Tip of the Week – Week 13 in the Zone 9 Garden

Finally!!!!  Great gardening weather is predicted for this weekend.  If you have been able to plant you should have things sprouting.  If you haven’t you really need to get those squash, cucumbers, beans and tomatoes in the ground.

chicken-in-garden

Right now aphids and other pests are beginning to hatch. While I despise them, I have a bigger, and much cuter pest problem to deal with

Vegetables

If you were lucky enough to get your seeds and plants in the ground you are already ahead of the game.  Once your little plants are past the cotyledon size you can begin to fertilize.  You can side dress with finished compost on a bi-weekly basis.  I love using compost in its dry form.  However, I believe in the early part of the growing season compost is most effective when used as a drench (compost tea).  There are a million different ways to make compost tea.  To me, the easiest way is add a shovel full of finished compost to a five gallon bucket and fill with water.  Also add a cup of molasses (to feed the microbes) and stir daily (or add an aerator to it) for a week to ten days.  Strain the finished mixture into your sprayer.  To apply, spray your plants weekly until the mixture begins to drip off of their leaves.

aphid-rose-2

Aphids are beginning to hatch and they will attack just about every plant in your garden. Some research shows that plants treated with compost tea actually repel these pests.

Now is the time to get serious about feeding your onions.  As the temperatures rise their growth will increase rapidly.  If you are growing your onions organically, top dress your rows with a high quality, high nitrogen compost (like manures) every month.  If you are fertilizing your onions top dress the soil with ½ cup of fertilizer (ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) for alkaline soils and calcium nitrate (15.5-0-0) for acidic soils ) for every ten feet of row.  Apply every month until you see the soil beginning to be pushed back by the bulb.

If you are like me you have a tendency to over plant.  Through the years I have learned this is a bad idea.  Plants that are too close together produce less and they produce later.  Plus, plants that are too close together are a magnet for all sorts of pests.  So, if you have already planted, get out there and thin your plantings.  If you are going to plant this weekend try and follow the recommended spacing listed on the seed packets.

aphids-leaf

Control aphids with a strong blast of water or horticultural oils like neem and orange.

Now let’s talk about pests.  If you have plants that are up, then you probably have aphids that are hatching just in time to feast on them.  I got a question about aphids on my Facebook page from Melinda Stanton.  Melinda asked if aphid eggs over winter in the soil.  Well, the answer is YES!!! Aphid eggs over winter in the litter around your plants. They are horrible little pests. If you can start spraying them now with a good blast of the hose it will help prevent them from getting out of control. I use a tool called the Mitey Fine mister to spray mine. If this doesn’t work I suggest trying Neem oil. Neem is an organic horticultural oil that coats them in oil and basically suffocates them. It is more expensive than water but seems to work very well. I use it on all of my plants that have an aphid or scale problem, even my crepe myrtles. Also, my buddy Bart Brechter (curator of gardens at Bayou Bend) swears by orange oil. Exact same concept as the neem but it smells a lot better!

Herbs

My wife loves fresh herbs.  She loves cooking with them and she uses them to make incredible teas. I like eating her cooking and drinking her teas but that is not why I love growing herbs.  Herbs are easy to grow and most are very ornamental.  I absolutely love walking through my garden and crushing a mint leaf or brushing up against my rosemary.  Right now is the perfect time to plant herbs.  Some of my favorites are spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, chives, basil,  thyme and oregano.  My ABSOLUTE fave is Mexican Mint Marigold.  This plant is almost bullet proof.  It takes heat and drought and resists pests.  Plus it makes a lovely little 18” tall rounded mound that gets covered in little yellow flowers in the fall.  It also has a great anise smell and taste.  I use this in many of my flower beds and I truly love it.

Ornamentals

COLOR is the word for the week.  Plant tons of marigolds now.  It is still not too late for seed but you will get faster blooms from transplants.  I also love petunias and the garden centers are full of them.  Those in the garden centers are all fine but they are all hybrids.  Why not try and get a start of the good old fashioned petunia.  It is a purple-y magenta and the blooms are smaller.  However, it is a good reseeder. If you can find this variety and get it going you will have it forever.

poppies-potager

Poppies are my favorite spring flower. Here are some of my red singles in the potager.

