Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pruning Trees

It's cold and sometimes rainy, a perfect time of year to make a nice cup of tea and wrap up in a warm blanket.
It's also the perfect time of year to get some needed pruning done. The trees are dormant and for us in Arlington we have pretty nice weather.
There are three reasons to prune a tree, shaping, fruit production and removing damaged or dead material.
If you want to shape a tree you first need to figure out what shape you want the tree to take on.  This will depend on what kind of tree it is and where it was planted.  An apple tree for instance usually need plenty of room to spread out and you would thus prune the branches to give plenty of room between the main limbs.  If you moved into a house where the apple tree is in a more cramped space you might do something similar but with the branches moving more upward, cutting off branches that might want to be hitting the house or other structures.

For fruit production you will want to remove sucker branches. These grow more or less straight up from the trunk or sometimes large branches.  they usually don't produce fruit but are easy to remove since they are new and green.  You would remove these in the spring when they form.  They can also be removed in the winter but  by this time will have become woody. If you bought a bush from the store then the rootstock might not be the same as the rest of the bush.  Suckers originating from the base may not even be of the same type and can take over if not removed.
For removing dead or damaged limbs you will need to figure out what limbs need removing and make sure you have removed enough. A rotted limb might go into a larger limb and the entire thing might need removing.  This happened with my fig tree. A limb as big around as my arm had to be cut out.  The next year it produced better than ever since it didn't have to work on healing as much.
One of the main things to consider with any pruning is making sure the tree as a whole is not damaged in the process.  A cut too far back can damage the limb or trunk the pruned limb is being cut off of.  Better in that case not to cut too much lest you have to cut the next branch too.

I would recommend cutting these off as soon as you see them start to grow.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Winter Gardening

Gardening in the winter isn't something everyone can do.  It is one of the few things living in the metroplex allows.  Sure our summer this year killed almost everything but this winter has been a great growing time.  We've got some beets, cilantro and plenty of herbs thriving everywhere.  Sure they're not as glamorous as red tomatoes or majestic sun flowers but carrots, beets, cabbage, peas and many other veggies can be grown and taste so much better in the fall and winter months.  Continued planting also keeps the soil up and keeps weeds down.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pesto Time Again

I harvested several large basil plants, some forming woody stems, to make pesto before cooler frost hit last night.  I got a mix of purple and green but after you blend it all together you can't really tell, it's just a little darker than normal.
The long part of making pesto is picking the leaves off of the plant.  You don't want the woody stem in the pesto since it won't cook down quite right when you add it to a dish. i can't imagine eating pasta with chicken or possibly shrimp and finding a hard woody piece of basil in the mix.
The recipe I used calls for pine nuts, but I used walnuts instead, along with garlic and olive oil.  As usual it took a while for the leaves to get chopped up enough to blend well but in the end it made 16 cubes of pesto.  One cube is plenty to season a pasta dish for my wife and me and should last most of the year the way we use it.  Last year we didn't get quite as much and had to get some pesto from the store.
I tossed the flower heads along with the stems back into the garden to finish reseeding for next year's crop.  There were also some smaller basil plants up front that I left. The mild freeze seemed to have mostly gotten to them and weren't many good leaves to use.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The End of November

Winter will be taking hold soon as the last month of the year comes up.  Harvesting should be finished soon if it hasn't already unless you live in a very southern part of the country.
Here in the metroplex we've had unusually warm weather.  No real frost to speak of.  It was a little unusual this morning when I turned my wipers on.  At first it wiped off just fine. They were on intermitant and as soon as I had any real speed, over 10 mph) the water froze and the blades scraped against them.  Once I got really moving though the water was liquid again.  It was just on the edge it seemed.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Basil has Survived

I wasn't sure about it but going out in the middle of the night to pick basil wasn't very high on my priorities.  The weather guy said it was supposed to reach freezing but just barely.  When I got up I went outside to look and they seemed fine.  I'll check again when I get home just in case they got colder as the sun was rising.
The coldest time of day is often just after sunrise before the sun has had a chance to really change the temperature any.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Anticipating the First Frost

The first frost of the year is really hard to pin down here in Arlington since we're smack dab in the middle of the metroplex. the temperature here is usually at leas five degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas due to reflected heat off of pavement and millions of vehicles running constantly, or at least it feels like it.
Rains are coming regularly now keeping the plants happy but the temperatures like to roll up and down. tonight for instance it's supposed to drop into the 30's but the rest of the week is supposed to be low of 50-60 with highs in the 70's. We've really only had a few weeks of decent growing time since the heat decided to take a break and the rain came back. Now with freezing weather just barely out of the current forecast it's almost nerve wrecking. When will it arrive and will the current crops be ripe enough to pick before it does?
Have to keep a watchful eye out. I reall don't want to loose my basil or tomatoes. Fortunately the wild onion is coming up again. I never can get a grasp on exactly where they are from year to year since they seem to move a little. they're one plant that likes the frost.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lady in a Boat - Purple setcressea

It never ceases to amaze me what common names are shared by, at times, many plants. When down south this plant was introduced to me by the above name by not a few different people.
When looking up the name in a search it didn't come up at all but was in the same group of plants, groundcovers.

