Week 44 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

I am happy to report that I got 7.5” of rain last weekend.  While I was grateful for the rain, it really did a number on my garden.  Sad to say that I was watching my best fall tomato crop ever develop.  Now, I am watching my best fall tomato crop ever split open from all of the rain.  Ugh!!!  Oh well, I can still eat the bottom halves!

All of this rain is making my fall tomatoes crack open.  I harvest them anyway and eat the bottom half!

All of this rain is making my fall tomatoes crack open. I harvest them anyway and eat the bottom half!

On another note, winter is coming.  Even though it doesn’t feel like it right now, your first freeze is just around the corner.  Since most of my planting, weeding and mulching are done for the season I will be using this rainy weekend to prepare for that inevitable first freeze.  Here is what I do to prepare for winter in my Zone 9 garden.

  • Determine your freeze dates – Your first and last feeze dates are probably the single most important thing you need to know to garden successfully. If you think you know them I suggest checking again.  Thanks to climate change, freeze dates are changing.  Several years ago my first average freeze date was November 16.  I knew this because it was my anniversary.  I got in a small bit of trouble one year because my wife was very upset with me when I chose to finish up some cold frames instead of leaving on time for our romantic get away!  There are tons of tools on the internet to determine your freeze dates.  My favorite is on Dave’s Garden.  Click here to determine the freeze dates for your area.10-30-2015 6-55-43 PM
  • Oil and sharpen tools- I buy good tools and I take care of them. When you have time, like now, give them a little attention to extend their life and usefulness.  Wash them with soap and water.  Let them dry.  Take a file to the edges of your hoes, shovels and larger blades.  Once they are sharp, wipe down the blades and the wooden handles with linseed oil.  Come spring, they will be clean, sharp and rust free.
  • Row cover – Row cover is the one thing I cannot get enough of. Just about anything can be used for row cover.  However, I recommend using something that is permeable.  I get my row cover from Texas Gardener (click here to purchase the cover I use).  I really think it is a good Idea to get your row cover out now.  I bunch mine up beside my rows and hold it down with T-Posts.  That way, I am not scrambling around to find it and get it laid down in a blowing wind the night that first freeze comes.

    Take cuttings of begonias and geraniums now to ensure you will still have them in the fall

    Take cuttings of begonias and geraniums now to ensure you will still have them in the fall

  • Take cuttings – I have two heirloom begonias and an amazing heirloom geranium that are truly precious to me (and my wife). To make sure that I have these in the spring, I always hedge my bets by taking tons of cuttings.  Begin by filling your pots with a high quality potting mix (I use Miracle grow) to within a half inch of the rim.   My pots are small solo cups. I use a soldering iron to burn drainage holes in the bottom of them.  Once full, water thoroughly and let them drain while you take your cuttings.  Cut your plants on a 45 below a node.  Remove all of the foliage except a couple of leaves and stick them in the potting mix.  I keep these cuttings in my mud room under fluorescent lights and keep them moist all winter.

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 43 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

As I write this I am listening to the sounds of water dripping off my roof! I am also enjoying the lightning storm that is telling me more rain is on the way!.  Thanks to a whole weekend of thunderstorms, I am hoping to do absolutely nothing in the garden!  If you get rained in this weekend I recommend reading the latest issue of Texas Gardener.  This issue is really good.  Friend and co-blogger Patty Leander has an excellent article on growing microgreens.  For those of us who need to grow something all year round, her excellent article tells you how to grow these flavorful (and pretty fancy) greens all winter long.  If it is not raining on you this weekend there is plenty to do in your fall yard and garden.

Its been a while since I saw water dripping of the roof and the trees!

Its been a while since I saw water dripping of the roof and the trees!

!!!!!!!CAUTION/AVISO!!!!!!

Sally walked out of our guest house this weekend and almost stepped on a young copperhead that was coming up the steps to meet her!  Copperheads love hunting at dusk and they love pockets of high humidity.  Right now they are breeding and trying to bulk up for winter.  Since this is one of their most active times of the year you really need to wear sturdy boots and carry a stick when you are out in your yard and garden.  Please be careful out there! Just FYI, if you get bitten by a copperhead you are probably going to be ok.  If bitten, go to the hospital ASAP but know that, even though they are the most aggressive of the poisonous snakes in Texas, they are the least venomous.

beet-sprouts-1

Don’t fertilize your plants until they have developed their true leaves.

