Week 35 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

The bad part about the last time is you seldom realize it is the last time.  A couple of months ago my Aunt Sarah gave my wife and I a stack of pot holders.  That was not unusual.  For the past twenty years or so she has crocheted pot holders constantly.  She gave them to everyone she met.  Sally and I (and all of our kids) have drawers full of Aunt Sarah’s pot holders.  This Tuesday, her crocheting days came to an end.  I am deeply saddened by the loss of the woman that is most responsible for making me a gardener. Sarah Louise Chandler (Feb. 28, 1928-Aug. 25, 2015) was an amazing and accomplished woman who taught me the love of gardening.  She also made the best pickled beets, oyster pie and coconut pie in the world and she could crochet a pot holder for her doctor while waiting for him to see her!

I learned so many things from my Aunt Sarah.  Her passing leaves a big hole in my heart!  May God grant her eternal rest and let his perpetual light shine upon her!

I learned so many things from my Aunt Sarah. Her passing leaves a big hole in my heart! May God grant her eternal rest and let his perpetual light shine upon her!

Vegetables

  • Continue planting seeds – In my area the average first frost date is Nov 16. Because of that this is the about the last weekend to plant anything that takes 75 days or more to mature.  You can still plant green beans, lima beans and black eyed peas and summer squash.
  • Get ready to plant Sugar Snaps-Sugar snap peas are an American made improvement on European green peas. These peas can take more heat than their English cousins.  Because of this you can plant them here in September.  If you have never grown this amazingly tasty and productive pea you really need to try it this fall
  • It is time to set out transplants – September 1 is the time to plant your transplants. While it is probably a little late for tomato transplants , it is the perfect time to put out broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and other brassicas.
  • Mulch – Many of the transplants you put out now will be producing when the first freeze comes. Deep mulch will insulate the roots and help these plants survive the light freezes that we typically receive in late November and early December
broccoli

Broccoli is my favorite fall vegetable. Plant it from transplants now and it will produce for you until spring.

Ornamentals

  • Plant, plant, plant – Fall arrived this past Tuesday. I know this for two reasons.  First, we got a nice rain that encouraged my first oxbloods of the season to bloom. Second, the nurseries and big box stores are full of marigolds, vincas, chrysanthemums and croton.  All of these are great fall choices for your beds or pots.
  • Prune roses – There are two times of the year to prune roses-Valentine’s Day and Labor Day. There are different types of roses and they all have different pruning requirements.  Check out this great article from Heirloom Roses about how to properly prune your roses this fall.  http://www.heirloomroses.com/care/pruning
Mike Shoup knows a few things about roses.  He is the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium.  He uses shears to prune "Old Blush" every fall

Mike Shoup knows a few things about roses. He is the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium. He uses shears to prune “Old Blush” every fall

Trees and Lawns

  • Fertilize your grass – September is time for the final fertilizing of the year. While all feedings are important the final feeding will help establish a thick root system that will help the grass survive through the winter.
  • Plan your fall plantings – Fall is the time to plant shrubs, ornamental trees and fruit trees. While it is still a little early to plant (in my opinion) now is the perfect time to shop and plan for the trees and shrubs you will plant next months.
  • Prepare perrenials for transplant-if you have trees or shrubs that you need to move this fall begin watering them deeply and regulary to make sure they are fully hydrated for their move
  • Continue to baby your pecans! – The shells of pecans are beginning to fill with fruit. Keep your pecan trees well watered to ensure your best possible crop
Fall is the best time of the year to plant or transplant trees and shrubs

Fall is the best time of the year to plant or transplant trees and shrubs

 

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Week 34 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

Well, I learned an expensive lesson today.  If you water your black gumbo yard for 23 hours it still will not close up the cracks that the July and August heat have made!  Yep!  I ran the sprinkler ALL DAY,  And yes, my wife asked me if I had turned off all of the water before we went to bed last night.  Oh well, live and learn.  At least I know my trees and primrose jasmine are now DEEPLY watered as they head into fall.

Even though it is hot and dry, this is going to be a great weekend in the garden.  Forecast says highs in the low to mid 90s with a chance of showers. So start early, drink lots of fluids and get a big part of your fall garden in the ground.

