About Year Round Gardening

This site is operated by Bob Randall, Ph.D. to make it easy to get information about the book Year Round Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers for Metro-Houston: A Natural Organic Approach Using Ecology.

The book is in its 12th edition and its first edition as a booklet was  1986.

History of

Year Round Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers for Metro-Houston

© Robert A. Randall

Stapled versions

Used for Houston’s First Organic Gardening Class

1st edition 1986 14 pp booklet used for classes

2nd edition 1987 36 pp

3rd edition 1988 48 pp

4th edition 1989 67 pp

Stapled versions

Early Marketed Versions

5th edition 1990 72 pp

6th edition 1991 108 pp

7th edition 1992 145 pp

Spiral Bound Plastic Covered

8th Edition, 1993; 195 pp

Medium green with earliest form of modern “ecosystem” cover. Has an ear of corn, grapes and dragonfly. No printed back.

9th Edition, 1994; 229 pp

Medium light green cover, no “Executive Director, Urban Harvest ” on cover. No printed back.

10th Edition, 1998 263 pp,

Medium dark green, “Executive Director, Urban Harvest” on cover. No printed back.

Spiral Bound Plastic Cover Front and Back

11th Edition, 1999 294 pp

White with picture of author on back.

12th Edition, 2006 318 pp,

Yellow with picture of author on back.  Major changes in vegetable and fruit sections



Comments

  • Tammy Locke  On March 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Hello Dr. Randall,

    I wondered if you could give me an approximate date of when the 13th edition of “Year Round Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers for Metro Houston” will be published? I saw a co-worker’s copy of an older version, but I think I’ll wait for the 13th edition before I get my own copy.

    • yearroundgardening  On March 31, 2011 at 3:18 pm

      Tammy

      I don’t know precisely when the 13th edition will be in print. I have started working on it. The earliest will be January 2012, but it could be 2013.
      Bob

  • yearroundgardening  On February 20, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Jeetom,

    My co-author Mark Bowen and I are working on an update to the 2006 12th edition, but there is a great deal still to do. There will not be a new edition before fall 2013, and possibly it could be more than a year from now.

    Bob

    • Constantin  On January 11, 2014 at 7:20 pm

      Where and how can I buy your book?

      • yearroundgardening  On February 6, 2014 at 12:01 pm

        Constantin

        There is a category on the main page called “Where to Find the Book” which you will see if you scroll down through the categories. Good explanation there

  • Jesse  On November 21, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Thank you sir for this book! I’ve used it for years and it is my go-to housewarming gift!

  • Pam  On February 1, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Now that it is January 2014, do you have an idea of when we might expect the 13th edition to be available?

    • yearroundgardening  On February 6, 2014 at 11:58 am

      Pam: Mark Bowen and I have concluded that the next edition will have a gradual roll out a few chapters at a time since it is not feasible to do the kind of comprehensive rewrite all at once. I have been working on fruits between March and September each year and should have major changes on that sometime in early to late summer. I expect Mark will have some significant updates on the non human food plants portion (what is called ornamentals/ flowers in the present edition, but will take on a rather different emphasis in the next one).

  • dee  On February 28, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Your latest book. 13th edition where do I find one?

  • ed hudson  On March 27, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Good Evening Dr. Randall,

    I am enjoying your book very much. We are moving to a more organic approach in part due to your influence. Despite your advice that time may be better spent growing something other than tomatoes, I am growing tomatoes. I hope to can enough for the winter.

    In the 12th edition, page 198, the text in the right column is covered by Figure 21. Is there someplace where I can find the blocked 1-2 paragraphs? I know it is not a lot of text, but given my tomato obsession, I am sure it would be helpful to my efforts.

    Thank you for your time,
    Ed Hudson, Ph.D.

