Blog posts from July 2012

I know it’s 106 F degrees…but I’m still planting.

Jul 30, 2012

So, it was 106 F degrees here in Dallas yesterday (or somewhere around that temp...) and yes, I'm still planting. Gardening is a year-round activity for me, regardless of the weather. I always have something going on in the garden! There are plenty of varieties that can take extreme heat and will tolerate being planted this time of year. I posted the other day about tough succlents that can easily be planted this time of year, but our planting pallette isn't limited to succulents or cacti.


Let me ask you this: Do you think the plants will be happier in the ground or in a black nursery pot siting on concrete when it's 100+ degrees? Anything you see in a garden center this time of year...can be planted in the ground this time of year. They'll be easier to keep alive planted in the ground than then are in a black plastic pot, which will dry out much, much faster! Now, does the fact that it's so hot mean you're going to have to keep a closer eye on your new plants? Sure it does. If you're under tight watering restrictions that don't allow you to run your automated system on a weekly basis, or don't allow for additional hand watering, then yes; it's going to be tough to establish any new plants this time of year. BUT, if you're like us here in Dallas, and can run your sprinkles up to twice per week plus hand irrigate (or drip) anytime you need to, then you can plant now. As long as you're willing to get on the end of the hose a few more times a week.


So what was I planting yesterday? Just a few things around my chicken yard fence to provide a little more green camouflage and shade for the girls. Plus make the chicken yard a litle more pretty! I already have some passionvine getting established on the fence, but wanted to add some evergreen Confederate Jasmine both for beauty and fragrance. Who says a chicken yard can smell good?? LOL. Plus, my bees will love it. I also threw in a few plantingsof dwarf cannas in a few spots around the fence. Again, they'll provide a bit more ground shade for the girls, plus attract hummingbirds. Both of these are tough, easy to grow plants. I also planted a few more succulents in containers and transplanted a Viburnum and an Esparanza.

Obviously, if you're out gardening in the heat, you'll want to make sure to drink lots of water and put on that sunscreen. Plant early in the morning as that's both easier for you and the plants! Make sure to drench plants thoroughly after planting. You'll need to check on them daily to see if they need a bit of hand watering. To get plants off to a better start, consider soaking the root ball in some liquid seaweed and root stimulator for a minute before you plant.

Garden on troopers!


Time to start planning your fall garden!

Jul 27, 2012

GardeninoculantIf you're thinking about planning your fall vegetable garden right now, congratulations! You're right on schedule. Now is the time to start building raised beds and/or amending existing beds with organic matter for your fall transplants.

If you're interesting in the sorts of things you should be seeding or planting August, read my post HERE.

Fall is for planting! Not just vegetables, but pretty much everything. When you plant in the fall here in the South, you benefit from the cooler air and soil temperatures, plus you get about 8-months for plants to put down new roots before the onset of summer heat. It will save you money, time and result in happier healthier plantings.

Planting beans in August or Peas in September? Make sure to mix garden inoculant into the soil first...Rhizobium bacteria is necessary for legumes to fix their own Nitrogen in the soil!

Agave Takes the Heat!

Jul 25, 2012

AgaveI've started getting a lot of questions about what can be planted now, and what should be planted for fall vegetable gardens.  In terms of what can be planted right now in the heat, focus on things like succlents; Agave, Yucca, Echeveria, Sedum...all are heat-hardy and are able to retain a lot of their moisture. Other heat hardy plants like Ainnas, Aalvias, Centaurea, Lantana, Pentas and herbs can also be planted now. It's a great time to pot up Citrus trees into pots as well as plant perennial hibisucs. Lot's to do in the garden!

My front yard and porch have just about the worst kind of sun exposure...Mostly West facing with a slight tilt to the North. This means the front beds against the house and the porch are shaded for a while in the morning, then get blasted with the hot West sun the rest of the day. Not to mention, I have a large circular concrete drive that radiates back a huge heat load. It puts a lot of stress on the plants in my front garden. Plants in continers on my front porch are especially suceptiple to this heat stress.


JawsMy solution? I've gone Agave! Last weekend I transitioned my front porch pots over to mostly Agave, Yucca, Echeveria and some Sedum. Not only do these tough succulents have a striking sculptural look about them, but they'll take the sun, heat and won't require much water. They prefer to dry out between waterings...which is perfect for a summer container.

