide, which provide planting information regarding plant species, soil preparation and maps with information about first and last average frost dates.
There are a few things gardeners can do to mitigate problems and increase the chances of good production from their home gardens, Masabni said.
Transplants purchased should be treated as though they have insects or disease, he said. They should be sprayed with insecticides and fungicides to sanitize them prior to planting.
“What you don’t see will get you,” he said. “The plants may look perfectly healthy, but don’t assume they are clean. You can treat with organic or traditional sprays. Cover the plants well as a precaution against any initial problems.”
Masabni also recommends transplants receive a one-time application of starter fertilizer, which is heavy in phosphorous, to promote root establishment.
“Even after soil preparations are made and the proper pH level is achieved, an application of starter fertilizer will help jumpstart the plant and help it establish a good root system,” he said.
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“After that just water and fertilize on normal schedules and watch them grow.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Small grains and native pastures were improving due to recent rains. Farmers were nearly finished planting corn, and sorghum planting started. In most areas, soil temperatures were too low to plant cotton. Some Bermuda grass was starting to green up, and pre-emergent grass bur treatments in hay meadows by producers were almost complete. L
ivestock were in fair condition, and supplemental feeding was still required. Stock tanks were full. Nearly all counties reported good soil moisture and overall good crop, rangeland and pasture conditions.
ROLLING PLAINS: Temperatures were warm and high winds were reported. Wheat fields in certain areas in the district that received rain a few weeks ago recovered and were being grazed out. In drier areas, light rains helped suffering wheat fields; however, continued moisture was needed to help wheat and with cotton planting.
Cattle were still in winter grazing. Pastures were bare and cattle were supplemented with cake or hay. A very light rain did not help soil moisture levels but did help lessen wildfire risk briefly. Burn bans were still in effect for numerous counties.
COASTAL BEND: Sunny, dry, windy conditions decreased topsoil moisture in some areas. However, other areas reported soil moisture was good in most fields, but there were places where soil moisture was a concern. Cotton planting was in full swing. Corn and sorghum planting continued, and some early planted corn had emerged.
Fertilizer was being applied to pastures and hay fields. Ranchers were waiting for the chance to spray weeds. Field work was ongoing with seed bed preparation continuing for rice and soybeans. Pastures were good and livestock were doing well.
EAST: Warm weather across the district brought growth of numerous warm-season grasses as well as some winter grasses. Hay supplementation drastically slowed throughout the district due to the growth of grasses. Trinity and Wood counties reported producers still purchasing and feeding hay. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good to fair with the exceptions of Anderson, Newton, Trinity and Shelby counties, which reported poor conditions.
Anderson County producers planted hybrids and Coastal Bermuda grasses. Anderson County also reported wheat crops were doing well and cotton land preparation had begun. Jasper and Anderson counties reported 50 percent of corn was planted. Cattle prices in Gregg and Shelby counties fell, but the numbers at sale barns were still good.
Counties reported all cattle were in good body condition with cows still dropping calves and gaining weight. Both subsoil and topsoil conditions were reported as adequate across the district. Vegetable producers in Anderson and Marion counties prepared soil and continued planting. Rotten potatoes were reported by some producers in Marion County due to wet soil conditions.
Control measures began for weed growth in Henderson and Upshur counties. Wild pigs were rampant in Anderson, Henderson, Smith, Trinity and Upshur counties. Henderson County reported a large increase in fly numbers.
SOUTH PLAINS: Conditions were very dry. Areas received a brief shower with accumulations from 0.2 to 1 inch. Cropland, pastures, rangeland and winter wheat needed rain. Producers were preparing for spring planting. Cattle were being moved off wheat pasture due to dry conditions.
PANHANDLE: Moisture was needed as dry, windy conditions created high fire danger. Soil moisture was very short. Irrigation was active on wheat and alfalfa. Warmer temperatures allowed for some growth on irrigated wheat, but extreme dry conditions combined with high winds were making progress very difficult.