Provide ample fertilizer and water to any veggies that are still producing

Provide ample fertilizer and water to any veggies that are still producing

Vegetables

  • Remove old mulch and burn it – I use spoiled hay to mulch my vegetable garden. Regardless of what you mulch with you will need to remove any that is left and bag it or burn it.  Do not put it in the compost.  Spent mulch is full of bug eggs and larvae.  A warm compost pile is the perfect place for garden pests to over winter
  • If its growing, feed it – I still have okra, purple hulls and tomatoes growing in my garden. This weekend is a great time to feed them.  Side dress with finished composed or give them a foliar application of fish emulsion or other water soluble product.  If using commercial fertilizers apply a high nitrogen blend at a rate of 1 cup for ten feet of row
  • Plant potatoes – You can plant potatoes now. It is better to plant small, whole potatoes, as opposed to cut up pieces, in the fall.  The extremely warm soil will rot potato pieces that are not thoutoghly scabbed.
yellow-canna

Cannas are great, heat tolerant plants that bloom all throughout the summer.

Ornamentals

  • Weed, feed, water and mulch – August is a tough time on existing plants and a tough time for establishing new bedding plants. Take advantage of slower growth rates to remove tough weeds like Bermuda.  Once an area is weeded, sprinkle a little fertilizer, mulch and water.  Water every three or four days.  This will get your beds in prime shape for planting later in the month

Trees and Lawns

  • Baby your pecans! – The shells of pecans are beginning to fill with fruit. Keep your pecan trees well watered to ensure your best possible crop
  • Cut out bag worms – If you see bag worms forming in your trees, cut them out before they get too big. If you have missed them and you have a large mass, use your long handled pruners to open up the webs to encourage the birds to come in and clean up larvae
  • Be on the lookout for chinch bugs – August is prime time for chinch bugs. While chinch bugs can definitely do a lot of damage to St. Augustine lawns, they can be controlled if caught early.  My buddy Randy Lemmon (host of Garden Line on KTRH) has a great article about how to identify and treat them.  Click here to learn more.

Pecans are filling their shells with fruit right now so keep your trees well watered!

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Week 33 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

As I write this I am sitting on an incredibly comfortable 75 degree back porch in Oklahoma City.  Sally and I came north to spend a little time with our grandson (and his parents).  Since this weekend is the official kick off of the Fall garden season I will be driving back on Saturday so I can begin planting my garden in the 100+ temperatures that we are expecting this weekend.

Roger and I having a little fun while mom and Nana do a little shopping

Roger and I having a little fun while mom and Nana do a little shopping

Vegetables

  • Plant the following from seed – While it is still too hot for transplants, there are many things you can plant this weekend from seed. Below is what I will be planting (don’t forget to check our planting calendar to get a complete list of what you can plant from seed this weekend):
    • Green Beans
    • Black eyed peas
    • Beets
    • Carrots
    • Kale
    • Collards
    • Mustard Greens
    • Squash (both summer and winter varieties)
    • Chard
    • Lima Beans
  • Prepare beds for transplants – By September 1 you can plant most transplants. Get your beds ready now by removing all weeds, rebuilding the row or beds and then applying a deep layer of compost.  Once this is done mulch heavily and begin watering on a regular basis
  • Plant tomato transplants ASAP – I know I said wait until September 1 to plant transplants, but tomatoes are an exception. Plant them as soon as they show up in stores.  Most tomatoes take so long to mature that you need to get them in the ground now if you want red fall tomatoes.  Baby them!  Give them a little shade cloth, lots of water and mulch heavily with finished compost.  Then feed them with liquid fertilizer.  Fall tomatoes need to establish quickly and start putting on flowers early in the fall season.
Now is the time to spend money on compost.  Everything in your Fall garden will benefit from the addition of compost

Now is the time to spend money on compost. Everything in your Fall garden will benefit from the addition of compost

Ornamentals

  • Prepare beds for fall – Flower beds need the same work as the vegetable garden. Remove weeds now.  Fertilize heavily with finished compost and mulch.  Begin watering regularly to encourage fall blooming bulbs to sprout
  • Plant from seed – This weekend is a great time to plant more zinnias, cockscomb, marigolds and sunflowers from seed
  • Plant from transplant – While it is too hot to plant transplants in the vegetable garden, garden beds that get some shade can receive several great transplants. Some of my favorites are pentas and angelonia
  • Refresh potted plants. If summer has zapped the plants in your pots I recommend redoing them.  Throw away spent plants and soil.  Replace with a high quality planting mix that has perlite or other water holding components.  When watering in plants use a water soluble fertilizer mixed to 50% of package recommendations.  Some of my favorite fall potted plants are coleus and portulaca
coleus-potted-plant

Coleus and portulaca are some of my favorite potted plants

Trees and Lawns

  • Prepare trees and shrubs for transplant – if you have a tree or shrub that needs to be moved, now is the time to start getting ready. The larger the tree or shrub is the more preparation it needs.  Start giving it a slow, soaking watering every third day.  This will assure the plant is full hydrated before its move
  • Continue to water trees and shrubs deeply – If your trees or shrubs are shedding leaves now there is a good chance they are suffering root stress. It has been very hot lately.  This is very hard on young trees and woody perennials.  Mulch heavily, water deeply and regularly and feed with a slow release fertilizer.