VEGETABLES

  • Plant root crops from seed – Last night I put out my second planting of beets. I also put out icicle radishes and three varieties of carrots (Danvers, Danvers Shorts and Cosmic Purple).  You can still plant all root crops from seed plus chard, kale, collards and mustard greens.
  • Make Compost Tea- I do not recommend fertilizing any plant until it is past the cotyledon size. Once your brassicas, lettuces, spinach or root crops have their true leaves, feed them!  When plants are small I really like foliar applications of compost tea.  To make compost tea, add a cup of molasses to five gallons of rain water.  Add an old sock that has been filled with compost and tied at the end.  Place outside and stir twice a day for a week or ten days.  Then pour directly on your plants or strain and apply with a sprayer.
The only thing cuter than my grandson is my grandson enjoying a playdate in a pumpkin patch!!!

The only thing cuter than my grandson is my grandson enjoying a playdate in a pumpkin patch!!!

ORNAMENTALS

  • Water your decorations! – Right now it is hard to find a yard a porch that does not have a big bunch of mums on it. Water the mums almost daily. To extend, or encourage their bloom, feed weekly with Miracle Grow mixed to 50% of the recommended rate.
  • Plant ryegrass now! – If you can beat the rain, this weekend will be a perfect time to over seed your lawn with rye.
  • Move plants – I need to move several little crepe myrtles that have popped up from seeds. Now is the best time to move them and all other perennials.  For best results move perennials when they are small, take as many roots as possible, plant them slightly higher than they were in their original location and then water, water, water!

 

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!

Gumbo Time! by Patty G. Leander

gumbo-104

There is nothing better than a cup of hot gumbo on a cool fall evening!

There are always a few things I can count on this time of year: shorter days, cooler temperatures, fewer bugs and either the Longhorns or the Sooners reigning over the Cotton Bowl till next year (congrats UT!). Plus a big pot of flavorful gumbo thickened with the last of the okra from the garden.

gumbo-089

Cooking the roux while the Cajun trinity waits their turn to be added to the pot

It is too dang hot to stand over a stove stirring a roux in the middle of summer when okra is at its peak, but in the fall, when the bell pepper plants are loaded and the green onions are big enough to harvest, I feel compelled to make gumbo just before okra gives up the ghost; a little for immediate consumption, a little for sharing and a little for the freezer to enjoy on cold winter nights in front of a cozy fire. A small disclaimer here – I am Texan and did not grow up making gumbo in a Louisiana kitchen.  If you grew up in the Gumbo State I bet you make amazing gumbo and I salute you, but for the rest of the readers out there, including my two daughters, here is a pretty good version that I have been making, sharing and enjoying for over 25 years.

gumbo-093

It really smells good now!

 

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Gumbo contains onions, bell pepper and celery – the Cajun trinity.

1 pound andouille or spicy smoked sausage, cut in half lengthwise then cut into ¼” slices

4-6 bone-in chicken breasts, skinned

½ cup oil

½ cup flour

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2-3 stalks celery, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp Creole seasoning

2 bay leaves

1-2 tsp dried thyme

1 tbsp Worcestershire

1-2 tsp Tabasco

1½ quarts water or chicken stock, more if needed

1-2 cups okra, sliced

4-6 green onions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish

Cooked rice

Cook sausage in a large Dutch oven until nicely browned (I usually cook half the sausage in a separate pan for more even browning). Remove to a paper towel-lined dish to drain. Add chicken to pan and brown on both sides in sausage drippings; remove and set aside. Add enough oil to Dutch oven to measure ½ cup; when heated through stir in ½ cup flour. Now get comfortable, roll up your sleeves and cook the roux, stirring constantly, for 20-30 minutes, until medium to dark brown. You may notice that my gumbo is not as dark as what you might be served in New Orleans – I may be a Texan but I am a chicken when comes to cooking a truly deep, dark roux. A darker roux gives a rich, smoky flavor but if you cook it too long or too fast or look way even for a second it can go from perfection to scorched and you will have to start over so pay attention!

Once your roux is toasty brown it’s time to add the trinity, but the roux is so hot I like to move the pan off the heat for a couple of minutes (this also prevents the roux from burning) then stir in the onions, peppers and celery and return to the burner. Cook over medium heat for 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and seasonings, cooking and stirring another 3-5 minutes.

Gradually stir in 1½ quarts of water/chicken stock and bring to a boil. Return chicken breasts to pot, lower heat and simmer 30-45 minutes. Remove chicken and allow to cool. Return sausage to pot along with okra and green onions and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile bone chicken breasts and shred.  Return shredded chicken to pot and cook another 20-30 minutes until everything is hot and fragrant. Remove bay leaves and season, if desired, with salt and hot sauce. Serve with rice and fresh green onions.

gumbo-112

And finally, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo…enjoy!

