Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Last Harvest

Three or four days of 27 degree nights have killed all of the summer vegetable  in the garden.  I was really hoping the eggplants would hold on for one more week until my mom got here for Thanksgiving, but they died the first night.  I pulled them off - maybe we can still eat them.  There are a bunch of green tomatoes left on the plants.  I left them there.  I also have three small pumpkins which I don't know what to do with (one was just showing a tinge of orange) and a couple of freebie potato plants.  I don't know whether to pull the potatoes or not...

My asparagus plants are still going strong.  The freebie cilantro is a carpet in the ground.  My three or four lettuce plants and one cauliflower are still doing well, as are the four or five broccoli plants.  One of the broccoli has a nice head of broccoli on it.  I really am hoping it holds on until my mom gets here on Sunday, but it is starting to look like it will open and bloom any day now.  One other broccoli plant has a teeny tiny head appearing.  The rest show nothing.  Some of them were eaten up pretty badly by caterpillars.  But strangely enough, the one showing the teeny tiny head was the one most eaten up. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Garden update

My garden is struggling along.  I'd hoped for better results, but I have been disappointed

Tomatoes:  After having babied my tomatoes through the hot summer, I expected them to take off in the fall.  They have done okay, but they have not set any fruit.  All in all, the tomatoes this year have been a huge disappointment.  Of the four non-cherry varieties that I planted, I think I have pulled only one tomato off in total :o(

Eggplant:  I planted the eggplant too close to the tomatoes, and it was shaded all summer.  With some of the top foliage dying on the tomatoes, the eggplant finally started flowering, and I have one eggplants starting to ripen!

Jalapenos:  The jalapenos have been doing great!  But, what to do with them?  I have pulled over a dozen off of the two plants.   Finally, I discovered the job of jalapeno poppers.  Now, when I get five to ten ripe, I stuff them with cream cheese, wrap them in bacon and yum!!!  The one success from my fall garden. :o)

Pumpkins:  The pumpkins were doing great.  I even had three growing on the vine.  But they have all contracted some nasty fungus, and I have a feeling they are all going to die.  They look pretty sad.

Cucumbers:  Dave planted a bunch of pickling cucumber seeds... maybe a little late in the season.  But we've been watering and watching.  We pulled the first cucumber off the vine this weekend, and there are a bunch of tiny ones just waiting to grow... It is now a race against the clock, whether they will be ready before the first frost.

Cilantro:  Once again, this freebie plant is springing up everywhere.  Pretty cool actually, and the one thing that seems to grow in my garden easily!

Lettuce and Spinach:  The spinach I planted a month or so ago is doing well.  It hasn't gotten very big, so I have only taken a little off of it.  Last week, I also planted some more lettuce beside it.

Broccoli:  My broccoli was eaten up by caterpillars.  I realized what was going on after the bugs had made it through half of my plants.  I started hand picking them off, and that seems to have stopped the pillage, but the damage has already been done.  I have one broccoli plant that has a teeny tiny broccoli head coming up.  Nothings from the others.  I am hoping that they will recover from being eaten and still produce...

Freebie potatoes:  I have two or three freebie potato plants growing.  They seem to be doing well, but again, it will be a race against the frost to see if they actually produce anything.

That is about all.  I have this big full garden, but it really isn't producing much :o(  but at least I am learning a little bit every year :o)


The Celeste, planted in the back yard
This summer, a friend gave Martha a bag of figs.  Not knowing what to do with them, she gave a pile to us.  I am always up for trying somethings new.  But also not knowing what to do with them, I googled for a recipe, and found one for fig bars.  

I made a batch, and they were so good, that I used the rest of the figs making a second batch.  In the meantime, the kids realized they also loved eating the figs plain as well.

This whole experience made Dave and I consider growing a fig tree.

Natural Gardener recently sent around an email saying now is the best time in Central Texas to plant trees, so we thought we'd give it a try.

