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.

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!