Fresh Tomatoes for Winter

tomatoes-Nov 26-2013

tomatoes-Nov 26-2013

Our mild Fall and Winter weather allows for a Fall garden, but it’s often a “gamble” due to sporadic cold snaps — like the one we had for Thanksgiving (with lows in the upper 20’s and highs in the upper 40’s to low 50’s).

This year, due to perfect conditions for growth, the tomato bushes were filled with green tomatoes the day of the first freeze for winter. Continue reading

Green Beans in the Garden

Blooms on green beans October 4, 2013

Green Beans October 4, 2013

Today I found fresh green beans in the garden! Of all the vegetables that grow in the garden, fresh green beans have much better flavor and texture than any that are purchased at the supermarket or at the farmers’ markets.

Once picked, the beans are immediately soaked in water for about 15 minutes, the put in the refrigerator. If not soaked, the beans tend to dry out very quickly in the dry refrigeration air.

When there are too many green beans to consume in a week, they are frozen (blanched, placed on cookie sheets, frozen, then packed into bags for “stick-free” access). The frozen green beans are still better than anything bought, but not as good as when they are freshly picked!

These Contender variety green beans were planted on August 17, 2013, and began blooming on October 4 (picture to left). Today, October 17, 2013, is 60 days since planting (about average for the time it takes to produce green beans). The green beans shown below are not quite ready to pick — center of the picture, towards the bottom, will be picked later today or tomorrow morning — another is visible lower down and farther back in the foliage.  There are enough green beans ready (larger than these, but not shown) to have our first green beans of the Fall today!

Contender green beans 60 days after planting

Contender green beans, October 17, 2013 (60 days)

Minor Flooding, Lush Greenery, and Calla Lilies!

Three terms I did not think I would be using to describe my gardens in mid October — flooding, Calla, and Lush.

One month ago, our rainfall values, combined with dry ground conditions, indicated early drought conditions. If the cool/cold fronts of Fall and Winter do not result in rainfall, the conditions worsen. Right now, it is drizzling, and we’ve already had 3 1/2 inches of rain in the last 36 hours –with more expected over the next 3 days. Continue reading

Passion Vine Flower Damage

Purple Passion Vine Flower Picture

Passion Vine Flower

We have been inundated with rain (no complaints here!) over the last three weeks — we received close to 6 inches of rain at our house. The temperatures have been cooler (relatively speaking), mid to upper 90’s for highs and low 70’s for lows—Spring-like for Texas. With rain and cooler temperatures, the insects appear.

Insect damage to plants can be as devastating as poor environments and microbes. Continue reading

What is a Weed?

A “weed”is any plant that is growing where it is not desired. In a naturalized field, wild flowers are just a component of the plant canopy. In a garden, however, those same wildflowers take nutrients, water, and space away from the desired vegetables.  In a grazing pasture for livestock, broad leaf weeds often shade over and sequester nutrients and water away from pasture grasses–making the pasture less efficient for maintaining the livestock.

evening primrose growing in the daylily bed pathway

evening primrose growing in the daylily bed pathway

In this picture, Evening Primose (also called “buttercup”) has taken over the stone walk path by the Daylily bed. In early spring, the primrose emerges as clusters of densely spaced, small broad-leafed plants. Later, the pale purple/pink blossoms open to reveal what we—as children— called “buttercups”. So, this particular “weed” has sentimental value and it is allowed to grow in some parts of the garden, especially around the daylilies.

After years of keeping meticulously “clean” flower beds complete with mulching and removing every plant not intentionally placed in the garden, I have begun to take a softer approach—especially since these “weed” flowers are better able to adjust to conditions unfavorable for the intended plants. Some weeds add natural beauty to the beds.

Here are a few more opinions about weeds:

Texas Sage Blooms to Announce Rain

The Texas Sage is an evergreen (zones 9, 10 and southern part of 8)  to semi-evergreen (farther north than zone 8), heat and drought tolerant shrub with small blue-green hued leaves and pink flowers. This shrub needs well-drained soil; it is located in a raised bed near an old garden rose that blooms only in early Spring.

Texas Sage in Bloom

Texas Sage in Bloom

Blooms appear on the Texas Sage throughout the growing season, each time it rains—and usually before the rain arrives. This shrub has yet to bloom when rain is not in the area—it’s a great predictor of rain, but doesn’t distinguish between a sprinkle or rain and a downpour.

The blooms in this picture first appeared on Saturday morning and we received 3/4 ” of rain on Saturday afternoon. We have a 30% chance of rain today—with slight chances for the next two days—and there were fresh blooms this morning. (Simply watering the shrub will not cause it to bloom; it apparently needs the pressure changes associated with rain.)

This particular shrub is located on the North West corner of the house, so it gets a massive dose of evening sun throughout the year, and often receives the brunt of Fall/Winter storm winds. It is now about 4 years old and has grown from around 18″ to 4 feet or so.