Sunday, April 11, 2010

Winter Lessons - Bang for your buck veggies

At the end of each season of vegetable gardening I like to put what I learned. My lessons this year tie in to my goal of being able to eat from my garden all year round.

For my birthday a month or so ago my husband bought me a freezer. This may sound strange to some, but I was so excited. I immediately envisioned freezing peppers, tomatoes, green beans and okra. I didn't think of spinach, carrots and onions. I didn't consider the winter garden as a source that I would draw from all year until now. I had to clean out the carrot bed to plant the peppers, and the onions to plant the green beans. Well, it was more than we could eat so I looked into how to freeze them. Onions are extremely easy, just chop and freeze. (I use my new Foodsaver, which I highly recommend). Carrots were a bit more work since you have to add blanching to the process. It still only took my an hour or so to do 4 batches. I plan on doing the spinach this week, so I don't know the details yet.

This leads back to what I learned ... I use carrots, onions, and spinach all year round and as plants go, they really don't take up too much room. Cauliflower and broccoli, on the other hand, take up huge amounts of space and aren't really a family favorite. Next winter I'll be changing my mentality to year round eating rather than trying to plant some of everything. I plan on having 2-3 beds of carrots 1-2 beds of spinach and other greens. Kohlrabi and radishes are also small, and would be great to freeze and add to all sorts of summer dishes. We love cabbage and brussel sprouts, so they'll make the cut, but in limited quantities.

I did a poor job of preserving my winter herbs as well. The cilantro has already bolted and been pulled. The parsley is just about finished. Next winter I really should pick and dry enough to use throughout the summer months.

Types of veggies I liked and didn't

- Purple Haze - Yum! My ultimate favorite and so pretty
- Carnival - Don't like the white ones, not great flavor, won't do again

- Golden - They don't stain and taste just like the red, need I say more? I will only be planting golden beets.

- Multicolored - Purple and Green are really pretty for Crudite, but not so great for mashing. They do taste just as good as the white.

- I've only had luck w/ leaf lettuce.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Flower Pics


Bluebonnets being pollinated

Texas Star

Shasta Daisy

Living Easy Rose

First Knockout Rose of the season


The pillbugs in my garden are completely out of control. There have to be millions of them. I tried the beer trick, but there are just way too many of them. I accidentally tried duct tape, which captured a few hundred, but didn't put a dent in the population. I questioned whether it was the straw mulch, but determined that wasn't the issue. I tried leaving the soil exposed for a few weeks to see if they would leave on their own, nope.

The issue with the pillbugs is that they chowdown on young seedlings as well as eating bean seedlings before they can even come up from the ground. I finally went to the Natural Gardener, since my home remedies have failed miserably. They recommended Sluggo. I'm giving it a try and will post on my results.

Citrus Status

The citrus trees are varying in stages from a handful of shoots (due to barely escaping the winter), to ripening fruit, to sweet smelling buds.

I was about to give up on the fruit, but it does seem to be softening, so I'll give it more time, especially since the tree is producing buds even with the existing fruit.



Mexican Lime.
I decided this winter that all citrus in the yard would have to survive the winter or they would be replaced. Even though the mexican lime is in a pot I decided not to cover it or bring it inside. I fully expected this tree to bite the dust, but instead it is doing better than any of the others.
I am very confused, but happy!

The meyer lemon and pineapple orange have a few new branches. The kumquat has new leaves, but no buds yet.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bloom Day - March 2010


(Please ignore the giant weed)


Missouri Violet.
I picked this up at the Garden Bloggers field trip last fall. I've completely ignored it.
It is still in the plastic bucket w/out a touch of water or protection from the cold.
I'm really loving this flower!

Shasta Daisies

Society Garlic

Sweet Alyssum

Tulips - Don't remember the variety
This is the second year and they look much better this year than last.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tomatoes Planted

I started planting tomatoes this weekend. I didn't plant all of them, as I am still clearing out the beds. By clearing out the beds I mean eating lots of winter veggies. It's a tough job but someone has to do it :) Sunday night we had a salad with two kinds of lettuce, radishes, carrots, and kohlrabi. Monday night we had my daughter's favorite, bacon-lemon brussel sprouts.

I know it's risky planting this early, but I have row cover handy, and actually used it Sunday. It was windy enough that I thought it would be a good idea to shelter the plants. It seemed to work as they look really healthy. I planted romas, pear cherries, and sweet 100 cherries.

I decided that the swiss chard takes up entirely too much room in the beds. I've seen them mixed in with flower beds and thought I'd try it. This spot was previously occupied by "Purple Heart". Although I really liked them, I like having edible chard more. The chard took quite a beating with the 80 degree temps today. I'm hoping it bounces back, otherwise, I'll be taking a trip to "The Natural Gardener" for new plants.

Here's my new toy! It is just amazing for hauling dirt, rocks, and plants.

First Bluebonnet!

Taken this evening after getting home from work.

Here's a few pictures I took this morning, before the actual flowers popped out.

