Blog posts from January 2010

My Upcoming Gardening Classes

Jan 31, 2010

Just a heads up on the next few gardening classes or programs I'll be giving soon:

All Texas Garden Show with Neil Sperry - Feb 27th & 28th. I'll be giving lectures both days on backyard vegetable gardening, composting and keeping chickens in the city. Plus demos on growing tomatoes in small spaces. I'll update specific times soon.

1pm-4PM "Vegetable Gardens 101"
by Leslie Finical Halleck, GrowLively Blog, NHG GM, MS Horticulture,
offers a comprehensive class on how to grow the best harvest in North Texas!

Registration Fee: Grow Card Members $20 / Non-members $25 Register in-store, over the phone. Call 214-363-5316. Application here.
Sign up early! This popular class will fill fast!

Leslie covers:

  • Soil types & health
  • Soil Amendments
  • Raised Beds
  • Compost
  • Varieties to Plant Now & culture
  • Starting Seeds
  • Pest Control
  • General Maintenance
  • All with an Organic Focus!

We kindly ask no children under 13 to attend. Children 13 and up will need to pay the registration fee. Thank you.

Noon-1PM "Just Tomatoes"
by Leslie Finical Halleck, GrowLively Blog, NHG GM, MS. Don't miss this very important program on selecting the right tomato for your needs, varieties available, planting, maintenance and pest control. Just in time for the arrival of spring tomatoes! Feel free to bring your lunch or snack to class!


10am-1PM "Vegetable Gardens 101"
by Leslie Finical Halleck, GrowLively Blog, NHG GM, MS Horticulture,
offers a comprehensive class on how to grow the best harvest in North Texas!

Registration Fee: Grow Card Members $20 / Non-members $25 Register in-store, over the phone. Call 214-363-5316. Application here.
Sign up early! This popular class will fill fast!

Leslie covers:

  • Soil types & health
  • Soil Amendments
  • Raised Beds
  • Compost
  • Varieties to Plant Now & culture
  • Starting Seeds
  • Pest Control
  • General Maintenance
  • All with an Organic Focus!

We kindly ask no children under 13 to attend. Children 13 and up will need to pay the registration fee. Thank you.


Iceland Poppies!

Jan 29, 2010

Iceland Poppies

My Favorite Things…

Leslie Finical Halleck - originally published in Neil Sperry's Gardens E-Newsletter

Icelandpoppy_yellowsmAs a horticulturist, and someone who is greatly passionate about plants, I’m often asked what my “favorite” plant or flower is. Usually, I just laugh. How could I pick just one? But this little corner of mine here in the e-newsletter is titled “My Favorite Things” so I do try to whittle down to the best of the best for you when I can. If you backed me into a corner and asked me “what is your favorite cool-season annual, or else…” I would be compelled to answer Iceland Poppy, or Papaver nudicaule.

What is not to love about this boreal beauty? On sunny days, light shines through the brightly colored, paper-thin petals creating a brilliant display in the garden. The flowers are even sweetly scented. Every part of the poppy plant from the silvery foliage to the unique furry flower buds, offers a bounty of interest. They are the perfect companion for other cool-season plantings such as parsley, kale, pansies and violas. In their natural state, Papaver nudicaule is usually found in shades of white and yellow.  The recessive colors of orange, pink and red are brought out through selection and all colors are generally offered as a mix in the garden center.

Iceland poppies are technically a perennial, but only behave as such in the Northern most parts of the United States and into Canada. In our climate, Iceland Poppies should be treated as a cool season annual, or biennial if you will. In Texas, it’s best to plant Iceland Poppies in the fall, along with your pansies and violas. This allows them to put on a larger root system and thus a bigger spring show of blooms. Plants will bloom in the fall and until the first hard frost. Often, they will continue putting on blooms through the winter. Hard frosts will nip the blooms, but won’t hurt the plants. In spring, you’ll be rewarded with a burst of blooms in late February or early March, to accompany your tulips and daffodils. Plants will continue to flower until temperatures heat up in mid- to late-May.

Iceland Poppies don’t like the heat and will die off with the onset of summer. They are generally very easy to grow and don't require extra care. The one thing they don't appreciate is wet feet. Make sure your soil drains well and you don't provide too much extra irrigation in the winter months. Mulching plants with about 1-inch of expanded shale can help cut down on excess moisture around the root zone.

You can plant Iceland poppies right now and then again in October through November. I hope you enjoy these beauties in your garden as much as I do in mine!

Rediscovering Barley

Jan 25, 2010

With the restrictive diet I'm on right now, I don't have a lot of options when it comes to grains and proteins. On the day-2 rotation of my LEAP diet, I'm allowed barley. I have to admit, it had a been a loooong time since I'd eaten barley and I honestly couldn't tell you if I'd ever cooked it before. I knew I could use it like a rice or quinoa on the days where I'm not allowed those staples. But then it occurred to me that it might actually make a nice breakfast.

