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!

Tip of the Week – Week 4 in the Zone 9 Garden

We got over an inch of rain at my house last night.  We are expected to get another inch today.  I am thankful but I hope the sun comes out tomorrow.  If it is not too muddy there are tons of tasks to take care of this weekend.  Here are some of the things I am doing:

Vegetables

Week 4 in the Zone 9 garden is a very busy time.  It is time to replant all of your brassicas.  The brassica family includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and others.  Click on each veggie above to read Patty Leander’s tips for growing the best brassicas possible.

Patty also wrote a great post about sugar snap peas.  It is time to plant those as well.  This year she has had great luck with “Amish” heirlooms.  Get all the info you need to succeed with peas by reading her post  “Make Room for Cool Season Peas”.

Week four is also the time to plant potatoes.  The two varieties that do best for me are Red LaSoda and white Kennebecks.  Buy now, cut into pieces preserving the eyes and allow to cure for a week or so before planting.  Check out my post “Growing Potatoes” to learn all the other tips and tricks you need.

Cauliflower doesn't have to be white!  Try some of the colored varieties.  Photo by Bruce Leander

Cauliflower doesn’t have to be white! Try some of the colored varieties. Photo by Bruce Leander

Ornamentals

Patty’s latest post reminded me that it is time to cut back your cannas (and ginger).  Cut them to the ground.  Here’s another canna tip.  When they start blooming, cut their flower stalks out at the base of the plant.  This will encourage them to bloom more.

It is also a good time to trim up woody perennials.  My bougainvillea has shed its leaves so it is ready for its annual haircut.  Trim up other deciduous vines like coral honeysuckle, cross vine and wisteria.

If you want lots of flowers in early spring, start their seeds now.  Two years ago I grew 100 marigold transplants.  My beds never looked better.  This weekend is a good time to start marigolds, petunias, begonias, periwinkles and many others.

marigolds

Fruit

It is still a good time to plant bare root fruit trees.  It is also a great time to plant container grown fruit trees.  Container grown fruit trees can be planted anytime of the year but they will root in and become established quicker if you plant them now.

****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!

Brassicas Rule, Cannas Drool by Patty G. Leander

Cannas may be beautiful in the summer time, but they sure aren’t very pretty after a freeze. Mine bit the dust right around Christmas, when Old Man Winter showed up and decided to stick around for awhile. Of course my small bed of canna lilies dies back every year yet every year I am amazed at the contrast of the gloomy canna skeletons against the vibrant greens, purples and reds of the brassicas that shrug off the cold weather and keep on growing, proving once again that they deserve a prime spot in the winter garden.

cannas-freeze-damage

Canna lilies would prefer to spend their winter on a tropical island (me too!) but they’ll be back this summer. Photo by Bruce Leander

Seasoned gardeners are well aware of these gems of the winter garden, but for novice gardeners and those who have been on the fence about a winter garden, I’d like to share a few easy-to-grow vegetables to consider planting next fall.

Chinese-Cabbage

Mustards, kale and Chinese cabbages love the cold weather. Photo by Bruce Leander

I usually plant sugar snap peas twice a year, mid-September and late January. This year I planted a vining variety from Seed Savers Exchange, called ‘Amish Snap’, on September 17. I started picking on November 11 and plants were still producing in December even after several light freezes. On January 8th we experienced a freeze with temperatures that fell into the low 20s; the plants survived but the peas took a hit (Note: a more diligent gardener would have harvested the pods before the arrival of a predicted hard freeze!). The outer pods were damaged but many of the peas inside were perfectly edible, with a flavor slightly reminiscent of, well, frozen peas. Since the vines are healthy and the weather is mild, I’ll leave the vines for now to see if I’ll get a another flush of blooms and pods, but in the meantime I’ll seed another round of peas for a spring harvest.

Amish-Snap-Peas

‘Amish Snap’ peas: planting seeds in September, ready to harvest in November, freeze damage in January. Photo by Bruce Leander

Swiss chard, beets and spinach do not belong to the brassica family but they are ideal specimens for a winter garden.

beets-in-hand

Beets that were seeded in September have provided roots and lovely greens all winter long. Photo by Bruce Leander

Other stalwarts for the winter garden include onions, spinach, carrots and almost every herb you can imagine, except basil. We still have cold winter days ahead and any of these vegetable or herbs could be planted this month to bridge the gap between winter and spring.

multiplying-onions

Multiplying onions look grow so well in the winter garden, and they look great too! Photo by Bruce Leander

winter-mint

Brighten up your winter meals with the fresh flavor of multiplier onions, mint, dill and oregano.