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Tip of the Week – Week 12 in the Zone 9 Garden

Four more days to spring!  If the rain doesn’t get us this is a great weekend to be in the garden.  So much to see and do.

Vegetables

If the rain kept you from planting last week you still have plenty of time.  As you decide what to plant where consider doing a little crop rotation.  Tomatoes and cucumbers are heavy feeders.  As such, you should periodically change where you grow them in the garden (this will also help with several pest problems).  When moving some of these heavy feeders replant their old rows with beans or southern peas.  These plants are legumes and they have the ability to trap airborne nitrogen and convert it to a readily available soil born nitrogen.  Just FYI, do not plant tomatoes in the same location for more than three years.  If you do you greatly increase your chance of contracting all of those diseases listed on the seed packets – V, F, FF, N, T, A, St.

This is a very good weekend to plant tomato and eggplant transplants.  Side dress your plants with blood meal or fish meal for a quick shot of nitrogen that will help stimulate leaf production. The recommended rate is one cup per five feet of row.

pink-eyed-purple-hull

Grow legumes (like pink eyed purple hulls) in beds where tomatoes and cucucmbers were grown in the past

Ornamentals

Right now I have more larkspur and poppies coming up than I know what to do with.  Thin these plants to about a foot apart.  They will bloom quicker, get bigger, last longer and be resistant to several pests.

Except for my luecojum, all of the blooms have now faded from my spring blooming bulbs.  Allow the clumps of foliage that are left after the bloom to stay intact until it begins to naturally brown.  This foliage is what feeds the bulbs so they will be full of the carbs needed to bloom again next spring.

Speaking of bulbs, now is a great time to divide your spider lilies and oxbloods.  Once you dig them you can divide and immediately replant or you can let them dry out and keep them in the garage until later in the year.

One of my favorite color plants is Shell Ginger.  This is a good time to plant it and all other gingers in the Zone 9 garden.

Besides my luecojum, most of my spring blooming bulbs have played out.  Leave their foliage intact until it dies naturally

Besides my luecojum, most of my spring blooming bulbs have played out. Leave their foliage intact until it dies naturally

Trees and Shrubs

Now is a great time to plant many ornamental trees and shrubs.  Some of my favorites are Vitex, Eve’s Necklace, Texas Mountain Laurel, Southern Wax Myrtle, Loropetalum, yaupon and dwarf yaupon.  Plant these perinnials in a hole that is no deeper than the soil in the pot and about one and a half times as wide.  Do not fertilize.  Water consistently until fully established.

vitex-6

Now is a great time to plant ornamental trees and shrubs like Vitex

 

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

 

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Springing Forward in the Vegetable Garden-by Patty G. Leander

So long winter, it’s time for you to move on! You have overstayed your welcome, and not just here in Texas but the Midwest and Northeast as well, where the snow keeps growing deeper and the icicles have reached massive lengths (check out these incredible Instagram icicle photos at http://www.boston.com/news/weather/2015/02/11/the-icicles-instagram/YfkqQcjuV5xW7JIEFPVsEJ/story.html).

spring-garden

The spring season is upon us! Photo by Bruce Leander

Here in Austin we’ve had over two inches of gentle rain the last few days, we now have an extra hour of daylight, the forecast is looking good and like most gardeners I am itching to plant. We must proceed with caution though. Working wet soil can cause clumping and compaction so if you’ve had rain it’s best to wait a few days and allow the soil to dry out. One way to know if the soil is too wet is to take a handful and squeeze it in your hand; if it forms a muddy clump then it is too wet, but if it crumbles or breaks apart when dropped from above you are good to go.

over-ripe-produce

Remove over-mature crops before they become infested with unwanted pests. Photo by Bruce Leander

