Ask the Permie Pro

By Dick Pierce

Dear Permie Pro,
Q: I’m not planning to have a winter garden, but is there anything I should be doing now to prep my beds for spring?

A: A garden is a living thing, so allowing it (and you) some fallow recovery time is a great idea. Who doesn’t deserve a healthy, revitalizing breather every now and again? Early December is the perfect time for a 1–2 month garden sabbatical. 

Give the ground one last good soaking, spread out some kitchen scraps if available, then apply a warm, insulating 4”–6” blanket of compost, leaf mulch, plain leaves or all three (in that order).

You may have quieted the garden as far as plants and weeds are concerned, but you’ve created a bustling, warm, moist environment for microbes to work contentedly on the soil—you’ve even left them a snack! An important permaculture principle is to “let the critters do the gardening.” In the spring, you’ll be rewarded with rich, loose soil. Simply rake away the mulch before planting.

Q: When is the best time to start planting for spring in Austin? 

A: Austin’s spring gardening season starts sooner than you’d think. It sounds crazy, but mid-January gets us going with onions, lettuce, greens, cabbage, carrots and more. In February, it’s beets, peas, parsley and potatoes. March is the time for beans, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes. Planting should be finished by the end of March to ensure enough time for flowering, fruiting and harvesting before it gets too hot in mid-June. Buy seeds and starter plants from one of our better-quality, local nurseries or home centers—they’ll have the right varieties at the right times, as well as good advice on plants and planting.