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!!!


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.


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.


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 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!

Tips for Week 25 in the Zone 9 Garden

This past weekend I harvested my first crop of elephant garlic.  This was a new plant for me and I thoroughly enjoyed growing it.  While it is not technically garlic (it is more closely related to leeks) it was a beautiful plant that can be used ornamentally or for its fist sized, mild, garlic tasting bulbs.  My elephant garlic was given to me by a man who has grown it in his garden for 47 years.  He got it from his parents who grew it for years before sharing with him. I absolutely love plants like this.  Whether they are called heirloom plants or pass a long plants, they are a living link to our horticultural past.  I love finding, growing and preserving these living links to our southern heritage.  If you have an heirloom plant that you love, leave me a comment.  I would love to hear about it.


With it long curvy scapes and big flower heads, Elephant Garlic is a useful as as ornamental as it is as a food source.

Pest Control

  • Invest in a few select organic insecticides– Bt for caterpillars, insecticidal soap for soft-bodied aphids, neem oil for beetles and squash bugs, spinosad for caterpillars and stink bugs. Follow label instructions, and spray only as needed. Mark the purchase date on the product container and store in a protected location, preferably indoors.
  • When using any insecticide, mix up only what will be needed for the plants you are treating – I rarely mix up a gallon of anything, and often get by using a one pint or one quart squirt bottle, depending on the product and number of plants needing treatment. Once I determine how much a particular product is needed per pint, I write it directly on the pesticide container so I don’t have to scour the label and recalculate every time.
  • Protect bees by applying pesticides in the late afternoon or evening, when bees are less active.
  • Control Spurge and Puslane-These two plants are some of the most difficult to control. Both grow rapidly and produce thousands of seeds.  Chemical control has little effect on mature purslane.  Pull these weeds and place in a plastic trash bag.  Do not compost!  Apply heavy mulch or solarize if possible after you remove the plants.

When mixing herbicides or pesticides mix only what you need and clearly mark each container


  • Plant okra, sweet potatoes, winter squash and peppers-Realize this is the absolute end of the spring planting season. It may be too late to plant even these in southern parts of the state.
  • Water correctly- It is better for your plants, and your water bill, if you apply one inch of water every five days. Water slowly in the morning to reduce evaporation loss. 
  • Remove spent plants like green beans to avoid attracting pests.
  • Top dress empty rows with compost and cover with a heavy layer of mulch to prepare them for fall planting in late July

Water deeply and less frequently to encourage deep root growth and conserve water


  • Cut fresh flowers for the house-Cut your zinnia’s, sunflowers, gomphrena, celosia and other fresh cuts early in the morning. Cut stems on 45 degree angles, strip foliage and drop immediately into cool, clean water
  • Plant sweet potato vine from transplant-Sweet potato vine is a great way to add lots of low maintenance color to your pots and beds.  With its bright chartreuse or purple-black foliage this drought and heat tolerant plant will add LOTS of color to your summer landscape.  Sweet potato vine will provide you lots of color right up to the first freeze 

Fruit Trees

  • Pick remaining plums-Plums will continue to ripen after they are picked. Pull when they have half color and allow them to ripen inside;  especially if making jelly.  Over ripe fruit left on the trees, or on the ground, invites in raccoons, possums and mocking birds
  • Pick Peaches-Pick peaches when they are slightly soft to the touch



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!

Tips for Week 24 in the Zone 9 Garden

Patty Leander reminded me of an old adage about Texas weather.  It goes something like this “Texas weather is a series of droughts broken up by an occasional flood”.  These past few weeks have been a great reinforcer of that old saying.  Once it stopped raining the sun came out in a big way.  After the rainiest May in history I found myself watering Sunday night.  Oh the joys of gardening in Texas!  If it is not raining again this week end (as is predicted) here are a few things you can do in your yard or garden.