So I cooked up a batch of barley pearls, of which bulk can be purchased at your local health food grocery. Takes about 25 min to cook then I just store it overnight. The only dairy I'm allowed on day #2's is goat milk. Which I have to say, I seem to be able to drink just fine without a lot of problems (can't do regular cow's milk without taking a lactaid or buying lactaid milk). So I take about a 1/3 cup of the cooked barley, added about 1/2 cup of goats milk, added a teaspoon of maple syrup and some fresh blueberries. Heat it up for about 1 1/2 minutes and whaalaaa. A pretty yummy breakfast cereal.

Barley is also apparently very good for you. "Barley contains eight essential amino acids. According to a recent study, eating whole grain barley can regulate blood sugar (i.e. reduce blood glucose response to a meal) for up to 10 hours after consumption compared to white or even whole-grain wheat, which has a similar glycemic index. The effect was attributed to colonic fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates. Barley can also be used as a coffee substitute." (Wikipedia)

So there ya go...barley is yummy and healthy...

The January thaw…what to plant!

Jan 22, 2010

Spinach_smHere in N. Texas we always get a January thaw. About the middle of January, after we've had some hard freezes, the weather swings back to sunny and 70's (which by the way is why you really need to plant your tulips in December...not wait until January). This week is just such a week. The last couple of days have been beautiful with warm spring like temps. Which means its a great time to get out and start planting again.

A few things you'll want to get in the ground here soon will be your potatoes, rhubarb, asparagus and horseradish. Transplants of Swiss chard, lettuces, spinach can be planted now. Cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc.) should be hitting garden centers next week. Cool season color like Iceland Poppies, violas, pansies, toadflax, gerbera daisies can be planted now. It's also the perfect time to select and plant fruit trees! Also, flowering trees like weeping cherries and dogwoods will be available now. Plant now so you get to enjoy their blooms this spring

I’m on day 3 of my L.E.A.P diet…

Jan 20, 2010

Some of you may have read a while back that I had food allergy/sensitivity testing done. And there are about a million things I can't eat anymore, including tomatoes, garlic, lentils and all sorts of other good stuff. So, for the last couple of months I've cut out all my "red" and "yellow" offenders. But didn't start my prescribed super strict rotational diet, or L.E.A.P (lifestyle eating and performance) diet until this past Monday.

Now, having to cut out many of the foods I love was traumatic enough. But now, due to this restrictive diet, I've also had to start eating fish in order to get enough protein. I've been a vegetarian for 20 years, so this is no easy task for me. But, I can be really stubborn and shrivel away to a string bean, or I can eat some fish for 6 weeks. So, there ya go.

What I've discovered about this diet is that I'm going to have to end up getting really, really creative in the kitchen. So I figured I might as well blog about it...and maybe you folks and help me out! Who knows, maybe I'll come up with some really good recipes.

Here is what I'm allowed to eat, on a rotating system for at least 6 weeks, but should try to continue longer. I eat what's on day 1 list, then day 2, then day 3, then I can go back to day one...and repeat. There is no deviation from the list. If it's not on the list, I can't eat it. Period. No processed foods.

Day 1: Egg, Garbanzo bean, pinto bean, sole,amaranth, tapioca, oat, buckwheat, asparagus, peas, lima beans, onions, bananas, olives, papaya, raspberry, strawberry, American cheese, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, bows milk, whey, yogurt, cashew, olive oil, sesame seed, Ginger, honey, leek, turmeric, vanilla

Day: 2 Tilapia, barley, kamut, spelt, weat, carrot, celery, mushroom, zucchini, avocado, blueberry, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, pear, cocoa, goat's milk, hazelnut, pecan, walnut, cane sugar, cumin, maple, parsley

Day 3: Salmon, tuna, crab, quinoa, rice, white potato, eggplant, lettuce spinach, apricot, cranberry, grapefruit, peach, coffee, tea, almond, sunflower seed, basil lemon, mint, mustard, paprika

Day one is definitely the best! But you start to look forward to the one or two things you really like on the other days. For dinner on Monday I had a big bowl of oatmeal with some milk, honey and lots of fresh bananas and strawberries. Mmmmmm. Yesterday, I bought some goat's milk and some raw cocoa (cant' have any additional ingredients, like soy lecithin or sweeteners, etc.). Made myself a cup of hot chocolate. It was actually really good.

Last night, I made tilapia for the first time (remember's been 20 years!). Using the ingredients I'm allowed to eat, I made a blended marinade/sauce from some goat's milk, cumin, salt, a piece of cantaloupe and some parsley. Covered the fillets with the sauce and bake/steamed it with Julienned carrots, zucchini and mushrooms. Because I can have hazelnuts, I found hazelnut oil to use. Which is very tasty! Also cooked some barley pearls and served the fish and veggies over that. The husband liked it...It was ok for me. It's going to take me a while to get used to this fish thing! But the tilapia is not toO "fishy" so that's good.

Today I made light tuna with lemon juice, basil, green peppers, and a little mustard. Served with lettuce and spinach. I went looking for sunflower oil to use as a salad dressing, but haven't been able to find it yet. Anyone know of a good local source?

That's my challenge to make decent salad dressings and mayo...Wish me luck!

Lost Hen in Dallas!