 

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Week 32 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

sunflower-arrangement

A lovely sunflower and gomphrena arrangement in our little guest cottage that we call “The Nest”. Photo by Natalie Lacy Lange

Last night Sally and I came home to every Texan’s worst August nightmare; our air conditioner was out!  Thank goodness for our little guest house!  While watching the news from the air conditioned comfort of our little cottage I caught the forecast for next week.  They are saying it is going to be 105 and 106 on Monday and Tuesday.  That should motivate you to get out there this weekend and get your garden ready for the fall planting (since it is only going to be 101 on Saturday and Sunday).  You will want to get as much done as possible while it is still cool!

cucumber-seeds

It is time to order your seeds for the Fall garden. Check out Patty’s Variety List and Seed Sources on the sidebar.

Vegetables

  • Order seeds now – With only two or three weeks left before the Fall planting season begins, you need to place your seed orders ASAP. Patty Leander has created two great guides that will tell you the best varieties for Central Texas and where to find them.  Click on the links below to read her Vegetable Variety Guide and her list of her favorite seed sources.

Patty Leander’s Vegetable Varieties for Central Texas

Patty Leander’s On-Line Seed Sources

  • Take advantage of the heat – We are right smack dab in the middle of the hottest part of the year. Solarization is a great, cheap and organic way to solve some serious weed problems.  Patty talks about this in her latest post on Nematode control and I did a post a while back (called Weed Free Organically)that is worth revisiting.  Check them both out.  Solarization is very easy to do and very effective.
  • Water and turn your compost – Your compost pile has to stay moist to work properly. Water and turn regularly
purple-fountain-grass-sweet-potato-vine

One of my beds with three of my favorite heat loving ornamentals-puple fountain grass, sweet potato vine and zinnias

Ornamentals

  • Dead head – Last night my wife made a very attractive bouquet of sunflowers and dark purple gomphrena. All of our summer blooming flowers need to be deadheaded to encourages rebloom.  Also, water your flowers more often in this heat.  Right now I am applying about an inch of water every third day to my cut flower garden
  • Order seeds for fall blooming flowers – When you order your vegetable seeds pick up a few packets of flower seeds. It will soon be time to put out spring bloomers like larkspur and poppies.   Order now to ensure the best selection

Trees and Lawns

  • Watch out for sod webworms – August is the month for this pest. The worms are the larval form of a very small, gray moth.  The larvae will strip your grass down to the stolons.  Infestion clues are yellowing grass and/or lots of birds on the lawn.  The birds are eating the caterpillars.  These pests can do a lot of damage in a hurry.  Unfortunately there is no good organic control.  Spray Bayers “Power Force” on day one and Bayer’s “Bayer’s Complete” on day two.
  • Trim shrubs and hedges now – The high heat of August slows the growth of woody perennials. Since they grow less now, your shaping efforts will ensure they look good much longer than they did after their Spring pruning

 

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Nematodes Put an End to Cucumber Season by Patty G. Leander

My thriving cucumber season came to an abrupt halt a couple of weeks ago. It started when a strong windstorm knocked over a cage of ‘Amiga’ cucumbers and uprooted the plants completely. All my other cages were staked so I can’t explain why this one was not but anytime you grow anything on a tomato cage, don’t forget to stake it!

Zeebest-Okra

Strong winds uprooted a cage of cucumbers but luckily did not damage the adjacent planting of ‘Zeebest’ okra

I was disappointed but not surprised to find evidence of root-knot nematodes on the roots (see photo). Though my plants had been producing well throughout June and early July I had begun to notice pale green leaves, misshapen fruit, reduced yields and general wilting, all signs of nematodes infestation.

root-knot-nematodes

Root-knot nematodes are microscopic but a heavy infestation on the roots is easily visible as swollen galls within the roots

Nematodes are soil-dwelling, microscopic, worm-like parasites that feed on plant roots, causing swelling or galls within the roots, impeding the flow of water and nutrients. They are most active in summer when soil temperature ranges between 85 and 95°F. Cucumbers, okra, squash, beans and non-resistant tomatoes are especially susceptible. Because nematodes are most active at higher temperatures they are not a serious threat to most cool season plants, the exception being carrots and beets which can have severe damage. Alliums and sweet corn are not affected by nematodes.

