Tip of the Week – Week 17 in the Zone 9 Garden

Happy Earth Day!  45 years ago Senator Gaylord Nelson decided to raise consciousness about the environment after witnessing a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.  His efforts started the modern environmental movement and led to a worldwide celebration and network dedicated to raising consciousness about a wide array of problems and issues facing our planet.

chihuly-museum-1As a gardener, you know that April is the perfect time to celebrate the earth.  Everything is blooming and growing.  Unfortunately everything doesn’t just mean flowers and fruits.  No, in April, everything is growing – including weeds and bugs!  Because of this I thought I would take this opportunity to do something a little different with the weekly tip.  Since we will all be spending a whole lot of time and effort battling pests over the next couple of months I thought I would tell you about my two favorite pest control tools.  Before I start I would like to say that I get nothing for promoting these products.  After much trial and error I have found these two tools to be invaluable and I just want to share them with you.

CobraHead

My most used and most loved garden tool is the CobraHead Weeder & Cultivator.  This curved piece of steel with a little football shaped head goes with me every time I go into the garden.  After trying many, many different tools throughout the years, I have found this inexpensive tool works best for me.

Cobrahead-1As the name says, this little tool does it all.  I use it to weed and I use it to plant.  Its sleek shape gives me enough leverage to pry up crab grass or scrape out Bermuda runners.  It also allows me to quickly dig holes for transplants or dig a furrow for planting seeds in my black clay soil.  I get all of this functionality out of a tool that only costs $25.  What a deal!

MITEYFINE Mister

While the CobraHead helps keep my weeds at bay, the MITEYFINE Mister helps me wash my bug problems away.  The MITEYFINE Mister is an ingeniously simple tool that does a great job keeping aphids, spider mites and even some caterpillars at bay.

Co-blogger Patty Leander introduced me to the MITEYFINE.  Her brother is an engineer and he is the inventor of this organic pest control tool.  The MITEYFINE is a wand that attaches to your hose.  The tip at the end is specifically designed for pest control.  It applies just enough pressure to knock off the bugs without damaging the plant.  Plus, it uses no chemicals, which is really important to me.

MITEYFINE-MisterThe MITEY fine comes in two lengths – 36” and 48”.  The extra ergonomic handle assembly adds 10” to the overall length but makes the wand much easier to handle.  Patty likes the short one and I have the longer one.  This tool has an all metal construction so it will help you kill scale insects for a very long time.

 

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 16 in the Zone 9 Garden

Spring is definitely in the air!  Many of my roses are in full bloom and one of my chickens just hatched three new baby chicks!  This is going to be a great weekend to be outside.  The sun is out, temperatures are mild and all of this rain should make those beds a joy to work in.

chicks-1Vegetables

The middle of April is a great time to plant our heat loving vegetables from seed.  Patty Leander just did a great post on growing Butterbeans (Lima Beans).  In addition to Butterbeans and Southern peas (black eyes and crowder), this weekend is a great time to plant vining crops like cantaloupe, water melons and gourds.  It is also a great time to get your okra in the ground.

Quick note on vining crops.  They are water hogs!  If you give them as much water as they need by watering overhead you are setting yourself up for the best crop of uncontrollable weeds you have ever seen.  Save water and reduce your weed problems by setting up some type of drip system for your watermelons, cantaloupes and gourds.

grilled-okraOrnamentals

Most of my roses are truly beautiful right now.  There really is not much in this world that is prettier than a rose bush in full bloom.  If you have a rose (or other woody shrub) that you would like to make more of, now is the time to do it.  I have found that people are somewhat intimidated by the thought of propagation.  Don’t be.  Most plants are very tough and adaptable.  Making a new one from a cutting is pretty easy once you know a few tips.

If you would like to try your hand at propagation, read my article “Propogating Antique Roses”.  It has all the tips you need to save a few bucks by creating your own plants from cuttings.

Cherokee-RoseLawns

Right now the conditions are perfect for the formation of brown patch in St. Augustine.  Brown patch is a fungal disease that forms when rainfall is high and temps or low.  It is also more come in lawns that are over fertilized.  Brown patch is not fatal.  Generally, you can control it by cutting back on watering and fertilization.  If it spreads to an area larger than a trash can lid you may want to apply one of several granular fungicides that are designed for control.

If your brown patch does not go away as the temperatures rise you may have Take All Patch.  This is another fungal disease that is becoming more common.  Unlike brown patch, take all patch is fatal.  While there are fungicides for control, this disease is hard to beat once it is established.  If you get Take All, you may want to consider replacing your water hungry St Augustine with Bermuda or zoysia.  Both require less water and are bothered by fewer pests.