Supplemental feeding for cow/calf operators was very active. Spring calving continued. Prospects for spring rangeland were looking bleak with no moisture for cool-season grasses and weeds to get started. Stockers were grazing limited forages, mostly very short and graze-out wheat. Cattle were moved to other locations.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to surplus in most counties. Sporadic rain was reported in some areas. Wheat and oat fields looked much better due to several days of sunshine and warmer temperatures. Corn farmers were starting to plant with about 10 percent planted. Small-grain farmers were applying fertilizer.
Volunteer annual ryegrass was starting to grow and cattle were starting to graze. Winter grasses were coming back to life and starting to green. Livestock remained in good condition from being on good hay and supplements during the winter. Wild pigs increased their activity due to the topsoil moisture and warmer weather.
FAR WEST: Temperatures ranged with highs in the 80s and lows in the high 40s. The district experienced high winds and no moisture. Conditions were getting dire and have begun to affect planting decisions. Producers were deciding against corn due to increased pre-irrigation needs and economics. Land preparation continued at many farms.
Pre-irrigation started for cotton and other row crops. Pecans and existing alfalfa fields were getting some irrigation from mainly effluent water. Wheat fields were basically finished. Rio Grande Project Water was released, and irrigation season will officially begin soon. Fire danger was present with increased winds, and precautions were advised. Fruit trees were starting to bud. Rangelands were not green due to lack of moisture. Kidding and lambing were in full swing.
WEST CENTRAL: Cool nights and warmer days were reported throughout the district. Some frost in the mornings was still noted. The district needed rainfall. High winds and dry conditions have made burn bans necessary for many counties. Wheat and oat pastures were improving due to recent moisture and were providing grazing for producers.
Many producers were busy with field preparations for spring planting including grain sorghum and cotton. Cool-season grasses and weeds were also slowly starting to grow. Livestock were in fair condition with spring forages picking up, but supplemental feeding was still needed. Cattle prices were strong with good demand at market.
SOUTHEAST: Livestock were in good condition. Row-crop producers were planting corn and sorghum, and some were beginning to plant cotton and rice. Early planted corn and sorghum were emerging. In Brazos County, cool-season forages were growing well. Flag leaves in small grain fields were visible.
Conditions were dry in some areas, and the weather was drying many pastures. Spring weeds and grasses were in full force. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely from excellent to poor with fair ratings being most common. Soil-moisture levels ranged widely from adequate to surplus with adequate being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Warmer temperatures and windy days were drying out soil. Rain was needed. Rangeland and pastures were showing signs of drought. Water availability to livestock and wildlife was being monitored.
SOUTH: Mild conditions continued with no rain reported in most of the district. Eastern parts of the district reported 0.2 of an inch of rain. Hot weather conditions were reported in the southernmost part of the district with very short to short soil moisture levels. Corn planting continued and wheat started to head.
Some areas reported short soil moisture while others reported adequate moisture for planting. Rangeland and pasture conditions remained fair; however, increasing daytime temperatures may cause grasses to begin showing signs of drought stress. Body condition scores on cattle remained fair with supplemental feeding slowing.
Most vegetable crops were already planted, and Coastal Bermuda grass was green and expected to be ready for a first cut next month. Zavala County reported very cool conditions for most of the reporting period, which was good for spinach, cabbage and onions. However, it slowed development of corn, sorghum and cotton fields, but those crops should make good progress once it becomes warmer. Spinach harvest was active.
Native rangeland and pastures continued to green up, providing a fair amount of grazing for livestock, and some producers reported a decrease in supplemental feeding due to pasture green up. In Webb County, temperatures were beginning to rise into the 90s. Livestock producers reported stock tanks were beginning to run short. Cattle numbers at auction were on the rise, but the market was on the lower side. In Hidalgo County, harvest of sugarcane, citrus and vegetables continued.