Natural Gardener had three varieties: Celeste, Alma and LSU Purple.  Not being a big fan of LSU, we immediately turned toward the other two :o)  But we couldn't decide.  The bag of figs we had over the summer actually included twp different types of figs.  We found that we liked the small green ones better than the big purple ones... I think.  Or maybe I am getting it backwards!

Anyway, the description on Alma sounded like it has tastier fruit, but was susceptible to hard freezes.  Celeste was more cold tolerant.  Dave convinced me to purchase both.

The Alma, planted on the south side
Tomorrow is forecasting 80% chance of rain, so we planted both varieties today.

We put the Celeste in the back yard. and tucked the Alma on the south side of the house where it will get the morning sun, but be protected against cold winds. 

Alma: Medium sized fruit; High quality, rich, sweet flesh with a light tan color and few seeds; "unattractive" green to brown skin; Moderately closed eye is sealed with honey like resin that resists souring and resist the dried fruit beetle; Moderately vigorous, very productive and early; Fruit eaten fresh or processed.  Needs protection from hard freezes.

Celeste:  Small to Medium sized fruit; Mid to late June; Firm juicy rich, sweet, while flesh, sharing to rose in the center; Purple-brown skin; tightly closed eye resists souring and the dried fruit beetle; Large vigorous tree; very productive; Excellent for fresh eating and preserves.  The most cold hard of all Texas varieties.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pumpkins and spinach

Last week, we spent a lot of time in the garden, pulling up weeds -- mostly sedge.  For a large swath, we went through and dug a huge hole, and then sifted through the dirt, pulling out any sedge.  Hopefully this will make a dent in the weeds in our garden.

With the now clear spots, I went to Natural Gardener, thinking I cold put in some sweet potatoes and tomatoes.  The salesperson there said i was too late for sweet potatoes :o( and then gave me such detailed instructions on how to baby the tomatoes through the summer, that I fled in fear :o)

She did recommend a variety of warm weather spinach, that seemed easy enough, and I picked up some pumpkin seeds.

They say to plant Halloween pumpkins on July 4th.  I've tried this before, never to any luck, but I thought I'd try again.  I bought three different varieties.

Renee's Garden Carving & Pie Pumpkins: SpookieThree different mounds of these

Crayon color: red

Days to germinate: 7 - 10 (July 15 - 17)
Days to harvest: Approx 85 - 90 (Oct 8 )

Renee's Garden Baby Pumpkins: Mini Jack
Two different mounds of these

Crayon color: yellow and orange

Days to germinate: 7 - 10

Days to harvest:  80 - 85 (Oct 1)

Renee's Garden Pumpkin: Big Max
One mound

Blue crayon

Days to germinate: 7 - 14 days (July 15 - 21)

Days to harvest: 120 (Nov 8th)

I had such luck with the lettuce I planted in the winter, that I thought I'd go ahead an try this.  That and I had just spent a couple bucks buying baby spinach at the grocery, so i thought, hey, why not ;o) 

Variety: New Zealand Spinach from lonestarnursery.com.  Very old heirloom.  Tropically perennial/temperately annual.  Does not bolt in hot weather.  High vitamin C: 60 days

Monday, June 30, 2014

A few new plants

I bought a few new plants this week to fill in some empty holes.  Unklike most purchases, I did not research what plants I wanted and pick only Texas natives that wold do well in Austin... I just went to Home Depot and picked up things that plucked my fancy.  These types of purchases generally don't do well for me, but I only spent $30, so I guess it is okay :o)

Dianthus Allwoodii Sarah
There was a big blank space left over from my deceased Black Foot Daisy.  I purchased two Dianthus Allwoodii Sarah.  I really just wanted to replace it with another blackfood daisy, but Home Depot didn't have any, so I just picked these up.  No idea how they'll do.

Salvia Farinacea Henry Duelberg
While at Home Depot, I saw a plant that I have seen around the neighborhood and loved:  Salvia Farinacea Henry Duelberg.  And it was on sale, for $7, so I bought it.  I didn't really have any idea how I was going to use it, but I went ahead and planted it in the north fence bed between the Bottlebrush and Esperanza.  Again, no idea how it will do.  BUt a quick google search indicates it is a Texas Native and needs little care.  So of my purchase, this guy may be the winner!