Apple Season

I know fruit lovers usually know that when winter comes it's citrus time. Unfortunately it seems that these same people seem to forget that apple season is here and now is the time you can get some really good apples.
I was listening to the radio some years ago and they were interviewing a guy who helped develop new apples. By the sounds of it there were supposed to be several new types that sounded very promising. Unfortunately I can't recall ever seeing any of the varieties he mentioned. This could be due to many reasons, the most probable being a renaming of the variety to better suit the apple or because someone with more clout decided to name it after his dog. Don't laugh, I've seen it done with street names.
Even though I don't think I will be tasting some of what they were working on we can still be happy knowing that many varieties are available and can be used for a wide range of foods.
Generally for my tastes I like a sweet and crunchy apple for eating. The more tart apples like Granny Smith I use in making pies. the mealier ones can be either juiced or made into sauce.
Any way you slice it, peel it, cut it up into little chunks, apples make great snacks.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's 4 O'clock Somewhere

It's four o'clock somewhere and that's exactly what these flowers believe too. These pictures were taken around 6:30. I have to say they were on their way out at this point but that's a long happy hour if you ask me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Frost on the Windshield

Extreme weather really is a problem here. We don't get the coldest winters but we get them cold enough, and unfortunately not consistantly cold, that it keeps most produce from growing quite right.
Head south and you have the humidity and the gulf keeping things in check. Go north and you have winters that stay cold and don't jump to the mid eighties all of the sudden convincing your broccoli and lettuce to bolt. Head east even and you start to hit a little more humidity. By the time you reach Louisiana green is a major color in the landscape.
Couple that with the grey blotch you can see in images from space, the grand mass of concrete which keeps this area nearly 5 degrees hotter than surrounding areas and there goes your moisture.
I was watching the weather a few weeks ago when we were supposed to have rain and you could see the clouds and rain part in the middle as it reached the metroplex. There was so little humidity and so much heat that it absorbed the clouds before they could do much of anything.
Yet here I am still. What can I say, I live really close to work.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Agave Growth

The agave has grown to more than twice its size since last year and has procuced three little ones from the roots. The little guy is about the same size as the big one was when I pulled it out of the ground after it had been mowed down several times by the landscapers at the university.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Unusual Visitor - Orange-Barred Sulphur Butterfly

It took a little searching to figure out what this little girl was. I say girl because the males are more orange, thus the name.
I don't know why she came up this far north. Usually they stay in the south, only occasionally visiting south Texas. More often you can find them in Brazil or possibly south Florida. I guess she was atracted by the turk's cap she was feeding on.
Unfortunately I didn't have the pleasure of taking this picture but my wife did along with several other pictures of the yard and gardens.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Squash Garden

The squase plants are really startgin to produce squash. There are several squash forming as well as a ton of flowers. The bees don't seem to mind and are all over it.

I'm planning on haveing a lot of squash soup and other dishes soon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Etsy Treasury Art Print

One of the art prints in my etsy shop has been added to a treasury! Lots of green here.
It's one of the ones from the trip to Samana, Dominican Republic. Hope I can go back soon, it was lovely there.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Arlington Community Gardens - Arbor Construction

The Rotary Club came out to the gardens this last Saturday. It took several hours of measuring, cutting and a couple misplaced boards but the result was fantastic. I had to leave before the table was put back in place but even so it was a great project. You could feel the cool from the shade instantly.
Plenty of water was provided to keep the workers hydrated and working. Fortunately the heat stayed at bay making the work much more pleasant.
From the garden the view of the arbor was great. Hopefully this will attract more visitors to see the nice planter beds.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

More Rain Please

Although we've gotten more rain this month than the last few put together, we're still really low in the ponds and the ground as you can see is still cracked and dry. The ground can swell and shrink by inches depending on the amount of rain. This can really do a number on developments when calculating dirt work but more important is the effects of mosquitos while out trying to garden. With water so low it makes a great breeding ground for these blood suckers. It also doesn't help out on the soccer fields. Not like I play soccer but there's lots of people out at the park who do.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Our basil is growing really well. They're the healtiest plants in the side bed, even more than the weeds. So far I can count five plants. Although I wish I had more, this should be plenty to make a small batch of pesto for the winter and coming year. Unfortunately they're already wanting to flower. I really can't blame them since it is getting cooler at night but I have to be attentive to plucking off the flowers or it'll all be gone before I know it.
This summer we had to resort to store bought pesto. I can't say it was bad but I'd rather not spend the money if I can help it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rain Warning

With all this rain there is a warning. I know we've been waiting for a good shower for months now but of course when it rains it.... If you don't know the rest then ask your parents who may well go on a long description of what it is and what it meant in the good old days when they were your age.
Anyway, the danger we now face instead of scorching heat of an oven is drowning plants, especially for container plants. I have a few in actual cups with no drainage. Now I've poked holes in the bottom and they're all good but in the past I've forgotten and killed many a plant including an apple tree while I was away camping. Fortunately it didn't rain where I was. That would have been miserable.
This is also the time to check existing drainage and fix any problems in the yard or garden. Standing water can cause root rot and breeds mosquitos.
Remember to keep well and dry off once you're done. A cup of tea would be nice afterwards too.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Plenty of Rain

It rained for many hours between last night around 8:00 and didn't let up until after noon today. This has filled my rain barrels to capacity except for one which wasn't on the loop properly. I've fixed this problem since and they're evened out now at about 70% capacity.

