May Home and Garden Patch Update 5/19/2018

The Back Yard

This afternoon was a perfect day to take a cruise around the back yard to see what there was to see. It’s time to use bug spray. The effect of todays little adventure resulted in no less than 30 bug bites. But this is Texas, and things bite here. I’ve gotten used to it, or rather accepted it for what it is at least.

Plum tree

IMG_0721Today the plum received protective coverings on the 6 fruits that were visible.

IMG_0991

One was a little too high up for me to put a cover on so I snagged it off the tree to test how ripe it was. Still a little tart, but getting close.

IMG_1001Loquat Tree

a few weeks ago I kept an eye out for the loquat fruit to ripen. Well… the loads of peaches were so distracting that I apparently forgot about them long enough the birds had their way and I didn’t get any.

IMG_0840Maybe next year… maybe next year. Until then I’ll just wonder how best to use you.

Pomegranate Tree

IMG_0995It’s starting to look as though we will actually be getting a few this year. I’m very excited by this prospect! I love pomegranates, and dreaming of pomegranate mint salads.

FlowersIMG_0996Monarda is making its first appearance of the year. I love these beauties. They’ve attracted resident humming birds in the past. And this tough little plant is one of my favorite easy growing spreaders for empty area.

IMG_0998The Echinacea patch is also just starting to bloom. I noticed it is naturalizing into the lawn. I’ll have to move clumps to other areas to keep them from getting moved over. Not a bad plant to have spread, it has such a gorgeous color.

Tomatoes and Squash

The first picture is 4/1/2018 the second picture is 4/22/2018

IMG_1002This is 5/20/2018.  Yes. the tomatoes are now covered in bird net and taller than their supports. There’s also some surprise sunchokes in the foreground.

Cucumbers and Volunteer Tomatoes

IMG_1003

Everything is starting to get big quickly. Most of the plants have a few flowers or immature buds.

Garden Patch

IMG_0981I’m busily pulling beets and rutabagas from the ground.

Beans

The two fresh eating beans planted first are starting to make fresh beans now. I think the dragon tongue is my favorite of the two.  Below is a picture of the dried beans that I will just continue to let produce and leave on the plant. They will be brown and leathery when the whole pant is pulled out of the ground.

IMG_1009Soy beans are getting bigger too. Lots of edamame in our future!

IMG_1008

Peppers

I’ve been picking hot peppers for a few weeks now. Last week I picked about 8 large Poblanos and a few Jalapeños to make a shredded chicken crock pot dish that we put into corn tortillas and poured some homemade salsa verde over.

The sweet peppers are finally starting to come on.

The right is a few Jimmy Nardelo’s that I’ll pick and roast when they start to turn red. The Right is red pepper cheese. A cute little turbine pepper reminiscent a Habanero but sweet and will also turn red. The Italian Yellow bells didn’t appear to have any impressive looking fruit that popped out at me yet.

Eggplant

IMG_1006My little Japanese long eggplants are starting to produce. It wont be long before we can start picking them now.

IMG_1013This is the haul for this week. I ran out to the garden patch this morning right before a thunderstorm hit so I didn’t have time to wash everything like I would normally do before I bring it into the house.

I’ve got about 10 poblano peppers we will stuff with chicken and cheese and cover in more salsa verde. I found the BEST recipe for salsa verde which I’ll use an onion and jalapeno for. I’m roasting the beets and other root vegetables for Lunches with some herbs sprinkled over the top and a drizzle of oil.

IMG_1014Things are starting to really pick up out at the garden. It has been a great feeling to be able to eat the things that are worked so hard and cared for.

IMG_0996

Edible plants for an HOA landscape part 2

Figuring out how to grow useful and beautiful things that are edible in your HOA landscape is a challenge. This post is going to focus on smaller shrubs and perennial plants (ones that come back year after year) rather than trees which are covered here in part one.

IMG_6956

Evergreen edible plants & ground covers

Evergreen shrubs are extremely important in the landscape. They form the backbone during winter. I want to be able to look out and see a ground covered in green in January. Not a bare silvery weathered fence, some bare twigs and tan grass. That’s common here in the burbs of Austin.

Herbs

Rosemary – Has multiple varieties. They all seem to have the ability to get large. 5 feet tall, no problem, 6 feet wide, Yep. Some grow upright and some are the “weeping” variety that crawl and look great draping over an edge of a raised bed.

IMG_9289

Sage – Multiple varieties and colors. From my experience the silver one does best in our area. but there are yellow and purple varieties that are beautiful and would work also. There are some that are more hardy than others Pineapple sage you’ll probably have to plant every year it because it’s not cold hardy. Some sages are really only ornamental so make sure you’re picking a cooking variety if your thinking about eating it. These are relatively short lived in Austin. 3 years is probably the max you’ll get out of them before they need to be replaced. But it’s easy to make more plants out of your existing one so that’s not too much of a deterrent for me. We use sage mostly in making Rosemary-Sage Salt.

IMG_9287

Thyme – Multiple varieties and colors. These can be green, yellow, variegated with white edges. Some have beautiful pink, red or purple flowers.

