Monday, December 23, 2013

Snow Peas

I've planted the snow pea seeds after they had a good freeze. Now we get to wait and see if they come up.  The ground is plenty fertile and most of the other plants have died back now so there's little competition for nutrients. The only possible competitors would be the few carrots still sprouting up and growing.
I ate one of them yesterday with a little brown sugar and butter glaze and it was so much better than the store bought carrots. It had a more flavorful taste to it reminiscent of a sweet potato.  That reminds me that I really need to go check the potato patch and see if there's anything to dig up. You never know until you look.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Resilient Agave

Some plants were meant to survive the cold better than others. This agave has kept out of the snow by letting the ice form on the leaf and then pulling away from it. Now it has a canopy to hide under and can get a bit of sunlight. Even without doing this the agave is resilient enough that the frost won't hurt it.

The saffron just under it is just as resilient although it looks much more prone to the frost.  Unlike the agave the saffron is not so tolerant of heat and bides it time until cooler weather arrives. Here it's as happy as it can be and will grow through the winter into the spring.

Another of the winter happy plants in the garden is the green onion but it's more like the agave in that it can take the heat and cold and doesn't die back in either unlike it's relatives the chives or larger onions.  Green onions are a great way to have a fresh taste to your cooking all year long.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Frozen Berries

They look like little glazed candies but you probably don't want to eat these being a holly. Holly bushes are really resistant to cold though and can be a welcome addition to your yard. Not only does it have leaves throughout the year it also has these bright berries which really pop.

Personally I prefer the more spiky holly bushes, the ones you don't want to brush up against.  At UTA there is a great specimen of one of these which you probably wouldn't notice unless you looked up since it has been trained to be a small tree with the leaves overhead.

Sometimes the only thing that separates a small tree from a bush is how it's pruned.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pansies In The Frost

Although I mentioned pansies in the last post I didn't expect to get a shot of them coated in ice. This is a good show of how hardy they can be. When the ice melts in a couple days they will just keep on growing.

On the way back to the house this evening I saw many more pansies in front of businesses having even more color and showy blooms than this one.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter Veggies

With a cold freeze upon us it's time to forget the tender plants of spring and summer and face the facts that only some of the leafier green plants such as lettuce and cabbage and our friendly root vegetables like carrots and radishes can stand the upcoming weather.
One of the more popular but less remembered for the garden is the snow pea, a quick and nutritious vegetable found in health food stores and Chinese cuisine.  It can be eaten either in a salad, in a stir fry, or all by itself either raw, steamed, or sautéed.
The onion family is also a star this time of year with green onions still staying green and chives popping up and even possibly flowering if the weather warms up for a few days.
For the flower lovers the pansy, although it can't stand the heat is a staple for landscapers in the winter months.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Saffron Blooms

The short time saffron is in bloom really makes harvesting the spice a joy rather than a chore. My babies bloomed for only about a week a few weeks back and I got nearly half a gram for later use. Since it's often sold by the gram that's pretty good.

I was talking with some friends recently about my harvest and how much I got from it. They were surprised to find out that it's still so expensive to purchase. After telling them about the work that goes into producing so little they understood a little better. Until recently it was about as expensive a gold. Now it's running around 1/4 the price of gold, still nothing to sneeze about. The middle looks like it's made of gold but I don't think a jeweler would fall for it. What else can you pull out of your garden that's that valuable?  If people knew how expensive it was there would probably be more saffron growers around and of course the price would start to go down. I'm happy just providing enough for what we use which usually isn't much.

It's almost a shame to harvest them since the flowers are so pretty. The vibrant purple color of the flowers really pops in the garden. You can easily see them when they're in bloom as soon as you pull up to the house.

They didn't flower last spring but we'll see if they flower this spring. Still not sure what prompts them to flower.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Saffrons Blooming

It's that time of year again.  The saffron is blooming and there are many more this year than last.  I pulled the treads from one of the flowers and my finger where the juice hit is now a lovely yellow color with a  hint of the aroma I can anticipate.  I will get around to harvesting them some more later today and see what I have so far. A quick look revealed at least four flowers and many sprouts.