The remaining tomato plants are shown here. The left one is a new tomato plant that somehow decided that now was a good time to grow while the right shows two already growing tomato plants that are putting out new leaves and with time should give some good fall tomatoes.

The onion patch has a single onion left wanting to put out greens but the green onion up front have grown all through the summer. I keep cutting off parts to use for dinner. There's a smaller one in the round planter that seems to need more light. Kind of a runt.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Etsy Store with Garden Photos and More!

As was stated in a previous comment of a post I need more pictures. Well, I've put up an Etsy store ( Here's a sample of what we're putting up at $25 per print. We'll even mount it on a board for a few dollars more.

Monday, October 3, 2011

More Survivors of Summer

I've looked around some more and found further survivors of the summer heat.
Up front there is still a clump of chives. Half of the lavender plants made it, unfortunately that means that half of them didn't. The purple cone flowers have some green left. Since they come up every year from the root they'll be fine. One pepper plant is springing back even though the last peppers it made are still hanging on the plant shrivled up.
Out back the tomatoes of course have a few survivors as previously mentioned. My day lilly plant from down south is hanging in there and some of the oxalis around it has shown up again. The onions didn't make it. I got a few out of the dirt but they weren't any bigger than my finger.
I need to check on the grape vine. It might be either dead or needing some TLC.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lemon and Other Citrus Propagation from Seed

It was about two and a half years ago when I posted about starting citrus from seeds.

Since then there have been multiple copies of that post and others who have posted how they would sprout citrus seeds. One of the stranger ones had you planting the whole fruit. Although I must admit that I haven't tried this method, I highly doubt that that method would work very well.
I have a number of seeds now trying to germinate and since I don't currently have a lot of citrus plants I figure now is a good time to start some more and review the steps and information to go about doing so.
The seeds I will be using are a bit older but they don't seem to have lost any volume so I'll just stick with what I have. Results are usually pretty quick so I'll know if I have to go buy some more limes or whatnot.
I even have the lemon seeds that were in an older post about seeds and what they look like, still pretty good hits on the google image search. They're still different colors too so I know which ones are meyer lemons.
All I really need to do is get some larger pots and good soil. Then peel the outer shell off of the seed and plant. Water when needed. Wait patiently.
A good rule of thumb, is the more you're waiting for the shorter the wait. Typically something will happen every few days of you have a lot of stuff germinating. If you want to see results quickly then plant some beans while you're at it. It will make the wait for everything else seem shorter.

Monday, September 26, 2011

After the Heat

What's left in the garden?
At the back of the house there are still some tomato plants that have endured the heat and kept alive as well as some new tomato plants that have decided to sprout.
On the side of the house there's basil, beets and cucumber.
At the front of the house there's chives and fennel.
At the garden there are still the zucchini and squash plants as well as a little bee balm and onion. This fall they should produce well.
Pulled some onions from the back that seemed done for the summer and they were tiny. So maybe fall onions will be better.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tea Seed Divisions

Yesterday I put the seeds into glasses of water to see which ones were absorbing the water the best. This morning there were three seeds that sank to the bottom, 16 that barely floated and 14 that popped up like cork.
I put the three in dirt today and will put the floaters in sirt this evening. Need some more pots for planting.
On the wide variety seeds there were two floaters and 8 corks.
I put a little bit of pine needles on top of the dirt to help with the acidity since we have relatively low acid soils around here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tea Seeds

So far the tea seeds are coming along nicely. I have been soaking in plastic bags for over a week and have kept them washed so no fungus forms. I plan to put them in soil soon and keep them watered. Hopefully they will start growing in a month or so. At that time it might be getting quite a bit cooler in the evening and be a good time to have them outside for a while before it gets too cold and they have to stay in.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beginnings of a Plantation

So far the overall thought has been about a possible plantation in the making. Currently I have seeds starting to germinate and no substantial land to speak of, but I have a plan.