Ixora Maur Red
And my last purchase was to fill an empty spot in the front door bed.  I've planted all sorts of stuff there.  Nothing really does very well.  So I just planted this because it will look pretty for a short while.  I fully expect it to perish!  So I am thinking of it as more of a 'decoration'.  It is an Ixora "maui red" shrub.  In fact, a quick google search indicates:

Some plants are very temperature sensitive and require conditions not found in central TX. They grow beautifully in Zone 10 or higher, but not well in our climate and environment. I have not had success growing many of these well in Austin yet they are seen at local nurseries every year.

So I will enjoy it for the summer - or maybe just July :o)

Saturday, June 7, 2014


We have gotten the most amazing harvest of peaches this year. We think it is because of the late frost oddly enough, and the slight higher than usual amount of rain.  We probably should have culled some of the peaches earlier, as the amount of peaches has heavily weighed down the lower branches.

At this point, we've pulled out at least three buckets of peaches.  We have eaten the fresh, made peach cobbler and given them away.  I am just now making my second batch of cobbler, and Dave thinks we have at least two or three more buckets to gather!

We even had a few peaches go bad before we could eat them!  

Monday, May 26, 2014

A bountiful harvest

Today we picked: 25 onions, 7 red potatoes, 18 little brown potatoes, 2 carrots, 1 zucchini, 2 cherry tomatoes and 1 peach! 

I almost feel like a gardener ;o

Planted:  March 16th
First Harvest: May 26th
Total harvested so far: 1

The onion tops had all fallen over about two weeks ago.  Dave was making spaghetti sauce, and lamented that we were out of onions.  So, I ran to the garden and picked two onions.  The first one I picked was sort of small, but the other was perfect!  I have slowly been harvesting them since then, and pulled out the last onions today.  Some are very small, and some are a little smaller than grocery store size.  What I learned was the size of the stalk seems to have little to do with the size of the onion attached to it.

According to the direction I have, I need to let them air for a day or two, and then store them in a dark cool place.  We'll see how that goes.

Planted:  February 1st
First Harvest: I can't remember - weeks ago
Total harvested so far: maybe a dozen?

The radishes are done.  Some of them were pretty small, so I let them stay in the ground longer.  Turns out, once they get to a certain size, I guess the root part stops growing, and they put their energy into the flower and stalk.  Note for later, pull them earlier.  The last few I pulled I threw away because they had gotten a little gnarly.

Planted:  February 1st
First Harvest: May 26th
Total harvested so far: 2
In pulling out the onions, I noticed that two carrots had a little orange showing near the top.  So we pulled them today.  They are definitely shorter than grocery store size.  The other thing I learned was I need to plant more, and spread them out waaaaay more.  In all, i probably only will get three or four carrots in total.  But still fun!

Red Potatoes
Planted:  February 15th
First Harvest: May 26th
Total harvested so far: 7

Rat Potatoes
Planted:  February 15th
First Harvest: May 26th
Total harvested so far: 26

I had to idea what to expect here.  Since we were pulling up the onions and carrots, I told Kyle we could try one potato plant.  He tugged and tugged on the plant, and got the stalk, but no potatoes.  Hmm, maybe none grew.  I dug down, and did find one potato!  How exciting!  And it was big, so we decided to pull up another, but this time, we dug down with a shovel to try and pull up the roots... and dug right into a huge potato, and then found another, and another.  Then we went back to the original potato and dug around and found one or two more.

I still don't know the ideal way to harvest potatoes without nicking them as I go.  But I still have lots of potato plants left in the ground.  From just pulling up four or five plants, I harvested 7 red potatoes and 18 little brown potatoes.  I'm thinking I am going to have more potatoes than we can eat.

Or maybe not!  Dave cubed up one of the red potatoes and browned it in butter for hashbrowns, and we all gobbled it up in about a minute, and the kids were begging for more!!