The purple color is a welcome sight as the air chills and unfortunately killed all my tomato plants.  As always, next year will be better.

I plan to make a nice saffron bread from my egg bread recipe. The flavors should work well together.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

November Planting

November is usually not a month people think about but it's still a good time to plant several wintery veggies. Among these are onions, carrots, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, and root veggies like radishes, beets, and turnips.

Many of these are staples for a good winter soup. Just think of a nice beef soup with onions, carrots, and potatoes (from this fall). Pair this with some pickled beets for a nice wintery meal.

Pasties are also pretty good. Just mix the ground beef with some onion and turnips in a flaky crust and bake for 45 minutes or so and you have a tasty snack for any wintery day.

So go out and do some planting for the coming season and have fun.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dying with Herbs

I have been preparing samples for a presentation out at Log Cabin Vilage this Saturday (October 19) on dying fabric with herbs. These have included flowers, roots, stems, and fruit. Many of them have been really successful in producing a rich color while others have produced what my wife likes to call yellow, more of an off white really at times though.

Mainly I've been dying cotton but I also tried a wool swatch.  The difference between the wool and cotton is really obvious. The cotton turned a nice red while the wool is more of a light pink, both dyed in beet juice.

Much of what I've been using to dye has been locally harvested from around the area but a few things had to be bought such as the safflower and turmeric.  These were interesting to compare since the safflower has been used for dying for centuries as a dye and the turmeric has typically, at least in the west, used for eating.  The color of the turmeric however was a brighter yellow but fainter than the safflower which was a more orangeish yellow but set better. One of the less reliable dyes was the mesquite which bore only a faint off white instead of the blue one of the sources said it would. Then again it did not describe how to achieve the blue color either so I had to guess based off of other methods of similar material.

For any interested, the presentation will be at the Log Cabin Village in Fort Worth on University Drive just south of I-30 and the Trinity River. There is a fee to get into the village but there are many more presentations besides mine to go see there.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Invasive Plants

I was reading recently about invasive plants and trees that seem to just pop up without help from us.  One such tree is the mulberry tree, especially in our area.  My first encounter with a mulberry tree was at my first job after moving to the area. Outside on the side of the building there was a nice mulberry tree growing between our building and the next.  Being the adventurous person I am I decided to try some of the berries, being pretty sure I knew what it might be.  I was told by coworkers and eventually my wife after I told her about it that I really shouldn't eat berries unless I know what it is. I'm not dead and now I'm sure I was right about the identification.

Mulberries are one of the least appreciated trees out there.  If you are fortunate enough to have some of these in your area you can usually wild harvest these berries around now by either hand picking the berries or spreading out a sheet and shaking the tree until you have enough berries.  Either way you will want to remove any stems and such and afterward soak in water to get any bugs out. In my experience there are usually a lot of little bugs in the cracks, not harmful to eat in case you don't get them all though.

You can either eat them by themselves or like all berries add them to yogurt or bake them into a pie. If you have a favorite way to eat them let us know.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October Planting

October is a busy time of year for gardeners. Now's the time to plant a whole lot of stuff including the beloved garlic, a must for tasty garlic mashed potatoes (which should have been started last month but there's still time).

Other tasty ideas for planting are:

Beets - Always a favorite year round and can be pickled or cooked fresh.
Lettuce - Fresh lettuce from the garden is a treat and although you will probably buy it from the store in the summer is a great winter veggie.
Parsley - Why do you think it's in so many soups and stews. This will keep your belly happy and the rest of you healthy.
Collards - A mess of these with some chopped onion and seasoned to taste.
Carrots - You can almost always grow some carrots.