Our plum tree is loaded and ready to harvest. This morning Sally and I picked 10 gallons of plums! Photo by Sally White

Pest Control

  • Control squash bugs-The bugs that a lot of us call “squash bugs” or “stink bugs” are actually called leaf footed bugs. While these pests are most often seen on our tomatoes and squash, they will eat just about anything.  In fact I even found them in my plum tree today.  This hard bodied bug is really prolific and hard to kill.  Pick adults and drop into a bucket of soapy water or suck up with a dust buster or shop vac.  You can also leave boards or shingles under your plants.  The bugs will go under them at night.  In the morning step on the board or shingle!
  • Control broad leaf weeds with concentrated acetic acid-Household vinegar is around 6% acetic acid. While it will kill weeds real killing power is found in concentrated acetic acid found at your local garden center.  You can find acetic acid concentrated to about 20%.  This is the “Round up” of the organic world.  It will kill just about every type of weed (or desirable plant) in your garden so use with caution.
Squash bugs are hard to control.  Use a dust vac or shop vac to suck them off of your plants.  Photo by Sally White

Leaf footed bugs are hard to control. Use a dust vac or shop vac to suck them off of your plants. Photo by Sally White


  • Re-mulch tomatoes-Remove old mulch and destroy it. It harbors bugs, bug eggs, blown in weed seeds and fungus.  A fresh new layer of mulch will help you keep an even soil moisture level.  This will prevent both cracking and blossom end rot
  • Continue removing suckers from tomato plants
  • Trim tomato bushes branches that have outgrown their supports
  • Pick cucumbers and okra daily
  • Side dress all plants with hign nitrogen composts like mushroom or cotton bur
Now is a good time to plant fall blooming bulbs like spider lilies and oxbloods.

Now is a good time to plant fall blooming bulbs like spider lilies and oxbloods.


  • Trim shrubs so they are slightly fuller at the bottom than the top. This will allow sunlight to reach the entire plant and prevent “leggy” shrubs
  • Plant more zinnias and sunflowers
  • Clip back any remaining foliage of daffodils, jonquils or narcissus
  • Plant fall blooming bulbs like oxbloods and spider lilies


  • It is now time to apply nitrogen to your St. Augustine
  • Fertilize trees by applying your fertilizer at the drip line of the canopy

Tip of the Week – Week 17 in the Zone 9 Garden

Happy Earth Day!  45 years ago Senator Gaylord Nelson decided to raise consciousness about the environment after witnessing a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.  His efforts started the modern environmental movement and led to a worldwide celebration and network dedicated to raising consciousness about a wide array of problems and issues facing our planet.

chihuly-museum-1 As a gardener, you know that April is the perfect time to celebrate the earth.  Everything is blooming and growing.  Unfortunately everything doesn’t just mean flowers and fruits.  No, in April, everything is growing – including weeds and bugs!  Because of this I thought I would take this opportunity to do something a little different with the weekly tip.  Since we will all be spending a whole lot of time and effort battling pests over the next couple of months I thought I would tell you about my two favorite pest control tools.  Before I start I would like to say that I get nothing for promoting these products.  After much trial and error I have found these two tools to be invaluable and I just want to share them with you.


My most used and most loved garden tool is the CobraHead Weeder & Cultivator.  This curved piece of steel with a little football shaped head goes with me every time I go into the garden.  After trying many, many different tools throughout the years, I have found this inexpensive tool works best for me.

Cobrahead-1 As the name says, this little tool does it all.  I use it to weed and I use it to plant.  Its sleek shape gives me enough leverage to pry up crab grass or scrape out Bermuda runners.  It also allows me to quickly dig holes for transplants or dig a furrow for planting seeds in my black clay soil.  I get all of this functionality out of a tool that only costs $25.  What a deal!


While the CobraHead helps keep my weeds at bay, the MITEYFINE Mister helps me wash my bug problems away.  The MITEYFINE Mister is an ingeniously simple tool that does a great job keeping aphids, spider mites and even some caterpillars at bay.

Co-blogger Patty Leander introduced me to the MITEYFINE.  Her brother is an engineer and he is the inventor of this organic pest control tool.  The MITEYFINE is a wand that attaches to your hose.  The tip at the end is specifically designed for pest control.  It applies just enough pressure to knock off the bugs without damaging the plant.  Plus, it uses no chemicals, which is really important to me.

MITEYFINE-Mister The MITEY fine comes in two lengths – 36” and 48”.  The extra ergonomic handle assembly adds 10” to the overall length but makes the wand much easier to handle.  Patty likes the short one and I have the longer one.  This tool has an all metal construction so it will help you kill scale insects for a very long time.


