Week 39 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

Turns out I did not have to spray pesticides last weekend.  I discovered that the pest that was eating my brassicas was Gallus domesticas.  Gallus domestica is a large flying garden pest that is more commonly known as “the chicken”.  While my chickens have scratched things up a bit in the garden, they have never eaten the foliage of the brassica.  Guess they were looking  to expand their palate.  This weekend I will be replanting broccoli again (as I caught them eating the transplants I bought last weekend).  Below are some more things you can do in your garden this weekend.


Turns out two legged pests can be more destructive then insects!


  • Plant Sugar Snap Peas – Now is a great time to plant the American version of English peas. Sugar Snaps are kind of like rye grass.  Plant them when day and night temperatures are about 20 degrees apart.  Sugar Snaps vine so be sure to plant on some type of support.  I grow mine on cattle panels.  However, they will grow over any type of support you supply
  • Plant root crops from seed –. Now is a good time to plant root crops like beets, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, daikon, parsnip and radish. Beets, turnips and radish mature very quickly so you can get in several crops between now and April.  Carrots, daikon and parsnip mature more slowly.
  • Plant leeks and garlic – Now is a good time to plant garlic and leeks. I have some heirloom “Old German” leeks I will be planting this weekend
  • Plant artichokes and spring blooming lavender now – Lavender and artichokes are perrinials. Because of that they will both reward you with beautiful flowers and edible parts for years  If you don’t already have these plants get some and get them in the ground now.
There are so many varieties of radish and they all mature very quickly.  why not try a French Breakfast or Icicle radish this fall.

There are so many varieties of radish and they all mature very quickly. why not try a French Breakfast or Icicle radish this fall.


  • Fertilize blooming plants now – Right now my yard is bursting with color. Cannas, lantana, bulbs, zinnia, cockscomb, bachelor buttons and roses are all blooming profusely.  Feed with compost tea or other organic fertilizers and compost.  If using blended fertilizer apply 1 cup per ten fet of bed of a fertilizer with low N and high P and high K.  Something like a 10-20-10 is ideal.
  • Water fall blooming bulbs – Right now I have spider lilies, lycoris aurea and oxbloods up. Theie blooms last only a few days.  Keep the bulbs well watered to extend the blooms for a couple of days.
My spidelilies are blooming right now.  Give yours lots of water to extend their bloom time

My spidelilies are blooming right now. Give yours lots of water to extend their bloom time


  • Plant trees and shrubs now – Now is the absolute best time to plant ornamental trees and shrubs. Last year I planted two Empire Live Oaks for nationally known decorator Holly Mathis. Check out the post we did that explains how to properly plant all trees and shrubs.  One more thing, at this time of year many nurseries will have things like Vitex, crepe myrtles and wax myrtles marked down.  Visit your local nursery and look for deals.

Week 38 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

Well, I have a problem.  All of the broccoli and cabbage transplants that I put out a couple of weeks ago are now gone.  Something has eaten every last one of them.  So, this weekend I will be replanting and trying to figure out how to control whatever it is that is eating my brassicas.  Since I will be applying organic pesticides this weekend I thought this would be a good opportunity to review some of the major organic herbicides and pesticides available to the home gardener.

While our chickens eat a lot of bugs I still have to spray things like Bt and spinosad from time to time

While our chickens eat a lot of bugs I still have to spray things like Bt and spinosad from time to time


  • Bt– Bacillus thuringiensis has been used to kill soft bodied pests in the organic garden for a very long time. I suspect that what is eating my broccoli is either a little green caterpillar called the cabbage worm or another green caterpillar called the cabbage looper.  Both of these pests can be controlled fairly well with Bt.  Like all pesticides, organic or not, Bt should be mixed for a single use.  Bt rapidly degrades in the sunlight.  Because of this, spray the plant late in the evening, covering all areas of the plant where the bug will eat.  If you mix too much Bt, add more water too the mixture and leave it out in the sun.  In 48 hours the mixture will be completely inert. NOTE:  Bt does not kill pests mmediately.  You may need to apply three times to get maximum effectiveness
  • Spinosad –. If you pests are tougher than caterpillars you will need to use spinosad. Spinosad is a live bacterium that speeds up a pest’s metabolism to the point where they stop eating and die within a couple of days.  Spinosad has been shown to be effective against caterpillars, leaf miners, fire ants, hornworms and even fleas.  Like Bt, spinosad breaks down in heat and sunlight.  However, it can remain active for five to seven days.  Only use spinosad if Bt has failed as it will kill bees and other pollinators
  • Neem oil – Neem oil is a plant extract that is mostly effective against aphids and scale insects. It can kill some insects if they are covered when they are very young (rigt after hatching).  It has also been shown to prevent some insect eggs from hatching.  It is not very effective against mature beetles like stink bugs or other leaf footed bugs
Large, broad leafed weeds like thistle and dandelion can be easily controlled with acetic acid