If you have a favorite veggie let us know.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


We all think about something a little different when someone mentions sunflowers.  Many of us think about summer days eating a handful of sunflower seeds while others may think of the huge flower heads growing in a neighbors yard.  They grow like weeds around here, possibly due to the abundance of people wanting to grow them for one reason or another.  When we went to harvest some in the wild a couple months back we found they were extremely sticky, not an image most of us would bring to mind but not it's what comes to mind first followed closely by eating a handful of seeds in the summer.

While sunflower season is nearly over here there are still occasional flower heads that you can see along the highway or in a field near the tree line.  I'm sure there were plenty of them this year that next year come summer we'll see even more of those bright flowers popping up all over the place and just in time to feed hungry little birds emerging from their nests.

If you are thinking about growing some of your own you can even choose a variety that is something besides yellow.  I know that it's the usual color we see but there are so many other varieties out there these days you might find one you just like the look of better.  As far as I can tell the seeds taste the same.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Harvest Season

Summer is nearly over and the harvest time is upon us.  One of the things I look forward to each year are the pears.  A friend of ours has a pear tree and doesn't like eating them himself so just yesterday he gave us a box, about 25 pounds, of pears.  We spent yesterday evening making pear butter and today I believe the wife is wanting to make a chutney or something of the sort.  We'll see how things go.  Many of the pears weren't quite ripe yet so we left them in the box to ripen.  It's cardboard so it should do nicely for ripening them up. After we get a few more ripe ones I'll have to make the chocolate pear tart, always a crowd pleaser.

Apples are also coming into the harvest season with quite a few already on the shelves.  Unfortunately I don't have an apple tree myself or know anyone who does.  I have seen some in the neighborhood though so if I planted one it would be sure to get some pollen.  Lots of crabapple trees too.  Of course when apples are plentiful then they get cheap and we're able to make all sorts of apple treats.  What fall would be complete without a good apple pie with some ice cream on top?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Blueberry Bushes

I don't think I watered quite enough for the blueberry bushes this year. I don't think they're dead but they sure don't like the heat that has come back.  We left for a few days and most of the leaves are now gone. The stems still look healthy though so I'm not giving up on them just yet. If this month is anything like a typical September then we should be getting some more cool weather coming soon which these guys will love.

Similarly the tea plant isn't happy about the heat but it looks pretty good still.  We'll see what happens this winter when it has to bear the cold and wind.

The tomato plants are still pretty happy though.  I thinned the weeds out of part of the bed but left quite a few just in case the heat came back, which it did.  Still have plenty of flowers and hopefully in a few weeks I'll have plenty of tomatoes.  The back beds have died back with little or nothing to show for them.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Heat Dies Down

Although the heat is on it's way out this is not the time to get lazy and let the garden go.  Watering is still very important if you want your garden to produce well this fall season.  It's a good time to plant new crops since the heat won't wither them when they come up.

A thorough weeding of the garden is a good idea too and needs to be kept up since the heat won't keep them down either.  It's now prime growing time and there isn't any time to loose.  Before you know it we'll be having cold snaps and harvesting of late vegetables before the first freeze.

If you're stuck on ideas of what to plant here's a few ideas:
Beans will grow quickly and can be harvested throughout November if you get them in the ground now.
Carrots will always be a good idea and can be harvested around the same time.
Winter squash and possible summer squash should do well.

This is also a good time to get an herb garden started if you don't have one already.  Many herbs will grow throughout the year but now is a good time to have them root well.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tomato Plants Still Producing in the Heat

We've all heard about the problem with tomato plants in the heat.  Once it gets in the 90's you can forget having any  more tomatoes on the vine for a while.
Well even in 100+ heat my tomato plants have laughed at that notion.  I didn't see it growing but a few days ago I went out to check on the garden and saw a hint of red low on the tomato plant.  I figured it must be some trash blown in on the wind since tomatoes don't produce in high heat.
After getting a closer look I was surprised to find a little tomato a little smaller than my fist, shiny and red.
The reason it grew was the bottom of the plant was protected by a bit of grass that has grown up in the garden, soon to be pulled once the temperatures drop into the low 90's again.

