Fall Clean Up 12/16/2017

Things to Do this fall:

  • Rip out the annual plants that have stopped producing
  • Clean up all the cold-tender plants that have finally given up
  • Mulch the bananas
  • weed the perimeter of the yard, mulch with cardboard and refresh the black mulch

The above is the wish list of what would have been great to get to this weekend. In reality I’ll settle for just working on the small veggie patch. I injured myself this week running and have a mild case of Achilles tendonitis. Basically moving my foot up and down is not happening for a week. Rest, Ice, Elevation & Compression. I can manage to hobble around a little and since the veggie garden is closest to the house that is going to be what I focus on today.

The aftermath of the snow and the multiple cold fronts that blow in for a day or two and then leave again has left the garden worse for wear. Here’s a picture of the same spot in our yard over the course of two weeks:

IMG_0098IMG_0133image1-2Things are definitely starting to look more wintry and not as much the tropical paradise it still sort of felt like only two weeks ago.

Although I covered the tomatoes up during the snow, there were other cold fronts that blew in for a night or two where temperatures dipped down to 31 or 33 and I didn’t cover the plants. So they ended up sustaining some significant damage anyways. I think a poly tunnel greenhouse would probably have kept them alive just fine. Maybe I’ll get to making one of those next year so I won’t have to bother with the covering and uncovering. I wouldn’t be surprised if peppers and eggplants would live all year round here inside an unheated greenhouse. At any rate, I’m tired of looking out the breakfast nook windows and seeing this:

image1-3IMG_0173Today is a mild cleanup day, just getting the worst of the worst in the veggie beds taken care of in between rain showers. All of the tomatoes and eggplants were ripped up and chopped up into tiny pieces and laid on top of the soil as a mulch around the leggy peppers that were left. In a week or two I’ll plant spinach and other cold hardy leafy vegetables where the tomatoes were.

image2-1image3-1The pepper plants were left in the ground, a few got a little trim. Sometimes they are hardy enough to make it through the winter. Most of the plants still have flowers and are still growing the existing fruits.

What is ready to pick

Right now it is mostly lettuce greens and tender herbs that are available for use. There’s still a few radishes developing, and Calendula flowers have been blooming sporadically. I’ve been drying those to use in a salve as an experiment. Sunchokes are almost ready, the tops have all died back and after I’m sure they’re truly dead I’ll dig through my sunchoke bucket experiment to see how they did being in a pot vs. being in the ground. Same for the horseradish. I’m eagerly anticipating the persimmons being ripe as well.

I need to figure out how to use mustard greens. I planted a lot of them considering the space available and have not yet figured out how to use them other than on an occasional sandwich. Maybe this is a 2-4 plant thing for our house like arugula rather than a 20 plant thing…

So far there are still things to look forward to. Since this is the first year I’m seriously trying to do year-round gardening, I’m sure there will be dead spots where nothing is producing. When that happens, whether it is dead of winter or early spring, or next week, I’ll have a goal to figure out what can be planted when to fill that spot.

Happy Gardening.

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Beautiful Fall 12/3/2017

Yesterday I enjoyed some time sitting outside. It was 79 degrees and sunny and just absolutely gorgeous. Especially considering it is now December. Texas sure beats the cold crappy gray weather in the pacific northwest. Sitting outside on our lounge chairs watching the butterflies flitter from flower to flower and listening to the birds chirp and the gentle bubble of the pond was such a calming and needed experience after the crazy holiday.  I enjoyed slowly walking through the yard barefoot checking out the activity of the animals and insects and seeing what is currently in bloom.IMG_0057Fennel and thyme growing next to a pathway ready and waiting to be used.

IMG_0025Lantana showing off for the butterflies.

IMG_0023One last dish of baba ganoush hanging on.

IMG_0055Surprise echinacea that planted itself in our pathway.

IMG_0054The fall long bed appears to be coming along nicely. Right now this little section is planted with elephant garlic, dill, miniature bok choy, nasturtium, calendula, cilantro, & pansies.

IMG_0084Pansies.

IMG_0075Texas knockout rose.

IMG_0064Pretty yellow flowers.

IMG_0090A hint of fall before the leaves are blown away.

IMG_0077Almost naked persimmon tree except for the pre-packaged fruit.

More pretty flowers still in bloom. I almost can’t believe that this is still December!

It’s amazing how finding some time to stop and appreciate the beautiful world around me can completely change my day. I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

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Time for Garlic 10/9/2017

This is the Long bed newly planted for summer:IMG_9258

Which then grew into this monstrosity:

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All the basil along the back was looking worse for wear, sunburned, spittle bugs, holes in leaves, I’m not going to be using it for anything anymore, it looks terrible, it’s shading out the peppers. Time for it to go.

Long bed fall 2017 planting experiments

Yesterday I cut down my basil bed and planted a fall garden in its place. Multiple experiments are going on in that long bed. I used the basil as mulch after cutting it up into manageable chunks rather than using them as the miniature trees they had turned into.

Garlic

Not sure which variety of garlic will work out the best in my yard so I’m trying three kinds.

  1. Elephant Garlic
  2. Soft neck Garlic (two varieties mid & late season)
  3. Hard neck Garlic (two varieties mid season)

I’m fairly certain the hard neck varieties are supposed to be grown in colder climates, AND I got all my garlic starts from territorial seed company which is a pacific northwest grower so maybe not the best choice there but we shall see what happens. I’m hoping the elephant garlic and one of the soft-neck varieties work out.