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!

Butterbean Basics by Patty Leander

 

butterbeans-mixed

Whether green, white or speckled, butterbeans are down-home delicious. As mentioned in a previous post, freeze leftover liquid from cooking collard greens and use it to boost the flavor of butterbeans.

Tomatoes tend to get all the attention this time of year but there is another vegetable, so delicious, so easy to grow, so humble, so Southern, that it belongs in every Texan’s garden. I’m talking about butterbeans. Some of you may refer to them as lima beans – the terms can be used interchangeably – but poor lima beans suffer from an overcooked-and-underseasoned-school-cafeteria reputation that still haunts many adults, even though they haven’t touched a lima bean in decades. Butterbeans, on the other hand, elicit nothing but comforting memories of gardens, grannies, greens and cornbread. One of the more memorable comments I’ve heard about butterbeans came from AgriLife Extension Fruit Specialist Jim Kamas. At a fruit seminar a few years ago I had the occasion to ask if he enjoyed butterbeans as a child, and without hesitation he fondly recalled his childhood in Belleville and those luscious beans from his grandmother’s garden. She used to tell him that “if you were eating butterbeans, you were the luckiest boy in town”.  Such a sweet and memorable sentiment coming from a man who lives and breathes Texas peaches. Lucky indeed.

shelled-butterbeans

Fresh butterbeans are hard to come by unless you grow and shell them yourself.

There are several varieties of butterbeans to choose from and I’ve never grown one I didn’t like. Some are bush, some are pole, some are green, some are white, some are speckled but they all like warm weather and they all grow well in Texas.

butterbean-varities

Henderson, Jackson Wonder, Thorogreen, Dixie Speckled, King of the Garden, Christmas Pole, Fordhook 242

You can usually find small packets of butter beans at farm supply or garden centers. Online sources for seeds include Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (www.southernexposure.com), Willhite Seed (www.willhiteseed.com), Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers.org) and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com).

Florida-Speckled-Butterbeans

‘Florida Speckled’ butterbeans engulf a chain link fence.

Because they like warm conditions it is best to plant them a couple of weeks after you plant green beans – any time this month is good. They are not particular about soil but be sure to give them full sun and regular moisture. Pole varieties are quite vigorous and will need a sturdy structure to climb. Most bush varieties are ready for picking in 60-65 days; pole varieties take a week or two longer. Butter beans, especially pole varieties, usually produce through the summer but if it is exceptionally hot and dry (and who knows what awaits us this summer!) their blooms may shut down. Keep them watered and they’ll perk up again in the fall and produce like crazy.

Dixie-Speckled-Butterbeans

Small-seeded ‘Dixie Speckled Butterpeas’ cook up tender and delicious.

If you are new to the business of butter beans, keep in mind that they must be shelled. Not really a big deal unless you plant rows and rows that all come ready at once – then you’ll have some work to do. If you have room in the garden plant a few short rows of different varieties with varying maturity rates so you’ll be able to space out the picking, the shelling and the eating. Cooking is simple, the less you do to them the better – just flavor with a little bacon fat, salt and pepper and let their subtle flavor and creamy texture shine. The fresher they are the quicker they cook, usually less than 45 minutes.

Butterbeans used to be a common side dish served at kitchen tables across the South, but like corded phones, station wagons and cassette tapes, they are at risk of becoming yet another reminder of simpler times and days gone by. Shoved aside by an industrious society fueled by quick-to-fix processed food, their destiny lies at the mercy of local farmers and vegetable gardeners willing to continue their cultivation. I hope you will help carry on their legacy by planting, eating and saving seed. Sop up the simplicity of this humble bean and enjoy a taste that is rich, down-home and satisfying, and always remember how lucky you are to be eating fresh butter beans.

King-of-the-garden-butterbeans

‘King of the Garden’ with a side of cornbread and a piece of fruit for a good-to-the-last-bite satisfying meal.

Old-Fashioned Butterbeans

The secret to a tasty pot likker is to simmer the cooking liquid with bacon drippings or ham hocks for at least 30 minutes before you add the beans. 

1 ham hock, ham bone or 1-2 tablespoons bacon drippings**

2 quarts water or chicken broth

4-6 cups shelled butterbeans

¼ cup brown sugar (optional, but a common ingredient)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Bring water and ham hock or bacon drippings to a boil and simmer 30-40 minutes. Add the beans and simmer until tender, about 30-40 minutes, adding more water if necessary, to keep beans covered by about 1 inch. Season with salt and pepper.