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 6 in the Zone 9 Garden

I know that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, but I think his prediction is wrong.  As I drive the back roads of Washington County, I see signs of an early spring everywhere.  Now I don’t want to jinx anything, but we are quickly approaching the date when a freeze is highly unlikely.  Because of this, there are many, many tasks to be done in the February zone 9 garden.  Below are the things I will be doing this weekend


Most years I grow La Soda reds and Kennebek whites. This year I was only able to find La Soda seed potatoes.


There are lots of veggies that can be planted this week.  For a complete list check out Patty Leander’s planting calendar on the sidebar of the blog.  Since I have planted about all of the seeds I can I am moving on to planting potatoes.  A couple of weeks ago I bought ten pounds of red La Soda.  I cut them into pieces and have allowed them to “scab” in the kitchen.  Plant them 4” deep in loose soil that is in full sun.


Larkspur is so pretty and so reliable. Plant this self-seeding annual once and you may be able to enjoy it for a lifetime.


It is not too late to plant snap dragons (but is getting close).  Place these transplants about a foot apart in full sun.  Give them an extra boost with blood meal.  Blood meal is a great source of organic nitrogen.  The recommended rate is one cup per five feet of row.

If you have not cut back your ornamental grasses, cannas, gingers, asters, salvias and woody perennials, do it now.  It is also a great time to start mulching.  I love mulch and use it extensively.  It suppresses weeds, conserves moisture and insulates roots.  Plus, if you use natural mulches, they turn into compost that will feed your plants.

I have tons of poppies, larkspur, marigolds and bachelor buttons (gomphrena) that come back every year.  Be careful not to cover these self-seeding annuals with mulch or pull the tender starts while you are weeding.


Concentrated acetic acid makes a great organic weed killer


My wife mowed for the first time this past weekend.    While the stuff that passes for grass at my house is not growing, lots of weeds are.  A weekly mowing will prevent lots of these weeds from going to seed and spreading their problems into future years.  For weeds that can’t be reached with a mower use acetic acid as a good natural herbicide.  Don’t think you can get by with household vinegar.  Real weed killing power is found in the concentrated form at your local garden supply center.

If you are into organic weed control, start putting out corn gluten meal (CGM) now.  A weekly application during February is a very effective pre-emergent for all broadleaf weeds.  Besides cost, there is absolutely no down side to CGM.  Apply CGM at a rate of 20 lbs per thousand square feet of lawn.  If you have more lawn than money you can also use CGM as a natural fertilizer.  Apply 10 pounds per 1000 square feet to give yor lawn a great boost of natural nitrogen.


****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

This post has been shared 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!

Trowel and Error Symposium at Mayfield Park

This past week should have been one of the busiest weeks of the whole year in the garden.  However, instead of setting out plants, weeding, mulching and making blog posts about it all, I was laid up fighting/recovering from the flu.  If you have never had the flu, I don’t recommend you try it.  This one bout has been enough to make sure that I never ever miss a flu shot ever again.

The water gardens at Mayfield are lovely

The water gardens at Mayfield are lovely

At least something good happened “garden wise” this past week.  Last Saturday, Sally and I got to go Austin to give a presentation on organic weed control at the Mayfiled Park Trowel and Error symposium.  Mayfield Park (http://mayfieldpark.org/page1.php) is a 23 acre nature preserve deep in the heart of Austin.  However, what makes it outstanding (as far as I am concerned) are the two beautiful acres nestled behind rustic stone walls.

All of the beds at Mayfield are paid for and maintained by volunteers

All of the beds at Mayfield are paid for and maintained by volunteers

These two acres were once the pride and passion of two remarkable Texans.  Dr. Milton Gutsch (Chairman for the History Department at UT for many years) married Mary Mayfield in 1918.  In 1922, the young couple moved into the tiny board and batten cottage that had served as a weekend/summer home for the Mayfield family (Mr. Mayfield served as the Chairman of the Railroad Commission and Secretary of State of Texas).  Over the next 50 years, the Gutsch’s worked to turn two acres into a beautiful and restful garden dotted with beautiful water features, paved limestone patios and pigeonnier.