Society Garlic – I see this plant EVERYWHERE. A lot of people don’t realize it’s edible. Traditional gardeners may even think that it’s not edible because it is commonly sold as an ornamental. But it is, and you can. The problem is that I have yet to find a recipe I like to really put it to good use. In the victorian era it was dubbed “society garlic” because it was thought to be less pungent of a flavor punctuating the breath of the people that ate it compared to regular garlic. So it was thought to be more polite to use it in a dish for company. It has pretty purple flowers that make it a great addition to any front yard. So far the only way I can find to use it is in chicken noodle soup. The variegated variety is less rugged than the traditional.

IMG_5698

Oregano – Soooo many kinds and colors. I have two in my Yard. One gets to be a massive bush that I have to beat into submission so I can still use the pathway it is planted along and the other is a super low growing variety that has started to invade the grass in the yard. both are great for cooking.

herbs-greek-oregano-1_600x

Green onions – Believe it or not, the green onion bunches you buy at the store are made for Texas. Every time I buy a bunch i leave 1 inch of white stem with the roots still attached and plant them out in the yard. They are carefree and easy. They are green all year round and the best part is, next time you want some you can just snip off the top and they’re gonna grow right back.

IMG_5800

Other

Spine-less prickly pear – Not entirely true as my shin can tell you. This evergreen cactus has edible paddles and provides prickly-pear fruit in late summer/fall. it’s a win-win in my book. You can eat both the fruit and the main plant. Mine personally struggled through last winter but prevailed so That’s why it still gets a post of honor here. Even though it may be sold as “spineless” don’t be fooled. Little tiny splinter still protrude from the nipples of the plant (where normal large spines would be) These are called glochids and there are just as evil as their large spiked cousins. Not because they hurt more, but because they are hard to see and have a tendency to break rather than be pulled out. Never-the-less I think it’s a valuable addition to the edible landscape.

cb5a49

Dwarf Bottle brush – This plant is great for making tea. The dwarf variety is more cold-hearty than it’s taller relative. It’s beautiful red flowers attract hummingbirds in spring. It’s a lovely addition to the landscape.

IMG_6589

Dianthus – Sweet william is a great low-growing ground cover that provides edible flowers that smell sweet and spicy. They flower in spring and fall, and are dormant but still provide a blue-green foliage when it’s too hot in summer and when it’s too cold in winter.

IMG_6197

Deciduous edible plants & ground covers

Herbs

Mint – most people want to contain it. This one tolerates more shade and I use it as a ground cover beneath deciduous fruit trees. It also is more thirsty than a lot of other plants to keep it looking good.

mint_facebook

bee balm – Good for teas it attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and has beautiful flowers. be prepared for it to spread. In my yard it’s crazier than any traditional mint plant the way it spreads. the flowers get to be 3-4 feet tall so put it in the middle or back of your landscape and probably not next to a fence if you don’t want to be responsible for it getting into your neighbor’s yard.

Mexican mint marigold – has pretty little yellow daisy like flowers in fall and an anise taste (black licorice). It gets to be about a foot and a half tall and loves full sun.

IMG_8385

Lemon balm – is less invasive than mint and my go-to for under fruit tree ground cover in more shady areas. It doesn’t like full sun, it will burn in our Texas summers but it still needs some sunlight, dappled sunlight is fine. This is a staple in my sun tea. Not as thirsty as traditional mint in my experience.Lemon-Balm

Echinacea – beautiful flowers and if you feel like it, you can dig up some of the root and use it to make things to stave off winter colds. I have multiple plants in my yard and I have to confess the idea of pulling them up is not my idea of fun. They are too pretty. I’d rather just buy echinacea tea.

IMG_6997

Chives & Garlic chives – similar to the society garlic but smaller in stature and less pungent still. It adds a delicate onion flavor when a hint of it is desired. Plus the purple flowers are pretty.

IMG_7039

Sorrel- This sees to be a short lived perennial here. full sun burns the leaves. It needs a partial sun position with deep rich soil that drains well to do its best. Mine is in clay and is just sort of doing ok. Makes a great addition to salads with a zippy lemony-sour punch that is fun. The red veined variety tastes just as good and is more ornamental than the solid green.

IMG_6493

 

Fruit bearing plants & other

Chile pequin – a naturalized native hot pepper that grows into a sizable shrub if you let it. Responds well to pruning. You could have a little hedge of this if you wanted to in a full sun location. I got mine courtesy of a bird dropping which now grows next to my fence. It may die back in winter but it will come back again in spring.

dsc02257

cardoon – This is a Mediterranean native. It’s related to the artichoke. You eat the stems of the plants instead of the flower. I made a traditional Mediterranean cardoon casserole with a rue base and the best description I can come up with is artichoke mac-and-cheese. It’s pretty delicious although a little bit of work to get it prepped. And yeah, they get huge. I had no idea mine would end up being 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Ideally you’ll cut them to the ground when they get maybe 3 feet tall to harvest the leaves for their stems. They will pop back up again. As long as they have sun they seem to be happy.

IMG_7957

IMG_7031