** Vegetarian-minded folks can forgo the pig meat and cook beans in water or vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper then top off with a pat of butter.

Tip of the Week – Week 15 in the Zone 9 Garden

I hope you have your garden in shape because, according to the weather forecast, this weekend is going to be a wash-out.  They are predicting at least 2” of rain at my house from Friday through Sunday.  There is also a 90% chance of rain on Monday.  Oh well, we really do need the rain, especially my friends in Austin.  Speaking of Austin, if you are in the area why not come out to Mayfield Park this Saturday?  I will be discussing great native and low water adapted plants to bring in pollinators to your garden at the annual Trowel and Error Gardening Symposium.  It starts at 9:00.  They have three speakers, a plant sale and door prizes.  Plus, it really is a beautiful place with lots of peacocks!

Mayfield Park in Austin is a gardeners and photographers paradise in the heart of the city.Vegetables

This past week I finally got my green beans in.  I am way late this year.  If you have not planted your beans, squash and cucumbers you are running out of time.  Temperatures in the 90s cause pollen grains to burst.  Because of this, vegetables planted from seed may still have time to grow and produce some.  However your production will be limited to fruit that was pollinated (or set) before the high heat arrived.

It is not too late for transplants.  You still have time to put in squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and pepper transplants.  If you plant large transplants and give them adequate moisture and nutrition you should still get respectable harvests in June and early July.

If you have sweet potato slips start planting them this week.  If you don’t have slips, cut up some sweet potatoes and plant them just like Irish potatoes.  Production will be slightly delayed but they will grow and continue to produce all the way through the fall.  It is also time to plant southern peas from seed.  Both black eyed and crowder peas do well in our hot summers.

contender-bush-beans

You are quickly running out of time to plant beans, squash and cucumbers from seed

Ornamentals

I have an article about caladiums coming out in Texas Gardener next month.  I love caladiums and I plant lots of them.  Now is the time to get them in the ground.  There are two types of caladiums.  Fancy Leafed varieties produce large, heart shaped leaves and do best in shade.  Strap Leafed varieties produce slightly smaller leaves.  However, they take sun better and work well in containers.  Plant your bulbs with about an inch of soil over them in well-draining soil.

Weeds are beginning to be a problem in our beds.  Pull and add more mulch to control them.  The mulch will also regulate the soils temperatures in your bed which will lead to prolonged blooms for your annual flowers.

Caladiums are great plants for the shadier parts of your yard.  Photo used with permission from Classic Caladiums

Caladiums are great plants for the shadier parts of your yard. Photo used with permission from Classic Caladiums

Lawns

Last week I talked about applying commercial fertilizer to your lawns.  This week I want to remind you that you can add compost to your lawn at all time.  You really cannot over do it with organic products.  If you regularly add compost, and leave your grass clippings in place after mowing, you can grow grass that is just as healthy and pretty as the lawns grown with chemical fertilizers.  You can also apply Corn Glutten Meal to the yard now.  This natural pre-emergent herbicide will stop broad leafs like dandelion and thistle.  We are getting to the end of the time where CGM will be effective.  However, even if it doesn’t kill any weeds it adds a nice shot of natural nitrogen to the soil.

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!

2015 Bluebonnet Report

This weekend the kids all came for Easter.  Sally and I absolutely love it when the kids come for a whole bunch of reasons.  However, one of my favorites is my son in law Ramez Antoun’s camera.  Ramez is a dang fine amateur photographer.  Each time he comes he leaves me with a ton of outstanding photographs.  This weekend the bluebonnets of Washington County were at their peak.  He took tons of great shots of the bluebonnets and all of the other wildflowers in our yard.  I was so impressed with them that I thought I would share.

bluebonnets-lake

Our little house sits on a long, narrow two acre lot.  We have a ranch in front of us and one behind us.  One of the ranches has a 56 acre lake on it.  This shot is from our yard looking toward the lake.  I love the way this picture captures the swaths of bluebonnets that lead down to the lake.