 

A couple of years ago I was fortunate to receive some bulbs for green multiplier onions from the publisher of Texas Gardener magazine. He received them from a reader in Houston, who explained that they migrated to Texas with Cajuns from south Louisiana who had been growing them for over 100 years. They grew them for use in their gumbo and refer to them simply as gumbo onions. I don’t know if this reader has a stockpile to share via this blog but if he does I will provide his name and address in a future post. These onions are dependable and tasty, but unfortunately I have given away most of my bulbs and am trying to build up my reserves.  In the meantime try asking long-time gardeners in your area if they have any multipliers to share or order some white multiplier onions from Southern Exposure Seed Catalog (www.southernexposure.com).

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 42 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

This past week, we buried my mother-in-law.  Patricia Ann Krischke was an amazing woman!  I have never known anyone that was so full of life.  She loved to laugh and sing and dance and she would do it any time she got the chance.  She truly lit up a room with her presence.  She spent the first part of her life being the perfect wife that raised four amazing children.  She was a constant volunteer, a devout Catholic and a hostess with a true gift for entertaining.  Once the kids were gone she went to work for Harris County where she was instrumental in getting the bonds passed for the Astrodome.  She was also a HUGE Republican and was very proud of the of the work she did on the campaigns of Ronald Reagan, Bush 1, Kay Bailey Hutchinson and countless other state and local officials.  In the end, there was only one thing she could not do – defeat Alzhiemers.  Please pray for my family and all families that are dealing with the horrible disease.  Rest in Peace Pat Krischke.  The world is a lot less bright without you in it.

In honor of Pat, I am going to talk about some fall crops (or crops that can be planted in the fall) that have been shown to prevent or fight Alzheimer’s Disease.

Patricia_Krischke

Alzheimer’s was the only challenge my mother-in-law, Pat Krischke could not overcome. Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord!

  • Strawberries – Plant Chandler, Douglas or Sequoia varieties now for a spring harvest. Strwberries will tolerate a lot of soil types and pH ranges.  However, it will not tolerate wet feet.  Plant in soil with excellent drainage.
  • Cucumbers with skins –. Fisetin is a plant compound that may prevent or fight plaque buildup in the brain. This compound is highest in the skin and area just between the skin and the fruit.  So, even if they make you burp, eat those cucumber skins!
  • cucumbers

    I am ready to to harvest my second crop of cucumbers of the year. Cucumbers contain the Alzheimer fighting chemical called fisetin. Photo by Bruce Leander

    Apples – Who doesn’t love fresh, crisp fall apples? Again, eat them whole to get the most Alzheimer’s fighting qualities.  Plant apple trees now.

  • Kiwi –Besides tasting great, science believes that kiwis possess a lot of healthful compounds. My friend Tim Hartman is currently doing his PhD work on the kiwi.  Pray that he finds something in these furry, green fruits that will finally cure Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
  • Peaches and plums – Both peaches and plums are great Alzheimer fighters.  It will soon be time to plant peach and plum trees so you can grow your own Alzheimer fighters at home!
  • Tomatoes – If persimmons and kiwis are not to your liking, just eat tons of tomatoes. The most popular vegetable in the world is packed with fisetin.
  • Onions – Onions are another garden staple that have great Alzheimer fighting characteristics. Right now, it is just about time to plant onions in south and central Texas.

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 41 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden  

Well, summer is refusing to leave.  It is hard to believe that after the record rainfalls of spring, we are slowly slipping back into a drought situation.  Because of this, take time this weekend to do some deep watering of your trees, shrubs and other perennials.  Below are some more things you can do in your yards and gardens this weekend.

Now is a great time to plant lettuce from seed and shallots.  I grow them together in the beds of my potager.

Now is a great time to plant lettuce from seed and shallots. I grow them together in the beds of my potager.

