Sow: Spring 2016 experiments

IMG_9949

Repurposed washtub planter with sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano

If you’ve read any of my gardening posts (the Sow ones), you already know that I really don’t know what I’m doing. Sure, I’ve been planting and harvesting stuff in North Texas for a few years now, but it’s always a bit of a crapshoot. Trial and lots of error. Lots of error.

 

Herbs always have done very well for me, especially during the cooler months (November-February).

 

IMG_9948

The kitchen herb planter had a fantastic winter. Parsley is bolting but the flowers are pretty.

 

Of course, cooler is never a given, even during the winter here. I barely had to cover the garden at all which is unusual for North Texas—there are usually a few days of very cold weather, ice or even snow.

No snow/ice days for us this year.  The unpredictable weather here is always a challenging variable, but I also like to make it hard on myself by trying new things.

 

For spring and summer 2016, I’ve planted some of my favorites (aka plants that have grown well for me):

Bell peppers (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

 

IMG_9963

Jalapeno peppers (transplants from North Haven Gardens), shown here with a rogue red romaine lettuce

IMG_9965

Anaheim chilis (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9964

Basil (transplants from Trader Joe’s)

IMG_9954

Sweet 100 tomatoes (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9951Okra (seeds from Botanical Interests) — still tiny because it’s not hot enough for their usual fast growing

IMG_9959Black eyed peas (seeds from last year’s harvest that were from plants grown from Botanical Interests seeds) — even tinier than the okra so not shown.

Shishito peppers (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9958

514p2oBCuZL.jpg

I’ll be planting tomatillo seeds (from Sweet Corn Garden Organics) very soon—probably this weekend. Just waiting for it to get slightly warmer during the daytime hours. The plants grow like weeds here and I make a lot of salsa verde, so this year I’m planting double the amount I planted last year.

 

 

And now, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to my 2016 experiments:

Artichoke (transplant from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9957Black Bean (transplant from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9950

Arkansas Traveler tomatoes (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9955

Mortgage Lifter tomatoes (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9953Flying Saucer squash (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9956Fingers crossed for a successful growing season! And for keeping Gidget from eating all the plants!

IMG_9967

IMG_9962

although I have netted and fenced the fig tree, it looks like there are just a few figs left for spring. luckily it is sprouting more which should be ready in the summer.

IMG_9961

And maybe we will have plums this year too — Gidget and Godiva are doing a fine job of squirrel scaring.

 

 

 

Sow: seed signage

Must be something in the air. Or maybe it’s because I don’t have any kids that are in a Texas high school and need me to make a homecoming mum. You really must watch this video to understand this state’s fascination with something so ugly, huge and ridiculous:

Yes, I have a glue gun and I recently picked up a laminator. That’s why I decided to make some fancy-ish garden signs so that I remember what plants are which when the seeds I planted on Labor Day start springing from the ground (so far bok choi, snow peas, and mesclun are winning for speed).

First, I grabbed the seed packs (yes, they are all Botanical Interests) and made color copies of their pretty fronts.

lots of seed packs

lots of seed packs

You may wonder why earthy-crunchy me didn’t just reuse the seed packs. Two reasons: I haven’t necessarily emptied each pack and there’s important growing info on all four sides so I like to keep them for reference. And I suppose the third reason would be that I’m not sure the laminator could take the thickness of multiple layers of seed packet paper.

Second, I fired up the laminator. It’s only the third time I’ve used it. It’s not a very fancy one and cost less than $20 including 100 sheets of laminating plastic. A bargain! It has two settings: cold, which is for fragile items like old photos and hot, which is for paper things like my seed pack fronts.

IMG_3765

laminator

IMG_3766

The first package going into the laminator

IMG_3767

Laminated radish seed pack front right after it came out of the laminator

It was super easy so I just kept feeding the plastic covered seed pack fronts into the laminator. It really didn’t take very long. I trimmed off the excess plastic and was left with the seed pack front signs:

IMG_3770

A few laminated seed pack fronts 

Third, I wanted a post for each sign so I grabbed my glue gun and fired it up. I picked up some craft sticks, aka popsicle sticks, at Target. They’re inexpensive and I think they’ll be durable enough to stand up for the season. And if they don’t stand up to water and soil well, I bought 60 so I’ll have replacements available.

IMG_3764

the sign posts

When the glue was flowing, I made a thin line on a stick:

IMG_3771

the thin clear line

Then I slapped on a laminated seed pack front and pressed down for a second or two:

IMG_3772

voila: a little seed sign!

Here’s one for the arugula washtub:

IMG_3776

the arugula feels special now

It didn’t take very long and I had a lot of fun with this little craft. Best of all, anyone who looks at the washtub, planters, raised beds and stock tanks will know exactly what’s growing there. It was a great Thursday night activity.

IMG_3775

lots of seed signs ready to plant

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

sow: dirty gardener

 

IMG_3758Guilty as charged! It was a fantastic Labor Day long weekend for getting stuff done—with plenty of time for relaxing. Although I slept in for the first time in eons, I spent most of Monday afternoon outside digging in the dirt. Perfect timing too since it rained on and off all morning long—a lovely way to start the day lounging about and drinking coffee, although Guinness was not impressed with what the wet weather did to his morning walk.

