Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pest Control

AS it turns out my peas are actually doing rather well in the back. Thee canopy is almost closed in, but they seem to get just enough morning sun to produce their sweet little pods. The mustard greens are also doing well, except for the assault waged by cabbage worms and plenty of other pests breeding as well. My Broccoli and even my nasturtiums are getting eaten. The invasion is pretty bad, so I'm taking measures to reduce their numbers.

When I find those cabbage worms I pick them off by hand and feed their carcasses to the ants. I'm also trying to create a habitat for birds so they can snack on my garden pests. I have bird feeder and am going to work on creating a more hospitable environment for them, including a bird bath and maybe a few bird houses. I've put a few worms in the feeder to let them discover whats on the menu down below. So far so good.

I also went to a near by park where I've seen lot of lady bugs and captured a few. I gently introduced them into my garden and let them feast on my tiny foes. After a few days, they still scuttle around the area where they were placed. I've witnessed them feasting on aphids, its gruesome, but satisfying. Hopefully I can encourage more beneficial predatory insects.

Friday, April 9, 2010


The backyard garden, mint in the foreground, with plenty
 of greens thriving in the background.

This Spring I have had the benefit of developed soil.  I put down lots of organic material over the winter and let nature take it's course.  The beds have really rich dark humus, it's no longer that hard crusty clay that greeted me when I moved in. I also have a nice layer of dead leaves that acts as a mulch keeping in moisture, everything seems to be much doing better than last year.  So at least I've gotten that right so far.  

Learning from my failures last year I planted plenty this year in February and March. Consequently were now enjoying lots of lettuce and mustard greens and other delights that over wintered, like collards, green onions, mints and other herbs.  So far things are looking great.  That is also partly because the trees aren't fully leafed yet. In a week or so the canopy will be complete and shade will occupy the currently sun drenched parts of the garden.  We'll see what grows then.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Happy Spring?

The weather was just beginning to turn into something that resembled spring. We've had an unseasonably cold winter for north Texas. Temperatures were often below freezing and we had several accumulations of snow that aren't too common. It was nice to see the buds start forming on my grape vines and notice small bits of green slowly emerging from the barren ground. March 15 is our average last day of frost, and as far as I could see in the forecast things looked rather charming as far as the growing season was concerned.

Yesterday became really cold and rainy. I had already planted my pepper and tomato seedlings, so I covered them with a nice blanket of hay just in case of a frost. This morning instead of a light frost I woke up to about 5 inches of snow in my yard.

The back yard all in white with my hammock in the foreground

I then thought this would be a good time to start my record keeping for the season. I'm really bad about keeping a good journal for gardening, so my blog will have to do. Beginning again while snow coats the ground seems like a good idea. Winter melting away into Spring, and as it turns out the rest of the week is going to be in the 70s so it should be really nice weather soon.

The front yard with all my tomatoes and peppers buried under straw and snow.

My garden should be much more productive this year. The soil has had time to develop, and it's now rather rich in organic matter. The dark rich humus is nice compared to the hard clay that greeted me when we first moved into this place. I just hope I can figure out the light situation. My ongoing battle with the trees that canopy the property has proven to be an interesting situation as far as growing edibles is concerned. I've mad lots of progress though, so hopefully things will be better this year.

I hope.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fall Garden Update

Broccoli, carrots, romaine Lettuce and three varieties of Onions share the long bed.  

Once the temperatures dropped last month, everything started growing a lot better. I'm not that surprised. Today and yesterday we've had some really cool weather, and these fall crops are loving it.  The Front garden is doing very well, everything is full green and those that are fruiting are still going strong.  Even my peppers are still producing and doing well. We're also having Squash almost every night. I made soup yesterday with it. Nothing beats homemade soup with all raw veggies.  
The yellow squash has consumed a few pepper plants, it seems
 ok because they're staying warm and are still producing.  

I recently planted lots of onions, about 25 garlic cloves, and I have leeks in the backyard that I planted from seeds. So I've gone Allium crazy. The great thing about them is they store really well, and I use them all the time in my cooking. So I don't mind if i have an over abundance of them.  

I also picked up some different shade tolerant varieties of mint that I want to take over a few of the back beds.  There's so little light back there when the trees are full, that it's hard to grow anything useful. My brilliant plan  is to grow those mints and some edible flowers that like the shade. That should solve the problem and make it more colorful too.  We shall see.  

