It’s good to be a gardener…

January 30, 2009

Even on chilly winter days when your toes feel like ice cubes...well, my toes always feel like ice cubes. After a bit of an ice-storm here, the sunshine is back but it's still too cold for me to venture outside. Maybe in a couple of hours. I'm on vacation right now so I'm taking advantage of my free morning to relax, have some coffee, start some seeds and record things in my garden journal. Which I'm TERRIBLE about doing by the way.That's what happens when you're a professional do all the things you tell your students/clients NOT to do! lol.  Actually, it's one of the reasons I started this garden blog. Not because I wanted to showcase any brilliant garden writing, have a million people view my garden, or any such pursuit. I started it so my friend Carolyn and I could keep up with each others gardens and so I could keep better track of what I did and when.


So right now I'm starting more seeds of the varieties I test for Organic Gardening Magazine, I can't divulge the variety names for the test plants (names have been blotted out for your own protection!), but there is an assortment of tomatoes, spinach, celery, squash and more. The test spinach has already gone out into the garden, along with the cutting celery and lettuce. In addition to the test plants, I'm also getting some seeds going for some of my other standard favorites. Tomatillos purple and green, Tomato 'Aunt Ruby's German Green', 'Green Zebra', 'Marvel Striped' and a few others.

I keep all my seeds in plastic buckets with lids so I can tote them around. Seeds packets are sitting in piles around me at the moment...oops, just dumped a bunch of okra seeds all over the floor...those will go directly into the garden in April. Still trying to decide what else I'll start indoors right now...

“Winter” Veggie Garden update…

January 19, 2009

I say "Winter" in quotations because I know that what we experience as winter here in Dallas is not really winter when you talk to someone from Minnesota...but's what we've got!

Just a few photo updates from the veggie garden this weekend. I direct seeded some spinach and peas into the garden, which you can get away with doing this time of year here. I've you've never grown peas or beans in your garden before, you might want to use a garden inoculent first time around. Then make sure not to overfertilize with too much Nitrogen. Legumes will fix most of their own from the soil, so too much supplemental Nitrogen can result in lots of growth, but not a lot of fruit.


I seeded some fava beans, a bit to late, last fall but I've been amazed how well they've made it through the winter. We have had a pretty good run of hard freezes lately, with 23 F a few nights ago. I've not covered the plants but they've toughed it out just fine. Even started blooming again a couple of days after flopping over completely in the hard freeze. I'm so proud of them...



Baby broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower are coming along. Actually, we harvest broccoli most of the way through winter, but the rest take a bit longer to mature. Can't wait for the Brussels sprouts. I'll be setting out another round of Cole crop transplants in a week or two. Oh, and I'm terrible about pulling radishes when they're ready...I always seem to leave them too long in the garden. Resulting in giant overgrown monsters! They are still quite edible, but will develop scabbing on top of the root where they're exposed to light. I have some of the biggest radishes I've ever seen...



What to do with turnips?

January 14, 2009

So if you veggie garden on schedule here in Texas, you should be harvesting turnips right about now. I'd say most people my age would ask the question: "What the .... do yo do with TURNIPS?" Well, they're actually quite tasty, and super easy to grow here. Just sprinkle the seeds directly into the garden in fall and late winter (now), then the seedlings and then just leave 'em alone until they mature. Don't let the turnips get too big before you harvest them, the flavor is better when they are medium sized.

You can make a "mash", as the British would say"...I like to combine potatoes and turnips together to make a mash. Boil your potatoes and turnips (seperately) to a mash appropriate softness. Drain and mash or blend with some butter, fresh parsley, salt and pepper, a bit of cream and some horseradish. MMMM. yes horseradish, that you also grew in your garden and processed...and is sitting in it's jar in you fridge.

OR, you can make these yummy Potato and Turnip cake's from her majesty Martha Stewart:

Serves 4

  • 1 pound russet potatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 pound white turnips (about 1 large)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper


  1. Coarsely grate (with a box grater or a food processor fitted with the grater attachment) potatoes and turnips, all scrubbed and trimmed. Squeeze to remove as much moisture as possible; transfer vegetables to a medium bowl. Toss with coarse salt and ground pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Form potato mixture into four tightly packed patties; place in skillet, flattening gently with a spatula to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cook patties, turning once, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes per side (reduce heat if patties start to brown too quickly, and add more oil to skillet if necessary). Transfer to paper towels; sprinkle with salt.

OR, how about this Turnip Puff from Cooking for 2's website:

  • 3 cups cubed peeled turnips
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 egg
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons bakingpowder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash pepper
  • Dash ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs

2 teaspoons butter, melted

Place turnips in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain; mash with butter. Cool slightly. 

Beat in egg. Combine the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg stir into turnip mixture. 

Spoon into a 3-cup baking dish coated with cooking spray. Toss bread crumbs and butter; sprinkle over casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 30-35 minutes or until heated through and a thermometer reads 160°. Yield: 3 servings

OR you can roast or broil them with some olive oil and salt. Super yummy. They are also good mixed into soups or stews like you'd use potatoes. The greens can be braised or steamed with a bit of garlic, butter and lemon juice.

I know, I know...turnips can be an aquired taste. I think it's time we aquire it.

I know it’s January…but your garden needs you!

January 13, 2009

Halleck_saladgreens Yes, it's January...the time of year in Texas when people like to pretend there's nothing they could possibly do in the garden. Not so my friend, not so!

