Friday, June 10, 2016

Its a jungle in my garden

I am way too busy in the garden with all the rain we have had this year and neglect writing about what is going on. We are blessed daily with enough food for the day and some to put by. This is good and bad as it give us green beans in January but the shelves and freezer are so full of the bounty it is hard to eat it down. Also the beauty of having so many perennial flowers in the garden makes it hard to come in the house. 

The mild-warm spring has had the tomatoes on hyperdrive! Just as the ones out back are taking a breather, getting pruned of all their suckers and putting on new blooms the plants out front are into full production. Good idea to plant them a month later. The Queens and Juliets take the heat pretty well and I have a couple of green strip there too. Our favorite so far is the black krim. I will plant several of those next year--large and sweet. Cucumbers are being weird--lots of growth and blooms but slow on the fruit. The lemon cukes are nice for slice and eat though and doing better than the straight 8s.
I am having great results from my eggplants in pots. The ones I did in the soil last year were barely productive. the oriental one I over-wintered in the greenhouse is full of eggplant and we are having a meal weekly, the black beauty has provided a couple of meal already and some for the freezer with the plant full of blooms. The Rosa is slow but keeps putting on one at a time. All the peppers but one are in pots and have peppers on them so good there too, including the jalepeno I thought I killed due to drowning not only came back but has peppers on it.  I just harvested a few more late beets to roast  3 1/2" in diameter with lots of greens. Have even managed to get a few decent zucchini from the plants and keep them going.

Only planted 1 seed potato and have had about 5# from it so good on that. I'll put more in about August. Onion storage is full--all 4 shelves and a quart to the freezer plus a pint to ferment. There are a few stragglers and we have used plenty already to cook with. Not as big as the ones my friend Yvette grows but good.Carrots didn't want to come up well but have gotten about 8# from what has and a few still in the ground, nice 4-5" long 1" diameter ones and a fair smatter of purple. I think the soil is not sandy enough. 
The sugar baby watermelons are really doing well. I have 2 huge ones ripening and several more thumb size ones setting. Happy happy face.

Herbs too are really showing their stuff. I planted large leaf basil and it is!!! Great pesto and lots put by already. Made mozzarella bites with it too. Purple basil is pumping it out too and I have shared so much lemon thyme I thought I wouldn't have any--wrong!! It just pops right back! The dill planted itself and I have cut and cut, given a lot away and still there are many heads to harvest. If only I had planted garlic last fall...sigh...but this fall for sure.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Rain, rain and more rain is making gardening interesting.

I do not remember when we have had so much rain and so many days in a row. It has already been a cooler than normal spring. The plus side is that in order to grow tomatoes in the greenhouse under low winter light without blasting them with lights, I ordered seeds for plants usually grown in Canada of all places. The
tomatoes are called Scotia and have out performed any expectation I had of them. They have thrived in the cool wet spring and laid on a generous crop of tomatoes--larger than I expected too. They will play out as it gets hot but we have been having BLTs and sliced tomatoes! Some of the other varieties are not faring as well although they are loaded with large tomatoes, the celebrity and lemony boy are both in one of the huglekulture beds and covered with large green tomatoes but few blooms. I was kind of hoping for a second and third crop before pulling them. The juliet is thriving out back and does have blooms and new fruit setting daily. The peppers are doing fantastically--loving the extra water and full of fruit on the jalepenos and some setting on the golden pepper. The ones in the greenhouse are loaded with blooms and smaller fruit, even the ghost pepper. 

I have finally pulled almost all the beets, all 400+ of them and found a much better way to use the greens. We love beets -- spiced beets, roasted beets, beets in our smoothies but the greens not so much. I decided to try making crackers from them and we are eating them by the  trayful!! Super healthy and low cal to boot. I have used the beet greens, carrot tops, collard greens, kale and kohl rabi greens in addition to onion and leek greens in these. With or without topping they are a great way to use the greens. I am even using them with an egg as binder to make a pizza crust. Lemonade from lemons so to speak.