Nematode-beets

Most cool-season crops are not affected by nematodes but beets and carrots are an exception

Because nematodes can devastate a crop it’s important to take action if you discover them in your garden. Below are a few earth-friendly methods for battling nematodes; you may never completely eliminate nematodes but the following methods will help keep their numbers in check so that damage will be kept to a minimum. Note that nematodes can be spread by tools and soil so be sure to clean and disinfect tools after working in soil that contains nematodes, also be careful not to fling soil from infected roots to adjacent parts of the garden.

Summer Fallow:  Nematodes are most active in warm soils and they need water to thrive so take advantage of summer’s heat to wither them away. Withhold water from nematode infested areas of the garden and turn or till the soil every 7-10 days during the summer to expose nematodes to the drying effects of the sun.

Crop Rotation: Plant nematode susceptible crops where non-host crops such as onions, garlic and sweet corn were previously grown.

Plant Nematode Resistant Crops:  If your garden is too small for crop rotation look for plants that are bred to have nematode resistance. A tomato labeled with “VFN” indicates disease resistance: V= resistance to Verticillium wilt; F = resistance to Fusarium wilt; N = resistance to root-knot nematode resistance. Resistance doesn’t mean they won’t get nematodes but they are able to resist them enough to produce a harvest. Resistant tomato varieties include ‘Better Boy’, ‘Tycoon’, ‘Celebrity’, ‘Big Beef’, ‘Lemon Boy’, ‘Sweet Chelsea’ and ‘Supersweet 100’.

natural-nematode-control

French Marigolds and ‘Pacific Gold’ mustard can be used as cover crops to reduce nematode infestation

Plant Nematode Suppressive Crops: Certain types of marigolds (Tagetes patula) work by excreting a substance that is damaging to nematodes as well as trapping them in their roots and preventing reproduction. The key is to plant the entire area as a cover crop and leave it in place for several weeks to reduce nematode populations. A late summer planting of French marigolds can be left in place right up to the first frost; effective varieties include ‘Tangerine’, ‘Petite Harmony’, ‘Petite Gold’ and ‘Janie’. At the end of the season remove the tops and turn under the roots.  Elbon rye is an effective nematode control that can be planted as a cool-season cover crop that is turned under in early spring. Cut down or weed-whack the tops a couple of times during the growing season and either leave the tops in place as mulch or add them to the compost pile. ‘Pacific Gold’ mustard, also sold as Mighty Mustard®, contains high levels of compounds called glucosinolates that help suppress nematode populations. Cut down mustard before it sets seeds, add the tops to the compost pile and leave the roots to decompose in the soil. Both Elbon rye and ‘Pacific Gold’ mustard are available from Johnny’s Seeds (www.johnnyseeds.com).

rye-cover-crop

Cut down or weed-whack cereal rye a couple of times during the growing season

Biological Control: In 2010, Dr. Kevin Steddom, a plant pathologist with Texas AgriLife Extension, conducted a trial at the AgriLife Research Station in Overton comparing several products for nematode control. He found that of all the products he tested, which included two soil fumigants, a biological fungicide called Actinovate was the most effective in lowering nematode populations. A 2-ounce packet sells for $18-20 but you only need ½ teaspoon per gallon and it can also be use for powdery mildew, black spot, early blight and other fungal diseases.

natural-nematode-control

Secure clear plastic over very moist soil to create a greenhouse effect that will raise soil temperatures enough to kill nematodes.

Soil Solarization: Rake the soil so it is level and smooth, water well and cover with clear, UV resistant plastic (2-4 ml thick). Pull the plastic taut across the soil and secure or bury the edges with soil. Leave in place for 4-6 weeks, patching any holes with duct tape so heat cannot escape. This is often considered a last resort because the heat generated under the plastic kills everything, good and bad. It’s important to add organic matter at the end of the process; after removing the plastic do not work the soil for couple of weeks then top with a 2-3 inch layer of compost and water well before planting.

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Week 31 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

August 15 is right around the corner.  Why do I mention that?  Well, it is the first planting date for the fall garden.  We are truly lucky to be able to garden in the fall.  If you have never had a fall garden I highly recommend it.  Fall temperatures make it much more comfortable to be outside.  Bug and weed problems are greatly reduced and you can grow a wide variety of vegetables (some that will continue producing until you remove them to make room for the Spring garden).  It is also the best time of the year to plant (or move) trees and shrubs.