Monday’s harvest was pretty awesome (notice the seed packet next to the pile of produce):

IMG_3759

 

The chard is the last of what I planted last fall. As you may have gathered from the seed pack, I planted more. The peppers are all still going strong as is the okra (it’s all as tall as me now so it’s getting harder to pick) and they’ll keep going until the first frost hits them. I decided to freeze the nearly 1.5 pounds of okra I gathered up since it will be nice to pull some out in the middle of winter and use it in soups or stews.

But picking wasn’t the most important part about Monday. Serious digging happened. And I’m not talking about the hole that Gidget and George have been making next to the driveway when no one’s looking.

Why? Well, because fall’s here. Ok, truthfully, fall’s not really here until September 21 or so and it’s still close to 100°F almost every day, but it’s time to get fall seeds in the ground. So I started by soaking some snow pea and beet seeds on Saturday evening. The snow peas are already sprouting and they were planted on Sunday afternoon!

IMG_3730

Monday, I dug, added compost and soil, pulled weeds. moved stuff around. And I did a lot of squatting which is why my body was a bit sore yesterday—and my brain was too tired after work to blog.

But not too tired to get one more thing done. Bruce and I worked on clearing out the flooded stock tank (#3) last night. I used about 1/2 of the dirt to augment the other beds and tanks on Monday, then he finished clearing the rest of the soil out into two wheelbarrows. We added three bags of crushed stone, then tested the draining (works fine now). So we loaded the 1/2 of the dirt that was left back in and I’ll get more dirt on the weekend so I can plant carrots and radishes.

Can you tell that I’m excited to get new stuff in the ground? Here’s what what I planted on Sunday (all seeds are from Botanical Interests):

  • Oregon sugar pod II snow peas
  • French filet bush beans (had to plant more since I think the birds may have eaten some of the seeds I planted a few weeks ago)
  • Gourmet blend beets (check out the seed pack above)
  • Detroit red beets
  • Five color silverbeet Swiss chard
  • Nero Tuscana kale
  • Red velvet leaf lettuce
  • Qs special medley mesclun
  • Cilantro
  • Italian parsley
  • Bok choi

Here’s what’s sticking around from the spring planting:

  • Malabar spinach (going crazy still)
  • Oregano (moved into a planter)
  • Thyme (moved into a planter)
  • Mint
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Anaheim peppers
  • Clemson spineless okra
  • Orange bell peppers
  • Green bell peppers
  • Marigolds (moved to the bed with the fall tomatoes, they help attract bees)
  • Black diamond watermelon (a gift from a friend that is finally just starting to produce watermelons)
  • some of the basil (see below for details)

My arugula patio planter experiment is going very well. We’ve been harvesting handfuls for sandwiches and burgers—it’s really yummy. Definitely going to do it again next summer and maybe try a couple of additional planters to increase the volume.

I picked up some sprout seeds over the weekend and will be trying out growing those on the window sill just as soon as I get some quart mason jars (I thought I had some, but I only have 1/2 quart jars). I really love them on sandwiches and am a little worried about all of the illnesses that store-bought sprouts seem to have. (The instructions explain how to properly disinfect the seeds so there is little chance of getting sick.)

The fall tomatoes are cranking away. There’s fruit on the Indigo Rose and Celebrity plants, flowers on the rest and I’m already dreaming of tomato sandwiches and caprese salads. The warm days and cooler nights appear to be working their wonders. I pulled a tomato (sweet 100 so Bruce won’t care) and a bell pepper (green) plant that were formerly in the flooded stock tank and really didn’t appreciate being moved. They weren’t doing well, so it seemed a better idea to use the space to plant something else.

I’ve had an exceptional season for basil. I’ve made pesto several times, frozen some, given tons away. Last Thursday I gave away 10 1-gallon bags of the stuff to some coworkers:

IMG_3718

 

I love basil and it’s so gratifying to grow—that’s why it makes me so happy to share it. While I have had great plans to make another couple of batches of pesto to freeze (I have everything I need, just need to do it), I haven’t gotten around to it yet. But I did make a lovely basil-watermelon-feta salad from a recipe one of the basil beneficiaries suggested (thanks, Lauren):

 

IMG_3735

Martha Stewart’s Basil-Watermelon-Feta Salad

 

It was pretty and delicious and I plan to make it many times—I even made a small batch of it for our work lunches today.

The basil is also doing double duty as housing. If you look carefully at the photo below, you will see the toad that has lived in Raised Bed #4 all summer. He arrived when the tomato jungle was making tons of shade and has stuck around. Last night, I saw that he’s made a little hut from the mulch around the basil. Hopefully it keeps him hidden from Gidget (she keeps looking for him, perhaps because she has a taste for toads).

 

IMG_3743

Toad in a hole

But as cute as it is, a toad isn’t a dog.  And it won’t satisfy your desire to see gratuitous G photos from the long weekend. Here are a couple of my favorites of George and Gidget, who are quickly becoming best friends:

 

IMG_3720

George has a ball in his mouth that Gidget really wants

IMG_3729

 

Hope you’re having a great week!