    • yearroundgardening  On April 2, 2014 at 11:31 am

      Tomatoes
      Comments: Tomatoes rarely taste as good as ones grown in the northern US, because some of the tastiest varieties (such as Brandywine) have poor pest toler-ance in the South and are grown here with difficulty. Tomatoes also taste best when ripened at about 80˚ noon temperature and that is a near impossibility either in our spring season or fall season. Many of us try a few new ones each year in the hope we will get a great taste. We do, however, have two crops, and some growers get tomatoes year round by concerted effort. Almost any home grown variety will be light years ahead of the international trucked in stuff.
      Tomatoes are one of the most difficult Houston area vegetables to grow, but good results are reliably achieved without poisons, if certain fairly easy proce-dures are followed, and a certain amount of loss is tolerated. The most important thing you can do is make efforts to get early crops before heat or cold ruins them.
      Classification: tomato family
      Varieties: Many nurseries have good transplant varie-ties in late February and some again in July. Some of the best varieties can only be gotten by growing your own. Also, you want to plant in mid-February to early March the largest plant you can manage, so getting large plants at this time is not easy or cheap. You can grow your own inside under a shop light or in summer in light shade. By doing this, you can plant very large plants in the spring, and get a large early production.
      There are not many differences in taste among large tomatoes. The best tasting large one is Pink Brandywine, but it is so late, so poor producing, and so apt to get diseases, that I usually don’t grow it. The Texas Wild Tomato and Sweet Chelsea are, in many people’s opinion, the best of the rest. The first is only as big as a pinto bean, but the second is a plum sized cherry. Both are early, produce over a long season, and are disease resistant.

