Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cultivation by squirrel and other oddities

 The other morning I went out to the garden and found about a dozen little holes around the plants but didn't seem to be trying to dig up the plants. Judging from the squirrels I see on the fence and tree branches, I think they are my unwanted helpers. I am sure they are burying things I do not need in my garden. I replanted the broccoli and cauliflower they unearthed and find they do not like wetter soil so are leaving most things alone now--or they have buried all their nuts!
 I spent some time this morning transplanting lettuce and bok choy. Hoping for a bumper harvest of both over the winter. I have quite a few red ruffled leaf coming along and the remaining broccoli and cauliflower are doing well. The spinach that I planted in 2L bottle collars is also thriving--not like the plants this spring. maybe that is the key--get them big enough so the little bugs leave them alone. Carrots are doing well in their tubs so should have some to move around and harvest next spring.

I am also beginning to move some of the peppers and tomatoes into tubs to move into the "greenhouse" and extend their growing season should we have cold snaps at night. A couple are against the shed where they will get more warmth and 3 are already inside. We'll see what works best over the next couple of months. Last year putting all the plants so close together inside created a bug problem that I had trouble solving. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gardener's group to meet Nov 6

What a great meeting this is shaping up to be! Come early at 11:30 for a seed and plant exchange then stay for this great program beginning at noon. 

First we'll have not one but two guests from the Native Plants Society of Williamson county who are master gardeners or naturalists (that means that they know quite a lot and have taken special certification classes) then we'll  be having a plant and seed exchange. Our first guest Janet Church, who knows something about soil, is bringing kits with her and will explain how to take samples and submit them to the lab for analysis. She says she is open to questions about the whole topic of soil so we can ask anything we want. I think she may have information on what to do with the results and may be able to elaborate on the soil problems guide I got from my on-line gardening group. 

Then WB resident Shelley Palmer (at left pointing out a tree to residents) will  lead a discussion on  “Sustainable landscaping with Texas native plants." She’ll talk about the reasons to do this, how to do this, resources and a city of Austin program that might be of help. This is so timely as the requests for funds need to be into the program by December. She will be bringing a box of the Green Grower books also.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Busy revising the plantings and transplanting

Expanding front perennial bed

Anyone who comes down our street has noticed our ever expanding shade garden of mostly perennials and seems to be waiting to see when it will reach the sidewalk. I am adding equal parts of peat moss and vermiculite over a weed barrier then adding composted soil on top. It seems to be working well. Finally the top is a layer of shredded cypress.
ruellia & salvia

 I was able to find 2 low mounding perennials that seeded well and transplanted gold dust alyssum and rock Soapwort today as they all have their 2nd leaves. I put them into groupings of 6-8 plants figuring some will make it. They take the shade and will only get about 6" tall and are supposed to spread. I also added liriope interspersed in each new area to hold the soil and provide interest until I can replace some of them with another planting. The blue and white salvia are blooming like crazy and I think all of the plumbago  are going to finally grow. I even found one of the 
mums & asters
ornamental peppers that came up from seed in the beds. The ruellia are blooming and taking hold in most of the spots. Lois tells me that they may begin to act like weeds--not for a while yet, I hope.

roses, mums & salvia
The asters,  mums, and vincas  I got at Lowe's are providing a lot of color next to my ever bearing roses. It is really pretty coming up the walk with all the blue, purple, and red rioting there. I had hoped for a bit more yellow with all the marigolds but not much of that survived the hot summer or spider-mites. The lantana looks great in pink/yellow so I guess that will do.

Out back we have another section of paver walkway completed. I am not sure but we may be paving our way to Austin at this rate. I will border it with the liriope that is getting way too tight and have a nice protection when it rains to keep the soil in the adjacent beds.

Broccoli and cauliflower are taking well and liking the cool nights. I found tiny tomatoes on one of the 5 plants I have in pots. All of them are blooming and will soon be moved into the greenhouse room by the windows if it gets much cooler at night. The peppers are covered with buds but not setting any fruit that I can find. The eggplant is covered with beautiful purple blooms and lots of little fruits so I expect to pick quite a few of those. I love the oriental ones as they seem to grow better and are nearly seedless. Beets and carrots are both up. I moved some of the beets apart to give them more room. The bibb lettuce is bolting with the continued hot days but will soon be replaced with some ruffled red and more bibb as the days get cooler. I have to let the plants get a bit bigger before transplanting as the bugs are cutting them off even with collars around them. The multicolored chard are doing OK but nothing to brag about and the NZ spinach seems to be winding down but the regular spinach is not making it--bug or snail bait supreme!
I'm still considering getting the soil sampled as something is still not in sync with the plants. I am enjoying using the myfolia program to track the plants.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall Crops to Grow

A gardening friend in OK posted this to the list serve and I am sharing her very good information. 

So what kind of crops can you grow in your garden? Oh boy, lots of good stuff! There are different varieties of crops you can grow. And you have to consider which ones will work for you based on your tastes, and the timing of your first frost (11/5 here in Austin.) There are cool-weather crops, and cold-weather crops. 

Cold-hardy vegetables include the following (maturity is in parenthesis): These guys survive some frost and can be found as transplants around the area now. 
Brussels sprouts (90 days)                                                               Cabbage (70 days)
Collards (75 days)                                                                                Kale (55 days)
Parsnips (100-130 days)                                                                   Spinach (45 days)
Garlic (best planted when winter is really close)

Cool-weather hardy vegetables include:
Lettuce (45-60 days, depending on variety)  seed them directly, transplant them, or seed them into flats
Mustard greens (45 days)                                                               Radishes (25-50 days)
Rutabaga (90 days)                                                                           Snap peas (50-60 days)
Turnips (60 days)                                                                              Carrots (50-70 days, depending on variety)
Broccoli (70 days)                                                                            Cauliflower (60 days)
Green onions (50-60 days)                                                           Beets (55-60 days)
Swiss chard (30-50 days)

From this list, I know that I am going to be erecting a couple of cold frames to keep tender lettuce and such from freezing but it made it last year through 2 snows so I know it will work.  I have the PVC and need a couple more connectors to do it better than before.  I also am using the bed next to the shed which gets more light and is an easier area to build the cold frame over. 

I start all my seeds on the bathroom windowsill in flats. It has great early morning sun, lots of light most of the day (I have them sitting on a mirror to add more light) and I keep a better eye on them until they are up and going. It is cooler than the yard in the summer and works well until it gets really cold. Some plants, like various cabbages and salad greens, simply won't grow if the soil is warmer than 85 degrees. The plants move to the picnic table from the windowsill with dappled light but more sun, then to the garden when they are past their second leaf.    

She says the key to successful fall planting is to get the plants growing to catch the last wave of summer heat AND allow them to mature before the first frost hits. You also have to keep seedlings moist; drought stresses young plants, especially fall veggies, so it's important they not dry out. 

Where to Plant  More than anything pay attention to plants that do not like to follow each other. Fall is no time to stunt their growth. Planting broccoli and other brassicas in the same place season after season here encourages bugs so I am trying out a pyrethrum powder to combat the cabbage worms that already found the chard.  It seems a lot safer than the sevin dust I tried in the spring out of desperation.

I am mulching with a combination of grass clippings and shredded office paper. We have such a small yard now that I never have enough clippings. I am also still adding 1/4 volume of vermiculite to every area I prepare to help retain the moisture in the soil in addition to mulching.

Lastly, the tender crops  Most of the peppers are already in large pots and all the new cherry tomatoes are. This makes it so easy to just whisk them into the sunroom when temperatures get too low. I even got new bulbs for the grow-light.