Cherry Tomatoes
Planted:  March 16th
First Harvest: May 24th
Total harvested so far: 3

So, I apparently purchased a variety of yellow cherry tomato. (Looking back at my notes, that must be the Yellow pear - guess I should have figured out they'd be yellow!)   I have picked three cherry tomatoes so far, and there are many more on the plant.  i should be getting a pile in a week or so.  The other tomatoes still are a few weeks before those get red -- probably right when we go away on vacation -- figures ;o)

Planted:  March 16th
First Harvest: May 26th
Total harvested so far: 1

I harvested my first zucchini today.  This is the only one growing, but I have blooms on many others.  It will be a race whether they can grow before the squash vine borer gets it this year!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Picking onions!

On January 18th, I planted a bunch of onions.  My first attempt at growing them.

Five months later, some of them seem large enough to pick.  I noticed that a few had bulges coming up out of the ground, and many of the stalks had fallen over - which I believe is a sign of time to harvest.

So, earlier this week, we were out of onions and I needed on for a recipe, so I went out and picked one of the bulging ones.  They are smaller than grocery store onions, but plenty large enough for cooking!

And they taste great :o)

I would definitely try these again.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The difference a year makes

So, I was updating my journal about this year's beds, and dropped into last year's notes to compare.  And it turns out I had taken photos just a day earlier. 

April 5th, 2014

We had a very cold winter, and a much later frost than usual this year.  On March 3rd, we had a low of 24 and then our last frost was on March 4th with a low of 30.  And low temperatures, even when not freezing, were far below normal.

As you can see from the photo below, by this time last year, everything was in bloom.

Now, on the plus side, a closer look at my Damianita (which has grown quite a bit since last year!) has yellow tips at the end of every branch, and I have a few white rose buds just popping out.  I think it another two weeks, this bed may look a little more like the one below!

April 4th, 2013

Thursday, April 3, 2014

My new side bed

And now I have just finished putting 6 bags of mulch on the new side bed.  

Due to the unusually cold winter, I have unfortunately lost some of my new bushes... but some unexpected fighters have survived!

It's dead, Jim!

My bottlebrush is probably dead.  The optimist in me has not given up yet, but I see absolutely no sign of life.  After the first 27 degree low, this plant was looking only half alive. I kept covering it up, but even the last bits of life were lost mid-winter.  I really did love this plant and looking around the neighborhood, I see a bunch of other bottlebrushes that took a heavy hit, but are still alive.  So, I'll see if maybe I can get another one established, and making take a little more care with it on really cold days.

Another one bites the dust
Another plumbago has bit the dust.  No big surprise here, though this guy did hang on for two years and a transplant.  I have killed more of these plants than I care to remember.  At least two maybe three in the porch bed, and this is at least my second in this bed.  But I just love this guy, so I'm going to try again.  This time, I am going to purchase the biggest plumbago I can find, and see if I can't get him established.   But I promise myself, if I kill this one, it will be my last!

And my duranta in the porch planter has died.  I really love this plant, but keeping it is a planted may not be the best plan.  I think I am going to purchase another one and put it somewhere along my side bed.

I will survive!!

On the bright side, my dwarf pomegranate shows signs of life.  This year, instead of cutting it back to three inches as recommended in one of my books, I decided to leave it intact.  He looked kind of messy during the winter, but just this week, I have seen branches that looked incredibly dead spring to life.  I'll keep my eye on it to see how much it recovers!  But I'm thrilled that it shows some life!  That has got to be better than recovering from 3 inch stalks, right?

And I have been looking and looking for signs of life in my American Beautyberry. And just today, when I was mulching, I found this itty bitty sprig of green attached to the base of the plant!  It's alive!!!

And then, while mulching, I had two total surprises.  

Last year, mom and I planted two white phloxes by the bird bath.  They didn't make it through the hot summer, which wasn't all that surprising.  What was surprising was when they both came up this spring?!?  Looking better than ever! Yay!!

And my two to three year old tropicanna, that I replanted last spring is also showing signs of life.  Truth is, it also died during the heat and drought, and I had completely forgotten it, until I was laying down the mulch, and found its pretty little red head sticking up!  Yay again!!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Garden is planted!! Let the vegetables begin!

