Blog posts from April 2010

The roses are going nuts!

Apr 29, 2010

Well, the very cold winter we had did provide some benefits. The strawberries are going to provide a bumper crop, as well as the peaches, and the roses got the full dormancy and chilling hours they needed to look fabulous this year. The cold weather killed off many of the fungal spores as well so even the finicky English hybrids have gone blackspot free this spring!

'Pegasus' in the forefront, 'Abraham Darby' and 'Fransika Krueger' in the right background, 'Perle d' Or' in the left background. A 'Pat Austin' and 'Tamora' are just out of view. I have an fabulous 'Ebb Tide' hidden in the back that is just luscious.

Abraham_darby2010 The 'Abraham Darby' have been providing so many fragrant petals this spring that I'm about to make a batch of homemade rose water.

Perledor_2010'Perle d' Or' in it's full and fragrant glory

Aren’t flowers fantastic? Blue Spiderwort in the shade garden…

Apr 27, 2010

Wow...I love blue in the garden. My blue spiderwort (Tradescantia) has started blooming in the shade garden. So lovely!


Ajuga ‘Catlin’s Giant’

Apr 26, 2010

I tell you what, Ajuga (Bugleweed) has come a loong way baby! Some of the new varieties are less like a standard groundcover and more like a featured blooming perennial! This variety, called 'Catlin's Giant', is really stunning come April. The huge blue bloom spikes reach almost a foot in height. Really stunning combined with a 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple, Hellebore 'Silver Lace' and a newly planted Hydrangea 'Lemon Daddy'. Great foliage color and contrast with the blue Ajuga flowers!

                                        Oh, and little Beezus likes them too!


Fava Beans

Apr 24, 2010

I've gotten a few questions on pruning fava beans lately. I usually do tip-pinch my fava beans. Sometimes, your fava beans will flower and flower away, but you won't see fruit. Often, if you'll tip-pinch the stems, it relieves what is called "apical dominance" and triggers the plant to go ahead and set fruit. There are special cells in the tips of growing stems of plants. Once you remove them, they are triggered to develop different structures, such as lateral shoots, fruits, etc. You don't need to pinch off much, just that very first internodes worth of growth right at the top of the stem. Make sense?

Favabean Fava plants in my garden now

You can harvest the bean pots when they are only 2-3 inches long if you'd like to cook the whole pod as you would a green bean. Or, wait until pods are about 6-8 inches long to harvest the seeds (shell the bean). Go Here for more info on fava beans.

By the way, fava beans are beautiful plants. The leaves are edible in salads and the flowers are lovely and fragrant.

Iris ‘Orange Glaze’

Apr 22, 2010

Alessandra told me I was I figured I'd better get some photos up here! Oh the Irises sure are pretty right now! One of my absolute favorite just opened it's first flower. 'Orange Glaze'...I think the name says it all!


And a few other mystery beige Iris...this Iris is super fragrant, with the scent of honeysuckle. It's fantastic. With the most striking purple stamen. Tons of blooms. I only wish I knew which variety it was! I originally purchased 'Superstition' rhizomes (a "black" flowered variety) and this is what came up! I've just got to do some digging around in some Iris registries to see if I can figure it out. Anyone?


And Iris 'Victoria Falls'...


Naked Gardening Day, 2010

Apr 21, 2010

Ok folks, I know you DO NOT want to be missing out on this one! World Naked Gardening Day is coming up...May 8th 2010. I'm thinking I'll have some hedges to prune in the front yard that day...LOL. (And yes, if you click that link, you are going to see naked gardeners...I warned you! lol)

Square Foot Gardening Soil Mix…Do I think it works for Texas?

Apr 20, 2010

Well, some parts of it...

I get a ton of questions about SFG (Square Foot Gardening) so I thought I'd go ahead and address it here.  My opinion is No, you don't have to follow the principles to the letter to get the results you need, especially in our climate. Not to say that there aren't those who've have had success with the plan here.

I think that there are some good principles in the book that have obviously worked for the author in his particular experience. Specifically in learning how to rotate crops, spacing, etc., especially for beginner vegetable gardener.

However, In climates like those here in Texas, I do believe, from extensive experience, that you'll need to make some adjustments to the soil mix and the depth of the beds for best results. I just don't think the author has to garden in 107 degree heat!

Firstly, 6-inch deep beds are too shallow for my taste. Trying to keep your raised bed soil adequately watered is tough in the summer with that little soil volume. Especially considering that the organic matter is going to break down, leaving you with less than 6-inches worth of soil. Larger root systems, such as those of tomatoes, are going to need more soil volume. I build my beds to 12" tall.

I don't recommend tilling up the soil underneath your raised beds here, as you'll end up with lots of extra weed seed germination, Bermuda grass and nut sedge. So using newspaper and weed block fabric on top of the existing soil, without tilling it, is usually the easiest way to go. Watered cardboard works well too.  But that means you're going to need a good 8"-10" of soil to best accommodate your plants. 

More important is the soil mix. The SFG mix calls for a good amount of peat moss and vermiculite (The recipe is 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite.) This can turn into a watering nightmare for you in the summer. Once peat dries it can be very difficult to rehydrate and you end up with a brick. You're much better off upping the levels of organic compost, humus, some high quality topsoil and expanded shale instead of the vermiculite. Throw in some greensand to help you retain moisture and provide micronutrients and some composted manure for a Nitrogen charge. If you want to use something with a peat moss-like texture, but without the hydration problems, go with COIR. A superior product in my experience (made from coconut husks).

Another thing...there is the impression in SFG that because you use compost in your beds that you don't have to use any fertilizer. Realize that compost is an organic amendment, which will eventually begin releasing nutrients slowly as it is decomposed by microbes (which will take a while to get going). Organic matter also breaks down faster in higher temps, so you'll have ot replenish more quickly in hot climantes. Also realize that what it will offer is mostly Nitrogen. It's not a complete "fertilizer" per say. You're still going to need to provide a good organic food to your plants, especially when first planted. Continual applications of compost will feed your plants as it breaks down, but don't expect a quick green up from it, and don't expect it to feed your plants enough if you don't have good microbial activity in the soil.

ADDENDUM: I realize there are folks on the SFG board who will tell you that you can't garden in the summer in Texas and that it's not our season, but they are wrong. They don't understand our climate and growing season, which is incredibly different even from areas just a couple of hours North of us. They also don't understand our soils. Please take my advice as a professional hortiulturist on this one. We have a 12-month gardening season here and you can grow year-round, NOT just September-May. But they are correct on one point, you can't garden in the official SFG soil here in July, because it turns to rock and you can never keep it hydrated because of it's composition and shallow depth. For example, you have to plant your fall tomatoes here in July. Period. if you don't you will not have a fall tomato harvest. Also, you're not wasting growing soil by going to 10-12" here - it's necessary. Sure, you can grow winter crops, such as lettuce, broccoli, etc, here in more shallow containers, but not larger warm season crops. Once you get some experience under your belt, you'll see the difference. You can't successfully harvest year-round here in 6" of soil, not to mention 6" of soil that is heavy on peat moss.

Here is one of my discussions on good soil mixes for your Texas raised beds.

Earth Day Program: Bountiful Backyard Gardens

Apr 19, 2010

To celebrate Earth Day, I'll be giving a free program at North Haven Gardens this coming Thursday 11:00am - 12:30pm called Bountiful Backyard Gardens. I'll be covering timely vegetable gardening info, how to start and keep your own compost and a short segment on keeping backyard chickens...and how they all tie in together to form a "close-looped" gardening system. Feel free to bring your lunch!

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