Jan 18, 2010

Hi folks, I got word that a friend of mine is in foster possession of a wayward Barred Rock Hen that got loose this past weekend in Dallas. The hen was found this past Saturday by a pet sitter at a home near Park Lane and Hollow Way in Preston Hollow. The sitter took care of the bird through Sunday. It was hungry and thirsty, but once caught was pretty docile. I'm sure her mommy or daddy would really like her back! So if you know of someone who's lost their Barred Rock, from that area, please comment or email me through my about me page. Thanks!


Time to start vegetable seeds indoors!

Jan 16, 2010

Just because it’s January…and chilly…and rainy…doesn’t mean you can put off starting those tomato seeds! I'm just going to give a basic run-down of what seeds you can start indoors now. If you're local, you can attend a seed starting class at NHG tomorrow, Sunday 1/17th at 1pm. You can also refer to my Spring Veg Planting Date ChartSpring This handout covers only outdoor planting times.


Cole crops: You can start your last succession of cool season crops indoors now. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, chard, collard greens, kohlrabi, cauliflower and more.. Seeds need supplemental light so make sure to use a good setup. After 5 or 6 weeks you can transplant these seedlings outdoors, in February.

Warm season crops: Start tomatoes, peppers, eggplant inside starting now through. These crops take a bit longer to get to transplant size, about 8-9 weeks. In the DFW area, tomatoes can be planted outside mid-March through the end of March for a June harvest. You can continue planting peppers and eggplant through April. If you want to start a second fall crop of tomatoes from seed, you’ll do that indoors in May.

Herbs: Start seeds indoors of warm season herbs such as basil, oregano, sage, thyme, chives etc.

Salad greens: You can still start salad greens both indoors and by direct seeding outside right now through February. Remember that lettuce seeds need light to germinate, so don't cover their seeds with soil when you plant them. Simply press them into the surface of the soil and keep moist until germination.

Seed starting equipment: I use the Jump Start system from Hydrofarm because the lighting is perfect for seeds, the lamp can be adjusted to different heights, and it's a good for small spaces. You can use small trays with a seed starting soil mix, or the little compressed pellets from say Jiffy. I use those a lot and they work great. Make sure you have a humidity dome (plastic cover) for your tray. If you're using posts or pellets, make sure you have a water tight seed tray to set them in so you can cover them with the dome. The picture at left is only one example of the many different options available. Sometime you just have to experiment to find the option that works best for you. Also, a seed starting heat mat is necessary once you get into fall and winter, and you're starting seeds for spring planting.

Planting bulbs in turf grass

Jan 15, 2010

Here's a quick how too on planting bulbs in turf. Originally printed in the Neil Sperry's Gardens E-Newsletter.

My Favorite Things…Leslie Finical Halleck

Crocus_turf1I’m pretty busy during the spring season, so I don’t get to spend very much time tending my garden. There are, however, a few keys things I do during winter to ensure that my spring garden puts on a great show in my absence! One of my favorite things to do in my own garden is to naturalize bulbs in turf areas. Clustering bulbs such as crocus, daffodils and other perennial bulbs in your lawn creates a natural woodland look in the spring garden. 

If you haven’t yet gotten your hands on some spring flowering bulbs, there’s still time. You can continue planting certain perennial bulbs through January and early February most garden centers will still have a selection of these bulbs on hand right now. The key to naturalizing bulbs in turf is to choose tough, easy to grow bulbs that require minimal care in the garden. Daffodils are as tough as they come and look best when clustered in groups around the base of trees. Small bulbs such as crocus and grape hyacinth can be placed in more open areas of your lawn and are easily planted into turf grass.

For large bulbs such as daffodils, you’ll either want to use a round bulb planter to slice out “plugs” of turf, then drop the bulb in the hole and replace the plug. Or, dig out an 8” deep hole to accommodate multiple bulbs. Be careful to retain the section of turf, place bulbs in the hole and then replace soil and pat the turf down on top.  Small bulbs, such as crocus and grape hyacinth, can simply be pressed into the soil, about 3” deep. If your soil is dry or hard, you may want to go ahead and use a bulb planter to remove a plug of soil and turf. It’s best to plant a cluster of bulbs together so the planting looks more natural. Generally a grouping of approximately 8 to 12 bulbs looks best, especially with daffodils.

Most of these bulbs will be up and blooming before your turf grass begins to actively grow, so you normally won’t be mowing at the same time. Once your grass begins to grow and the spring bulb flowers have faded, you’ll need to mow around the bulb foliage for a little while until the leaves have a chance to die down naturally. This will ensure they have enough time to store food for next year’s blooms. Then, you can mow right over them.

Daffodils and crocus provide such a cheery welcome to spring. Once you drop them in the ground, all you have to do then is sit back and enjoy the show!

Good varieties for planting in turf:

Daffodils Narcissus

Crocus Crocus spp.

Summer Snowflake Leucojum aestivum

Grape Hyacinth Muscari spp.

Spanish Bluebells Hyacinthoides hispanica

Rain Lilies Zephyranthes spp.

Copper Lilies Habranthus spp.

Surprise Lilies Lycoris spp.

Leslie Finical Halleck is a horticulturist and general manager for North Haven Gardens in Dallas, Texas.

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