Texas_Sunset

Our friend Amy Hime captured this beautiful Texas sunset. Right now it is so hot I wait until about this time each evening to go into the garden!

Vegetables

  • Begin planning the fall garden– My friend and co-blogger Patty Leander creates the planting guides for the Travis County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension service. If you are wondering what to plant for the fall garden, check out her guide.  Not only will it tell you what and when to plant, it will give you some ideas of different vegetables that do well in our area that you may not have tried before.  Check out the guide here:    Travis County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Vegetable Planting Guide
  • Solarize nematodes-Nematodes plague many of the plants we grow in Texas. Patty has a great post coming out this weekend about controlling them.  One of her tips is to turn up the soil in your infected areas and let the July and August sun rid you of some future problems.
  • Mulch and water – Lots of veggies like melons, southern peas and okra are still producing. Producing vegetables need lots of water. Mulch them heavily now then water early in the morning or late in the evening to reduce water lost to evaporation.
red_birdhouse

Love this shot of our red bird house on our redbud in front of our red garage door. Photo by Amy Hime

Ornamentals

  • Remove “buggy” plants – My marigolds have been good this year and so have my gomphrena. However, they are now beginning to succumb to spider mites.  Remove these plants and throw them away.  Do not put them on the compost pile.
  • Weed beds thoroghly and re-mulch – The heat is slowing down the growth of many of our invasive weeds. Pull them now and mulch heavily to prepare for your fall plantings
  • It is not too late to replant zinnias, cockscomb, sunflowers and gomphrena from seeds.
Lovely mixed annual border at FDR's grave site in Hyde park, New York

Lovely mixed annual border at FDR’s grave site in Hyde park, New York

Trees and Lawns

  • Do not fertilize lawns until the temperatures come down a bit.
  • Let grass grow as high as you can stand it. A thick carpet keeps roots cool and actually helps to conserves water

 

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Week 30 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

barred-owl

Unfortunately this barred owl was hit by a car on our road. Sally took it to the Wildlife Center of Texas in Houston. GREAT non-profit that always appreciates your donations.

This has been an interesting week.  Of course it has been hot and dry, but in addition to that I have killed another big snake in the chicken coop, my wife has rescued a large barred owl, and I picked up a pretty good case of poison ivy while weeding.  I worked outside from 8 am until 8 pm on Saturday.  Pulled a lot of weeds and even moved a few plants.  However, I got over heated and wound up giving myself a fever.  While July is a good time to accomplish several garden chores you really do have to be mindful of the heat (and the poison ivy).

Vegetables

  • Start transplants of cole crops– We are about to run out of time to start our broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, cabbage and Brussel sprouts from seed. Start seeds in a high quality media and keep moist.  You can plant your brassicas anytime between August 15 and September 15.
  • Prune tomatoes-I do not replant tomatoes in the fall. I prune my vines by half, mulch with compost and continue to water.  This allows me to start harvesting fall tomatoes in October and right up through December in a mild winter
  • It’s a bad time to transplant, but … This week a friend let me dig up some blackberry runners. This is the ABSOLUTE WORST TIME to transplant.  However, he was going to mow them down and I wanted some blackberries that will grow in my area.  If you find yourself needing to move something in the summer do this:
    • Water the plant well for several days before digging
    • Deeply water the new location for several days
    • When digging the plant create the largest root ball you can handle
    • Dig the hole that will receive the plant 1 ½ times as big as the root ball
    • Remove as much as half of the plant’s vegetation. Green parts transpire and cause large amounts of water loss
    • Water often enough to keep the soil moist but not soggy. DO NOT fertilize.  Fertilizer grows green stuff.  When transplanting you want the plant to put all of it resources toward growing new roots, not foliage
In this heat, containers need water almost every day and feedings at least once a week.

In this heat, containers need water almost every day and feedings at least once a week.

