My name is Rebecca and I started the Experiential Gardener channel to share practical how-to Texas gardening information and tips that I have found to be useful based on my experience gardening in North Central Texas Zone 8a over the last forty plus years. Gardening in Texas is not difficult; it is just different. Much of the gardening information on seed packets and gardening publications/sites is written for milder climates and may not work well here. “Full sun” in Maine is very different from full sun in Texas. Gardeners in the Lone Star State need gardening information that works here, in Texas.
I first began to learn how to garden from my father and our closest neighbor Ann Gallagher. My father’s garden was one plus acres of all the typical garden vegetables (plus peanuts), and 1/2 acre watermelons and cantaloupes. My father created my first garden for me when I was five years old. I remember planting bean seeds five or so inches deep. I planted them again when they did not sprout. I have had a garden every year from that year forward (except the year I lived in a college dorm).
We planted traditional long rows and had access to a tractor to plow between them. My father and I hoed between the individual plants to keep out weeds. During dry summers we would also lay and move irrigation pipes to bring water to the plants from the nearby pond. I made extra money hoeing and made Christmas money thrashing/picking/selling pecans. We also picked wild crops such as Mustang grapes, wild plums, mulberries. We would always have a lot of produce from a garden this size (despite the deer) and so we would store all root crops in our root cellar on the hill behind the house and we had a second freezer and my mother would can beets and make jellies. My father would also periodically load the back of his pickup with watermelons and cantaloupes and drive to town and give them away.
Ann, was the wife of a second generation Irish family who was a wealth of gardening knowledge. She owned a green house full of exotic flowers that I had never seen before and every issue of National Geographic. I would read National Geographic, gardening books, seed catalogs and dream of seeing some of the places I read about and the countries where the exotic flowers grew naturally. Ann also had a cold frame, a cistern, and kept bees, doves, quail, chickens and guineas.
In the fall she would have me gather seeds from all the heirloom plants she grew and then we would plant flower, tomato and pepper seeds in December and January for our spring transplants. Ann never went to a store to buy flowers or any other plants. Besides, back then we only had a feed store that had a few tomato and pepper transplants in the town anyway.
When I was in my early teens, I began to order seeds from seed catalogs and experiment with different varieties. I began to grow specific varieties of tomatoes for my father that performed well in our climate.
When I went to college, I moved to an urban environment with average size yards. At first I was very distraught about the lack of large available gardening space that I had when I lived in a rural area. Then I began to learn how to garden in smaller spaces in an urban environment and still get large yields without all the extra row spaces to maintain between the plants. I became an organic urban gardener and have been gardening in this type of environment since 1990.