Over-Planting the Garlic Bed for Fall/Winter

So the garlic is all along the back side of the bed closest to the fence, the front side of the bed is trellised still with summer & fall producing eggplant and hot peppers. between the trellis and the garlic I planted herbs:

  • Calendula
  • Fern leaf dill
  • Cilantro
  • nasturtium
  • viola
  • mustards

Right now these guys are being partly shaded by tall eggplants and peppers that are being woven through the trellis. I was worried about them getting enough sunlight. They will either need more than they are getting which means pruning up the eggplants. Or, maybe they’ll appreciate the extra shade.

On top of the garlic itself I put Siberian lettuce, a generous helping of chard (since the one in my first bed appears to be getting eaten  by some pest. (Almost all the seedlings have been snipped and I’m not sure of the culprit) And some spinach. I don’t know if planting directly over the garlic is going to suck up too much nutrients or not from the bulb area. My plan is to basically keep and eye out on the elephant garlic and when i start noticing it popping through the soil i will need to cut back any of the other plants on top of the garlic row so it gan get enough light.

Hopefully this bed is productive all fall and winter.

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Fall Came Early 9/9/2017

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey our area has seen a dramatic drop in temperature. It’s September 9th which ordinarily would continue to be in the triple digits. We’ve been dropping into the 80’s -90’s and the 50’s at night! that’s a HUGE change from the 104 daytime and 88 night time temperature I’ve grown accustom to this time of year. With that shift I’ve decided to get that fall garden started. Last weekend was the weekend of transplanting out some leggy looking seedlings and and direct sowing some bush beans, carrots, bunching onions, radishes, mustards, beets, and chard.

Probably sounds like I have a lot of space. Nope. Im trying to learn how to squeeze everything I can into a tiny plot. I’ve just started to focus on annual gardening rather than planting fruit trees and bushes in the backyard.

This was my old garden when we lived in Washington State:

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14×20 foot space of glorious garden. I had enough room that I had an entire section of perennials just so I wouldn’t have to plant it all every year. Enough room to provide us with produce to fill up our counter space:

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One week of food from Washington

Flash forward to Austin Texas where the additional raised bed I’ve just completed this year  gives me two to work with that are just barely 4×8 each (Thanks HOA) and a skinny raised bed that runs along our fence.

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IMG_9258This was the first year I’ve tried to do an annual veggie garden seriously here. And spring was a learning curve. The middle picture above was the newest larger garden and supposed to produce so much food. I carefully laid out plants according to the square foot gardening requirements and alternated root crops with leafy and fruit producing for optimal interplanting spacing. I was so excited about it. And turns out that everything was drastically wrong. I planted things next to each other that stunt the growth of their neighbors without even realizing it. Beans were next to onions which stunted their growth and ultimately killed them. Onions were supposedly that of the bulbing variety but never received enough daylight to produce bulbs so they stayed like little pencils, carrots well…..IMG_9052Yeah… that’s it. No bigger than my thumb nail. The tomatoes and peppers were struggling too. Although, they performed a little better than the beans at least. I learned a LOT this spring:

  • You can’t plant things closely together without looking up if the plants you are putting in the same space are companions or foes.
  • The newest raised bed probably performed so badly because I and filled it with tree clippings. HEAPING piles of branches from a live oak tree we thinned last fall.  I believe the rotting wood locked up a lot of the available nitrogen in the soil and confirmed this when reading hugelkultur blogs where year 1 is generally terrible and year 2 shows marked improvements for this reason.
  • This new bed is much more shady than originally thought with the side closest to the house is only suitable for leafy vegetables.
  • Moths lay caterpillar eggs that eat tomatoes – check plants often for signs of caterpillar damage and manually remove and dispose.
  • Birds eat tomatoes – bird netting works, (still need to try tomato decoys & rubber snakes).
  • Eggplants are ripe even if they are small. If they start turning yellow they are over the hill.
  • Peppers can get blossom end rot just like tomatoes – plant with extra calcium also.
  • Chard actually tastes GREAT. But late in the season around May other caterpillars figure that out too.
  • Cutworms are LARGE – check for them in early morning and late afternoon and manually remove. Also fish in the pond don’t eat them (I think they are too big) so don’t expect the fishies to solve your personal dilemma with squishing things. They are 2ish inches long and snip off the tops of seeds that just spouted. You can protect against them by putting a ring of almost any material to protect the stalk of the seed at least 1 inch above the ground. I ended up making rings out of tin foil instead of using a toilet paper roll like the picture below.
  • Leaf footed bugs and their larva that will suck the life out of your melons. Get rid of ANYTHING that looks like the pictures below! In their red nymph stage they are usually hanging out in clusters on fruit or unopened flower buds they suck dry. Normally you can see an adult or two around the cluster as well.
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An already dead leaf footed nymph on a not-so-hot looking eggplant leaf.
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Leaf footed bug

Armed with this new-found knowledge I carefully planned out what-goes-where for this fall garden. So far things look like they are going ok. It’s always encouraging to see little sprouts making their way through the soil. So far, so good.

 

Crossing my fingers that they do well enough to be able to make some dill bean pickles! And looking forward to trying my hand at kimchi for some of the mustard greens that are starting to sprout. Well that’s all for now. Here’s a picture of a baby lizard eating a fly for you.

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