If you have not yet cleaned out your fall and winter crops it’s time to do so. Cool season vegetables that are left in the ground after the weather starts to warm up tend to become a breeding ground for unwanted pests, plus they quickly grow beyond their prime.

vegetable-transplants

Grow transplants of cool season greens in partial shade. Photo by Bruce Leander

As Jay mentioned in his previous post you’ll find transplants of mustard, collards and lettuce available at nurseries but think twice before you reach for that plant. Do you have room for it in your garden or will it be taking up valuable space needed for warm season vegetables like cucumbers, beans, okra or squash?  If you’d love to have some fresh greens for spring consider planting these vegetables in pots and place them close to the house in a spot that gets dappled or morning sun.

swiss-chard

Swiss chard will take the heat of summer as long as it receives shade during the hottest part of the day. Photo by Bruce Leander

Swiss chard is the most adaptable of the cool weather greens as it will grow happily into summer, especially if you plant it where it will get some shade during the hottest part of the day.

Bread smeared with butter is totally American, but top it with some fresh radishes and a sprinkle of course salt and you have a classic French hors d’oeuvre. Photo by Bruce Leander

Bread smeared with butter is totally American, but top it with some fresh radishes and a sprinkle of course salt and you have a classic French hors d’oeuvre. Photo by Bruce Leander

Enjoy this time of transition in the vegetable garden and the eating-in-season that comes with it. Radishes are great sliced in a salad but have you ever tried them sliced over buttered bread with a sprinkling of sea salt? Or sautéed with sugar snap peas? Talk about a versatile vegetable, radishes can be grated, steamed, braised or simmered, even the leaves and seed pods are edible. Take this opportunity to branch out from sliced radishes in a salad or cauliflower covered with cheese sauce (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) to bring some exciting new flavors to your kitchen. Below are a few ideas to help with your end-of-winter harvest.

radish-sugar-snap-peas

Braised radish and sugar snap peas are different and delicious. Photo by Bruce Leander

Braised Radishes and Sugar Snap Peas

Remove the strings from sugar snap peas and quarter radishes. Melt butter in a skillet and add the peas and radishes. Sauté briefly then add a few tablespoons of water or chicken broth. Cook, partially covered, until radishes and peas are tender. Top with chopped mint or chervil and a splash of vinegar.

 

Broccoli and Cauliflower don't have to be steamed!  Try roasting them for a healthy and tasty side.  Photo by Bruce Leander

Broccoli and Cauliflower don’t have to be steamed! Try roasting them for a healthy and tasty side. Photo by Bruce Leander

Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli

Cut broccoli and cauliflower into equal sized pieces. Toss in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast at 425° until golden and slightly charred, about 25-30 minutes.

Cauliflower-rice

Try cooking grated cauliflower as a quick side or a flavorful substitute for rice.

Cauliflower “Rice”

Grated cauliflower is a lot like rice yet cooks faster than couscous – you’ve never made cauliflower so quick and easy. We like big, plump Medjool dates but any dates or even raisins will do.  

Grate one head of cauliflower into a bowl. Sauté in a small amount of olive oil until golden, about 10 minutes. Add ½ cup chopped dates, sprinkle with ¼- ½ teaspoon turmeric, season with salt and pepper and cook 5-7 minutes longer. Top with chopped cilantro and sliced almonds before serving.

pot-likker

A big pot of greens will yield plenty of pot likker; freeze some of that delicious liquid as a base for flavoring summer vegetables.

Greens

Flavored with some bacon or ham, leaves of collards, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, beets and cauliflower are all edible and can be cooked together into a nutritious pot of greens with plenty of pot likker. Even though we love to slurp that Southern elixir I always set aside a few jars for freezing and use it to flavor the butter beans and cowpeas that are coming my way this summer.

This post has been shared on the HomeAcre Hop!  Please drop by and see what gardeners and homesteaders across the country are doing.