Friday, October 9, 2009

Reasons to Garden

I'm doing a presentation on gardening next week. I had to put together an information sheet. The first thing I did was come up with a brief list of reasons why everyone should grow their own food. It's by no means comprehensive. It doesn't even address the vast environmental benefits, because I'm afraid I'll lose the conservative contingent of my audience ( which is large here in Texas). I focused more one independent prosperity and beneftis from producing your own food.

A few reasons why having a Garden is one of the best things you can do for you and your family.

Lower Cost-
A small investment in seed and soil produces a large return in produce. No fancy or expensive tools are required.
Superior Taste-
Fresh organic produce that you grew yourself always tastes better than anything in the store.
Better Health-
Organic food produced in your own back yard will be richer in nutrients and minerals than in commercial foods that lose those benefits over time due long distance shipping. They are also free of chemicals like arsenic that are used to improve appearance and color of some fruits and veggies.
Improved Eating Habits-
With abundant fresh produce available 10 feet from your door, it will be easier for you and your family to snack on a carrot instead of a cupcake. This will help you and your kids cultivate good eating habits.
Preventative Care-
Childhood diabetes, obesity and depression are on the rise in The US. Studies indicate these problems can be prevented through better diets, including unprocessed foods that can easily be grown where you live.
Smarter Exercise-
Working with a shovel and a hoe in the garden burns plenty of calories, and develops largely unused muscle groups. You could pay a monthly fee and go to a gym, but all you’d get in return is sweaty gym clothes. Wouldn’t a bountiful harvest for the price of your labor be smarter?
Peace of Mind-
You know what your family is eating, how it developed, where it came from, and who helped it grow. No more worries about salmonella, ecoli or other pathogens that often afflict commercial and processed foods.
Family Unity-
Gardens are for young and old, plenty of fun activities can be geared around planting, growing and harvesting. Little ones love planting seeds and watching them grow.
Property Value-
In a time of a depressed housing market, a property with productive fruit trees and bushes, as well as a beautiful and bountiful garden, stands out.
Beautiful Yard
Edible ornamentals like blueberry bushes and vibrant nasturtiums not only give you food, but also create a serene and beautiful yard.
Self Sufficiency-
Fruits and vegetables will grow during good times and bad, you can beat back high food prices with a trowel, and continue to provide food for you family in times of joblessness or other situational woes.
Good Stewardship- 
Growing your own food makes you aware of this beautiful earth and our responsibility to take care of it.
Great Therapy- 
Taking some time among the flowers and butterflies as you pick sun ripened tomatoes will do more to improve your happiness than any amount of time on the couch with the shrink.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sweet Sweet Rain

The last week or so has brought the storm clouds. We've been having regular rain now for a while, and it's been magnificent. I can't remember being so happy for the grey skies.  Everything in the garden  has been thankful for the deep and soaking precipitation. I think we've had around 5 inches in the past little while. It's been great. I've never seen it so green. The hot Texas sun just saps the life out of everything sometimes. I'm excited for fall.  

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cantaloupe? Yes You Can.

Early stage of melon development,
note the remnant of the blossom on it's end

Horrible puns aside, I've found it really easy to grow Cucumis melo, aka muskmelon aka cantaloupe. I grow the Earlichamp variety, an f1 hybrid that has is quick to mature, which makes my long growing season that more abundant in fruits from one vine. Some of the people I've talked to shy away from this large edible, because it takes up too much space and is a magnate for all manner of pests. Generally this is true, but I'm able to successfully grow them because I do so vertically. It only takes up one square foot of ground

This one is about 4 inches across,
its about this size that I usually put
the melon in a net and tie it to the trellis

space, but it requires the support of a strong trellis. Eventually it's also wise to place the heavy melons in a net, or old rags or anything that can be tied around the fruit and the vertical support. Pests are nominal because most of the enemies of the Cantaloupe lurk on the ground. The verticality also helps to prevent melons from fungal attacks because air circulation is much better up there. It one of those killing-two-birds-with-one-stone ideas. For someone like me, who has a very very small area to garden, the vertical growing is ideal. As long as you have a sunny spot, good rich soil, temperatures in the 80s or 90s and a vertical support, you can grow tasty juicy aromatic melons in a mere square foot. There's no reason the urbanites can't enjoy a taste of the country.

My muskmelon vine scampering up the
modified room divider I found in a dumpster
and resurrected for the advancement
of urban agriculture.