Week 46 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

Thanks to the generosity of a friend, the “dream I dreamed” for my vegetable garden is now very close to completion.  Danny Hartley came down last weekend and sloshed around in the sticky, muddy clay and helped me install my irrigation system. It was a big job and I simply could not have done it without his help.   Next spring, my garden will consist of 12 rows of herbs, flowers and vegetables that are watered by a soaker hose irrigation system that is feed by my six new water spigots!  Thanks so much Danny!

This weekend I will finally get to pull up my okra, tomatoes and cucumbers.  One row will be reserved for my onions.  The other two will be replanted with beets, turnips, collard and mustard greens.  Below are some more things you can do this weekend in your yard and garden.


Thanks to Danny Hartley my dreamsof a “Southern Living” quality garden is one step closer!


  • Plant – One of the great things about gardening in Zone 9 is the ability to plant year round. Even though it is the middle of November you can still plant lots of things.  This weekend I will be putting out more beets, turnips, collards and mustard greens.  You can also plant sugar snap peas, radishes, lettuce, spinach, Asian greens like bok choi, kale, chard and so much more!!!  Do not forget to check out Patty Leander’s Planting guide to see what else you can plant in your November garden
  • Harvest – If you have things ready for harvest I would suggest that you bring them in.  We are fast approaching our average first frost date.  While many of our fall veggies can take a light freeze, squash tomatoes and cucumbers cannot.
  • Fertilize –Heat increases the metabolism of all living things. Because of this, the nutritive value of the compost is “used up” more quickly in the warmer months of the year.  If you compost now the cooler temperatures will make your compost “last longer”.  Basically, a good heavy application of compost now means you will not need to feed your soil again until April or early May. Fall-Pumpkins


  • Plant – You can still scatter poppy and larkspur seeds for the next week or so. I have tons of these two flowers and I love them both.  They come in several colors so they work in every landscape AND they reseed with abandon.  Plant some now and you can realistically have them forever
  • Prune – It is still too early to prune trees. However, it is a great time to prune ever green shrubs.  Since the cool temperatures slow their growth rate for the next few months a good shaping now will keep them looking great until Spring
  • Fertilize – Just like your in the vegetable garden, an application of compost to your yards will gently feed your lawns until the grass begins actively growing in the spring
  • Move – If you have made any landscaping mistakes now is a great time to correct them. November is the best time to move (or plant) perennials.


    Chicken and Asparagus! Our girls like the fall garden almost as much as Sally and I do.

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 32 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden


A lovely sunflower and gomphrena arrangement in our little guest cottage that we call “The Nest”. Photo by Natalie Lacy Lange

Last night Sally and I came home to every Texan’s worst August nightmare; our air conditioner was out!  Thank goodness for our little guest house!  While watching the news from the air conditioned comfort of our little cottage I caught the forecast for next week.  They are saying it is going to be 105 and 106 on Monday and Tuesday.  That should motivate you to get out there this weekend and get your garden ready for the fall planting (since it is only going to be 101 on Saturday and Sunday).  You will want to get as much done as possible while it is still cool!


It is time to order your seeds for the Fall garden. Check out Patty’s Variety List and Seed Sources on the sidebar.


  • Order seeds now – With only two or three weeks left before the Fall planting season begins, you need to place your seed orders ASAP. Patty Leander has created two great guides that will tell you the best varieties for Central Texas and where to find them.  Click on the links below to read her Vegetable Variety Guide and her list of her favorite seed sources.

Patty Leander’s Vegetable Varieties for Central Texas

Patty Leander’s On-Line Seed Sources

  • Take advantage of the heat – We are right smack dab in the middle of the hottest part of the year. Solarization is a great, cheap and organic way to solve some serious weed problems.  Patty talks about this in her latest post on Nematode control and I did a post a while back (called Weed Free Organically)that is worth revisiting.  Check them both out.  Solarization is very easy to do and very effective.
  • Water and turn your compost – Your compost pile has to stay moist to work properly. Water and turn regularly

One of my beds with three of my favorite heat loving ornamentals-puple fountain grass, sweet potato vine and zinnias


  • Dead head – Last night my wife made a very attractive bouquet of sunflowers and dark purple gomphrena. All of our summer blooming flowers need to be deadheaded to encourages rebloom.  Also, water your flowers more often in this heat.  Right now I am applying about an inch of water every third day to my cut flower garden
  • Order seeds for fall blooming flowers – When you order your vegetable seeds pick up a few packets of flower seeds. It will soon be time to put out spring bloomers like larkspur and poppies.   Order now to ensure the best selection

Trees and Lawns

  • Watch out for sod webworms – August is the month for this pest. The worms are the larval form of a very small, gray moth.  The larvae will strip your grass down to the stolons.  Infestion clues are yellowing grass and/or lots of birds on the lawn.  The birds are eating the caterpillars.  These pests can do a lot of damage in a hurry.  Unfortunately there is no good organic control.  Spray Bayers “Power Force” on day one and Bayer’s “Bayer’s Complete” on day two.
  • Trim shrubs and hedges now – The high heat of August slows the growth of woody perennials. Since they grow less now, your shaping efforts will ensure they look good much longer than they did after their Spring pruning


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!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Four Tips for Growing Outstanding Fall Color

Nothing says fall like flats and flats of pansies. Photo by Morgan McBride

If you haven’t already done so, right now is a great time to plant your fall color. If you have been to a garden center lately you probably knew this. Every garden center that I visit is covered in pansies, snap dragons and kale; and with good reason. These cool season crops grow really well here, they look great in the landscape, they brighten up the gloomy days to come and they can take just about the worst that a Texas winter has to throw at them. In addition, if properly cared for, they will continue to bloom right up until your spring annuals begin to flower and take over.