You can dress up any container using things like recycled gass mulch, jelly bean class or colored gravel. I toped these pots wiht a mixture of glass mulch and jellybean glass.

The fearsome looking specimen in the second photo is an Agave called 'Jaws'...appropriate no? The colorful jellybean glass is a great contrast.  Check out this segment I did with Good Morning Texas about all these great succulents!



Harvest in 100 degrees!

Jul 22, 2012

EggplantI know, it's 100 F degrees outside today. So you might think there is not much going on in the garden this time of year. If so...think again. In Southern regions, the veggie garden is a 12-month affair. If you planted things like eggplant, tomatillo, okra and peppers back in spring, you'll be harvesting right now....even in extreme heat.

I have some gorgeous eggplant coming's a shot of what I've started harvesting. Eggplant 'Black Beauty', tomatillos and the last of the 'Indigo Rose' tomatoes. Gorgeous color, no? This eggplant variety makes a fantastic edible ornamental in the landscape. I have lots of eggplant still coming on and I'm about to be loaded down with tomatillos. I'll be roasted both first...maybe some baba ganoush with the eggplant and salsa verde with the tomatillos. YUM! What are you harvesting in your area right now?

Garden on!

Monsanto genetics “trespassing” onto organic farms.

Jul 11, 2012

So, with this looming legislation pending, that would effectively make Monsanto and other bio-tech companies immune to legal injunctions agianst their product, I've been thinking about how organic farmers can defend themselves. This is how I see things...The Citizens United Supreme Court decision states that corporations are individuals under the 14th Amendment. So then why don't organic farmers treat them as such now? When their GMO pollen floats over to a certified organic farm and  infects their crops, can that not be seen as a form of trespassing? Especially now that corporations are "individuals". If you or your dog comes onto my property and destroy something, I can hold you responsible for trespassing and destruction of property, right? So why don't we just play their game with their rules? What is the difference between you or your dog (which is your "property") destroying my property, and your GMO pollen coming on to my property and effectively destroying my crops? Just a thought.

So I decided to see if anyone was using a trespassing defense when it comes to Monsanto bullying them. This story was just published last Friday in the Denver Post about a ruling against conventional farmers using pesticides in the vicinity of organic farms. Using pesticides or herbicides that drfted onto the organic farmers crops, was deemed a form of trespassing. Awesome. So, seems perhaps there is a stronger precident now to use the same principle against Monsanto, especially considering the Citizens United ruling?

I'm no legal expert, but I think alls fair in Love and War. So if corporations want the right to operate as an individual, then perhaps we should simply treat them that way. Any legal thougths out there??

Rico Suave: Yes, my favorite Silkie is a BOY.

Jul 9, 2012

I don't even know what to say...I mean, could fate BE any more cruel?? favorite, sweetest, most docile adopted Silkie, has turned out to be...a BOY. Really? Really??


If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may remember how these Silkies came to live with me. It wasn't by choice. I wrote THIS post on February 20th of this year...after someone abandoned a box of baby silkies on the door step of the garden center I run. Either in the middle of the night or very early that Sunday morning. It was cold, and the poor babies had no food or water. So of course, my store manager called me...and up I went to retrieve them. They were about 12-weeks old and all had CRD, or chronic respiratory disease, so it took a lot of hand nursing and antibiotics to get them back on track. The first one died within three days and it was a struggle with the remaining four, but eventually they pulled through. All were clucking along nicely, until the partridge colored one, (buff/blue) died mysteriously a couple of weeks ago with a wound to the stomach. So, then there were three. All fluffy and cute, all black.


Now, it can take 6-8 months for silkies to reach maturity, and it can be notoriously difficult for even an expert to sex the birds until they reach that age. So this was a lot of work that had gone into taking care of these birds I hadn't planned on...and I was worried I was going to get stuck with all roosters. That would be my luck, right? So I kept my fingers crossed that the remaining three were girls. At least then I'd get to keep them. I was pretty confident about two of them, and those two have confirmed themselves as pullets just in the last week by starting to lay the tiniest cutest eggs; but the third showed a slightly different morphology...the feathers were a bit different..but no comb or waddles yet. Until about the last month (which would be right on schedule). Yes, yes, I know that I've been in a state of denial. Why? Because he's the sweetest bird. Seriously. I didn't figure that the most docile sweetest bird of the bunch would turn out to be a boy. And now I don't want to part with him.