As I type this the seeds are soaking up water and germinating. Soon I should have little sprouts to put into 3-5 gallon containers until spring. They need room for the tap root.
When spring comes I will transplant them outside mainly between my and my neighbor's house, but anywhere I can find full sun or nearly full sun. She wanted something planted there anyway and they make really nice bushes. I should be able to get 16-20 bushes there. Spacing for good production seems to be about 3 feet but I might have to end up zig-zaging them to have them fit well.
They should be hardy by the next winter and growing well. It will take a few years before I can make good cuttings from them and by then I will know which bushes I want to take cuttings from for more bushes.
If I don't have more land to plant bushes on then I will talk with my neighbors to see if I can plant them in their yards, those with enough sun and pay them a portion of the profit from the bushes grown on their land.
All leaves will be hand picked that will be used for tea but I will be using a trimmer to keep the bushes in shape. It will probably take only me and my wife to pick leaves at first but there are probably some neighborhood kids that would like to make a quick buck picking. There are some good families in the area.
Still don't know what I'm going to brand it as...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Camellia Sinensis Seeds

There's apparently only one tea plantation in the entire country. Here in Texas there is a company that brews and bottles the tea for sale but that's no where near the same thing.
I have therefore obtained some seeds and am trying to sprout and grow them. They are hardy in zones 7-9 and I'm in zone 7b or 8a supposedly. It feels more like zone why-won't-anything-grow-here at times. The plan is to plant the bushes between drives where the dirt has always mounded and has plenty of sun.
Below are the seeds germinating in a plastic bag. There should be moss or some such thing but I'm out of cotton balls at the moment so I'm doing what I can until I get to the store.
Hopefully I'll have sprouts soon.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wattering Restrictions

I know laws are there to keep people safe but watering restrictions really get in the way of keeping plants alive. Of course the restrictions are on sprinkling systems and such so hand watering and watering with water not from the city are still ok. This is why my rain barrels hadn't been used yet, granted they're only a little over half full now.
Another way to water is tossin the ice from your drink when you are done with it at the base of the plants. It waters them and cools them down, still 104 here.
With all of this I still have managed to keep my basil and beets alive and well along with a ton of weeds.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Leek, Zucchini and Potato Soup

We made a nice veggie soup yesterday (with chicken stock).
We cut up the light part of the leeks into thin slices and sauteed it in oil with garlic until tender. Added the potato, only one, cut up into small cubes and two cups of stock. Cooked it down for a little more than 20 minutes until the veggies were soft and threw it in the blender.
It still needed a little more salt
I also added a little shredded cheese to it to make it creamier. I should have added bacon but then it would have been even fattier so I refrained.
Had it again today for lunch.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Saving Seeds

With the terrible heat we've been having it's that much more important to be saving seeds. Not only are there that many less seeds out there to be had but the seeds that are available locally are more likely to be more heat resistant and able to produce in the conditions we've had.
Today I'm going to pick zucchini and see what else is out in the garden that's looking good. Maybe someone out there will be willing to let me have some seeds from their crops. If not, there's still some seeds I want to put in the ground for when the heat lets up. Who knows, maybe the seeds will sprout and stay shaded under the huge squash leaves.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Moldy Grapes

You hope sometimes that the ruined grapes aren't really ruined, that there might be some way that you can turn back the hands of time and reclaim the little balls of sweetness. That's what happened to me at least when my wife called up and said the grapes had a blue mold all over them.

On looking up what that might be I found that it may well have been the mold responsible for making one of the most used drugs out there and one of the best known, penicillin. Unfortunately she didn't wait until I could see it and in the end she thinks it was probably more white than blue. Being on dark purple grapes, and in the middle of them, I can see how that might have been the case.

I wouldn't have known the difference but the top one is ok while the bottom one not so much.

You can call either of the sort of white.

Hard cheese I found is fine as long as you cut off the moldy part. There's something about how dense it is that prevents mold from getting too deep into the cheese.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Zucchini and Ants

So far my zucchini plants are doing pretty well even in this heat. The ants seem to like them too, posibly because they want to get out of the heat and the moist cool leaves are a great place to do it. It's not like they're moving about a lot, they're mostly hanging out on the lower leaves in the shade. They seemed to be getting rid of another bug last time I saw them.

Friday, August 12, 2011

In the Hutch

The fairytale castle cactus is getting bigger. It still looks like just a tower, almost an inch tall, but at least it's growing. It's not meant to be an outside plant except in the spring and fall. Likes water, but not too much, and mild temperatures.

The plumeria and kaffir lime tree are also in the hutch and recuperating from the heat. I'll put them back outside at the end of the month or possibly next month depending on the heat. I've kept them alive this long and really don't want to kill them off by being in too much of a hurry. Kaffir lime seeds aren't that easy to come by.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Community GArden Update

I went out to the plot I have at the community garden last night and it looked like someone had taken over the plot and planted who knows what. It was dark and hard to tell from a distance.
Fortunately that hadn't happened at all. What had happened is that my neighbors are really nice and keep the plot watered. The squash plant had doubled back on itself and was growing like crazy. I pulled some of the vines back off of the path which it seems to have done numerous times now and checked for produce. Nothing yet but the zucchini plant did have about a six inch fruit on it. I'll probably let that one go to the food bank and see what else comes up. Nice to finally be producing.
Come fall I should have plenty of produce since the plants are nice and big. The stem on the squash plant is thicker than my thumb, and this in 100+ weather for some time.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gren Mulch to the Rescue