Ornamentals

  • Prune native sunflowers and fall asters – I grow a lot of native Maxamillion sunflowers and fall asters. They get leggy this time of year so I cut them back a third to a half.  This makes the plants have thicker foliage in the fall and encourages additional flower bloom
  • Plant fall blooming bulbs like oxbloods, spider lilies and other lycoris
  • Water containers daily. Once a week water with a soluble fertilizer mixed to 50% of its recommended rate

 

fall-asters

Prune fall asters and native sunflowers now

Trees and Lawns

  • Water a little more frequently – People sweat, plants transpire. Transpiration is the process that moves water from the roots through the plant and out their stomata in the form of water vapor.  Right now they are transpiring almost 24 hours a day.  Water deeply and more frequently until night time temperatures drop out of the 80s.
  • Water trees at the drip line – Small, tender roots take up vastly more water than older, thicker roots. In trees these tender roots grow where water drip off of the tree’s canopy.
  • Water new trees deeply – Those crepe myrtles that you planted in March are still trying to establish themselves in your yard. In addition to your regular watering schedule add a slow, deep watering once a week.  Set the hose to a trickle and place it beside the trunk.  Let it run for an hour.

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Week 29 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

Last week my wife and I left blogging and gardening behind and headed to New England for a little R&R.  It was so cool and lush and beautiful.  I saw lots of beautiful landscapes and vegetable gardens.  I have to admit, everything up there was so pretty I had serious “garden envy”.

If you are a gardener then you know that July is the best time to leave your gardening chores behind for a while.  The temperatures right now are so hot that even the bugs and the weeds have decided to take a break.  Even though it is hot and dry there is still a lot that can be done in the July Texas Garden.

Sally and I spent a week in the Berkshires.  It was so lovely and so cool!

Sally and I spent a week in the Berkshires. It was so lovely and so cool!

Vegetables

  • Water correctly– It doesn’t matter how much rain we got in the spring, our gardens need watering now. Water deeply and more frequently.  Use drip or soaker hoses if possible.  Soaker hoses typically put out about an inch of water per hour.  In this heat you may need to apply an inch of water every second or third day
  • Stay Cool-This morning at my house it was 84 degrees at 8;00 am. If you are going to work outside take care to avoid heat exhaustion or dehydration.  Patty Leander wrote a great post a while back about keeping cool in the Texas heat.  Click on the link to read all of her tips:  No Rest for the Weary-Summer Gardening Chores by Patty Leander
  • Harvest okra, Southern peas, Malabar spinach and other heat loving veggies often– Some of these heat loving veggies are still producing. Pick often
  • Prepare beds for fall – This weekend I will pull out all of my spring cucumber vines. Once they are gone if will begin preparing the row for fall planting.  I remove all remaining weeds.  I also remove my old hay mulch and take it to the burn pile.  The old hay is full of bugs and their eggs.  Next I cover the entire row with about three inches of compost and then I cover everything with fresh hay.  Come planting time I will push back my hay mulch, give the row a light till and then plant
I have never been to New England.  I was impressed with all of the quaint cottages and lush landscapes.

I have never been to New England. I was impressed with all of the quaint cottages and lush landscapes.

Ornamentals

  • Water correctly and water frequently – If you see yellow or brown leaves, curled leaves, spotted leaves, etc. on your ornamentals, there is a good chance they have some water stress. The general rule of thumb in Texas is water deeply every five days.  During July and August you may need to up your frequency to every second or third day
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch!- I generally mulch my beds with finished compost. This gives me a two in one benefit.  Mulch conserves water and by using compost you feed your plants at the same time.
  • Control aphids and white flies – Use a strong blast of water to the underside of leaves or apply a mild horticultural oil like neem
We visited the FDR house, museum and library.  This is his horse stable.  Wish I could have been one of his horses!

We visited the FDR house, museum and library. This is his horse stable. Wish I could have been one of his horses!

Trees and Lawns

  • Water, water, water! – An inch of water every five days may not be enough for St. Augustine and Bermuda. Walk on your lawn.  If your grass does not bounce back and fill your footsteps quickly you need to water.  Trees and woody shrubs need frequent, deep waterings; especially ones that were planted in the last two years.  Check out this article on tree watering from Denton County Extension Agent Janet Laminack – Tree Watering Basics by Janet Laminack
  • Lift up the height of your mower deck – If you have been mowing at 3” raise it to 3 ½”. Taller grass will keep it and the soil cool
It is believed that these orange day lilies are the descendants of the first day lilies brought to the Americas.  They grow, and spread, with abandon which has led to their common name of "ditch lilies".

It is believed that these orange day lilies are the descendants of the first day lilies brought to the Americas. They grow, and spread, with abandon which has led to their common name of “ditch lilies”.

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

 

Cucumbers: Cool, Crisp and Refreshing by Patty G. Leander

refreshing-cucmbers

Easy to grow and refreshing to eat!