Tip of the Week – Week 11 in the Zone 9 Garden

Well folks, this is THE weekend in the Zone 9 vegetable garden!  If you have already prepared your beds then this weekend looks to be a perfect time to plant the spring vegetable garden.  If you haven’t prepared your beds the weather man says that you will have perfect weather to do it this Saturday and then plant on an absolutely gorgeous Sunday.

It is time to transplant the tomato you have been babying for the last three months.  Photo by Bruce Leander

It is time to transplant the tomatoes you have been babying for the last three months. Photo by Bruce Leander

Vegetables

March 15 is the recommended planting date for most of the vegetables that we think of as “spring” crops.  This weekend is the perfect time to plant some of them from seed and others from transplants.  For a complete list of what to plant check out the planting guide on the blog.

Seed - Now is the time to plant snap beans, Lima beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, black eyed peas, crowder peas, summer squash and winter squash from seed.  Be sure to check out the variety list on the blog.  Patty Leander has spent years determining the very best varieties for central to south eastern Texas.

contender-bush-beans

My favorite variety of snap beans are Contender Bush Beans. Find out which varieties work best in our area on Patty Leander’s Variety list in the sidebar of the blog.

Transplants-Now is the “kind of recommended” time to put those tomato, pepper and eggplant transplants in the ground.  I say “kind of” because none of these plants really like temps below 55 degrees.  If you put them in the ground now be prepared to cover them or to cover and give supplemental heat if a late season cold snap comes through.  IMHO, if you don’t mind the extra care, it is best to go ahead and get your transplants in the ground.  The plants will mature quicker and provide you tomatoes earlier.

There are other great transplants for this weekend.   If you have not tried things like chard and kale pick up some at your local nursery and give them a try.  You can still find lettuce, collard and mustard greens starts at many places.  Get them in the ground now and enjoy fresh salads until temps start getting into the 90s.

homemade-arrangement-6

Cut flowers early in the morning to extend their vase life. Also change your water daily once they are arranged

Ornamentals

March 15 is also a great time to plant your spring color.  Right now is a great time to transplant things like salvias, portulaca, periwinkles, impatiens, marigolds and my all time favorite-petunias!  The “Carpet Series” is the most successful hybrid line.  However, my favoriote is “Laura Bush”.  This magenta petunia was developed by my friends at A&M and it is an absolute winner for our area.

Don’t miss this opportunity to seed some of our other old reliables.  I grow TONS of zinnias each year.  My favorite variety is Benary’s Giant.  Scatter them out, rake them in and harvest beautiful flowers up to the first frost.   Each spring I also plant lots of sunflowers, gomphrena and cocks comb.  All of these flowers can take the heat and actually seem to hit their peak when temps are approaching 100.

zinnia

I grow zinnias in my beds but I also grow them in rows in my garden. They make great cut flowers and hopefully pull a few bugs away from the veggies.

Flowers don’t have to be grown in beds.  My wife and I love to have fresh arrangements in the house.  To make sure I have a ready supply I plant many flowers in rows in my vegetable garden.  You can plant things like sunflowers, cocks comb and zinnia every two weeks starting now.  This ensures that I have a ready supply of fresh flowers all the way through the fall.

 

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Tip of the Week – Week 10 in the Zone 9 Garden

Can you believe this weather?!?  Winter just does not want to let us go.  Hopefully this will be the last cold snap (but I doubt it).  As you all are well aware, March is the busiest time of the year in the zone 9 garden.  Here are some of things that I will be doing in the weeks to come:

peach-tree

Right now my peach trees are in full bloom.

Vegetables

This weekend is tilling time for me.  I am increasing the size of my garden this year so I will be tilling up an area that has never been planted before.  I do a deep till with my rear-tine tiller.  This usually takes a couple of passes.  Then I use stakes and string to lay out my beds.  I make 48” beds divided by 38” walk paths.  To make the beds I run my Mantis tiller up and down the walk ways and move the soil onto the bed.  After this is roughed in I take my rake and clean the walk paths, shape the beds and remove all excess vegetation.  Once done I top dress the beds with finished compost (this year I got a deal on composted cotton burr) and then cover everything in a deep layer of spoiled hay mulch.  I leave the beds alone until I feel the weather is going to be warm enough (for long enough) for me to plant.

rear-tine-tiller

This weekend I will begin tilling up a new part of my garden.