The secret to success with your fall planted annuals lies in your soil. While these crops will all survive in a wide range of varying soil types, they will thrive in a well prepared bed. Every year I hear different people give tips about what you should add to your soil to properly prepare it for planting these fall annuals. Since I hear the same tips year after year, the advice must be sound. Listed below are the top 4 organic soil amendments that you can add to make sure your fall annual plantings thrive.

Kale and other brassicas are excellent for the fall color bed. Here is a curly purple variety that will compliment the yellow pansies in the prexious picture. Photo by Morgan McBride

Organic Material-Good soil is full of organic material. Organic material, or compost, makes the soil more arable, increases its ability to hold water and nutrients and feeds the microorganisms in the soil that convert the stored nutrients in compost into a form that is usable by the plant. Certain types of compost do have small amounts of NPK that are instantly available to the plant. However, it takes time for nature to convert the majority of the nutrients in the compost into a form that the plant uses. So, truly healthy soil is amended twice a year, every year.

Blood Meal- Blood meal is a by-product of the beef industry. It is basically dried and powdered cow’s blood. Blood meal is one of the highest non-synthetic sources of nitrogen. In fact, it is equivalent to an application of a 13.25% commercial nitrogen fertilizer. It also contains a trace amount of phosphorous and potassium. In addition to being a great source of readily available nitrogen for plants, it also activates many of the microbes that are feeding on the organic material.

Pansies are one of the most planted flowers in America. Photo by Morgan McBride

Bone Meal-Another by-product of the slaughter industry, bone meal is an organic source of phosphorous. Ground bone meal works as a slow release treatment. This is fine since most soils are better at holding phosphorous and potassium than nitrogen. Bone meal contains roughly 12% phosphorous and 4% nitrogen. Calcium is another essential nutrient for plants and bone meal is an excellent source of this.

Peat Moss-Peat, as Peat Moss is often called, is a dried form of moss. It is an excellent soil conditioner and provides nitrogen to the soil as it breaks down. However, the reason most people recommend adding peat to your beds is because of its amazing water holding capabilities. Peat can hold up to 20 times its own weight in water. This is very important to us in the arid southwestern part of the U.S.  By adding peat your will improve your soil and reduce your water bill.

Going Green For God

Kate is thinning the carrots in the St. Paul's organic garden

How do you get a bunch of second grade students excited about science?  If you are Sally White, you have them grow an organic vegetable garden.  Sally is the second grade teacher at St. Paul’s Christian Day School in Brenham.  She is also an avid gardener.  Each year, as a part of her science curriculum, she introduces her students to several plant related concepts.  She then uses the hands on experience of the garden to reinforce those concepts.   She calls her program “Going Green for God”.  According to Sally “The kids love getting their hands dirty.  The garden provides a way for me to get their initial interest level up and maintain it through out the year by constant visits to observe and document the changes in the garden.”

Sally built a raised bed garden at the school based on Mel Barthalomew’s square foot gardening methods.  Her garden is an 8’ X 3’ raised bed with a trellis on the back.  Each year her class plants both a fall and a spring garden.  The kids get to plan their garden by selecting the appropriate plants for the appropriate season.  This exercise in planning reinforces lessons learned about seasonality and helps develop their graphing skills.  The kids are responsible for all of the care of the garden.  They water, compost, weed and harvest. This fall, her class has harvested broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and lettuce.  Spring plantings include carrots, lettuces, cucumbers and tomatoes.  This year, she will be adding potatoes to the mix.

Sally's class harvesting the fall garden

Sally also uses her garden to demonstrate and reinforce the Christian principle of stewardship.  She teaches her students to be good stewards of God’s creation by caring for the garden with organic methods.  Compost is a big part of this.  She teaches kids about the processes involved in making compost and the value that it provides to the soil and ultimately the plants.  Her compost lectures are always a hit.  The kids love the fact that they can make something good out of “cow poo and garbage”!  The compost lesson is reinforced before each planting when the kids add compost to the planting bed to “recharge” their soil.  Good stewardship also means learning to live by the “waste not, want not” motto.  Nothing grown in their garden goes to waste.  The lunch staff often prepares the vegetables for the kids or the kids are allowed to take home the fresh produce.  The greens and foliage go into her compost pile.

Our world is going through a lot of changes right now.  Things like climate change and overpopulation are serious threats to the future of our planet.  Kids across our world are going to grow up in a world that has much fewer certainties than the world their parents grew up in.  By teaching her kids to be concerned, self reliant, good stewards of the earth, she hopes that she is “growing” a huge crop of great kids that will be a positive force on our future.