A white Banksia is stunning over a limestone archway that leads to a private seating area

A white Banksia is stunning over a limestone archway that leads to a private seating area

After the death of her husband, Mrs. Gutsch gave the property to the city to be used a park.  Unfortunately, there was no endowment.  So for the next several years the park began to suffer from neglect.  Then, in 1986, a group called the Mayfield Park/Community Project came together to return the Mayfield cottage and gardens back to their former glory. This group, headed by Karen Camannati has been at it ever since.  This group receives no money from the city of Austin.  All of the money for the upkeep of this beautiful and historic place comes from an occasional grant, an annual newsletter and the annual Trowel & Error Symposium.

The flock of peafowl that roam the grounds are all descendants from the first peacocks that came to the property in 1935

The flock of peafowl that roam the grounds are all descendants from the first peacocks that came to the property in 1935

I attend a lot of gardening presentations each year.  While I usually enjoy all of them, this year’s Trial and Error was one of the most special events that I have ever attended.  The welcoming and dedicated spirit of Karen, the generosity of the volunteers and the sheer beauty and history of the place made it the perfect place for a spring gardening event. If you did not make it out to this year’s Trial and Error, please make a point to attend next year.  For the past several years Karen and the other members of the board have brought together an impressive array of horticultural speakers.  For a $5 donation, you can support an historic Austin gem, learn from talented and passionate gardeners and buy starts from some of the hundreds of antique plants that bloom in the Mayfield gardens.  And, if growing plants is not your thing, you can still come. The gardens and the flock of peacocks (that have descended from the original birds gifted to the Gutsch’s in 1935) provide a great opportunity and backdrop for all of you shutterbugs out there.

Pigeonneirs were once common throughout the rural south.  today, they are harder and harder to find.  The one at Mayfield is outstanding

Pigeonneirs were once common throughout the rural south. Today, they are harder and harder to find. The one at Mayfield is outstanding

I seldom do personal stuff on the blog, but today I am making an exception.  Our oldest daughter Kate, is in the hospital.  She is suffering from an autoimmune disease called polymyositis.  If you are the praying kind, I ask that you remember her and her husband in your prayers.  She is in constant pain and there is no quick fix.  If you are Catholic and you are participating in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (http://www.praydivinemercy.com/) right now, please offer one up for her!

See MOH on TV This Weekend!

Nine months ago, the folks at KLRU’s Central Texas Gardener (CTG) came and filmed my potager for an upcoming fall gardening segment on CTG. Well, that “upcoming time” is finally here!  I am so excited to have this opportunity and I want to say a great big thank you to Linda Lehmusvirta and crew for all of the hard work they did on this.  Click on the link below to watch it now.

Central Texas Gardener now airs on five Texas public television stations and is coming soon to New Mexico. Check the station link listed below for the most recent local schedule.

KLRU / 18-1, Austin

  • noon & 4:00 p.m. Saturdays
  • 9:00 a.m. Sundays (repeat)

KLRU-HD, Austin

  • noon & 4:00 p.m. Saturdays
  • 9:00 a.m. Sundays (repeat)

KLRU-Q / 18-3, Austin

  • 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays
  • 7:00 a.m. Wednesdays
  • 9:30 a.m. Fridays

KAMU, College Station

  • 5:00 p.m. Saturdays

KNCT, Killeen

  • 1:30 p.m. Saturdays
  • 5:30 p.m. Sundays

KLRN, San Antonio

  • 11 a.m. Saturdays

KWBU, Waco

  • 3:30 p.m. Saturdays
  • 12:30 p.m Thursdays

KPBT, Midland (Permian Basin)

  • 12:30 p.m. Mondays

KBDI, Denver

  • 2:00 p.m. Sundays
  • 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays

Nut Sedge-The Worst Weed in the World!

Nut Sedge (Cyperus rotundus), or nut grass as it is often called around here, is one of the most invasive weeds in the entire world.   I am not making that up.  It is currently listed as invasive in over 90 countries across the globe.  Since there are only about 196 countries out there, that means that nut sedge is a major problem for 46% of the entire world.

The origins of nut sedge are most commonly attributed to Africa.  However, there are varieties that are native to southern and central Europe and southern Asia.  Where ever it came from, everyone that I know wishes it would have stayed home.