Now that we have harvested, admired, ogled and savored the first of our home-grown tomatoes it’s time to let cucumbers, another summertime classic, share the limelight.

cucumber-vines

Cucumber plants have responded to the rain with oodles of fruit

 

This has been one of the best cucumbers seasons I have seen in several years; my plants have responded to the generous rains with vigorous growth and a steady supply of bright yellow flowers yielding firm, emerald fruit. I planted six varieties in my garden in mid-March and we have been slicing, dicing, dipping, pickling, steeping, even sautéing, cucumbers since early June with no signs of letting up any time soon. Below are a few of my favorite recipes for enjoying the non-stop cucumber harvest.

refrigerator-pickles

Make these quick, no-cook pickles any time you have a surplus of cucumbers

No Cook Sweet and Sour Pickles

6 cucumbers, thinly sliced

1 onion, sliced

1 ½ cups sugar

1 cup white vinegar

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 tablespoon coarse salt

Mix all ingredients and let stand 1-2 hours. Spoon into covered glass jars and store in refrigerator.

Japanese-buckwheat-and-cucumbers

A refreshing blend of mangoes, cucumbers and Japanese buckwheat noodles in a sweet-sour dressing

 

Soba Noodle Salad with Cucumber and Mango

¾ cup rice vinegar

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeño or serrano chile, seeded and chopped

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon sesame oil

12 ounces soba noodles or thin spaghetti

2 large cucumbers, seeded, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 ripe mango, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

1 cup chopped fresh basil

1 cup chopped fresh mint

1 cup chopped peanuts

Heat vinegar, sugar and salt over medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Stir in garlic and jalapeño and set aside to cool. Mix in lime juice and sesame oil.

Cook noodles in large pot of boiling water until tender but still firm to bite, 4-5 minutes. Drain then rinse under cold water. Drain again, shaking off excess water.

Transfer noodles to a large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat. Add cucumber, mango, basil and mint to noodles and toss gently. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and garnish with lime wedges just before serving.  Yield: 6-8 servings

cucumber-sandwiches

Grow your own sprouts or microgreens to top these little cucumber sandwiches.

Cucumber Sandwiches

Thanks to my local Central Market for this light and easy recipe – perfect for a little pick-me-up.

1 thin-skinned cucumber, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Salt & pepper to taste

8 oz cream cheese, softened

½ cup chopped pecans

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

8 slices bread, crusts trimmed

Microgreens or sprouts

Sprinkle vinegar over cucumbers and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Mix cream cheese, pecans and mustard and spread lightly on 4 slices of bread.

Top with seasoned cucumber slices, microgreens or sprouts and remaining bread. Cut into 4 triangles to serve.

Thai-cucumber-salad

Peanuts add a nice crunch to this refreshing Thai Cucumber Salad

Thai Cucumber Salad

Sweet, tangy, minty, spicy – this salad has it all.

2 cucumbers, cut into matchsticks

1 onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup chopped mint

1 teaspoon Asian chili paste

2 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Salt to taste

½ cup roasted peanuts, chopped

Combine cucumbers, onion and mint in a large bowl. Whisk remaining ingredients together in a separate bowl. Pour over cucumbers and mix gently. Let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts just before serving. Yield: 4 servings

 

Raita

We love this refreshing Indian condiment; serve with spicy chicken, naan bread, pita chips or whole grain crackers.  Tweak the seasonings to suit your taste.

2 cups plain yogurt

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and seeded

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon chopped dill, cilantro and/or mint

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Coarsely grate cucumbers. Place in a sieve to drain for a few minutes then pat dry. Mix with remaining ingredients and chill 1-2 hours before serving. Sprinkle lightly with cayenne before serving.

pickling-cucumbers

Pickling cucumbers (these are a variety called ‘Calypso’) are best for making dill pickles – they have thin skin and can stand up to the pickling process . Harvest regularly and use the smallest ones for pickles.

And last, but certainly not least, my favorite recipe for dill pickles. A few years ago my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Greg Grant in his little East Texas kingdom of Arcadia (population 57). One of the highlights while we were there – and there were many – was dinner at his parent’s home…unfortunately his parents were off on a visit with grandkids but Greg played host and served us a delicious dinner, mostly prepared by his wonderful mother before she left town. When Greg set a quart jar of homemade dill pickles on the table I couldn’t stop eating them. I asked about how she made them and it will come as no surprise that his mother’s recipe is almost identical to Mary Stewart’s recipe for dill pickles. Both have been previously published and I am sharing them again here. Hope you will make and enjoy!

pickle-recipe

You know it’s gonna be good when two amazing cooks – who don’t know each other – use the same recipe!