After catching every virus known to man this past fall, I'm finally feeling my spry self again and managed to get a bunch of gardening done this past weekend. I cleaned up the mess that was my front display beds and planted all my spring-flowering bulbs, which always include a few hundred tulips, Dutch Iris, daffodils, muscari and so on and so forth. My bulb collection is getting out of hand. Each year as I go to plant new bulbs, I inevitably dig up some already inhabiting that spot. Then I feel so guilty and have to apologize to the poor little bulbs I just disturbed from their winter slumber.  Also managed to get some composted cow manure worked into the veggie beds along with a bit of clean up.

Again, this is a great time for the cool-season veggie garden. Right now I've got tons masses of lettuce greens going gangbusters, radishes the size of my fist (that's what happens when you leave them in the garden too long!), turnips, tons of broccoli to harvest, collard greens, baby cabbages on the way along with baby Brussels sprouts. Which btw, if you've never grown and tasted your own Brussels sprouts you DO NOT know what you're missing. They are super easy to grow here and you'll never taste anything like them from the grocery store. Carrots are coming along, but not quite ready to harvest. I have the prettiest stand of Fava beans you ever did see...obviously they are not producing right now, but if I can get them through the last round of freezes I'll hopefully have an 09 harvest from them. Let's see, what else, oh, Pak Choi and spinach and the cutest baby cauliflower heads. I promise I'll get photos posted soon.

Next week I'll be starting my seeds of tomatoes and a few other warm season crops along with a second round of Cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, etc.). Spinach seeds can go outside now along with onion sets and slips. Next month I'll start direct seeding more salad greens, carrots, herbs, plant seed potatoes, rhubarb and more. I might even start an asparagus patch this year. There is just so much to do!

If you live in Texas, it's a great time right now to prep your beds, harvest cool season veggies if you got 'em, plant your bulbs if you didn't when you were supposed to (December), plant dormant fruit trees and any container grown hardy trees and shrubs. Pansies, violas, Iceland poppies and the like can also be planted here right now. And start your spring veggies!

Let the patio begin…

November 9, 2008

Yes, yes, I know...I've been terribly delinquent. It's been hectic. I had surgery last week and of course decided to start all manner of indoor and outdoor home improvement projects at the same time. My house and yard is crawling with busy worker bees as we speak. I keep trying to feed them...but apparently they all prefer cheetos (why do guys eat so badly??) Anyhoo...on to the patio.

So, finally, after a long wait, I'm getting my flagstone pathways in the front and side of house, as well as a patio in the back, installed this weekend. I'm so excited I can barely stand it. I'm one of those folks that will stash and save until I can afford to pay cash for what I want, so I've been waiting patiently for about 4.5 years to have all this house work done. It's amazing the difference it makes having proper pathways.

I went stone shopping last weekend at a local stone distributor and of course i happened to find two lonely half pallets of the coolest green flagstone tucked away on the property. When I asked the sales person if they had more, she told me they'd had that stone for a while and would not be getting any more. Of course, I always have to like the stuff no one can actually get their hands on. So after circling the stone yard for about 30 more minutes, talking to myself, running calculations on my cell phone calculator, I decided to gamble and go for a mix. Because I had to have that green stone. I have a thing about greens. The entire inside of my house is painted varying shades of greens, teals, etc. So I snagged the two pallets of green stone and filled out the order with three more pallets of terracotta colored Oklahoma flagstone. And crossed my fingers it would look good together.

So far so is how it's looking so far. The areas are dug out about 2.5 inches, lined with weed-block fabric, bedded with decomposed granite, then the stone is laid and packed in with more decomposed granite. For those of you wondering about materials, I had about 490 sq. ft. to cover. The flagstone will cover about 80-90 sq.ft. per ton (depending on the type/size of stone - the smaller the stone, the less the coverage). So that was 6 tons of stone (about 5 pallets) and about 6 tons of decomposed granite. groovy. I'll post more photos upon completion. whoohoo!

Frontpath1  Frontpath2 

Patio4  Patio2


Black eyed peas…

October 10, 2008

Still harvesting black eyed peas...Super easy to grow...can even be seeded direct outdoors in the middle of August during the blazing heat. They germinate quickly and tolerate the heat well. First peas were ready about a month after seeding so it's a quick crop. They've continued producting steadily since. Fresh black eyed (or cow) peas taste great. I cook mine up with a sliced up jalapeno for some heat. Quite tasty. You can let them dry and store them for cooking later...or for seeds to replant. Next time around, I'll definiely plant more so as to get a bigger harvest.


Sushi at the Hallecks…

October 10, 2008

Homemade sushi at home....yum. I'm a veggie, my husband is not, but we both like sushi. So I thought...what the heck? Let's just make some. Yes, he requires two plate fulls....he says it's like candy. Shrimp and crab rolls for him...veggie avocado, cucumber and carrot rolls for me. Served with soba noodles in a soy/white wine shitaki mushroom soup. YUM. Needless to say, I couldn't finish all my food. I am now officially in love with my new mandolin slicer...I love excuses to buy kitchen gadgets.


Leslie feeds the world…

September 15, 2008

So, I put out lettuce seeds last week. We've had cloudy, rainy weather, so perfect for these seeds to quickly germinate on their own without my intervention. Right? Well...some patches germinated...only on certain sides of the two beds I seeded. Hmmm, that's weird...something is not right. So I figured my seed must be old and thew out a new batch of 'Black Seeded Simpson' lettuce while working in the garden. I happen to pass by the spot about 30 minutes later and look down to see what appears to be tiny white specks traveling along in the same direction.


As I peer closer, I realize it's my lettuce seeds! An army of tiny ants have discovered my seeds are carrying them one by one up to the corner of the cedar bed and dropping them into the crevace between the posts...where they have apparently built a nest. No wonder my lettuce wasn't germinating! So I watched these little guys systematically carry off every single lettuce seed that'd hit the ground. Sigh....if it's not the's the ants. Namaste my little ant friends...Namaste. Enjoy your dinner!

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