      There are a large number of large tomatoes which have little difference in flavor. Some regularly produce more than others. Some are especially early, and highly de-sirable. Overall, Carmello and Champion are some of the best. Arkansas Traveler is a fine tasting tomato that is the best non-hybrid; Marmande is a productive early non-hybrid that dies early. Big Beef and Merced are very large, very disease resistant hybrids of ordinary taste. Celebrity, Bingo, and Carnival all do well, as does President and Early Girl. A yellow tomato Sweet Gold is pretty good too. There are a large number of heirlooms that keep life interesting. New York’s Dr. Caroline Male has written a book on “The 100 best Heirlooms”, but I haven’t been impressed with the first dozen I tried. Evergreen is a variety grown especially for fried green tomatoes.
      Hardiness type: warm, tomatoes like the same tem-peratures unprotected people do
      Seeds: per 1/10 oz.: 1150, seed stores 4-5 years
      Amount to grow:10-20 plants depending on weather you will can tomatoes or freeze salsa.
      Temperatures: Sprouting range: 60-85˚;Ideal sprout-ing sprouting 85˚; transplants need 60˚+ at night; best growth: 70-75˚; pollination night 55-70˚, day less than 85˚.
      Plant height: 3-10 ft.
      Planting date Tomatoes need to set fruit during the few weeks each spring or fall when it is neither cold nor hot. You therefore need to grow transplants and set them out. If it were not for alternaria (early blight), tomatoes would do best in the same place every year. However, this disease which causes target-like spots on leaves and the loss of leaves, is best controlled by rota-tion. You can fight nematodes by planting rye grass the summer before, and you probably will have problems if you don’t plant nematode resistant tomatoes (VFN).
      Planting depth: 1/2 in.
      Spacing without rows: 2 ft minimum . Tomatoes need to be planted at least two feet apart, and be supported by well-staked cages 5 ft high (see below). However, tomatoes tend to pass diseases and pests from plant to plant, so it is important to space tomatoes as widely apart as possible. The best is to separate them all over the garden.
      Approximate days to harvest. if temperatures are in the 60-95˚ range, seeds grow to transplant size in about 6 weeks. Transplants go to flowering stage in another 6 weeks, and ripe fruit appears in another 6 weeks. Har-vest lasts: 8-10 weeks for indeterminate varieties de-pending on the weather.
      Spring Crop:
      The whole trick is to get as large a flowering plant as possible by the time night temperatures reach 55˚, and before either day time temperatures are over 85˚ or night temperatures are over 70˚.. With luck, you get tomatoes in early May and the first half of June. Then you pull out the plants or if you have successfully pre-vented stink bugs continue to harvest into July.
      To do this, plant seeds for the spring crop about Jan 1-10 and keep warm in a greenhouse, or in the house a few inches below a florescent light 16 hours per day. You need to keep tomatoes not only from freezing, but also from getting cold, since this cuts down growth and freezes kill them. Night temperatures of 55-60˚ is best.
      The best tomatoes are grown by planting in a 4 inch square or bigger pot with good potting soil such as Gardenville’s all compost based soil (INWITH). Then feed regularly with fish fertilizer or a balanced soil food pre-mixed into the soil (such as Soil Food or Mi-croLife p. 121). It is important to keep the plants grow-ing with a large enough pot and fertilizer such as fish emulsion. Move to a gallon pot as soon as possible (if you have space), and as large as possible otherwise. The smaller the pot, the more crucial regular fertilizer is. Once they are up, they need plenty of sun or bright light.
      When to plant: To plant, wait until February or March, when conditions have warmed and the 7 day forecast shows no sign of a bad cold wave. Transplants should not yet have open flowers or they may produce poorly. Then if you can protect well from frost with containers such as the highly recommended Aqua Dome (see p. 32), set the whole plant out. With these, you can plant Feb 7 in most of the area because the plants will not out grow the Plant Houses before March 1.
      You can also protect plants well from frost by put-ting a 5 gal pot, waste basket, or pail in a plastic trash bag. Then fold the mouth of the bag into the interior of the pot. Place the whole double insulated pot over the plant, and weight it down with something heavy. If you can’t protect, wait to early March (mid-March north of FM1960 or west of Highway 6) and be prepared to cover from frost. If you have a rare late freeze, and there are too many to cover, just go out and dig up the plants and replant inside for a day or two.
      Planting: Dig a hole and put a handful of Soil Food or Microlife in, mix it, then add about a teaspoon of soft phosphate. Plant the transplant so as to bury most of the plant except true leaves. Fertilize transplants with fish emulsion well initially and if you wish at 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours after transplanting. Then do not fertilize until tiny tomatoes are visible. Too much ni-trogen before fruit set will get you leaves and nothing else
      Spring Care: As soon as you plant, mulch with hay, pine needles, or native mulch and newspaper. This pre-vents soil born fungus splashing onto leaves. Then sur-round the plant with an effective windbreak to prevent wind born fungus and to keep the plant warn and grow-ing at night.