It's gone now though. I ate it...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)

This Chinese Evergreen is one of the easiest plants to grow.  I'm in charge of taking care of all of the office plants at work and this is the go to plant for replacements in a pinch.

That's about all there is to it even. Near the front we have some really big plants with lots of shoots on them. When I need one I just go over with a knife or other sharp instrument and cut off a shoot about a foot and a half long. Then I strip it down to about eight to ten leaves, stick it in the dirt, and water.  Within a week they start making good roots and thrive well.  I've done this several times where other plants just don't want to grow.

This is one plant you don't have to worry about if you give it a little much water either. You can nearly drown them in water and they just soak it up. The big plants up front get about a quart of water every other day. If you forget to water or have to go out of town they don't mind that too much either. Those same plants have gone without further watering for two weeks  with no fuss.

On the down side they don't like to get too tall. After a while the weight will pull them down and they will want to root again. When this happens though just cut the top off and root it somewhere else. It will replace it with new shoots.

Fore more recent activities see my posts on Growing Cacao in your office or home.  They make wonderful inside plants and are also fairly easy to grow.  Currently I have over 20 of them in various stages of growth.  With enough room and large enough pot you may even get your own cacao pods (seeds to make chocolate)!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Google Garden Group for North Central Texas

I've gone ahead and set up a group for North Central Texas Gardening. Hopefully this will get people who don't usually have a lot of time to read blogs to more easily share information on gardening in this more specific area.
This will be a member group to reduce spam posts from bots and hopefully we'll be able to get some good information on what to do from every day gardeners in the area.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August Planting

August is here and the heat is far from gone here in DFW.  Fortunately there are still lots of plants that can be either started or worked on for a nice fall garden.

I've already mentioned okra recently but we shouldn't forget carrots and squash at this time of year.  Carrots especially have a short growing time and you can expect a carrot harvest in a few months.  Winter squash is good to plant now too for a nice harvest.

If you already have tomato plants and they are nice and healthy then you can bend over some of those stems and cover with dirt to encourage more growth for a fall harvest.  I know some of my tomato plants are nearly four feet tall right now but aren't producing very will in the heat.  I've gotten a few tomatoes so far this year but a good fall harvest would make my gardening this year great. If you notice there are fine hairs on the stem of tomato plants.  These will pull in moisture from the air and if there is enough moisture either in the air of if they are buried then they will start to form roots.  They also detect disturbances and help release natural pest control. That's why when you mess with tomato plants too much you can smell the plant releasing these chemicals.

Remember to drink plenty of water while in the garden and use sensible sun protection methods.  You want to keep your plants and yourself from getting too hot or scorched.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pineapple Plants

I was sitting at my desk today looking at my pineapple plant and someone commented on how big it had gotten.  I look at it every day and so I hadn't really noticed.  It has gotten quite big though and parts of it tower over my head.  I have to watch it so I don't poke my eye on it when I walk past it but I frequently get my head poked with the sharp ends of the leaves.

The other one growing in the office seems to be getting crowded out by the other plants in the pot, which weren't growing all that well until it arrived.  I'm guessing that it's adding nutrients they like.

Still hoping for more runners on the first plant and I've already had a request for one of them if I get a bunch.  Not going to hold my breath though, I'd pass out.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Okra

If you haven't planted your okra yet don't worry. You still have plenty of time to get them started and producing before the end of summer. They'll grow nice and healthy as long as you keep them watered. The love the heat.
If you've never tried okra this is the year to do so. You can enjoy them in soups, pickled, fresh, fried or any other way you want to eat them. Being in the south I wouldn't be normal if I didn't like fried okra. You can fry them whole or cut up but either way they're pretty good. You can dip them in ranch dressing if you like or catsup.