VEGETABLES

  • Plant greens – Now is a good time to plant spinach and lettuce from seed. I use my Cobrahead Hand Hoe to make a shallow furrow in soil that has been well worked with compost.  I spinkle the seeds and then cover lightly.  Most greens need some light to germinate os do not plant too deeply or compact the soil too tightly after planting.  Keep the soil moist until the plants are at least 1 inch high.
  • Plant shallots –. While it is still too early to plant bulbing onions, you can plant shallots now. I grow three varieites of shallots.  These keep us in onions through the winter and we use their tops in in soups and salads.
My "Crimson Glory" roses are putting on their fall show.  Feed your roses now with high phosphorus fertilizers

My “Crimson Glory” roses are putting on their fall show. Feed your roses now with high phosphorus fertilizers

ORNAMENTALS

  • Feed your roses – Most of my roses are putting on their fall show. Feed them now with a high phosphorus fertilizer and give them regular water until the first freeze
  • Gather seeds – My wife loves saving seeds. By this time some of our zinnias and bachelor buttons are beginning to look pretty ragged.  Sally pulls up the entire plant, ties them in bundles and then hangs them upside down in our garage.  Once they are dry she crushes the seed heads into paper bags, lables them, and them places them in the refrigerator to be used next spring.
  • Plant poppies – Thanks to my wife’s efforts we have lots of poppy seeds saved from last year. Scatter them on the ground and then drag a rake over them.  Water and then forget them.  Wait until April and enjoy one of the most prolific and showy flowers of the spring garden
  • Divide Daylily and iris now – I dig up the entire clump and then beak them up into individual plants. I space my daylilies about and iris about a foot apart.
dividing-daylilies

This weekend is a great time to divide day lilies and iris.

 

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 40 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

I spent last night with a 43 year old friend that just survived a massive heart attack!  Things like this kind of stop me in my tracks and make me re-evaluate the important things in life.  While I am definitely going to do some gardening this weekend, I think I will spend a lot more time than usual smelling the flowers!  Our weather woman told me that this is going to be a great weekend to be outside.  With highs in the low 80s it will be a great time to do some of the more labor intensive tasks that you have been putting off.  Below are some of the things you can do in your garden this weekend.

fava-beans

Fava beans are a cool season crop that can be planted from now until around Thanksgiving.

VEGETABLES

  • Start preparing for spring – Traditional gardeners can plant all year round with little preparation. By applying commercial fertilizers they can give their plants whatever food they need whenever they need it.  Organic gardeners don’t have it so easy.  Rich organic soil takes time to build.  I generally leave a few rows unplanted in the fall garden.  I add compost and till it in just like usual, but I do not plant in it.  Instead I cover with leaves and a heavy layer of mulch.  The leaves attract the earth worms which will begin to turn the compost into a nutrient dense soil that will feed my spring garden.
  • Plant fava beans from seed –. One of my four son-in-laws is an Egyptian (and a very good gardener). A big part of his food culture includes fava beans.  I had never eaten or grown a fava bean before he joined our family.  Now they are one of my favorite things to grow.  This is a good weekend to plant them.  You can plant them now until about Thanksgiving to ensure a long harvest.  Click here to read an article I did on them a few years ago: Succession Planting of Fava (Broad Beans) in the Potager.
Fall-Arrangement-1

Last week, Sally and I made this arrangement for her mother.

ORNAMENTALS

  • Enjoy those flowers – One of my favorite things about gardening is making cut flower arrangements. Sally and I grow lots of flowers and herbs that we use in arrangements for our house, our guest house and for friends.  Cut flowers early in the morning and drop them immediately into cool water.  To extend the time you get to enjoy your arrangements keep them away from windows and gas stoves
  • Mulch – While tough summer weeds like Bermuda, spurge and purslane are slowing down, fall broadleaves like pigweed are coming on. Give your beds a good weeding and then mulch, mulch, mulch!  Mulch will suppress weed germination.  Plus, a good thick layer of mulch will insulate the roots of your perennials and ensure they come back for you in the spring .
lycoris-aurea-4

Right now my lycoris are stunninging. This lovely shot is of L. radiate and L. aurea.

Lawns

  • Plant rye grass now – September 15 used to be the date that landscapers put out rye grass. Thanks to climate change that date is no longer accurate.  Plant rye grass when day time temperatures are in the 70s to low 80s and night time temperatures are 20 degrees cooler.  For very detailed instructions on how to properly over seed with rye, check out my article entitled “Doing Rye Grass Right”.

 

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 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.

Ameraucana-1

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

VEGETABLES

  • 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.

ORNAMENTALS

  • 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

TREES and SHRUBS

  • 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

BUG CONTROL

  • 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

WEED CONTROL

  • 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-richter

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.

Lake-Austin-Spa

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.

all-blue-potato

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.

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.

Japanese-soil-knife

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.

Cotton-1

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

Vegetables

  • 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.
outdoor-fall-arrangement

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

Ornamentals

  • 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.
fall-floral-arrangement-1

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!