      The easy way to do this is to use a Plant House (see frost protection). Otherwise, use a 8 ft long by 3-5 ft high plastic or row cover covering on a 5 ft remesh cage. Do not cover the top of the cage. Secure with string, wire or plastic clothespins. If you use cages, stake the cage well with rebar or tent stakes on two sides, since a plastic covered cage will act like a sail-boat in a high wind. Keep the plastic or plant house on the tomato until daytime temperatures are 80˚ or above on a regular basis and your plants have flowers.
      After the first visible fruit, fertilize with balanced or-ganic, bat guano or other quick nitrogen fertilizer. You can spray with SeaMix™ or a similar product weekly once the first small fruits are visible.
      Summer Crop
      Most summer tomatoes– even the so-called summer ones like heatwave, solarset and surefire are nearly a waste of time. Sunmaster has been better in some trials and the tiny Texas Wild is always relaible. After the first week in July, and probably much earlier, all to-mato plants will be disease and pest infected. You can plant seeds of summer varieties in early May. In spring and fall, they need sun, but in summer they grow best in light shade with a few hours of morning sun. Some cherry tomatoes like Sweet Chelsea and Pink Pearl will go through the summer and produce in the Fall, but the summer tomatoes are tasteless and useful only for cooking. Texas Wild Tomato keeps its flavor. It is pinto bean size, but delicious all summer. The birds think so too.
      Fall Crop
      Fall crops are often better because there are less suck-ing bugs in the late fall and because there usually is less wet weather to promote leaf diseases in the fall. Plant the fall crop where onions, corn or garlic were in the Spring, so as to prevent nematodes. Plant the fall crop in pots about June 25 and keep away from pests in light shade. Pots will get too hot in the summer sun, and roots will burn otherwise. Tomatoes need to be in the ground by July 25 and it doesn’t matter how big the plants are at this date. This is because of the times when fall temperatures drop to ones that allow toma-toes to pollinate: lower than 85˚ in the day and above 55˚ at night. At international airport, these temperatures first appearance average September 21 and their de-mise averages to be October 29. So you need to plant seeds about six weeks before September 21. Of course, if you live in a place significantly colder or warmer, adjust.
      When setting out plants in late July, keep shaded but not dark with board supported on rocks or pots. Do this for 1-2 weeks until well established. Use the same planting care as for the spring, except don’t wrap cages in plastic.
      Need for good Cages. The old time staking approach is inferior as are all commercial tomato cages. You must make your own cages. Plants should never grow down as they do when they grow to the top of small cages. Tomatoes tend to stop bearing when the vines spill downwards on low cages. Plants also need room to spread so they dry out in 3 hours and avoid fungus. Also spring tomatoes especially need leaves over them to protect them from the sun. A pruned plant on a stake will produce a lot of bad tomatoes, the pruning can introduce diseases, and pruning is more work than making good cages. If you don’t have cages, do any-thing to keep vines off the ground.
      How to Make Cages: Tomato plants are very heavy. You need very stiff, strong material. If you can cut it without bolt cutters, it will probably bend in a year or two. Tomatoes should be put in cylinder cages made out of 7 ft lengths of remesh or hog fencing at least 5 feet high with 6 inch square holes. Anything less strong will bend under tomato weight. Slightly larger cages are more stable. Remesh is rusty and will ruin clothes. You need bolt cutters to make them. Remesh is avail-able from Home Depot and Montalbano— about 20 cages for $40. It lasts a lifetime, but it is yuck work. It is used in highways and sidewalks.
      WABASH FEED sells a more expensive galvanized cage wire that is strong, more durable, and much more attractive. Even more expensive, and even better is an easily collapsible yet sturdy galvanized cage costing about $15 each (see http://www.tomatocages.com). If you can afford the galvanized types, you should.
      For the Sweet Chelsea variety, you may want to wire a second cage on top of the first and put a pole or rebar piece inside to stake and tie, so as to get a ten ft cage!
      Pest Control: Tomatoes suffer from many leaf spot diseases, blights, stinkbugs, birds and caterpillars. These are mainly problems found in hot weather, so early varieties planted early and large will have many fewer problems. If you are trying to harvest in late June, you are asking for trouble.
      By separating plants, using large cages, and clear plas-tic, you can help a lot too. A well-designed native per-ennial garden with dill, fennel, and cilantro will bring in predator insects and result in few caterpillars..
      To reduce fungus damage of leaves, pick off lower diseased leaves, and put a clean under tomatoes to dis-courage soil diseases getting on leaves. Once there are quite a few leaf branches, begin to pick off or prune off lower branches, crossing branches, tightly touching leaves, to keep leaves away from soil and get air under plant and around leaves so they will dry.