Cucumber plants are going crazy and blooming like wild so hoping to get more than a handful. Carrots were not a great producer this year and the special purple ones were a total flop. Will try again in the fall. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dealing with the freezes and hoop houses

Texas freezes are getting a lot colder and with the drought stressed landscape plants we need to take special care to protect them. Also more people than ever are planting home gardens and many of these plans will not take a “hard freeze” well or at all.  So the temp is dropping and what do you do?  
Central Tx Gardener:

  1. Water plants well. keep the water off the leaves and do not make the soil wet.
  2. Mulch well around the roots of perennials like roses, mums
  3. Cover plants with cloth — blankets, sheets, frost blankets etc—not plastic unless it is over a frame.
  4. Make temporary row covers from any bendable substance-wire, then cover with heavy frost blankets late in day and remove in morning. Frost blankets come in dark green and white. the white ones let light through and can be left in place for a couple of days. The green ones work for deciduous shrubs / small trees that need no light . 
  5. Make hoop houses—you’ll need 1/2” PVC in 10’ lengths, 4 way connectors or strap ties, 4-6mm plastic sheeting, clamps,   PVC can be made into hoop and attached to beds with U-brackets, cinderblock, short rebar pieces. (see pics following) Securing a piece at the top stabilizes the structure. attaching a length of wood or PVC to bottom of each side keeps it in place. Step by step instructions:  or  
  6. Use lights for heat. Old fashioned light bulbs work well, strands of Xmas lights 7w type, even mini-lights wrapped around pots help. Clamp type shop lights work well too—might need a colored bulb. For greenhouses the small oil filled radiator type electric heater works well. 
  7. Precondition tender fruit trees and strawberries using a spray like seaweed or kelp and watering with a higher potassium fertilizer. Several spays like Frost Away or Freezepruf work on non-edible leaves. These are anti-transpirants so plants do not loose moisture through their leaves. Trees need their graft area wrapped too. 
  8. Use buckets or water in a circle around a tree. fill the tree-gators with warm water—who would do that????
  9. many potted plants have to be moved inside for a freeze. porous pots tolerate freezes worst as they water gets into the clay and freezing shatters the posts, any pot where water might stand(remove the drip trays) can cause frozen roots. putting several pots together and wrapping them or placing them inside a barrier filled with mulch/leaves can help them winter. Check the zone rating—those for 6 and less will overwinter here generally well. 
  10. consider creating a cold frame from boards or cinderblocks with a glass/plastic/plexiglass top. These are frequently placed against the house or garage but can be put against any wall. you can grow plants in it that need a bit more protection from cold or wind, put potted plants into it (depends on height) , store dormant plants until spring, harden off seedlings, 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Starting your plants from seed or rooting and making them thrive

I love doing this starting my little plants from seeds and have played with a lot of ways to do it and have had multiple chances to see how it is done on a much larger scale at the Johnson backyard garden. Soil and moisture are two of the most important factors in the process after the quality of the seeds. Then the amount of effort to keep them going and not damp off before the get big enough to transplant is another big issue. Seeds should be kept dry and cool for best chance at germination. Ideal germination temperatures are different depending on the plant: germination chart  This site endorses pre-sprouting but has a great chart on the #of days to germinate at which temperatures: pre-sprouting and temps .
My best method to date involves a bit of combining of methods.

  1. I use an unfertilized seeding soil well moistened for all seeds but I use a big enough container to put good lightly fertilized potting soil in the wells first and dampen well. I then put in about 1/2-3/4" of the well moistened seed soil and pat it down. 
  2. For littler seeds I scratch the surface and drop on 1-2 seeds per sector. For larger ones I add enough seeding soil to cover the seed the required amount--the depth of 1 seed. 
  3. I water the whole tray when done seeding and set on a tray to catch the moisture and cover with bubble wrap or in a plastic bag or under a clear dome and set in a warm enough place to germinate the seed. 
  4. I watch the flats and wait for the seed to pop out a leaf. I do not water from the top as a general rule. Soaking from the bottom works better and makes for stronger longer roots. 
  5. I generally use a misting of fish oil in water on the seedlings weekly as they grow and most of them get blown on to strengthen their stems. You can use a small fan as well. You can also use weak compost tea.
  6. Once they are up and have at least a set of leaves I move them to the greenhouse most of the year. It is lightly shaded part of the day and gives them better air circulation but does increase their water consumption.
  7. I try to get plants up to several leaves before they go to the garden. I lose fewer this way and have room to grow them and up-pot them when needed. 
Growing herbs and tomatoes from rooting a cutting takes a bit of planing and has been hit and miss for me this year. Most herbs do well if you pinch off a length of a growing tip and drop the stem in either wet sand or just water and wait for roots to appear. Once they have roots move to wet potting soil and decrease watering to bottom only. Tomatoes can be rooted by breaking off suckers from the plant and dropping them into a cup of water. I take a piece about 6" long and strip off the leaves at the bottom if there are any. I use rainwater or purified water for this.  In a couple of weeks the roots will be big enough to transplant into a pot then the garden. Sweet potatoes can be done this way as well.