Ornamentals

This may be one of the best early weekends to get out of your own garden and go look at what God and other gardeners have done.  Right now in Zone 9 narcissus and daffodils are in full bloom.  Redbuds and peach trees are stunning and plum trees are beginning to show.  Lots of ornamental trees are in full bloom and my favorite spring shrb, Primrose Jasmine, is beginning to cover itself in lovely yellow blooms.  While all of these plants are lovely the real queen of early spring in the South is the azalea.  This weekend the River Oaks Garden Club is hosting their 80th Azalea Trail in and around River Oaks.  This is a huge event for buddy Bart Brechter, Curator of Gardens at Bayou Bend.  It is not often that I recommend not gardening on the weekend.  However, the Azalea Trail is such an awesome event I really recommend that you get your gardening fix by using camera to explore some magnificent gardens.

Houston isn’t the only place to witness beautiful azaleas.  Nacogdoches also has an Azalea trail.  Theirs lasts through all of March.  Head over there any weekend this month and be blown away by the variety and colors of these beautiful plants.

Be careful with the "weed and feed" that is currently in the stores.  It mostly likely contains atrazine.  This chemical can damage or kill many shrubs and trees -even some oaks.

Be careful with the “weed and feed” that is currently in the stores. It mostly likely contains atrazine. This chemical can damage or kill many shrubs and trees -even some oaks.

Lawns

Right now is an odd, in-between time for yardeners.  It is too late for weed control and too early for fertilize.  If we get lucky with temperatures, we may need to start mowing soon.  For these early mowings set your blade at three inches.  Mow again when the grass is about 4” tall.  It is recommended that you only remove 1/3 of the blade with each mowing.  Also, do not bag you clippings.  The grass clippings are a great source of nitrogen for the grass.  By April your grass will be actively growing so you will need to readjust the mower deck to the recommended heights for the various grass types.

Trees and Shrubs

Even though I don’t use commercial products in my landscapes, I know a lot of you do.  With that in mind I want to warn you about “Weed and Feed” products that are in the stores now.  Most these are high nitrogen fertilizers with atrazine for post emergent weed control.  Atrazine will harm or kill many of our shrubs and trees.  If you look at the label on these products it will tell you to avoid beds and not to apply under the drip line of trees.  I really advise staying away from these products.

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Tip of the Week – Week 9 in the Zone 9 Garden

According to the forecast this will be a cold and wet weekend in the Zone 9 garden.  However, if they are wrong, here are some of the things you can work on:

peach-bloom-bee

Peaches, plums and redbuds are beginning to show color.

Vegetables

If you have not already prepared your beds by tilling in lots of compost, you need to do it soon.  The nutrients in compost are not readily available.  Compost needs time for the microbes and insects in the soil to break it down.  After tilling I highly recommend adding lots of mulch to keep down the weeds.  I use spoiled hay in my garden because it is easy for me to get.  Feel free to use leaves, grass clippings or any other natural product that you have access to.

Since there is a good chance for rain this weekend I am going to do some indoor gardening.  It is time for me to up pot my tomato transplants.  I started my seeds in coir pellets back in January.  They are now big enough to be moved into the solo drink cups that I use for pots.  I put the coir pellets into the cup and cover the entire stem of the young transplants.  Since tomatoes grow roots along their entire stem, planting deep and covering the stem will encourage the little plant to make lots of roots that will help grow a big healthy plant.

Onions are beginning to take off.  Keep down the weeds and apply 6 cups of organic fertilizer like Lady Bug All Purpose Fertilizer (8-2-4) per 25 square feet of plantings once a month.

turnip-1

There is still time to plant turnips, rutabagas and beets from seed.

Ornamentals

Poppies and Larkspur are very noticeable right now.  Be careful not to pull them when weeding this week.