This is not the time of year to be weeding the garden. If there's weeds then you have a great protection from the unbearable heat, might be setting another record this year of most 100 degree or hotter days.
The area I did remove weeds from is looking really bad now whereas the area I left the weeds alone is still looking pretty good. The basil plants and the cucumber plants are what I'm basing this off of. I've lost the basil plant already in the weeded area and the cucumber, although still alive this morning, is fading fast.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Green Mulch

We're going on day 26 of 100 degree weather. Most of my plants are really feeling the heat and trying to wither on me. On the bright side, literally the bright side of the house even, the planter that's full of weeds is doing pretty well. I pulled half of the weeds out yesterday trying to make it look better since the weeds are growing up and over the little concrete wall I put in.
Today I'll check on the plants to see how much the weeds were protecting the plants I actually wanted.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blackberry Bushes

I went to my grandparents rescheduled 60th anniversary party recently and found out that blackberry bushes only produce every other year on the same growth. After looking into it I found other plants that also bear fruit, or at least more fruit, every other year.
One that suprised me was pecan trees. I just figured they produced what the season allowed, with some years thinner than others. Come to find out they produce better every other year.
Blueberries also produce every other year.
Some apples produce well every other year. Although the fruit is always edible it isn't always what you're looking for.

What makes trees and plants produce this way? Well, I'll tell you.
Fruit production takes a lot of energy, some plants only produce a single fruit, like pineapple. The stress the plant feels takes a while to come back from and depending on the plant can be over a year long before it's ready to produce well again.
Speaking of pineapples, I'm going to try and I'm going to fail to get my pineapple plant to produce another fruit. The fruit is turning yellow already and softening up. the base looks ok at the moment but from what I've been told it can't make another fruit.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cucumbers and Other Squashes

I still have cucumber plants growing on the vines outside but so far only one cucumber even tried to grow this season. It isn't that difficult to grow them but having them produce takes a little more polinating and less putting it off for the bees, which I haven't seen very many of this year.
The hops on the other hand don't like the heat at all and are shriveling up and resting, I hope, for the summer. We'll see if they return.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cooking Curry

We weren't sure what we wanted for dinner but finally decided on red curry. We got the ingredients together although the potatoes were a little soft and only had two carrots we weren't going to be thwarted on our dinner plans. With the cost of food rising we were determined to eat in today.

My wife seemed a little concerned when she got to the onion though since it had decided that a fridge wasn't such a bad place after all to sprout. Fortunately onions are one of the few foods that you can eat every part of no matter what it's wanting to do. I saved the middle to plant though. No need to waste a perfectly good onion sprouting.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hibiscus Beating the Heat

My hibiscus is successfully beating the heat. It took a little while for it to acclimate but once it did it seems to be able to withstand almost anything. Most of the potted plants are dropping leaves but the hibiscus is sprouting new ones and putting on buds!
I guess I'll wait and see what kind of flowers it puts out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tripple Digits

It seems the temperature isn't going to be letting up any time soon which means it's time to really start icing things down. This isn't going to help the tomatoes produce better but it will keep them alive through the heat. Fall tomatoes are better anyway, or so I keep hearing. Personally I can't tell the difference.
The rain barrels in the back will really help too. I can soak some areas and not have the water bill feel it as much. The fig tree has decided that it's been getting enough water and has some ripe figs on it for once in the summer. Usually all it has around this time are little dry knobs where a fig should be.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Heat

The heat has been a bit hot recently and has made it hard to get any of my potted plants to produce anything. The large rain water reserves at the community gardens had a problem and started filling from the city backup line which made them overflow. They got the water turned off but a good bit of water had already escaped.
Just the other day I figured our yard had gotten plenty of rain but alas the rain stopped a block short. My yard was still bone dry when I pulled into the driveway.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sweet Potato Cuttings

My plot out at UTA still has areas where not much is growing yet. Last Tuesday I got a sweet potato cutting and instructions on how to make it grow. Come to find out I wasn't very farr off on what I was thinking.

1. Clip off 3"-6" sprout.
2. Don't worry if it starts to wilt.
3. Put the cutting in watter for 3 days or until it starts to put out roots.
4. Don't worry if it's still wilted looking.
5. Put it in dirt for at least a week.
6. Don't worry if it's still wilted looking.
7. Transplant to the garden.
8. By now it should be picking back up but don't worry if it's still wilted looking. It will survive.

