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.


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


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.


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.


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!


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.


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 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!

Rainy Day Blooms

This morning I awoke to the soft sounds of rain falling on our tin roof.  There is something so calming, refreshing and nostalgic about that sound.  A cool May morning in Texas is something to savor and celebrate.  So, after breakfast, I put on some clothes, grabbed the camera and headed outside.  The rain had stopped but the sun had not yet broken through the clouds.  The air was heavy and cool and the light was filtered and soft.  I love mornings like this because they are so rare in the South. 

As I wandered through my yard I snapped tons of pictures.  Despite the heat and weeds that are again trying to take over, May is my favorite month for gardening.  Flowers are blooming and the vegetables are beginning to share their fruits. This morning was a perfect start to what promises to be a spectacular day.  Here are several pictures of some of the things that helped to make my morning so special.


One thing that I truly love about my little garden is the fact that almost everyone of my plants came from someone I know.  All of my daylillies, and I have hundreds, came from either my wife’s grandmother or a promising young horticulturist named Chris Von Kohn.  Daylillies and May are synonymous in my mind.  I am always incredibly excited when the first one opens at the beginning of the month and then equally sad when the bloom falls toward the end of the month.  Here are some shots of the one’s that were in bloom this morning.

Here is a very lovely daylily that was bred by Chris Von Kohn.
Here is another one of Chris’s lovely creations.
Here is one of my borders filled with Hyperion daylilies that we got from my wife’s grandmother.  Over the years we have turned our original clump into literally hundreds of plants.
Miscellaneous Blooms
I absolutely love cleome or Spider Flower.  I was very pleased to see that the first one of the season has decided to open up.
Our easter lilies finally opened.  Very lovely and they last so long in a vase.
I absolutely love Powis Castle artemsia.  Here it pairs nicely with old fashioned petunias.
Daylilies aren’t they only thing blooming in my beds.  A no fail stunner for me is always my Victoria salvia.
 My native Datura is beginning to bloom
I love the combination of the old fashioned petunias with the Ruellia or Mexican petunias. 
Here is a very lovely pink yarrow shared with me by my friend Cynthia Mueller.
I love the color and texture of coleus.  These are in an old washstand with portulaca and calibrachoa
Vegetables and Herbs
This year I finally got arounf to building raised beds for my vegetables.  I have three 33′ rows that I filled with a mix of 60% river sand and 40% mushroom compost.  My building was delayed by all of the rain so I got my garden in a little late.  However, it is really beggining to take off.
One of my favorite herbs is borage.  Even though it has a nice, mild cucmber flavor, I don’t really like to eat it.  The leaves are too fuzzy for me.  However, it makes a lovely plant.  Plus, it has beautiful little blue flowers that look great frozen in a ice cube.
I have 18 tomato plants growing.  Because of that we will be making lots of salsa.  I planted cilantro in a buried 2.5 gallon pot to try and keep it in check.  I use this same trick with my mint.
Summer isn’t complete with out squash.  My yellow crook neck it beginning to produce.
I love peppers.  Because of this I have several varieties currently growning.  Last Saturday we picked our first bell.  It was perfectly shaped and a perfect size so we took it in and immediately ate it.  We cut it into two thick slices that we sauteed in bacon grease.  Once it softened up a bit we cracked an egg to the center.  We topped it off with grilled onions, bell pepper and and shreaded American cheese.  People that don’t garden will never know how truly wonderful a dish like this is.