Lawns

Henbit and clover are sprouting all over my yard.  Both are nearly impossible to control with organic methods.  Weed eat them regularly to keep them from flowering and setting seed.  If you are not organic you can treat the clover with Trimec starting next month.  Trimec will kill clover and not damage St. Augustine.

red-poppyTrees and Shrubs

If you have black, sooty looking limbs on your crepe myrtles there is a very good chance that you have a scale infestation.  Now is a great time to “cleanse” yourself of the problem.  Mix up a bucket of soapy water and use a soft brush to scrub any remaining “honey dew” from the tree.  This cleansing will also remove any scales or scale eggs that are already in place.  You can also spray dormant oil at this time.  If you live in north or east Texas be aware that there is a new scale infecting crepe myrtles in your part of the state.  Oils are not effective against this new pest.  To learn more about controlling this pest click here for a great article from the Aggie entomologists at Insects in the City.

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Tip of the Week – Week 8 in the Zone 9 Garden

Yesterday I received some amazing photos from my friend Bruce Leander.  Bruce is an awesome photographer and a macro photography enthusiast.  He does a lot of work at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  He sent me some very good macro shots of cedar trees (ash juniper) that are beginning to pollinate.  While the pictures are incredible they are bad news for those of us that suffer from cedar fever.  As his pictures clearly show, if you are not already suffering you will be soon!  If you feel up to it (and the rain holds off) there are several things to be done in the garden this weekend.

cedar-pollen

Male parts of the ash juniper ready to release the pollen that will make so many of us sick in the next few days. Photo by Bruce Leander

Vegetables

This month, when temperatures are above 50 degrees, move your tomato, pepper and eggplant starts outside.  Start slow by giving them only an hour or two of sunlight the first several days.  Then gradually increase their time outside.  This hardens the plants and will prevent sun scald when the go out permanently.  Also, the outdoor breezes will help develop much stronger transplants.

tomato-seedlings-1

As temperatures rise begin to harden off your tomato, pepper and eggplant transplants by taking them outside for a few hours each day.

Ornamentals

Give cool season color like pansies, violas and snap dragons a boost with a water soluble organic fertilizer or a fish emulsion and seaweed mix.  Trim back your salvias, especially salvia greggii, to promote more blooms on thick, compact plants.

red-salvia

My favorite shot of my potager. Trim salvias back by half now to encourage flowering.

Lawns

Even though your sprinkler system has been off for the winter now is the time to turn it on and inspect it.  Turn on each zone and look for leaks, cracked heads or misaligned heads.  If you can fix the issues yourself you will save yourself some money and many gallons of water this summer.  If you can’t fix issues yourself remember that it is much easier to book an irrigation specialist in February than it is in June.

lichen-2

An incredible shot of lichen on an oak limb by my friend Bruce Leander of Austin

Trees and Shrubs

Since we have already mentioned cedar (ash juniper) troubles, now is the time to get control of another one of their big problem – bagworms.  Bagworms are interesting creatures.  The female moth never leaves the foliage covered torpedo shaped case.  She has no eyes, legs or wings and cannot eat. In fact, she looks more like a maggot than a moth. The male mates with her through the open end of the cocoon.  After mating she dies with thousands of eggs inside her.  The eggs hatch and the babies emerge THROUGH the mother.  They climb out of the cocoon and the wind blows them to other trees.  They then spin their cocoons and the process starts all over.

Bagworms are a serious problem for conifers (and some deciduous trees as well).  A severe infestation can permanently disfigure the tree and it will never recover.  You can control this problem by removing cocoons whenever you see them, especially now as mating will soon occur in zone 9.  For serious infestations spray a bt product (organic) or dust with sevin.