In my mind, nut sedge is the quintessential weed.  It grows where it is not wanted, it spreads incredibly quickly and it is almost impossible to control.  In fact, it is one of the very few weeds that will not be stopped by rubber mulch or plastic sheating.  My botanical brother Morgan McBride loves to tell the story of his above ground pool.  Before installing it, he stripped the site of vegetation, sprayed with round up and brought in sand to level the site.  He worked all of two days to get it all assembled and then he left it alone until the next weekend.  When he went out to fill it, 5 DAYS LATER, the bottom of his brand new pool had 50+ nut sedge sprouts sticking right up through the rubber bottom.  Needless to say, he hates nut sedge too.

I am writing this post because, once again, I am faced with a major outbreak in one of my beds.  Three weeks ago, I cleaned out a large bed.  I pulled all of the weeds that I could see, laid down eight layers of newspaper and then covered it all with about 6” of hard wood mulch.  Imagine my surprise when I was watering just two weeks later and discovered approximately 100 of these little green devils all over my freshly mulched bed!

Until this last bit of mulching I thought I had eradicated most of it in my beds.  I am certain that most nut sedge comes into my yard concealed in the materials that I am applying.  There is just so much nut grass in my newly mulched bed that it had to be in the mulch I used.  And here in lies one of the major problems with this green devil.   You can mulch it, you can dig it, you can compost it and you can run it through a shredder and it will still come back.

Biology of a Pest – Why is nut sedge such an effective weed?  Well, the answer lies in its biology.  First of all, it’s a sedge.  All sedges have a very thick cuticle covering them so many topically applied herbicides do not even get into the plant.  And, even if it did, it wouldn’t solve your problem.  You might kill the parts of the plant that are showing but the tuber (or “nut”) of this plant is what allows it to come back time after time.  This tuber lies deep in the soil and it is connected to the plants by very fragile roots.  That’s why pulling it does very little good.  You may get what you think is the plant and all of its roots, but in reality, you most likely left the nutlet behind.  This nutlet can lie dormant for up to two years.

Another problem with nut sedge is that in addition to the tubers, it also spreads by rhizomes.  These underground roots shoot out sideways from the nutlet and create another tuber that will, in turn, sprout another plant.  These rhizomes and tubers can be as deep as 14” in your soil.  Digging, and I mean deep digging, is really the only way to get rid of this pest in an organic manner.

If you are not of the organic mindset, then there are a couple of chemical products out there that have been shown to be fairly effective against nut sedge.  First is a product called Sedge Hammer (which I think is a really cute name).  Sedge Hammer contains a chemical called halosulfuron and it is the very best thing out there.  It requires you to coat the plant with it through a spray or a direct application.  I have used it both ways (in a previous garden, before I tried to be an organic grower) and for me, it was most effective when I used a brush like applicator and actually “painted” each plant with it.  Another trade name for halosulfuron is Manage.  This product is readily available at most garden centers.

Another effective product is imazaquin.  Imazaquin is sold under the brand name of of Image.  Both of these products are designed to be absorbed by the roots so you should water soon after application.  Also, for best results, treat your nut sedge when it is young.  The bigger it gets , the harder it is to kill.  Also, don’t be surprised if you have to apply several treatments to get the control desired.

P.S. Round Up (Glyphosate) also works somewhat against this scurge.  If using Round Up, make sure to spray when the plants are young, spray often and make sure there is nothing that you care about growing anywhere close to nut sedge.

Organic Weed Control Presentation for the Bear Creek Master Gardeners

Last week I had the honor of speaking to the Bear Creek Master Gardener’s group in Houston.  The group invited me to give what I like to call a “lunch and learn”.  They grilled hamburgers for the members and then everyone settled in for the talk.  There were over 150 Master Gardeners in attendance.  Now there is of course a danger of doing a talk at lunch.  You know what a comfortable room and a full tummy can do.  Luckily for my ego, I did not see too many people dozing off during my presentation. 

The cover of the Texas Gardener issue that led to my "Weed Free-Organically" presentation for the Bear Creek Master Gardeners.