Large, broad leafed weeds like thistle and dandelion can be easily controlled with acetic acid


  • Acetic Acid – Acetic acid is available in concentrations up to 20%. Concentrated acetic acid is very effective on a wide range of both grassy and broadleaf weeds.  I have seen dandelions and crabgrass begin to wither 30 minutes after the initial application.  Vinegar is best when applied to young plants.  Established weeds may need a second or third application to finally kill them.  Be careful when applying vinegar.  Overspray can kill things you don’t want to die.  I use a spray bottle and a shield when spraying close to my desirable plants.  If you want to spray a wide area, then a pump sprayer works well too.
  • Horticultural Molasses – Neil Sperry recently said that Nut Sedge (grass) is the cockroach of the gardening world. I agree.  I have tried everything to control nut sedge.  This year I read an article by Howard Garrett (The Dirt Doctor) about using horticultural molasses.  Well, I tried it and it works—kind of.  While it killed all nut grass in the cracks of my brick patio, it did not do much damage to the nut grass that was growing in my beds.  I applied the molasses at full strength.

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

Great Garden Reads by Patty Leander

Labor Day has passed, the kids are back in school, and as we enter the fall garden season I’d like to recommend two new garden books, both written by extremely knowledgeable, lifelong gardeners from Texas.

Month-By-Month Gardening

Good reading for great gardens


In the pages of Month-By-Month Gardening: Texas, Skip Richter guides us through the gardening year with common-sense advice for trees, shrubs, lawns, roses, annuals, perennials and edibles. I have known Skip for over 15 years and have learned much about gardening by following both his example and his teaching. We both relocated to Austin in 1998; as he was commencing his new job as the Travis County Extension Horticulture Agent I was frequenting the Extension Office as an eager yet anxious gardener, trying to figure out how to garden despite the layers upon layers of limestone in my southwest Austin backyard (ultimately the answers came in the form of native plants, raised beds, imported soil and layers upon layers of compost).


Skip’s comprehensive, easy-to-read book is laid out in a logical, month-to-month format, with practical tips and friendly guidance on the what-to and when-to throughout the gardening year.

Over the years I became a regular in the audience any time Skip presented on vegetable gardening, soil health or IPM (integrated pest management). This man knows his horticultural science and has a wonderful gift for imparting that knowledge with clarity along with a genuine interest in helping others to succeed. His comprehensive, easy-to-read book is laid out in a logical, month-to-month format, with practical tips and friendly guidance on the what-to and when-to throughout the gardening year. This excellent reference for Texas gardeners offers a holistic, earth-friendly approach to gardening, with an emphasis on prevention and problem-solving plus lots of color photographs and instructional boxes to support the plentiful how-to advice in every chapter.


The award-winning vegetable and herb garden at Lake Austin Spa and Resort

The pages of Trisha Shirey’s Vegetable Gardening in the Southwest are loaded with tips and techniques that she has used over the years to keep Lake Austin Spa Resort looking beautiful, welcoming and organic day in and day out. With the enviable title of Director of Flora and Fauna, Trisha helped transform the rugged, 19-acre Hill Country property west of Austin into an inviting oasis. Her skillful designs and plant combinations indulge all the senses, with a special emphasis on the showy vegetable and herb garden which provides year-round produce for the spa kitchen.


Harvesting ‘All Blue’ potatoes in the resort vegetable garden.

A lifelong organic gardener, Trisha draws on her extensive experience to provide methods for chemical-free pest control, formulas for natural plant tonics and recipes for homemade pest remedies. Each month’s chapter contains an at-a-glance summary of tasks that include planning, maintaining, planting and harvesting along with a comprehensive section on growing and harvesting over 40 edibles, as well as tips for growing herbs and edible flowers.


Organically grown edible flowers add a nice spark of color and flavor to salads, herb butters and deviled eggs

Suggestions for simplifying garden chores, caring for tools and protecting plants from heat and cold are accompanied by helpful illustrations and how-to charts throughout. Her attention to detail and her organized approach to planting and harvesting in concert with the seasons are evident throughout this thorough and thoughtful guide to growing vegetables.


One of Trisha’s favorite tools – a multitasking Japanese soil knife

Both Trisha and Skip are gifted educators and observant gardeners who skillfully guide us through the gardening year, reminding us to plan ahead and always focus on the big picture.

Week 37 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

This morning I woke to the sound of rain on my tin roof.  Weatherman says this is the leading edge of a cool front that is going to give us our first taste of fall temperatures.  Several days of highs in the mid 80s and lows in the 60s means this is going to be the best weekend to garden in a very long time.


Sally and I grew cotton for the first time this year.