So far it's in the dirt and doing well. I'll get it in the garden this weekend.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Arlington Community Garden Progress

Last Tuesday I went out to the garden, just on the West side of the UTA campus, to check on the plot. The squash plant was doing pretty well, growing by leaps it seemed. I didn't know how many leaps so I decided to figure it out.
I put a stick in the ground by the end of the longest runner for a marker. That evening I went out and checked on it. In only six hours it had grown two inches. so it's probably growing at a rate of nearly six inches a day. No wonder it's traveled half way across the sixteen foot plot.
It's wreaking a little havoc as it goes, using it's tendrils to grab other plants that are trying to grow themselves. This is the one plant that I really want to grow though and don't mind a little havoc in the process.

Monday, June 20, 2011


That could easily be an exclamation. It's also my non-patented way of dealing with tomato horn worms completely organically and chemical free. Well, ok, I use plastic chopsticks but I don't think that the plastic leaches out enough chemicals to consider it to any degree, otherwise I would also have to stop using the garden hose and city water since I know that the lines going to the house are PVC.
Anyway, I found that the little buggers are not as fond of the tomatoes as they are of one of the pepper plants. He had nearly chewed through the entire plant when I found him this morning. The tomato plant he started on was only slightly chewed before he spotted his goal.
I'm going to have to be more strict when examining the plants in the back now. Once the horn worms come they don't seem to stop that quickly.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Harvesting Echinacea and Other Root Herbs

Again we like to grow things that we can use but how do you harvest it?
Echinacea is one of the things we have growing in our garden but it's not the only root herb we have. The other one is orris root or bearded iris. I would suggest harvesting them and drying them the same way to preserve the roots for the most benefit.
Do not dig everything up at once unless you want to get rid of the entire crop. The roots will keep growing as long as you have some in the ground. Personally I like to keep 3/4 of the plant still planted so they will keep producing more roots.
When drying it's best to let them air dry for some time. I recomment drying orris root for several weeks in the sun. but if you're in a hurry you can always use a dehydrator. When it's dry you can crush it up in a morter orspice grinder.

Eat What You Grow

It's a fairly common idea and one that many if not most gardners use as long as the crops make. The problem I seem to have is I don't remember what all I've planted, much like many people don't know what's in their cabinets when thinking about what they want to eat. Today for instance it finally donged on me that I had chives in the garden. Probably not the worst thing to forget but I've had it there for almost two years now and this is probably only the second time I've used it.
The green onion up front has decided that it likes walking. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's when the flower stalk forms little onion plants in the flower head and bends over. The little onions then root and grow without going through the seed stage. Since I noticed them I was able to just remove them from the flower stalk and plant them in some of the pots that didn't have anything growing in them.
The large squash in the community garden is growing nicely. One of them is really getting big and two others are hanging in there. Hopefully this fall we'll have some nice squash to eat.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Roses are Red, Garlic is Blue

A lot of people have used that rhyme to express love in poetic form. Roses have been used for ages to show not only love but friendship, purity, passion and even mourning. Roses are probably the most used flower when proposing marriage so the rhyme is very fitting.

Garlic is... Wait isn't that supposed to be violets??? Usually that's true but in this case I would like to show my wonderful experience in preserving garlic.

It was supposed to be a nice happy jar of garlic cloves to put in whatever might be needed in the future. If we had followed the recipe exactly we would never have had this happen. I avoid the word problem on purpose since the garlic is still perfectly edible and tasty.

The recipe said that the garlic should be blanched to make it easier to remove the skins but it failed to mention that this step also prevents it from turning blue, or possibly green or purple as I soon found out.

There seems to be some chemical or another that reacts with the vinegar solution used in the canning process. Yes I know this is a jar but for some reason it's still called canning.

Personally I kind of like the color it gives it and recommend that everyone skip this boring step of blanching and enjoy the color it adds to your dish.

On a side note I began to wonder if garlic could be used to dye fabric but quickly abandoned this notion when I also realized that even if it did, your clothes would probably then smell a bit of garlic.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Windstorm Damage

Amazingly enough there was very little damage to the plants during the last few windstorms. There was damage to the power lines that run down the back of the property but we called the power line company numerous times to let them know it would probably happen. I only hope the sparks coming off of the lines don't catch my compost pile on fire.
The tomato plants could be a little more productive but at least I got some tomatoes this year and there are still more on the vine.

The agave plant has decided to send out runners. I've found three so far, one of which is outside of the bed for it. The parent plant however didn't start as a runner. When I pulled it up it had it's own root system and no attached runner stalk.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Community Garden Update

The planting of the plot out at the community garden didn't go as badly as feared. I went out yesterday just before dark and I could actually see rows of plants. Some of the children must have listened to instructions and put the seeds in the rows I made.
The heirloom squash has also come up and is looking very healthy. At least 4 out of 5 of them did.
Our neighbors of course have much prettier and bigger plants but we'll catch up soon and then no one will be able to tell the difference.
Among the plants I could identify were beans, peas, basil, carrots, cucumber, squash and carrot.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Green Mulch