Dill Pickles

This recipe makes 2 quarts, double if you have an abundance of cucumbers. Start with clean, sterilized jars. Use the grape leaves if you can find them – they contribute to crispness.

Small, whole pickling cucumbers, washed and drained

1 cup vinegar

2 ½ tablespoons pickling salt

2 cups water

4 heads fresh dill

4 cloves of garlic

4 hot peppers (optional)

4 grape leaves (optional)

Bring vinegar, water and salt to a boil. Meanwhile place one hot pepper, one clove garlic, one head of dill and one grape leaf in each quart jar.  Pack tightly with cucumbers and add another head of dill and garlic clove. Fill jars with hot pickling solution, leaving ½” headspace at top of jar. Wipe rim and seal with lid. Process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes OR skip the water bath, let jars cool, top with lids and store in the refrigerator for short term enjoyment.

making-pickles

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Week 27 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

AmericanFlowersWeekThis week has been declared “American Flowers Week”.  The week is designed to promote and celebrate American flower growers, marketers and florists. Did you know that 80 to 90% of the cut flowers sold in the US come from overseas?  Many find this fact shocking when I share it with them.  If you would prefer to buy flowers that are fresher, grown in a more ecologically responsible manner and produced right here in the USA then be sure to check out the Slow Flowers website.  Slow Flowers is a cooperative effort between American growers and florists that allow you to find local growers and the florists that use their flowers to fill your flower buying needs.

In honor of “American Flowers Week” this week’s tips focus on growing, harvesting and arranging your own beautiful “local” flowers.

Flowers grown at the proper spacing are healthier and produce more blooms that plants that are grown too close together.

Flowers grown at the proper spacing are healthier and produce more blooms that plants that are grown too close together.

Growing Tips

  • Plant at the recommended spacing on the package– Over planting is the biggest mistake most home gardeners make. Plants that are grown too close together do not get as large or produce as many flowers and they are much more susceptible to pests.
  • Weed and feed regularly – Most flowers are annuals. Because of this they need to get as much nutrition as possible during their one growing season.  Feed monthly and weed regularly.  The weeds will rob your soil of the moisture and nutrients that your flowers need.
  • Control most pests with a strong blast of water to the underside of their leaves – Most flowers are plagued by a variety of pests. Most are tiny little rascals (like mites and aphids) that hide under the leaves of plants.  Because of this they are very difficult to control with your typical spray applications of pesticides.  I use a tool called the Mitey Fine Mister.  This wand attaches to my water hose and is designed to spray water with enough pressure to kill the pests without harming the plant.

 

teddy_bear_sunflowers

Cut flowers early in the morning and keep them cool to extend their vase life

Harvest Tips

  • Cut flowers when buds are just beginning to open – If you cut most flowers when their buds are just beginning to open they will open in the vase.  This will allow you to enjoy them much longer
  • Cut flowers in the morning- Flowers cut in the morning have the highest moisture content (this is called turgidity in the horticultural world) and look their best.   
  • Strip leaves and immediately drop blooms into a plastic container that is full of clean, cool water
  • Get flowers inside as soon as possible-Your flowers begin to die as soon as they are cut. Heat speeds up their ultimate demise.  Get them inside and into the air conditioning as soon as possible
Nothing says summer in the country like sunflowers in a homemade arrangement!

Nothing says summer in the country like sunflowers in a homemade arrangement!

Arrangement Tips

  • Use more flowers! – My youngest daughter is an incredibly talented floral designer. I asked her why my arrangements do not look half as good as hers.  She said it is because I do not use enough flowers.  According to Whitney, when making floral arrangements, more is almost always better
  • Use more than flowers in your floral arrangements – While it is pretty easy to make a very pretty and presentable arrangement by grouping together lots of beautiful flowers, the really outstanding arrangements use other things to add interest. Lovely branches with interesting leaves are great fillers as are twisting garlic scapes, iris leaves, lemon grass and onion flowers.  Fresh vegetables, wasp nests, bird nests, dried sunflower heads and dried poppy heads all add a bit of whimsy and surprise to your arrangements
  • Throw away the floral foam – As useful as it is, floral foam is not biodegradable. There are tons of “green” alternatives that you can choose to support your flowers.  Sally and I have a small collection of antique floral frogs.  You can also make a wire ball out of chicken wire that fits in the top of your vase.  My daughter loves to use fresh fruit.  She cuts a hole into a melon or squash and then wires wooden stakes to her stems.  She then inserts the stakes and stems into the firm flesh and rinds of the fruit.

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I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!