I have just finished mulching the vegetable garden.  Most everything has been planted, and all of the seeds that are going to come up have come up!

Doesn't it look pretty.  Last year I discovered the joys of mulch:  it significantly reduced my weeding.  So this year I mulched over the whole bed.

Planted this year, in the back corner, one cantaloupe and one watermelon. I know, I rarely more than one melon per year, but I just have to try!

Cucumber Update
I planted lots of cucumbers.  I planted three varieties of seeds (see previous post) and then, when nothing came up, I purchased two of the Homemade Pickle cucumbers as plants as well.

Of the seeds I planted, a few of them have come up.  Perhaps the soil temperature was still a bit too cold when I first palnted them?

As of right now, both of the Armenian Burpless piles have just come up, two of the Homemade pickle have risen (one didn't) and none of the English cucumber :o(

Of the plants, one is going strong, and the other has been eaten by something, and is barely hanging on.  

The instructions I had for potatoes said to cover them up with dirt - and that the potato grows from the base of the plant downward, so if you don't cover them up, they won't grow.  

So that is what I did.  The plants look beautiful!!  No idea about the roots :o)

The Tatuma (Calabacita) have not come up at all.  I think I am going to try again.  I only dug a teeny tiny hole and dropped the seed in.  I think next time I am going to dig a deep hole, and then process the soil, and then put in the seed.

But, the container zucchini are just starting to come up!

I also relented and purchased two zucchini plants - the poor squash vine borer can't go hungry, can he?

My instructions for asparagus also said I should start covering them up.  The last time I did that, the shoot died.  But a) I might have started to early, so i waited until they were a little bigger this time and b) with all of the frosts, the death may have had nothing to do with my covering them up.

So i went ahead an starting piling dirt around the tallest of the shoots.  Please don't die!

As of right now, I have a total of 17 of the 40 crowns that are alive.  At this point, I think the other 23 are goners... but hey, 17 is better than non.  You have to start somewhere!

Everything is going along pretty well!  With the tiny bit of rain, and watering every other day, things seem to be working!  

But, as of right now, the only thing we're eating are lettuce and radishes.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Planting vegetables

I planted the first of the spring vegetables today.  It may be too early, as I am not sure the soil temperature has warmed to 65 degrees.

I planted five tomatoes.  Unfortunately, I seem to have thrown away the labels, so I don't exactly remember what I planted.  I decided to try some heirlooms this year.  At the strong recommendation of a fellow shopper, I purchased two Black Krim.  The same shopped also recommended Yellow pear as a variety of cherry tomato. I purchased one other kind, and honestly can't remember what it was.  And one of the plants I purchased seemed to have two in the same pot, so I seperated them and planted each.  

Beside the tomatoes I planted two jalapeno pepper plants.  I'm not sure why I planted two.  I really like to plant one jalapeno and one bell pepper.  I might go back and get a bell pepper (even though I am the only one who eats them!)

I usually plant tomatillos from seed, but I noticed two lone plants hidden among the tomatoes.  The cost of the two small plants was only slightly more than a package of seeds, so I decided to cut to the chase and purchase the plants.  My goal this year is to learn how to use these guys in salsa.  

Along the front and side fence I planted three different varieties of cucumber from seeds.  I designated them by crayon color.  The light green is the English Cucumber from Renee's Garden.  The red crayon is the Homemade Pickles from Botanical Interests and the Blue crayons are Aremenian Burpless from Botanical Interests.  I planted three or so of each variety.  I am hoping to get out there and plant three more of the pickling kind this week.  Dave is dying to make some pickles, and wants a big harvest at one time!

I spoke at length with someone from Natural Gardener, and she gave me some suggestions,


I was in the seed aisle, and speaking to a rather informed salesperson who helped me select some varieties of cucumbers.  Idly, I tlkd her about my frustration of only getting a harvest of two from zucchini before the squash vine borer killed it.  She recommended I try two different varieties.  First, she suggested the Tatuma (Calabacita) from Botanical Interests.  She said this winter squash was very similar to a summer squash if picked early, and could replace zucchini in any recipe. 