It's not the typical use of the word green when describing compost. What I mean is the use of living green plants to help prevent moisture from escaping the soil. You might be more familiar with the term weeds but in the end there will be no weeds since the meaning of a weed is a plant that is growing somewhere you don't want it to. Sure you don't want all plants to grow in the beds such as grasses but after these are removed the ramaining plants can actually help your crop by promoting competitive growth even though they aren't really competing for root space.
The key to successfully green mulch is to be selective as to which plants you will let grow. In the end what you have effectively done is companion planting. Most of us know some of the basic companion plantings but for some reason can't wrap our brains around maybe a less noticable benefit to letting some plants grow in the area.
Plants are far more sensitive to infrared light than our eyes are and since over half of the radiation from the sun hits our planet as infrared light it is important to know what our plants think about this. Infrared light stimulates growth which is why plants grow faster as the days get longer. Plants also reflect a bit of the infrared light and thus when smaller plants reflect this light up to our crop plants, the crop plants get more infrared light and, although they might not realize they are competing with space, they respond to the added infrared light and grow even faster. They push their roots down and produce more leaves. Again, they don't know that they are competing with another plant or what kind of plant they are trying to compete with. So, if you are letting plants like clover grow under the crop what you have is a competitive response to a plant that isn't trying to compete and is instead merely helping to hold moisture in the ground giving an added bonus to the growth effect.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Community Garden Planted

We finally got the plot out at the community garden planted. It was a group effort. Me, my wife and a bunch of children we don't know all helped out with the task.
It started out with just me and my wife putting in more dirt and doing a little tilling. Then a few children who live nearby came to look at all of the plots. When thay came by ours and saw there was nothing in it yet but dirt they asked if they could help. Seemed ok since there were only a few children but it soon bloomed into nearly a dozen children all asking to plant seeds.
I tried to make rows and organize it to some degree but with that many children I gave up and let them have fun. I'm positive something will come up, I just don't know what or where.
The garden at the house is still growing well. I keep pulling out weeds in hopes that I can keep up with their growth. So far so good.

Harvester Ants

From what I can tell these guys were harvester ants. I snapped this photo at the lavender festival at Blanco by the side of the road where the booth was located. They didn't seem to bother anyone, the little black ants did more of that.
I tossed a few pebbles on top to see how many would come out and defend the mound, not big pebbles mind you, just big enough to get their attention. Not many did but besides horned lizards I don't think many things mess with them.
I didn't see them bringing anything into the mound the ants mostly sat there and guarded the entrance. I guess it's the slow season for them.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


It seems to be a death match between the hops and 4 o'clocks. Unfortunately the hops is a sure looser unless I assist it. Only a few days ago the 4 o'clocks were winding around in the background and this morning I had to remove the strangle hold it had on the hops. I also uprooted several 4 o'clocks just to make sure they didn't try it again before I got home to implement a more permanent solution. They're still climbing the drain pipe nicely and may have to uproot most of them so that the hops can have plenty of breathing room.
There also seems to be another vine plant coming up near the far right hops plant that looks similar. It might just be another hops vine coming up with the leaves slightly different.
The hops plant on the far left still hasn't emerged and may never emerge. I did split that one off of one of the larger roots so everything I bought has sprouted and it will put off more roots next year.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Becker Vinyards Lavender Festival

We had a great time at the festival last weekend. With the weather holding off on pouring rain down upon us we were able to survive the sudden gust of cold wind. While I was standing there talking to some gentleman or other the wind blew in a good fifteen degrees colder in an instant and kept dropping for the rest of the day. Most of the visitors were either in shorts or sun dresses and hurriedly left to avoid getting a chill.
The decorations were all my wife's idea. The balloons were supposed to be giant lavender flower stalks. We never did hear what the results were for the best decorated booth but I'm sure they forgot to even worry about it due to the high winds otherwise we would have won.
My wife gave two lectures that afternoon. One was on the history of lavender and the other was on using lavender in cleaning and decorating. This of course goes right along with her book which we still have a few copies of but again need to reprint.

I got to get some pictures of the lavender fields they grow out there but never got to the grape vines. There are actually a lot more grape vines than lavender bushes. I saw them in the distance as I drove by but figured I shouldn't take pictures while driving. Come on, if texting or talking on the phone is a bad idea then pulling out a camera while holding it steady at something out the window and then waiting for it to focus right to take a picture is crazy. Which goes to show I'm not crazy.

The lovely folks at Becker Vinyards gave us this bottle of wine for my wife speaking. We have yet to open it but I'm sure it won't be too long until we have something for dinner, my wife being an excelent cook, that will pair nicely with the wine. Fortunately she's supposed to be in contact with them for a lavender day some time soon and we can get some more when it runs out.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rainless Barrels

Last week it poured at the house. My wife and I sat out under the porch while we watched heavy rain and hail fall from the sky, which fortunately didn't destroy any of our plants. As the water gushed off of the roof in torrents I sighed wishing I had rain barrel. Then last Friday my inlaws were in town and picked up three blue 55 gallon barrels which now sit in the back yard.
I have one in place under the spot wheer most of the rain comes off of the roof. It's easy to tell where it is even when it isn't raining since there is a permanant hole there. It hasn't rained since, at least nothing to write home about.
So, I now have 3 mostly empty rain barrels. It's supposed to rain this weekend but the rain has missed my house in general even though it has rained all around our area in great quantities the clouds seem to split apart and let the sun shine on my house. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Room to Grow

We have peppers! In this area we have five pepper plants, labels kept with them so we would know what they were when we got around to picking peppers off of them. Really though it shouldn't be that hard if they've ripened well enough. If I knew my peppers better then I would probably be able to tell from the look of the plant. They really do look different.