Friday, June 7, 2013


We made tamales some time ago and were trying to remember exactly how long you're supposed to steam them for before taking them out. When we did it last we had some expert help, not Rachel Ray or Guy but an actual Hispanic friend who had been making tamales for her entire life, or at least as soon as she was able to roll them.
Among the myriad recipes they all seemed to be saying to steam the tar out of them (upwards of 2 and a half hours) until they set in the pot. Way back in the day this is exactly what my wife had done and the result was very flavorful water and tasteless tamales.  This is not the way to do it. The millions of innocent trusting web browsing individuals out there will find hundreds of sites saying it is and I can only hope that they will find this post and sigh with relief as they realize it isn't that hard.

To make Tamales:

You can use whatever filling you want as long as it isn't soupy. If you can wring liquid out of it by squeezing the filling in your hand, not a death grip but handshake hard, then it's too wet. If it's too wet add some more meat. the meat needs to stick together somewhat though so don't make it too dry either.

You will need to soak corn husks until pliable. Use about 6" wide husks with the ribs of the husk up and down. Tear off extra if needed. If it's too narrow then all you can do is toss it or tear it into strips if you want to tie the tamales for cooking (not absolutely necessary but doesn't hurt, we lost two last time because we skipped this step). Remove the husks from the water before you start. You don't want them wet, just pliable.

To make about 4 dozen tamales you need 3 lbs. of prepared masa. We used 2 whole chickens and made a verde sauce for the filing. We had enough left over for a sandwich.

To the masa add 1 cup or lard or shortening and 1 1/2 cups of broth. Mix until it's all incorporated. You can use your hands if you want to and unless you got a masa spreader you'll probably be using your hands to spread it anyway.

After you have your masa and filling ready, take the husks (dry but pliable) and spread the masa on from one edge to about 1 1/2 - 2 inches from the other side about 1/8 inch thick. Leave room on top and bottom for folding.
Add filling which will cover about a third of the masa in the middle length wise.
Roll up the meat in the husk from the side with the masa on it toward the other edge of the masa so that the remainin husk wraps around the tamale. Fold in the top and bottom and set on a tray folds down.
At this point you can tie the tamales so they don't open with corn husk strips.
Do this over and over until you're out of masa.
Carefully place the tamales in a tamale cooker and fill the voids with ceramic bowls or cups depending on the gaps. Don't pack too tightly but make sure the tamales are standing up. It may be best to put them in the pot when the pot is on it's side and funnel water to the bottom of the pot afterwards.

Here's the important part! On high get the water boiling. After the water starts to boil, steam the tamales for about 30 minutes. Don't over cook. Remove from the heat and let sit for a couple minutes so the steam can leave the pot before putting your hand in there. Remove the tamales from the pot and let them sit on a tray for about 20 - 30 minutes to set up. They will set up after being removed so don't worry about the texture immediately after removing them.

If all goes well you will have some pretty dull water and flavorful tamales.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Radish Crop

The radishes are bolting and making pods.  I don't really care for radishes particularly but they're easy to grow and the wife and others like them so they're in the garden.
The wife hadn't heard of anyone ever eating the pods even though they look like short green beans. I looked it up and sure enough you can eat them raw, cooked, pickled, or probably any which way you want. They are much like the root and I don't care much for them either. I'll stick to the green beans.  Although maybe if I mix the green beans with the radish beans... I migh thave something there. I'll have to try it.
We apparently have more than one kind of radish though. Not only are the pods different sizes but the flowers too aren't all the same color. They are at least all shades of purple though.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tomatoes a Plenty

Some of us have dared to plant a garden again this year even if their past attempts have gone awry.  If you are among them then you are probably pretty happy with the way the weather has cooperated so far.  Your tomatoe plants will probably look full and with quite a bit of fruit on them.
If you haven'd done so already it's not too late. You can still plant squash and beans.  Carrot is also one of those things you can plant nearly year round and expect some harvest or another.  So don't worry and get out your gardening gloves and trowel and go plant something.