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Tip of the Week – Week 7 in the Zone 9 Garden

This past weekend I planted my potatoes.  While planting I got a very pleasant surprise – more potatoes!  For the past two years I have wanted to try fall potatoes.  However, no one sells seed potatoes in the fall.  I had my best ever potato crop in the spring so this September I took my left overs and planted them.  We had a very mild winter.  I covered the potatoes once in December and once in January for light frosts.  Then I did not get them covered for the last freeze in January.  I thought the freeze ended my experiment.  I cut off the frozen vines and forgot about them.  That’s why I was so surprised this Sunday.  As I dug my trenches for my new potatoes, my fall potatoes were literally turning up all over the place.  I harvested over 20 lbs!  So, it looks like you definitely can grow fall potatoes in the Zone 9 Garden.  Below are more things to consider doing this weekend.

My latest garden experiment proves you can grow fall potatoes - at least in a mild winter

My latest garden experiment proves you can grow fall potatoes – at least in a mild winter

Vegetables

For a complete list of the vegetables you can plant now please check out the planting guide in the sidebar.  If you are not sure what particular vegetable varieties to plant check out Patty Leander’s variety list in the sidebar.  This is a great tool for new gardeners or for those of us who like to try different things.  Also be sure to look at her seed sources.  March 15 is go date for most of the veggies we like to grow in the Zone 9 spring garden.  If you don’t hurry it will soon be too late to order your seeds.

blog-Crimson_Glory_rose

Valentine’s Day is a great time to prune your roses.

Ornamentals

There are two times to prune roses – Labor Day and Valentine’s Day.  This weekend reduce the size of your hybrid roses by up to one half.  Also remove any dead wood.  It is also a great time to open up the center of the bush.  Most shrub roses will look beautiful if you have six to eight healthy, upright canes.  Remove all suckers that are smaller than a pencil and top foliage by cutting branches at a 45 degree angle above a bud.  Antique roses do not need as much pruning.  Reduce them by no more than a third, get rid of all dead wood and open up the centers.  DO NOT prune spring  blooming climbers until after their first bloom.

Lawns

It is still too early to apply commercial fertilizers to your lawn.  However it is a great time to aerate and add compost.  When fertilizing your lawn with compost, mow closely and then spread a half to one inch of compost over the lawn.  Rake it into the grass and water well.  Do not mow again for a least a week.  You can fertilize your lawn with compost 2,3 or 4 times a year.  You really can’t add too much.  Plus compost will often contain macro nutrients and trace elements that are missing from commercial fertilizers.

red_bud_blooms

Buds on my redbud trees mean that all trees will soon be breaking dormancy. Spray horticultural oils now for insect control later.

Trees and Shrubs

My redbud is beginning to bud out.  That is the first sign that trees are coming out of dormancy.  If you want to plant any fruit trees, bare root or containerized, do it soon.  The weather conditions that we have right now are perfect for allowing them to rapidly start producing the roots that will “establish” them in your landscape.

While your crepe myrtles are still bare, spray them with horticultural oil (also known as dormant oils) to mites and scale insects.  Horticultural, or dormant, oils are generally refined petroleum products.  They are great at controlling several pests in shrubs and fruit trees.  However, they are not organic.  Look for the organic equivalent that is made from cotton seed oil.  Another organic, Neem oil, shows some promise as a dormant oil and research is currently being done on its effectiveness.  Do not spray dormant oils after buds have broken on your trees and shrubs.

 

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

 

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

 

 

Tip of the Week – Week 6 in the Zone 9 Garden

I know that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, but I think his prediction is wrong.  As I drive the back roads of Washington County, I see signs of an early spring everywhere.  Now I don’t want to jinx anything, but we are quickly approaching the date when a freeze is highly unlikely.  Because of this, there are many, many tasks to be done in the February zone 9 garden.  Below are the things I will be doing this weekend

potato-planting

Most years I grow La Soda reds and Kennebek whites. This year I was only able to find La Soda seed potatoes.

Vegetables

There are lots of veggies that can be planted this week.  For a complete list check out Patty Leander’s planting calendar on the sidebar of the blog.  Since I have planted about all of the seeds I can I am moving on to planting potatoes.  A couple of weeks ago I bought ten pounds of red La Soda.  I cut them into pieces and have allowed them to “scab” in the kitchen.  Plant them 4” deep in loose soil that is in full sun.

larkspur

Larkspur is so pretty and so reliable. Plant this self-seeding annual once and you may be able to enjoy it for a lifetime.