On the front porch we have another area of plant growth. The lavender really wants to be planted in a sunnier place and has decided to reach for the sun as best as it can. The marigolds are hanging off the other side apparently content with their pot in life.

Out back the garden is doing well enough. It really has grown since this picture especially in the back where the onions have taken off. It's mostly green now. Some of the tomatoes in the middle don't look so well but I'm going to wait until the tomatoes ripen before I decide what to do with the plants. I think I might have to remove some of them. Not to worry though, I have plenty of small tomato plants that are eager to take their place.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Green Herbs in the Garden

I bed everyone has this problem at some time during their growing life where you plant seed after seed of a favorite plant just to have it only produce one plant which seeds so fast you can't use the leaves you planted it for in the first place.

This is exactly what happened when we planted basil last year. It grew just a little and went to seed. This year we at least had seed but we have an unjust shortage of pesto. So this year my wife planted plants and seeds.

This little boxwood basil plant is one of the many plants we now have growing. Among the others are a whole slew of purple basil and regualr basil. She didn't know if they would sprout very well in the pots so there are several pots with little sections in each one. I think they all sprouted as well as some from the seeds we didn't get that have been waiting in the dirt for spring to arrive.

One of our neighbors also brought us these other plants which she didn't know the english name for but said they worked well in fish and other dishes and that they were prolific seeders. She recommended planting them far apart so they don't cross breed.

After just a minute of looking I figured out what it is she brought. Theyare called perilla or chinese basil or mint. I guess it depends on who you ask.

Still need to put these in the ground somewhere but they're doing pretty well so far. I might even bring oue out to the community garden this weekend when we plant it out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gerbera Daisies

Most of us want our daisies to have beautiful flowers on them. It's the entire reason we planted them in the first place. So when they look like this your first instinct might be to pull them up and toss them. Especially here in Texas they don't do so well. They come from South Africa where the climate is quite milder. Temperatures here can get over 110 sometimes whereas their native land tops out in the mid 90's. Sure it freezes there sometimes but they don't mind that so much. What you don't see is the new flower forming inside there that is due to bloom in a day or two now and the wonderful new plants that you can have by planting the seeds from these flower heads.
The seeds are relatively easy to start. After the flower head has dried up for a week or so just remove it and either remove the seeds yourself or let them dry some more until they fall out. Plant the seeds on the surface of moist soil in temperatures you wouldn't mind living in yourself which makes a kitchen counter perfect for this. Cover the pot with plactic wrap making sure you have some space between it and the soil and let it germinate. once you see them sprouting remive the plastic and let them grow in a greenhouse or under grow lights. Transplant when they look big enough.
Some people like to keep them in 3-5 inch pots so they will want to bloom while others stick them outside.

Monday, April 18, 2011


The onions have sprouted and are growing well. We sprinkled some rosemary in the beds and it has worked so well that we've since added it to all of our pots that we're trying to grow things in. I don't know how or why a cat would decide to climb into a ten inch pot a foot off of the ground to do it's business but they seem to have a knack for it. I've thought about many other ways to rid the neighborhood of these menaces but I'm way too nice to try any of them. I can't even bring myself to get a dog. I don't mind them wandering through the yard as long as they don't try leaving me any presents as they do. Ok, maybe if they left mice that would be good, or opossums. I really don't think the cats around here have what it takes to take on a opossum though.

The snow peas have also arrived which the cats have fortunately left alone. The pot must not be enough of a challenge for them to worry about. I have since thinned them to only four plants while seven are shown here. Some of the lettuce plants have also sprouted but not very well yet. The zuchini has decided to grow pretty well on the other hand. Since this picture it has gotten three times bigger. We have also put bamboo teepees on this and other climbing plants.

Spring Flowers

It's not that I don't have flowers in the garden, I just don't ever remember to post pictures of them on bloom day!

These amaryllis have been blooming for over a week now. I don't really remember when they started but it's been a while. Some other flowers have bloomed and gone without any photos this year but they were still really appreciated and kept us motivated to get the yard cleaned up so we can enjoy our flowers in a nice tidy yard.

The roses have really taken off this year with an almost dazzling display of flowers. This guy has bloomed for a while now and clings tirelessly to the fence in hopes that the wind won't get the better of him. So far he has withstood gusts that have blown quite a few things over our yard, generally the stray plastic bag from a local grocery store. Overall I believe it has over a hundred flowers.