Bluebonnets-yorkie

All of our kids are dog lovers.  Kate and Ramez are the owners of the Yorkie in the picture above (my apologies for the ugly sweater they forced her to wear) .  Our daughter Jessie and her husband own the three labs below. The two black labs are retired guide dogs.  While Jessie was in college she and Cameron worked with a group of people that socialized and trained dogs for the seeing impaired.   They got these dogs when they were six weeks old and kept them for the first year of their lives.  They then turned them over for further training.  Finally, the wound up with a seeing impaired person who loved and depended on them for several years.  When it was time for them to retire, the foundation offered them back Jessie and her husband.  How could they refuse?

bluebonnets-labrador

Here is a great shot of our little guest house/bed and breakfast.  I love the mural that my wife had done last year.  If you are planning a trip to Washington County, Sally and I would love to be your hosts.  Click on the link below to tour “The Nest” and/or book your stay.

bluebonnets-guest-house

 

Finally, bluebonnets aren’t the only wildflowers that are blooming now in Washington County.  I leave you with this great shot of an Indian Paintbrush.

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

indian-paintbrush

Tip of the Week – Week 14 in the Zone 9 Garden

This Sunday my two favorite things cross – the Liturgical Calendar and the Planting Calendar.  Over the next few days the traditions of my church will remind me of the truly important things in life – sacrifice, forgiveness and the power of resurrective love.

While I most intensely feel the presence of God during this time of year, I most often EXPERIENCE him outside the walls of the church.  If you are not aware of the mystery and wonder of your creator right now then you are not trying.  Where I live he has once again filled me with awe and wonder by painting our yards, fields and roadways blue.  Bluebonnet season is now fully underway in Washington County.  This weekend, after you finish your ham and pea salad, why not take a drive in the country and experience the majesty of His creation.

My gumbo onions are truly beautiful when they flower.

My gumbo onions are truly beautiful when they flower.

Vegetables

As I write this every muscle in my body aches.  However, I actually enjoy this feeling because it reminds me (every time I move) that I finally got my spring garden planted!!!!  Spring rains made my clay soil too wet to work the previous two weekends.  This past weekend was perfect.  My wife and I cleaned out our left over brassicas and all of our spring weeds and planted five varieties of tomatoes (from the best transplants I have ever grown).  This year I am growing Big Boy, which is my favorite large slicing tomato but does have some problems with cracking.  Celebrity is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE hybrid.  Medium sized with great flavor and not too much pulp.  My wife loves to make tomato sauce and paste.  Because of this we always grow heirloom “La Roma”.  I am trying a new heirloom variety this year called “Stupice”.  Supposedly this small, flavorful tomato originated in the Czech Republic.  I am growing it because my wife is Czech and because it is supposed to be a very productive and great tasting small tomato.  Finally, I planted “Black From Tula”.  This is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE heirloom tomato.  I love it’s rich, complex and somehow smokey flavor.  While it is an heirloom that makes a HUGE bush, it produces fairly well for me.

To control blossom end rot, heavily mulch your tomatoes and water regularly.  Blossom end rot is caused by uneven moisture affecting the plants ability to take up and use calcium.  I don’t care what Facebook says, adding your wife’s calcium tablets to your planting holes will not stop end rot.  The calcium in those pills is not available to the plant.  Even if it was available, uneven watering would still prevent the plant from taking it up.  Learn to water properly.

yellow-iris

I love irises and I several that are blooming around around my yard.

Ornamentals

While I love growing ornamental plants in my landscape, my favorite thing is cutting their blooms and foliage to make arrangements for the inside of the house.  Things are finally beginning to bloom well enough to make fresh cuts.  This week I will be bringing in iris, roses, rosemary (for filler), dianthus, coral honeysuckle and onion blooms.  To keep your flowers producing fertilize with finished compost every couple of weeks.  If using blended fertilizer use those with good Phosphorous and Potassium.  These two nutrients encourage blooming and flower set.

Our front yard is truly beautiful right now.

Our front yard is truly beautiful right now.

Lawns

OK yardeners, it now time for you.  The general rule about fertilizer is “apply three weeks after the grass greens”.  For my Zone 9 yard this is now.  As a general rule use a 3-1-2 (15-5-10 or 21-7-14, etc.) fertilizer at the rate of one pound per thousand square feet about every eight weeks.  Set mowers to 3” for sunny yards and 3 ½” to 4” for shady yards.  The lower the setting the more frequently you will need to mow.  Water your lawns only when they show stress.  A good indicator is footprints.  If you walk through and the grass pops back up, don’t water.  If the foot prints remain then water the lawn to a depth of six inches.  Even in the hottest part of summer you can get by watering every five or six days.

Now back to those bluebonnets.  If you have them in your yard (and you want them next year) do not mow them until their foliage dies.  Also do not fertilize the area they are in.  Bluebonnets, and many other wildflowers, actually prefer marginal soil.  If you improve your soil too much the wildflowers will move someplace else.

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 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.

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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!