Ornamentals

It is not too late to plant snap dragons (but is getting close).  Place these transplants about a foot apart in full sun.  Give them an extra boost with blood meal.  Blood meal is a great source of organic nitrogen.  The recommended rate is one cup per five feet of row.

If you have not cut back your ornamental grasses, cannas, gingers, asters, salvias and woody perennials, do it now.  It is also a great time to start mulching.  I love mulch and use it extensively.  It suppresses weeds, conserves moisture and insulates roots.  Plus, if you use natural mulches, they turn into compost that will feed your plants.

I have tons of poppies, larkspur, marigolds and bachelor buttons (gomphrena) that come back every year.  Be careful not to cover these self-seeding annuals with mulch or pull the tender starts while you are weeding.

acetic-acid-weed-killer

Concentrated acetic acid makes a great organic weed killer

Lawns

My wife mowed for the first time this past weekend.    While the stuff that passes for grass at my house is not growing, lots of weeds are.  A weekly mowing will prevent lots of these weeds from going to seed and spreading their problems into future years.  For weeds that can’t be reached with a mower use acetic acid as a good natural herbicide.  Don’t think you can get by with household vinegar.  Real weed killing power is found in the concentrated form at your local garden supply center.

If you are into organic weed control, start putting out corn gluten meal (CGM) now.  A weekly application during February is a very effective pre-emergent for all broadleaf weeds.  Besides cost, there is absolutely no down side to CGM.  Apply CGM at a rate of 20 lbs per thousand square feet of lawn.  If you have more lawn than money you can also use CGM as a natural fertilizer.  Apply 10 pounds per 1000 square feet to give yor lawn a great boost of natural nitrogen.

 

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

This post has been shared on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Tip of the Week – Week 5 in the Zone 9 Garden

Between the threat of rain and the Super Bowl it may be hard to get out into the garden this weekend.  However, Thursday is supposed to be gorgeous and Friday will be nice.  If you can get outside on those days here are some tasks that can be done now: 

Vegetables

Right now is a great time to plant your salad fixings.  While lettuce (check out my in depth discussion of growing lettuce here)and spinach are the stars, don’t forget that the supporting players like radishes, beets, carrots, kale and mustard greens also can also be planted now.  These quick growing greens will be ready for harvest in about 45 days.  At that time you will be ready to thin your onions and use them in the salad.

buttercrisp_lettuce

Now is a great time to replant lettuce. My favorites are buttercrisp and black seeded Simpson

Right now is also a good time to start adding compost to your beds.  I sprinkle a couple of inches over the areas I am going to plant in March and cover with spoiled hay.  It is not warm enough for the compost to start breaking down.  However, in conjunction with the hay, it acts as a great mulch that will suppress many spring weeds.  It will also feed the worms that will begin taking it down into the soil for you.

Ornamentals

As you know I am a big supporter of field grown flower farmers.  Right now my friend Mike at Prickly Pair Farm is planting ammi, stattice and dianthus under cover.  You can start the same flowers indoors now.  Growing from seed is the best way I know to have a ton of flowers for spring planting without spending a ton of money.

finished_compost

Right now is a great time to begin adding compost to the beds that you will be planting in the March

Lawns

I have a couple hundred daffodils planted in my yard.  As I walked around yesterday looking to see if they had broken ground I noticed lots of some very bad weeds beginning to make a stand.  Dandelions and thistles are beginning to come on strong.  These are easy to take care of with a good sharp hoe.  However, my true weed nemesis is Queen Anne’s Lace.  Queen Anne’s Lace is actually wild carrot.  Right now it is forming its cluster of leaves on the ground.  I leave it alone until it sends up its flower stalk then I pull it up, white carrot root and all.

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

This post has been shared on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  Tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!