Spring Time is Weed Time!

If you need a reminder as to why gardening in Texas is so difficult, here it is.  According to something I heard on the radio the other day, this is the earliest spring since something like 1884.  Despite that, if you planted your “tomatoes” when you were “supposed to” in a normal year, they still got burned by a late season freeze during the earliest spring ever!  Gotta love Texas!!!

tomato-transplants

I hope your tomato transplants made it through the late season cold snap. If they didn’t, I hope you have enough left to replant

If you took my advice and planted your tomatoes last week then I hope you got them covered before the cold weather came in.  If not, I apologize.  There was a 95% chance it would not freeze.  Since it froze anyway many of you will probably need to replant if your tomatoes lost most of their leaves.  This late season cold snap also hit ornamentals.  If you had already put out tender flower transplants they likely got burned as well.  Pull them up and replant if more than 50% of their foliage was burned.

Butter-cup

Some weeds are too pretty to pull! Even though they are a bit invasive, I leave most of the buttercups that pop up in my beds

If last weekend was the perfect time for planting, then this weekend is the perfect weekend to get control of the weed problems that are “popping up”.  I get a lot of weed control questions on the blog.  For an organic gardener, the options are fairly limited.  You can pull them, hoe them or spray with an acetic acid mixture.  Only problem with acetic acid is it kills everything.  So if you are trying to kill a few dandelions in the middle of your beautiful lawn, cover them with a shield.  A great trick is cut the bottom out of a jug.  Place the bottomless jug over the weed and spray your herbicide into the top of the container.   This will limit the amount of grass, or other plants that are potentially affected by overspray.

acetic-acid-weed-spray

Concentrated acetic acid is a great organic weed killer.

If you go to the trouble of pulling and chopping all of those weeds this weekend, be sure to mulch afterwards.  The best way to control weeds is to prevent them and nothing does that better than a thick layer of mulch.  I am lucky enough to have a truck so I get my mulch in bulk from my local landfill.  I use wood chips in my ornamental beds and spoiled hay in my vegetable garden.  Any dead, organic material will work.  Another thing I often use in the vegetable garden is newspaper.  If you wet newspaper and then overlap several layers over an area it will dry and form a very good barrier.  Cover it with mulch to make your rows and beds look a little mote tidy.

Sweet-green-fertilizer

Sweet Green is a high notrogen, organic fertilizer that works as well on your vegetables as it does on your lawn

I also get a lot of lawn questions this time of year.  Here are my tips.  Do not put out pre-ememrgent weed and feed products now.  It is too late.  The fertilizer is going to feed the weeds that have already germinated.  Instead, mow your lawn on your lowest setting.  In fact I would do this for the next two or three weeks in a row.  This will kill most of the weeds that are growing now.  After mowing put out a high nitrogen fertilizer like “Sweet Green”.

Another great thing about spring is the chickens start laying again on a regular basis!

Another great thing about spring is the chickens start laying again on a regular basis!

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!

Snake Bit (kind of) !!!

Yesterday evening was perfect.  A storm was rolling in so the weather was cool and the sunset was the most beautiful shades of pink, orange and red.  My wife and I strolled hand in hand through the yard and noticed all of the things that were blooming or emerging (castor beans).  We went into to the potager and watched the cotton tail that has taken up residence in our “vine garden” (watermelons and sweet potatoes).  While there, my wife noted that the yellow pear tomato was covered so we walked over.  She stood behind me as I gently pulled and handed her handful after handful of these sweet, succulent delights.  As I reached in for the third handful, BAM!!!!  Something hit me in the foot!  It felt like I had been kicked by a small child.  Confused, I looked down and there I saw this:

Turns out that little kick was no kick at all.  I had been struck by a very large and  aggressive Texas Rat Snake.  Now I am no herptologist, so if my i.d. of this snake is wrong please feel free to tell me. 

According to Houston Herpetological Supply this snake is good to have around as it eats primarily rats and mice.  However, it will also eat birds and bird eggs and it can climb trees to accomplish that feat.  Because it is often found around chicken coops, it is often called a chicken snake.  However, it doesn’t eat chickens and rarely eats their eggs (too big).  This snake can be aggressive when encountered in the wild.  It will coil up and strike.  It will also wiggle its tail in leaves so it sounds like a rattlesnake.  Also, it is the largest snake in Harris (and evidently Washington) county and it can reach lengths of over six feet.  This one must have been a teenager as I am guessing it was only four to five feet long.

I am growing my tomatoes on a cattle panel. They are heavily mulched with straw and have drip irrigation. This pic is from about a month ago. They have now formed a very thick and wide hedge that appears to be ideal for snakes to lay under.

Well, that explains it.  An aggresive Texas Rat Snake just did not appreciate me bothering his tomatoes.  Glad I am not afraid of snakes.  If this would have happened to my dad it would have probably killed him.  I was surprised at how determined this guy was to stay in my tomato bushes.  After striking me, he just laid there and looked at me.  He wasn’t moving.  So, I had a choice.  Catch it, kill it or just run it off.  I am not a snake hater so I just chased him off.  My wife was a little dismayed by the fact that he decided to run in the direction of the house. I ran in front of him and he turned and went under a woodpile. 

So, what have I learned from this?

1. Always take a hoe with you into the garden whether you are weeding or not

2.  Always wear shoes (or boots) when you are in the garden

3.  Look before you stick your hands into places you can’t see very well

4.  Snakes like tomatoes

5.  If you have rats in the house or attic, put a rat snake in there (learned this from the website).  They will eat them and then leave.