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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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Edible plants for an HOA landscape part 1

There are tons of plants that are multi-functional. Beautiful and tasty. Probably wouldn’t recommend putting tomatoes in the front yard if you’re in an HOA that doesn’t allow it, but there are so many other things that you can do to get your yard to be productive for you. Here in Austin Texas this is some things that you can plant that you can eat in addition to serving other purposes in the landscape that are also beautiful and you can put in your landscape without worrying about HOA’s.

I’ll starting with the big stuff and work my way down through the different layers of a landscape which is how you plan out what you want to plant. I’ll provide pictures and ideas on how to use the plant and where to put it to make it the most happy.

One thing to keep in mind is fruiting times. I tried to pick varieties that vary when they ripen so I don’t get gobs of fruit in fall but nothing in spring or winter. Also since we are on the verge of semi-tropical/arid here but still have the ability to get snow, I also picked an array of trees that will do well under different conditions. If we get an unseasonably cold year, the peaches, pears, persimmons and plums will do great, if it is a warm winter year, I’ll get plenty of loquats, and mandarins, kumquats and pomegranates.

Evergreen Fruit Trees/Large Shrubs

Evergreen with fruit that you can eat! Evergreen trees do not lose their leaves in winter and are great if you are trying to block a view or provide a permanently shady location. Austin has two of them that seem very happy in this climate and a few more finicky varieties that may or may not be happy depending on the sort of whether we get that year and the site that you plant it.

The lovely Loquat

This thing grew SUPER quickly it can get 25 feet tall and wide so be sure to give it enough space from the fence line and other trees. It has nice large dark green leaves with lighter new growth all year which is valuable when the typical scene in the winter time here is tan grass and silver leaves. I NEED GREEN. It’s Perfect for blocking views of neighbors. Not only that, it fruits in winter/early spring when the winters are warm enough to not kill the blossoms.

Pineapple Guava

(also known as Feijoa)- you’ll see this name when looking for recipes since it’s a South American plant

This was plant is a slower grower but still grew to approximately 7 feet tall in 4 years. Pineapple guava will get to be about 15 feet tall without pruning which it takes well. It would be well suited to a hedge, or tree form. The stunning flowers you see in spring have the added surprise of having edible petals. They taste like tutti fruity which is why the birds go crazy for them. Then in fall the fruit drops to the ground which is how to know it is ripe. takes about 4 years to produce. I had 2 or 3 fruits last year on all 3 of my trees this year they are loaded so heavily it’s weighing down the limbs. The one that is the happiest is in Part shade. The one in full sun doesn’t fruit as much and is shorter. It looks fine but could probably do with supplemental water. The best thing about these is that all pests – even the birds – seem to leave them alone.

Other Evergreen Edible Trees

  • Bay leaf – for cooking spices needs full sun and winter protection. I have one in a pot that I bring in for the winter. I’m sure I could put it in the ground if I was willing to baby it for a few years with winter protection…but I’m not. Full sun, they can get HUGE but do well with trimming.
  • Olive – I have mine in a pot that lives outside all year and can take the cold and yes it fruits olives! (making them edible is a longer process than I was prepared for).
  • Mandarin – This one is more of a temperamental plant, careful site selection for full sun but shelter from winter winds and cold is important. Pay attention to variety. Mine is arctic frost. It’s given me 5 mandarins one year and they were dry and not flavorful. I assume that’s because the plant is still young and takes longer to produce good quality fruit. There’s one in our neighborhood that’s HUGE. I wonder how long it’s been there to get that big.
  • Elaeagnus or silver berry – has a wonderfuly fragranced flower in winter and fruits berries that taste close to grapes with one long football shaped seed in each. Used commonly for hedges in sun-part shade areas. Bees love this plant and so do I.
  • Kumquat – Same issue for variety and site selection as mandarins. We got a cold snap last year down to 26 degrees (only for a day or two) and that was enough to kill off over half the plant.
  • Pygmy date palm sounded tempting but when a description of “the absolute worst tasting ‘date’ I’ve ever had, may be edible but is not palatable” description popped up in my searches I decided against trying it. After all, I’ve got limited space to work with.