The presentation was entitled “Weed Free Organically”.   It was based on an article that I did for Texas Gardener several months ago.  In my talk, I emphasize a four pronged approach (I call it the 4 P’s)to organic weed control.  The first “P” in my program is “Preparation”.    If you are going to have any luck at all controlling weeds organically, you are going to have to do proper bed preparation to remove as much plant material as possible.  Solarization and smothering are the two best methods that I have found to remove all of the vegetation from a large-sized bed.  Proper bed preparation will make the other “Ps” much more effective.

“Pre-emergent” methods are the second part of the 4P approach.  There are not a lot of pre-emergent weapons available in the organic gardener’s arsenal.  Corn Gluten Meal is one.  It has been shown to be effective in field trials at Texas A&M.  However, the most effective pre-emergent tool a gardener has is mulch.  Mulch is by far and away the best thing you can do in your garden.  It deprives young weed seeds the light they need to germinate, feeds the soil, conserves moisture, insulates roots and then turns into compost.  I cannot over emphasize the importance of mulch in the garden.  We talked about when to mulch, how to mulch and what to mulch with.  In fact, probably on third of the one hour talk was dedicated to this very important topic.

The next “P” in the 4P approach is post-emergent tools.  Ideally, you don’t want to have to use post emergent weed control methods at all.  In the ideal world, you would have no weeds that needed to be pulled or killed.  However, since we don’t live in a perfect world, we discussed the use of acetic acid as a safe and effective herbicide.  We also discussed good hand weeding techniques and new tools (the circle hoe) that speed up your weeding chores.  We also talked about burning your weeds ( a very effective favorite of mine) and boiling water (an almost useless exercise).

The final “P” in the 4P method is persistence.  Like I reiterate each time I talk about organic weed control, I use all of these methods in my garden and I still have weeds.  However, by persistently using these methods year after year I get fewer and fewer weeds each season.

A special thanks goes out to Teresa See for inviting me to this very enjoyable afternoon event.

I would like to say a great big Thank You! to Teresa See for inviting me to talk with this outstanding group of gardeners.  Teresa is the the second Vp for the group and she is also responsible for the Library and Welcome Garden.  She was so welcoming and her spirit was indicitive of the entire group.   Their hospitality and receptiveness made for one of the most enjoyable afternoons that I have had in a long time.  The Bear Creek Master Gardeners regularly feature speakers on a wide range of topics.  All of their programs are at the Bear Creek Agrilife Extension facilities.  On Oct. 18, Jeanie Dunnihoo will be presenting “Herbs” at 7:00 p.m.  Joe Masabni, from Texas A&M Agrilife Extension will present “Raised Bed Gardening” on Nov. 1.  That is the “Hamburger Tuesday” meeting.  Burgers are $3. The meal is optional so feel free to attend the lecture “sans food” if you like.  Also, all of these talks are open to the public so be sure and invite all of your non Master Gardener friends!

Eight Ways to Stretch Your Garden Dollars

Right now, times are tough and everyone is looking for ways to save money.  Gardeners are no exception.  Gardening is a lot of fun and almost 5 million Americans practice some sort of gardening at their homes.  However, if you are not careful, your little garden can wind up costing you a lot of money.  Whether you grow vegetables or ornamentals, these timely tips will allow you to get the most out of your garden without draining your bank account.

A bunch of narcissus and oxbloods given to me by a friend

Publicize – If you love to garden, tell people.  You will be surprised how much stuff people will give you once the word is out that you like to grow stuff.   I have a friend that inherited an old home.  The previous owners were avid gardeners and the abandoned yard is full of heirloom plants and bulbs.  When she found out that I love old fashioned plants, she told me I could have anything I could dig up.  So far I have harvested literally hundreds of daffodil, spider lily, oxblood lily and crinum bulbs.  I have also transplanted some yaupons.  I am going back this fall to get some flowering quince and crepe myrtles. 