She also recommended the Container Zucchini (Astia) from Renee's Garden.  She said if you move the pot around, the beetle borer couldn't find it.  She also siad the plant was really cute.  I thought for $1.59 I'd go ahead and give it a try :o)

I intend to also go back and get some seeds for the regular Zucchini and plant two of those as well.  I'm not sure when or where I am going to plant these suckers yet, though...

My winter garden still seems to be doing fairly well.  

I have a bunch of potatoes that have just started to come up.  

My lettuce is doing very well, though Kyle said the last bunch was starting to taste bitter.  It may be because we were gone for a week, and the outer leaves have gotten old.

My onions are all looking very good.  I have no idea how to know when I should pick them! Okay, I just looked on the internet and it seems like 50-60 days after planting the onions sets.  I should watch the the onions stalks to start to fall over and turn yellow.  When 80% of them have fallen over, I pull up my first one. Based on my planting date of February 15th, I'm thinking in the next two weeks I might try pulling one up!

I do still have a few asparagus stalks, but they all look rather spindly and sad.  I'll try to keep them alive this year, and plant some new stalks next year as well.

After a nice rain the other day, I went out and counted, and noticed and number of the crowns have put up second stalks.  Hopefully the second stalks will do better than the first.  I think I need to water them more?  Right now, I have around 14 stalks up.  A small number compared to the 40 I planted, but better than nothing for a first try!

I have seen nothing from this guy since I planted him.  I'm thinking he's dead. Maybe I can try again next year.


My free cilantro is still going great guns.  This guys is crazy, producing waaaay more cilantro then even I can eat.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A very late freeze

We have had a very cold front come through this weekend.  Temperatures down to 24 last night and a low tonight of 31.

I'm thinking all of my plants are probably not going to make it.  I had quite a few shoots coming up :o(

At one point I had 12 asparagus shoots come up.  A few died (I don't know why) soon after emerging.  I'm guessing the few remaining soldiers will have passed last night.

Ah well, maybe I'll try asparagus again next year.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Getting the North bed ready for spring!

It is still February, but the days are getting a bit warmer.  Natural Gardener keeps telling us that the average last day of frost is tomorrow (February 23rd)

I spent some time this week getting my north porch bed ready for spring.

I pruned back my Knockout Rose.  I didn't quite make the Valentine's Day deadline, but I did make it out there on February 17th, so I was pretty close!

I am getting bolder and bolder with this plant, since I have pruned him back many times, and it only seems to make him prettier.

I wish I had taken a before picture, because I pruned him back to at least a third the size he was before. I have two goals, one to keep him from getting too big from the bed, but also I want the other two rose bushes to catch up in size with him.

I also cut the ruellia back, removing all the dead leaves. In past warmer years, these plants have weathered through the winter (I think?), but with multiple days with a low of 27 or so, they just couldn't hang on.  I'm curious to see if they are dead, or just dormant.

Speaking of the other two rose bushes, I pruned back the middle, miniature rose bush as well, but the far one I was hesitant to prune.  I wasn't really even sure it was alive, and it only had one branch with a few leaves clinging to it.  I decided maybe now wasn't the time to prune.


I came out just a few days later and found every branch bursting to life with leaves!

I also pruned back my salvia.  I pruned it back for the first time last year, and it seemed to make the plant bloom more, and make it prettier in the bed.  Reading online, I read that February is the right year to prune this guy, so I gave it a pretty heavy pruning, cutting it back about a third in size (2/3 of the previous size), and removing what looked like deadwood.  We'll see how it does in a few months.

You can also see my dwarf pomegranate in the back.  I have always pruned this guy back after the first freeze.  But i have always wondered if I didn't prune it back, if those branches might bloom.  So I've left it au natural, and we'll see in the next few months where the new growth comes.

And in cleaning up the bed, I found that my day lily is just starting to put up new shoots.  How exciting!  I've never worked on the beds this early in spring, so it has been fun to discover these brand new growths!

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