While I'm at it ... the first Society Garlic flower showed up today as well. I'm so excited for spring!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Front Yard Update

I haven't posted in a while, but it's not because I've been avoiding the garden,
just too lazy to post. The last two weekends the weather has been beautiful so I've been
working on the front yard.

I dug out the bed on the other side of the front walk. (The first half I did over Thanksgiving break w/ my MIL). I filled the bed w/ mulch, society garlic, and "shasta" daisies. I've been wanting society garlic since I moved in 2 1/2 years ago and finally found the perfect place.

I took another trip to the cemetery on sunday morning for rocks. I added a border to the front yard to help w/ erosion. I also put a border around the new melon bed that I dug out. I am very sore from swinging that pick-axe!

Here are my new potato bags. I bought these from "Gardener's Supply Company".
I planted the potatoes 4 weeks ago.

Here's the first sign of life in one of the potato bags. Thank goodness, I was starting to get worried. The paperwork I have says it takes at least 4 weeks, but I always worry until I see the first sprout. This is my first time growing potatoes so I'm excited to see how it works out.

Pruning the Roses

As most Austin gardeners know, Valentine's Day is the time for pruning the rose bushes. Last sunday I cut back the Knockouts pretty significantly. I found these instructions in a flower gardening book, and I've used them for a few years now.

1. Cut back the smaller of any twisted canes
2. Cut out any canes smaller than a pencil
3. Cut back any dead canes
4. Thin out the bushes to give plenty of breathing room for new growth
5. Cut back the all canes by 1/3

I added number 4 myself after discovering how quickly the rose bushes recover. I was scared my first year that I had over-pruned, but they came back to over 6 feet tall by the end of the season.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seedling Progress

Romas & Cherokees
I just moved these to the grow light shelf yesterday, so they still look as little sad. The true leaves haven't shown up yet, but should within the next few days.
Peppers, Romas and Herbs
The peppers are looking really great. They are already growing their third set of leaves. I thinned them out this morning to give them a little more room to grow.

I did some calculations and realized that I will be running out of space once I transfer to 4" pots, even w/ 18 sq ft! I'll probably have to use the window a little bit this year as well.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Seeds

Friday the 8th during my lunch break I drove to The Natural Gardener and picked up some seed packets. Since the peppers and herbs are well underway, it's time for tomatoes. I picked up "yellow pear" cherry, "supersweet 100" cherry, "cherokee purple", "green zebra", and "celebrity". I also bought toma verde tomatillos and some amaranth.

Planting Dates

Romas - Jan 7th
Cherokee, Zebra - Jan 10th
Cherries, Celebrity - Jan 16th

Last fall I spoke to The Natural Gardener about making my own seed mix. They recommended a mix of Worm Castings, Perlite, and Vermiculite. As for amounts, you want it too retain moisture, but not be too soggy. The amounts I have used for my seed mix are 4 parts perlite, 3 parts worm castings and 2 parts vermiculite. So far it's working great.

Monday, January 4, 2010


The cold weather can be a bit discouraging. I found I had a bit of cabin fever over the break, all of the time off and too cold to go outside. I'm not as brave as some, as under 60 degrees is pretty much off limits for me. The few nice days that we did have were spent outside with the family roaming around.

I did manage to put some of my time to good use, practicing my canning skills. Canning is a necessary step for my goal of eventually eating produce only from my garden. They also make great gifts :)

I used Jenny's recipe from "Rock Rose". This recipe was so delicious, I'll be using it again. It was also very easy. My 12 year old daughter made a batch and turned it into shortbread lemon bars, mmm! I've frozen several bottles for later.

This corn relish recipe is from the official Ball canning cookbook. It uses frozen corn, which is always in season, and cabbage straight from the garden. It has a great vinegar bite to it, with a nice sweetness as well. Next time I may add a little heat.

Fig Jam. This was my first attempt at jam. It was very easy and turned out well. This one is made with dried figs, so can be made year round. This was also from the Ball cookbook.

Christmas Present - Jump Start on Spring

For Christmas this year my husband bought me this awesome new grow light from Gardeners Supply Company. Last year I grew seedlings in the back window, which was less than ideal. I had a small space and not enough light. Now I have 18 sq ft to grow my seedlings.

Here's my little greenhouse. I only have 1 heating mat, which I may have to expand to two soon, since my light is eagerly awaiting more seedlings. There are jalapenos, poblanos, wonder bells, basil, dill and summer savory. The poblanos and bells were planted on the 26th, just a little slow to germinate. The others were planted on January 3rd.

Here are the first seedlings under the grow light. These are serranos, purple beauty and canary bell peppers. These were planted on December 26th.

Just for fun I thought I'd share a few pictures of my purple veggies. We cut these up and had them for snacks on New Year's Eve.

Chef's Choice Blend Cauliflower

Purple Haze Carrots.

Both of these varieties are grown at the White House Garden. I saw them last night
on the food network, pretty cool!