As his comb grew larger and waddles developed, I knew I was probably in for major disappointment. As of today, I can no longer choose denial. I mean, look at that pose he's making above? THAT was him being his proud self right after trying to awkwardly mount two of the girls just a couple of hours ago. Yep, and in that moment he became...Rico Suave. Even so, he's still my sweetest bird.  Now, he hasn't made a sound yet and I'm not sure how long that will take or if he'll even make much noise at all. As you may know, Dallas ordinance prohibits keeping roosters. Not because they are a nuisance, but rather certain people made nuisances of themselves by engaging in cock-fighting. So thanks for that you jerks. In any case, I'm going to have to find a loving new home for this dude with someone in a city that allows roosters.  At least I'll have a couple of girls to hang on to. They just don't like me as much as Rico does! Whaa.


So, after 5 months of nursing, hand feeding, raising and becoming attached to him, Rico has to go. He's a beautiful boy and would make nice breeding stock if you are raising silkies, or just need a man around the house. You'll need to live in the DFW area (but not city of Dallas), be able to meet me somewhere in the DFW area, be able to show me that you have experience raising chickens and a photo of your secure coop and run. He's had a good amount of space to roam and I'd like to keep it that way. He's been raised completely on certified organic feed and gets plenty of fresh greens and worms. So I'll be looking for someone who raises their birds similarly. I have no idea if he was given any vaccinations when he was a baby...he was successfully integrated into my existing flock, who were all vaccinated for Merecks, but nothing else. All are healthy. All the birds get along very well, and he's pretty docile with all the girls, but that took about 4 weeks of transition time after moving the silkies from a separate enclosure. Everyone needs a little time to work out the pecking order.  Realize that silkies are smaller than other breeds. Even though he's a rooster, there is the possibility that he could get ganged up on by your birds, so a gradual transition is always recommended. You'll need to plan on quarantining this new bird from your existing flock for 30 days just to be on the safe side in terms of health.

Please comment on the post if you have questions or comments, or  if you'd like more information about adopting Rico please email me directly through my contact page.

Almost time to harvest my ‘Faerie’ melons!

Jul 9, 2012

Melon faerieAlmost time to harvest my watermelons! This is a beautiful dwarf hybrid melon called 'Faerie'. It's an AAS Winner that I'm currently testing in my garden for Organic Gardening Magazine. The beauty of this baby is it's size...vines only reach about 11-foot and they don't require trellising. It's great to find a melon that doesn't take up much space. The skin is a luminous pale yellow, and the flesh inside is a bright pink. I'm waiting for the first few melons to get to "full slip", meaning they'll slip right off the peduncle (stem that attaches the fruit to the stem). Should be any day!

Reblooming Iris ‘Smell the Roses’

Jul 8, 2012

Iris smelltherosesYou have to take a look at this miniature beauty I found this week over at North Haven Gardens in Dallas. I'll pretty much make a bee line for anything blue or purple in the nursery, and this lovely caught my eye from across the perennial section. I mean, who expects to see a bearded Iris blooming in Texas?? Not I said the fly...This tough yet stunning perennial is Iris 'Smell the Roses'. It's a miniature bearded Iris that re-blooms, so you get spring and fall blooms, or spring and sporadic blooming when weather is favorable. I can only assume that the lower than normal temps and extra rain fall made way for this specimen to go ahead and get it's bloom on.

Iris are one of the toughest drought tolerant perennials we can grow here in Texas, yet it still provides that showy delicate look one might expect from an English cottage garden. Best of both worlds! And yes, you can plant Iris in the middle of the summer here in Texas. Remember, any plants you see at your local garden center are ok to plant at the time they are stocked. And believe me, they will be much happier in the ground in summer than they are in a black nursery pot!

Now, I did you guys a favor and didn't snag this gem off the Iris table. So it might still be there for one of you lucky ducks. NHG had plenty of other unusual Iris varieties in stock so it's worth checking out.

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