If nothing else there should be a wide assortment of already started plants that will give you a head start in getting your garden looking great.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Butterflies Calling In Spring

Butterflies are one of those things everyone expects to see when spring comes around.  There's nothing like a warm spring day with a gentile breeze and a field of butterflies fluttering around.  I tried when I was very little to catch some in a little net.  I only caught a few but being so little I didn't realize how fragile they were.  I don't remember what I did exactly but I'm sure I should have been more careful.
We've been seeing a lot of butterflies recently, especially black swallowtails since we've purposefully put out plants they like to eat. Among these are dill, fennel, rue, and parsley.  I'm sure there are others but these are the most commonly known ones.
We've also seen other butterflies though, our dianthus and onion flowers seem to attract large yellow and white butterflies and a small grey one, respectively.  Who knows what other types may flutter by as more flowers open like our cone flower and the milkweed out back.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring Sprouts

We planted the back beds almost two weeks ago and already have quite a bit coming up.  Fortunately it rained while we were out of town and kept everything moist.
The chicken wire has effectively kept the cats out of the dirt.  They really don't like leaving things on top of the ground so when they realized they couldn't bury their oh so unwanted gifts they stopped leaving them.  The bean sprout is one of the more obvious ones since you can see the bean split on the plant.

The larger green sprouts are the beets and the smaller ones are the radishes.  The spiky sandy shoots are from the potatoes but won't make anything edible for a while whereas the beets and radishes could be eaten rather soon.
There are also some beets on the side of the house that are further along and could be used in a salad or possibly pulled and cooked.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Southern Flowers: Calla Lily

Calla lilies are a standard florist shops around the country but are easily grown in the south. We went to my grandparent's house in southwest Louisiana and on the north side of the house were some lovely callas  growing in a group.  My wife had to take pictures which came out lovely.
I've seen callas but these were twice the size I've seen from any florist.  This is of course one of the better times to find them fresh which is why you will often see them in spring arrangements.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Snow Peas in the Spring

The snow peas are still growing and have picked up a little but still no flowers.  It may be too late for them to really make any significant beans.  The water coming out of the hose is still ice cold though and may fool the plants into thinking winter is still here and help them produce a little but the warmer temperatures will more likely keep it from doing much.  Summer will be here before you know it and the best I can hope for then is to keep them alive until cooler weather can help them along again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Raised Beds in the Garden

We've been working for a few days now geting the raised beds ready for planting. We've removed most of the grass from the tiled area and entirely replaced the wood on the back bed.  The weather and bugs had reduced the wood to pulp and a few splinters.  the middle bed needs a little repair but will last the season and can be replaced next year or maybe in the fall.

After replacing the wood on the last bed we also  put chicken wire over the top to make it less desireable for the local cat population since newly tilled soil, especially soil that is still that sandy is often seen as a large litter box.  After we put down the wire we began planting sandy loving seeds and starters, mainly in the onion family.
We planted a whole corner with garlic from a few bulbs we  had lying around that were neededing to be replaced anyway.  We also planted onion seeds in about half of it.
Potatoes are also good in a sandy soil although they need more room. We planted a few in the back of the back bed and will see how they do.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Planting for Spring

Spring has sprung even if the plant store is a little more wary. We've already got plants in the ground and seeds from last year are already popping up and saying hi.

Among the returnnig plants are the dill, which has come up in a carpet in the area it was in last year and is already attracting the black swallow tail butterflies, and the cilantro or chinese parsley, which again doesn't want to grow in the planting beds but likes to stretch out and grow in the rocks.  I think this is partly due to the birds eating most of the seed they can see on the dirt and when they're in the rocks it's harder for the birds to get to them and swallow them up.

From the plants that come back from the root we have the purple cone flower, hollyhock, a wide variety of iris, daylily, ferns, a basil plant that just didn't want to die, lemongrass, fennel, and onion.

The survivors who stayed green and happy all winter were oregano, thyme, lavender, green onion, rosemary, the monster beet, and of course the live oak.

We've planted seeds, starting from north to south, for corn, bush beans, beets, carrots, onion, and radishes.

