A friend asked me today how gardening in our area is different than gardening elsewhere, specifically a cooler climate. I thought others may benefit from hearing my response, so I'll post it here.
The main differences between gardening here and somewhere cooler like Ohio are the disgusting heat in July and August when everything suffers, and the mild winters that we can grow right through.
Our last average frost date is March 15 and first average frost date is November 15, so there's a long season between there. However, the disgusting heat in July and August kind of puts a damper on it. Heat lovers like okra and cowpeas (Black Eyed Peas, Crowders, and other Southern Peas) will usually sail right through the heat, but other things will seem to go "on hold" or outright crisp up. Cukes want to give up the ghost, so trellising them helps ~ gets them off the hot soil and gives them some shade since only one side's worth of leaves is facing the sun at a time. Tomatoes won't set fruit once temps get over 95 every day ~ the heat renders the pollen nonviable, so no fruit is pollinated, therefore no fruit set ~ but you can either start over with new plants for the fall or just baby the ones you have through the heat (maybe with some afternoon shade) and they'll put on again once things cool down. I heard John Dromgoole today talk about using 30% shade cloth for them ~ might have to try that this year.
This hothothot August makes for two warm growing seasons a year. The Fall garden (second warm season) is when you can replant squash, beans, etc. for a second crop along with new pepper and tomato plants. Check the days to maturity for what you want to grow in Fall ~ if they have a DTM of 90 or less, you'll have time for them to reach maturity and still have a month or so of harvest time. For instance, cucumbers have a DTM of 65 days, so if you plant them August 15th, you'll be picking them by the end of October and will continue to pick until frost kills them. Just be sure to keep them well watered during the hot months and mulched so they'll survive through the heat.
The flip side of our warm climate is that we get to actively grow things all year 'round. We can grow all the cool weather crops all winter ~ broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, radishes, garden peas (English "green" peas, snow peas, etc.), cilantro, parsley, lettuce, chard, onions, garlic, spinach and a few others I'm not remembering. There are so many things we can grow through winter that our gardens really don't ever have to be empty. We do have to be ready with floating row cover or some other cover when nights dip really low ~ pea blooms will freeze and abort, lettuce can get nipped ~ but most all the other things will do fine through a freeze without protection once they're established. I like gardening in winter almost more than in summer since the weeds grow slower, there are less pests (both insects and diseases) and since all plants grow slower I can stay on top of the harvest without having to literally pick every day and freeze all that.
You probably already know that that's all averages and we can have weather patterns that upset even the best laid plans, such as the 90 (Ninety! ACK!) degrees we hit yesterday ~ I could almost hear all the broccoli and lettuce plants bolting and turning bitter. Mulch helps that a lot ~ it keeps the ground cool in summer and avoids the wild soil-moisture-level swings that make your tomatoes crack and most any plant suffer.
Here's another good site for information about growing the usual crops in Texas (look at the bottom section for the good tips): http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/vegetable/cropguides/index.html Of course I'm not a fan of their remedies for pests (usually all synthetic chemicals), and if you're the same I'd advise you to either ask a neighbor what that bug or pest is that you see then look up online how to fix it organically or put a sample in a ziploc bag and bring it in to the Natural Gardener. Neil is the botanist on staff there and he can figure out whatever it is you have and tell you how to fix it. He's got the neatest microscope that's hooked up to a computer so you can see it on a screen instead of having to squint through the microscope's eye pieces ~ nifty!
Is there anything in particular you wanted to know about that I haven't covered here? Let me know ~ I'll be glad to answer what I can.