Tip of the Week – Week 3 in the Zone 9 Garden

There are two things that really need to be done in January in the lower two thirds of our state–starting tomato, pepper and egg plant seeds for transplant and planting asparagus.  It is also time to start pruning fruit trees, grapes and perennial ornamentals that have been killed by the freeze.

Vegetables

I don’t want to sound like a nag, but this week is THE PERFECT TIME to plant your tomato seeds.  You can also start your pepper and eggplant seeds too.  Eggplant will germinate much like the tomato seeds but be prepared to give you pepper seeds a little extra time to sprout.

Besides tomatoes, asparagus is my absolute favorite vegetable to grow and eat.  Plant year old crowns now.  My favorite is the heirloom “Mary Washington”.  However, I have had much luck with many varieties of the “Jersey” series.  For more information on planting asparagus check out my post “Growing Asparagus”.

planting-asparagus-crowns

When planting, spread the roots of asparagus crowns over a mound of compost

Ornamentals

Now that we have had a freeze, it is time to trim back some of our perennials.  Clumping grasses can be cut back to about ten inches.  If your grass clumps did not bloom this year consider dividing them in February.  Salvias can be cut back to half of their size.  Root Beer plant (Hoja Santo) can be cut to the ground.

ornamental-grass

Cut clumping grasses back to 10 to 12 inches

Fruit

January and February are the best times to plant bare root fruit trees.  Plant them at the depth they were grown.  Determine this depth by noticing where the color changes at the top of the roots and the bottom of the trunk.

January is also a good time to prune fruit trees and grapes in the lower two thirds of our state.

****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!

peach-blossom

January is good time to prune fruit trees. Definitely do a little research before you start cutting.

Tip of the Week – Week 2 in the Zone 9 Garden

If it is not raining or freezing this weekend there are lots of things to be done in the Zone 9 garden.

Ornamentals

It is not too late to plant pansies, Johnny Jump Ups (viola), cyclamen, snap dragons, alyssum and ornamental cabbage.  Water in new transplants with fish emulsion or other water soluble organic  fertilizers.  Fertilize established plants with 6 cups of organic fertilizer (or two cups of synthetic) per 25 sqaure feet of plantings.

pansy-1

It is still not too late to set out pansies and violas.

Vegetables

If you have not already planted onions, do so this month.  Discard any onions that have a diameter bigger than a pencil.  Onions are heavy feeders with a small root system.  Because of this you need to keep the onion bed weed free and fertilize monthly at a rate of 6 cups of organic fertilizer (or two cups of synthetic) per 25 sqaure feet of plantings.  For detailed information on growing onions in Zone 9 check out my post “Grow Bigger, Sweeter Onions”.

January is the month to start your tomato transplants from seed.  If you want big, healthy plants by March 15 you need to get the seeds planted by January 15.  MOH contributor Patty Leander has a great article about this in this month’s Texas Gardener Magazine.  You can also see how long time Austin reader Harry Cabluck grows his transplants in my post “Harry Cabluck’s Tips for Growing Healthy Tomato Transplants”.

Tomato transplants (and photos) by Austin reader Harry Cabluck Maintenance

If you still have leaves on the ground, rake them up before they blow away.  Leaves are great mulch and great compost additives.  Now is also a good time to get out your row cover (or buy new).  If you have things planted now you are probably going to need it in the next few weeks.

****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 check out all the great tips and tricks on this outstanding gathering of bloggers.

New Feature for the New Year

Happy New Year! 2014 was the best year ever for the blog.  I am truly grateful that you chose to get some of your garden tips from The Masters of Horticulture!

Photo by Bruce Leander

Photo by Bruce Leander

Each year I look for ways to make the blog more useful to all of my fellow organic gardeners.  This year I am going to do a weekly “Tip of the Week” feature on the blog.  This idea came to me when a Texas Gardener reader contacted me about doing a weekly radio segment that would let Houston area gardeners know what they needed to be doing in their gardens each week of the year. I thought this was a great idea. However, since horticulture is just a hobby for me, I referred the reader to one of the best organic gardeners in the state. Bart Brechter is the Curator of Gardens for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. He runs the incredibly beautiful gardens at Bayou Bend and he does it organically.  He also hosts the “Our Garden View” blog.

Bart did a couple of episodes and then the radio changed formats and dropped the segment. While we were both disappointed, we really thought the radio station was on to something. We both feel that a weekly tip list is a great tool for all gardeners. So, we have decided to work together to provide these weekly tips to our readers. Starting this week, he and I will begin posting weekly tips that will let you know what you can or should be doing in the garden that weekend. Be sure to check out the tips on both blogs. Bart and I are different types of gardeners.  By reading both sets of tips you will get a good variety of ideas to try in your own Central Texas Gardens.

Photo by Bruce Leander

Photo by Bruce Leander