Deciduous fruit trees

for places where you want shade in winter and full sun in summer or don’t care about blocking a particular view all year-long.  They loose leaves when it gets cold. Consider the following when selecting trees:

  • Fruit. Trees. Get. Big. look for dwarf or semi dwarf varieties if you don’t want to hassle with ladders or extensive pruning. If you have enough space to get a standard apple tree that will get 50 feet tall and wide that’s great, but that’s not my little suburban back yard.
  • Chilling hours. A lot of fruit require a certain number of hours a year below 45 degrees in order to even form fruit. I looked for the lowest number of chilling hour requirements. We supposedly get 700 on average a year. However, that is average. We get winters so mild banana plants make it through the winter every few years, then will get a light snow. My philosophy here is hedge your bets. Plant things that require a lower number of chilling hours (I looked for ones in the 400-500 range) because they will most likely get that, even in a mild winter. Cold doesn’t kill stone fruits like apples, peaches, pears and plums. A lack of winter will though. Enough winters without enough chilling hours will stress the tree so much it will die.
  • Self pollinating. This was another big one for me. A LOT of fruit tree varieties require a pollinator to get anything, but there are always a few that don’t. Most will say something like “is self fertile but will produce more with a pollinator”. Those are fine. Anything that says self fertile go for. If you’re lucky a neighbor a few blocks over will have a peach or plum tree too and you’ll get even more. You don’t need a self pollinating variety if you’re willing to plant two or more types of whatever you’re looking at but that takes up space and you want to be sure they’ll flower the same time.
  • Plant them in Fall. It gives the poor thing as long as possible to grow roots and to get adjusted before summer hits. Buy them bare root or in a pot dig a large hole, fill it with a TON of amended soil and water it well. It will reward you with leaf buds in spring. The first TWO summers water it very frequently and deep if you want it to live. When we get a crazy summer every other day may be necessary.

Peaches

I am so happy with my peach tree. It’s been the most reliable producer of fruit of all my trees to date. Fruiting buckets when it was only 3 years in the ground. In spring you get beautiful flowers and later on you get wonderful fruit: IMG_6382

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It was a four foot tall, wispy stick when I stuck it in the ground 4 yeas ago which is the first picture. I had to prop it up with bamboo sticks during a windstorm its first year. This is my first recommendation for anyone wanting traditional fruit here in Austin. It’s far and away out performed every other tree I have.

It’s provided us with fun things like peach cobbler, peach pie, and peach salsa the past two springs (which is must do if you haven’t tried it).

Persimmons

This is by far the second best fruiting tree I’ve planted. I actually have two of these. They are self pollinating but I love them so much I wanted more than one variety. They love full sun.

 

This was my tiny persimmon tree. It’s fourth year in the ground it decided to give me a bumper crop. Both trees were LOADED.  I hadn’t expected that so it caught me off-guard since every other year the fruit dropped before it was mature (it’s common for young trees to do that and focus their energy on growing instead of producing fruit). I had so many I didn’t know how to use them all so I froze pulp until I could figure out what to do with all of it. The largest variety is now 20 feet tall and the other variety is a dwarf which will stay provably 6 feet tall or so.

persimmon giombo

Other Deciduous Fruit Trees

  • Plum – Mexican Plum handles the summer heat well in our area but is a sporadic producer.  Plant in full sun to part shade
  • Pomegranates – have the most beautiful red showy flowers. I planted the “wonderful” variety and have been very unimpressed. The tree is only in the ground 4 years so it’s possible it needs longer to produce than that. So far last year we got two extremely tiny and under-ripe pomegranates. I only see 3 flowers this year so even if they all pollinated I’m certain it will be about the same. Plant in full sun.
  • Pears – be very choosy what variety you pick for this. Mine hasn’t even flowered yet. I’ve seen nothing. My neighbor however gets tons of fruit every few years. Full sun.
  • Figs – are suited well to the area. This is the first year I’ve gotten any figs about 3 handfuls. Plant in full sun.

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