My row garden with hay mulch

Mulch – If you have read much of my blog, you know I am a big fan of mulch.  Mulch reduces the amount of water you use, so lower water bills.  It also suppresses weeds, so less is spent on herbicides.  Mulch can be expensive if you buy it in bags.  That’s why I never do that.  I buy my mulch in bulk.  Each year I buy three different types of mulch.  I get hardwood mulch from my local landfill.  I drive up in my truck and they load me up.  I pay a very modest 1 cent per pound for this mulch.  I use this hardwood mulch in my flower beds in the early spring.  I buy it then because the “mulch” that is in the landfill has generally been sitting there composting since fall.  So, if you buy in early spring, you get mulch that already has a good percentage of it that has already turned to compost.

I also buy mushroom compost in bulk.  I get mine delivered from a local firm.  While it is a little pricey initially, it is the best money I spend all year.  My last load of mushroom compost cost me $320 for a ten cubic yard dump truck load.  While it is technically compost, I use it much like you would use mulch.  I practice no till gardening in my kitchen garden.  I simply put several inches of this on top of my beds either right before or after planting.  Even though it is pre-composted, it continues to break down in the garden and supply vital nitrogen and other essential nutrients to the plants.  It also suppresses weeds and conserves moisture. 

I also use a lot of hay as mulch in my vegetable gardens.  Hay can be expensive if you buy the little square bales.  However, you can usually find round bales for anywhere from $50 to $80 and the farmer will usually deliver.  A round bale contains as much hay as 10-12 square bales.  When you buy hay or straw to use as mulch, be sure to ask the farmer if it has been treated with any herbicides.  Some of the herbicides sprayed today can linger in the hay and will kill your vegetables if used as mulch.

Several trays of azelia cuttings that I helped a friend of mine prepare

Propagate – Propagation is by far the cheapest way to increase your plant material outside of someone giving you plants.  Propagation is generally pretty easy.  A quick Google search will provide you with very good instructions and very good videos to watch so you can see exactly how it is done.  Some plants are incredibly easy to propagate.  Roses are one of these.  Other plants that are very easy are coleus, sweet potato vine, lantana, coral honeysuckle and many more.  Also, all of the bulbs that naturalize here can be divided every two or three years.  Simply dig them up in the fall, pull them apart and replant.

An old "cowboy bathtub" repurposed as a planter

Reuse – My wife and I are “junkers”.  We love going to garage and estate sales.  We find a lot of very useful things for the garden at very cheap prices at these sales.  Almost all of my gardening tools came from estate sales.  So did my big tiller.  Another thing that we are always on the lookout for are old galvanized buckets.  We use these as planters.  We also buy almost every terra cota pot that we find.

Compost – If you don’t have a compost pile, start one.  Compost is truly an amazing gift to your garden.  It is easy to make and it does so much for your plants and your soil.  There are a million ways to compost, so pick one and just do it.  I make my own compost.  However, I just don’t generate enough to meet all of my needs.  However, I garden on a fairly large scale.  If you have a small garden or if you only grow in containers, you can probably make enough free fertilizer and soil conditioner from your kitchen and yard waste to meet your needs.

Be creative – I love to tackle little landscaping projects around my house.  I would do a lot more if landscaping materials weren’t so expensive.  Since I don’t have a large budget to support my hobby, I am always looking at magazines and other landscapes to find cheap alternatives for my landscaping designs.  A perfect example of this happened the other day.  While at a garage sale, my wife found a HUGE box full of those old glass insulators from electric lines.  We bought the whole lot for $20.  There were well over 100 insulators in the box.  We are going put Christmas lights inside them and use them to line one of our paths.  We will have a very cute and cool night light set up in the garden and all it will wind up costing us less than $50.

My wife enjoying a Framer's Market in Tulsa, Ok

Buy off season – Right now is the best time to buy perennials.  Nurseries that have not sold all of their spring stock now have whatever is left DRAMATICALLY marked down.  You will find sales of up 75% off at most nurseries and garden centers right now in the hottest part of the year.  Sure the plants you buy will need a little extra TLC to get them safely into the fall, but for 75% off, the extra TLC is worth it.

Sell your harvest – Finally, if you do so well in your frugal garden that you can’t use all that you grow, sell it!  That’s right.  Sell the bounty from your garden and actually make a little on your hobby.  Right now, the demand for locally grown, organic produce and flowers has never been higher.  Just about every city and town in America now has a Farmer’s Market of some kind.  Booth rent at these markets is usually very low and you will be surprised at how much you can sell.