We started our kitchen garden in February of 2020 (you can read my beginners guide to starting a vegetable garden), and I have learned a lot in the last two years of gardening in Dallas. Here in North Texas, we have two major growing seasons: fall and spring. The heat and inevitable dry weather in the summer puts a halt on a lot of the plants we like to grow for our kitchen gardens (except okra). There are a few things we can plant and harvest in the winter, but spring and fall are when gardens in Dallas really shine.
As I write this in mid-March, the freezing nights should be in the past (fingers crossed!), and we can get serious about planting again. I’ve been anxious to get my hands back in the dirt but didn’t want to start anything too early and risk losing the plants. Historically, Dallas’ last freeze date is mid-to-late March, so it’s best to wait until after that before you put your kitchen garden in the ground. Once we’re in the clear of any chance of frost, it’s go time!
Planning a Kitchen Garden in Dallas
Before you start planting, it’s important to have a game plan. A lot of gardening is trial and error, but having at least a loose plan will help set you up for success. Think about what you want to get out of your kitchen garden: What do you and your family like to eat? Do you cook a lot and want to use fresh herbs in your cooking? Do you love salads and hope to eat raw vegetables straight from the garden?
Once you have a good idea of what you want to get out of your garden, it’s time to consider your space. If you want to start small and grow mostly herbs, you can start with a container garden. You can even grow tomatoes and some vegetables in containers, but your yield will be limited. If you have the space, it would be worth it to consider building a raised bed or dedicating a place in your yard just for your kitchen garden.
Consider the Light
Where you plant your garden is just as important as what you plant. Carefully observe different parts of your yard and what kind of light they get throughout the day. Most plants cannot handle full Texas sun all spring and summer. Morning sun and some afternoon shade works well for a lot of kitchen garden plants.
Best Plants for a Kitchen Garden in Dallas
- Basil: If you pinch the flowers early, you can grow huge plants with large, flavorful leaves.
- Rosemary: This evergreen shrub does really well around here, and you can use it as part of your landscaping to save room in your kitchen garden.
- Mint: This perennial will come back year after year, so be sure to put it in a pot or it will quickly take over your garden.
- Oregano: I also recommend keeping this in a separate pot or it can take over as well.
- Dill: This herb serves as a home for swallowtail butterflies, so you’ll be helping important pollinators too.
- Sage, parsley, and thyme all do fairly well.
- Chives and lavender: Both are hardy herbs that produce pretty purple flowers you can also eat.
Tomatoes: Smaller varieties seem to do best.
Peppers: We’ve had success with bell peppers and spicy varieties, and they can fruit all summer.
Cucumbers: I’ve had much better luck with smaller gherkins than larger varieties.
Snap peas: Plant these early as they can handle a bit of frost. Ours grew beautifully at the beginning of last summer but eventually succumbed to spider mites.
Carrots and lettuce: Both are easy to start from seed directly in your garden.
Okra: When it gets hot and dry and it seems like your garden might be done for the summer, it’s time to plant okra. They have beautiful yellow flowers and love the hot weather!
Once you get your garden going, use your harvest in these delicious garden veggie recipes!
To add some extra color and interest to both your garden and your cooking, plant edible flowers in your kitchen garden: nasturtium, pansies, viola, and chamomile along with lavender and chives.
Marigolds serve an important purpose in the kitchen garden: They help keep unwanted pests away from your precious herbs and vegetables!
Dallas Garden Inspiration
There is a lot of information out there on how to garden in Texas. Before we planted our first garden, I checked out several books from the library that were helpful in my initial planning. At this point though, I tend to turn to social media (like any good millennial) for most of my gardening inspiration. Here are a few accounts I like to follow:
@thedallasgardenschool for tips on starting seedlings, when to plant, and gardening classes
@northhavengardens for a large local nursery as well as timing tips
@rootedin_tx for native plant sales and landscaping inspiration
@gardenaryco for amazing kitchen garden inspiration and the most beautiful builds
You can also follow along with my gardening this year! @villa_villebartula