Plants we've put in as plants are tomato, thyme, and rue (near our rose bush out front).  So far everything seems to be acclimating well.  the tomatoes, which usually droop a little at first, never even tipped a leaf.  We actually planted two thyme plants, a lemon thyme next to the one that's finally acclimating well and a yellow leaf thyme out near the fennel.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Rain Barrels

There's been a lot of talk about rain barrels and what is and what isn't a good idea for them.
Most of what I read these days seems to be about how to make them atractive in your yard.  If you are so worried about how it looks that you never get around to actually getting any then you've already missed the point.
Personally I think if you have the chance to get rain barrels then you can worry about where to put them and how to decorate them later.  Right now the rainy season is starting and it's the perfect time to figure out placement of the barrels and of the collection point.  If you have rain gutters then using an existing down spout is perfect.  If there isn't a convenient one then you might have to divert the gutters elsewhere.  At my house there is a definite collection point that I can't move since it captures over half of the water that hits my roof and currently doesn't have a gutter.  It's nearly in the middle of my back yard but that's just where it has to be since moving it down near the fence would block the entry to the yard off from the side of the house.
I have obtained three 55 gallon plastic drums that can be connected, and were last year before cleaning the yard for the winter, by hoses.  It will be nice this summer when we need a constant source of water to keep things alive and don't want to run up the water bill or waste city water.  The garden will need much more than that really, last year about 500 gallons a month were used (about 16 gallons a day for all of the planting beds) and didn't keep up with the heat as well as I would have liked, but at least it helps.
If you need barrels you can get them at many stores these days or if you are cheap then you can contact car washes and usually get the old wax and soap barrels for free.  This method is not very reliable though and often takes a long time.  This is probably what I will do though for another 5-8 barrels rather than paying several hundred dollars for them.
On top of that I really need a consistant regimine of ice watering. This not only keeps water coming but cools the ground so there is less evaporation.  The coller ground also helps keep things lilke lettuce from bolting too soon.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Bed Preping Time

It's February and the wife has already picked out what she wants to plant for the spring.  First off though we need to prep the beds and get them ready for growing which sounds like a couple weekends of work.

The three beds in the back really need more sun and so I'm planning on finally getting rid of the youngish pecan tree in the back that's monopolizing all of the sun.  That also means summerizing the mirrors so we don't have too much sun bouncing back into the house or garden.  The pecan tree used to shade them so I didn't have to mess with them before.

On the table of things she wants to grow are:
Borage - We grew these years ago and they come up pretty well.
Carrots - Another easy grower. Maybe we'll get normal sized carrots this time.
Leeks - Last time we tried leeks we just planted the bottoms of the ones from the store, didn't do so well.  We'll see if seed leeks are any better.
Onions - I don't know if we're doing starters or seeds but either way should work well.
Celery - Another one we tried to root from the market recently.  It's still green but no roots have formed yet.  We're going to try this one from seed too.
Beet - We've done really well with beets and i don't expect this coming year to be any different.
Cucumber - As long as we keep these watered well all through the summer they'll be fine.

Past that she wants some flowers.  If our lemon grass doesn't make it through the season we're probably getting one of those too.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Harvesting Saffron

Harvesting saffron is time consuming and can be a test of patience.  I've looked as several sources but there doesn't seem to be an agreement on when saffron is supposed to flower.  Some say it flowers in the fall, some say in the spring and others say it flowers both times.  I can say for certain that mine does flower in the fall since that's when it flowered for me but I have yet to see it at all in the spring since I planted it this year and last spring it wasn't in my yard.
Unfortunately I only had one flower show up.  Again sources are divided as to how long it takes new plantings to flower but I hope more flowers will follow this early bloom.
After harvesting, large batches are heated on a very low temperature, sometimes dried in the sun or over a candle.  I can only guess that this preserves the flavor and color while preventing it from deteriorating from the moisture.  Since I only got three threads I didn't bother yet worrying what to do with them.
All of the bulbs seem to have divided and I might have do dig some of them up and replant so they aren't so crowded and can keep dividing. This will probably be a summer project when they go dormant.