      Even so, nearly all tomatoes will go under if there is hot wet weather for weeks on end. A fungicide will save them, but I rarely bother. When tomato vines are finished, take all of them and mulch them a long way from the vegetable garden (under the figs). This is im-portant to remove fungus spores. Also, do not plant tomatoes or potatoes there for 3 years if possible.
      When tomatoes get ripe, they probably will be attacked by stink bugs (green, gray, especially leaf-footed; see) and perhaps by thirsty or hungry birds.
      Stinkbugs: Leaf-footed stinkbugs have small red off-spring that look very much like beneficial assassin bugs. Juvenile leaf-foots have a large flat upper rear leg. In March or April, if you find a group of small red bugs on tomatoes or blackberries, especially with a large leaf-footed stink bug, you should probably as-sume they are juvenile stink bugs and kill them. By doing this you may save yourself many months of problems. If they are on any other plant (such as beans) and found alone, they are probably assassin bugs and should be helped. Always kill every stink bug you see. I grab them with my fingers and squash them under foot. if you kill all stinkbugs, you will eventually have almost none.
      If you have too many stinkbugs at the moment, pick the tomatoes when they first color slightly. In taste tests, it has been found that tomatoes ripened indoors in good temperatures out of the shade and away from roaches, taste just as good, and often have less insect and rot problems. This will also fight bird damage.
      If you get fruit worm or army worm caterpillars, spray with a BT product.
      If birds are problem, be sure you are providing regular water in a water bath. This makes birds less thirsty and also attracts insect eaters. You can avoid fruit eaters like mockingbirds by planting plenty of small berries—Texas wild tomato, elderberry, lantana, honeysuckle, blackberry, blueberry, fig, etc.
      Diseases Good vegetable seed catalogs such as SOUTHERNE list disease resistance for the different tomatoes. To use this information, you need to diag-nose what is giving you trouble. Fungicides like liquid copper or naturally resistant plants should prevent these problems, as also anything you can do to prevent spread by wind (row covers and plant separation); by soil spread (mulch), disposal of old vines, rotation), or by water spread (keep leaves dry).
      On the whole, it doesn’t matter a whole lot what the disease problem is. After the first year, you will get them, and it is a lot of work to fungicide regularly. Some common Houston tomato diseases from most important to least include: Tomato early blight fungus (Alternaria solani), Cotton root-knot nematode and Southern root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne incognita ) (eel worms); Tomato fusarium wilt races 1 & 2 (Fusarium oxysporum), Tomato Family Gray leaf spot fungus (Stemphylium solani), Tomato leaf mold fungus (Cladosporium fulvum), Tobacco Mosaic Virus, To-mato anthracnose fungus (Glomerella phomoides), Tomato late blight fungus (Phytophera infestans), Ver-ticillium wilt fungus (Verticillium albo-atrum), Tomato septoria leaf spot fungus blight (Septoria lycopersici), Tomato spotted wilt virus.
      Harvest & use . Any tomato that has turned to light green will ripen, so pick when they turn pink to avoid either birds in the spring or frost in the fall. If you want to preserve flavor, don’t put them in the fridge. An excellent salsa can be made by putting tomatoes in a blender with chiles, parsley or cilantro, garlic, lime juice and bell peppers.
      Then there are green tomatoes. You can make any recipe for tomato sauce or hot sauce with half red and half green tomatoes.
      Fried Green Tomatoes: You can make them in a num-ber of ways: the most healthful being one from Rodale: Get 1 C whole-wheat flour or cornmeal, 1.5 teaspoons pepper, 6 large green tomatoes sliced into 1/2 inch slices, 2 Tbs. cooking oil, 1 Tbs. fresh basil or 1/4 tea-spoon dried basil. Mix the flour or meal with the pep-per and dredge the tomato slices in the flour/meal. Put oil in a heavy skillet and when very hot, put tomatoes in one layer high. Lower heat and cook till light brown on one side, turn carefully and cook until inside is ten-der and other side is brown. Put on hot dish and con-tinue to cook all.
      The more traditional recipe uses 1 C cornmeal, 1/2 C flour, 1 Tbs. sugar, 4-5 medium green tomatoes sliced 1/2 in thick, oil or shortening, salt, freshly ground black pepper. Mix cornmeal, flour and sugar in bowl, dredge slices in coating pressing firmly. Heat 1/4 inch oil in skillet at medium high, and add slices slowly not crowding. Fry until golden brown about 2 min. Flip, brown, put on paper towels to drain and salt & pepper them.
      Storage: Store mature green tomatoes at 55-73˚ and ripe ones at 55-60˚. Green ones do not produce ethyl-ene thereby ripening or spoiling other susceptible crops stored with them, but red ones produce some. Both are easily ruined by ethylene, so separate your ripe toma-toes on a counter rather than put them in a bowl to-gether. Salsas are easily frozen or canned. Tomatoes are a good reason to learn canning. http://www1.uwex.edu/ces/pubs/ in the food and nutri-tion section has a good explanation of how to make salsa. The recipe can be adapted for tomatoes.

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