  • Still time to transplant – Brassica transplants can be planted throughout the fall. This is good because you really don’t want 12 heads of cauliflower ready for harvest at the same time.  I stagger plant (plant 3 or 4 plants every two weeks) cauliflower and cabbage through October.  Stagger planting allows me to enjoy a steady supply of these vegetables throughout the spring.
  • Tomato care – By now, your tomato plants should be flowering or setting fruit. To ensure your best fruit possible feed regularly.  I side dress monthly with finished compost.  I also like to apply liquid fertilizers like homemade compost tea or Ladybug’s Secret Recipe.
  • Harvest cotton – Ok, I don’t expect that you have a lot of cotton to harvest. However, we did.  One of Sally’s student’s gave her some seeds last spring so we planted them.  First time I have ever grown the crop that a lot of our grandparents grew for the cash that kept their families and farms going.  We will use our cotton to make a holiday wreath.  Neat experience and I hope to do a post about growing it, and the wreath we will make from it, in the near future.

Crotons, mums and marigolds combined with pumpkins and other winter squash make outstanding fall arrangements. These plants do as well in pots as the do in the ground


  • Plant fall color now – The stores are filling up with marigolds, crotons and chrysanthemums. All of these plants perform well in a pot or in the ground.  Mix them with the winter squash and gourds you harvested earlier this year to make outstanding arrangements for you yards or porches
  • Water fall blooming bulbs – All of my fall blooming bulbs are blooming now. Oxbloods and lycoris are all beautiful but their blooms fade very quickly.  Keep them well watered to extend their flower time

Trees and Lawns

  • Prepare perennials for the move – If you have a rose, shrub or other spring blooming perennial that has grown too large for its spot, or is not doing well in its location, move it.  If the plant is large, begin gently cutting roots by sticking your shovel into the ground in a semi-circle about a foot from the trunk.  After a week or so, do the same thing to the other side of the trunk.  Water deeply for two weeks before the move.
  • Plant trees now – If you are going to plant trees this fall, consider buying smaller trees. While they do not have the immediate impact of a large tree they have several other advantages.  First, they are cheaper.  Second, they are easier to establish.  Third, they have a much better chance of having a healthy root system.  If you plant a small tree and give it ample food and water, it will reward you with rapid, healthy growth.

Still a lot blooming at our house. This lovely arrangement consists of zinnias, gomphrena, roses, coreopsis and carlic chive blooms.


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

Week 36 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

I am really looking forward to this weekend.  Work has been very stressful so I really need three days of intensive garden therapy.  While many of you will be beaching, boating or barbecuing, I will be spending all of my Labor Day Weekend laboring.  I am going to spend all three days catching up on chores and planting lots and lots of transplants.


This is a great weekend to plant cabbage and other cole crops from transplants.


  • Transplant! – I love the vegetables that come from the fall garden best of all-and this is the weekend to plant the ones I love. This weekend I will be planting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts from transplant.  It is also a great time to plant shallots.  Plant transplants in well-draining soil that has been thoroughly worked with compost.    Keep soil moist for the first couple of weeks to ensure good rooting.  No fertilize is needed at transplant time.
  • Plant from seed- We are running out of time to plant a lot of fall crops from seed. My first freeze usually comes around November 16.  Because of this it is too late to plant anything that takes more 70 days to mature. You can still plant most beans (green, lima, runner, wax).  You should still have time to get a cucumber harvest from seed if you plant now. Some yellow squash will produce in under 70 days.  However use transplants at this late date to ensure a harvest.
  • Plant herbs from transplants – Herbs do great in the cooler fall temperatures. Plant basil, chives, cilantro and dill.  Use that dill to make fresh pickles with cucumbers that you will plant this weekend.

Mexican mint marigold is an anise flavored herb that blooms prolifically in the fall


  • Prune roses – If you have not yet pruned your roses, do it this weekend. There are different types of roses and they all have different pruning requirements.  Check out this great article from Heirloom Roses about how to properly prune your roses this fall.  http://www.heirloomroses.com/care/pruning
  • Redo Potted Plants – Fall potted plants require less water and their foliage stays bright the entire season. While marigolds and chrysanthemums are perennial fall favorites consider adding some clumping grasses or large scale cactus to your arrangements.  They will add color, texture and drama to all of your creations.



Fall is the best time of the year for potted plants in Texas. Spice up your arrangements by mixing grasses or cactus with the standard annuals

Trees and Lawns

  • Plant bluebonnets and other wildflowers – To over seed wildflowers, mow the lawn as close as possible then spread your seed. Once the seed is down walk around on them.  Wildflowers need to come in contact with the soil to get the best germination
  • Control fire ants organically – Fire ants love okra and broccoli. If you are like me you do not like to use chemicals anywhere near the vegetable garden.  Control fire ants organically by combining compost tea, molasses and orange oil.

Plant Texas wildflowers in September


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