Monday, September 10, 2012

Eating Watermelon...Finally

After numerous years of unsuccessful watermelon growing, this year has turned out to be a bumper crop in our garden.  Well, actually four melons, but that's a lot more than zero.  This past weekend I decided to pick one of the melons.  I wasn't really sure how to tell if they were ready or not, but I really wanted to try one.  So logically I just picked the one that started forming first.  I figured it would be the closest to ripe, and would want to wast time actually finding out how to determine ripeness.

I brought it inside and cut it open.  Fortunately, it is ripe and pretty tasty.  It made a great afternoon snack.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Do you water your lawn?

Growing up my father watered his lawn a lot.  He still does.  Water is cheap in New York and he loves a green lush lawn.  We don't water our lawn.  Water is crazy expensive in Texas.   Quite a shock when I first moved here.  We don't waste it on our weedy lawn.  Typically by the end of June our grass (aka: weeds we mow and maintain as if they were grass) is all brown and crunchy.

Here you can see the beginning of this years brown out.  I'm always amazed at how fast it greens back up.  We had two weeks in a row where we got a lot of rain (for the DFW area in the summer) and the whole thing greened back up.  We even had to mow.  Now two weeks later, and two weeks with out any rain or supplemental water, we are back to the brown.

Sometimes we talk about creating a nice little patch of grass in the front yard once we have all the garden beds completed, but really we like to focus our water on the big plants and the garden beds, so who knows if that little postage stamp of green will ever come to furition.

Do you water your lawn in the heat of the summer?

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I grew watermelon once in New York.  I managed to produce one meager melon that was small and wasn't particularly good.  I have tried to grow mellons for the past two years in Texas.  I didn't even get flowers.

This year I added some melons as an afterthought once we got soil for the cement planters (some time in July).  Right now the count is FOUR watermelons!  Not sure what I did differently, other than using a container, but clearly it's working.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tomatoes Take Two

 We finally got some new tomatoes in the vegetable garden last week.  Considering that's it is actually September, it isn't looking too bad.  The purslane planted in the cinder block cells are awesome.  Definitely something we're going to repeat again next year.

 Since we had being keeping the plants with our potted houseplants on the shaded deck we were concerned that the full sun of the vegetable garden would turn them into toast.  Fortunately, Tucker cobbled together this burlap shade clothe shade structure using the tomato cages.  It has totally worked and we have had no sun scald.  Take special note of the festive florescent zip ties that are holding the whole thing together. 

 We had a bunch of rain and some cooler temperatures that resulted in one of the tomatoes that we saved (the Sugary) to start flowering and producing again.  I'm pretty excited since my tomatoes have never managed to make it through a whole summer here in Texas.  We won't talk about the Porter that was also saved.  Let's just say that it's on life support and it's pretty touch and go.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tidying the Tomatoes

Growing tomatoes is a little trickier in Texas, at least it is for me.  Once the weather gets hot and dry, my plants always start declining.  Typically, before the end of August I have some brown crunchy plants.  Also the heat prevents them from setting fruit. 

This year was not much different.  After a wonderful spring where I was inundated with tomatoes, the majority of my plants have once again been toasted by summer.  It finally was time to pull them out.  The only two the made the cut were the Porter and the Sugery.

This is NOT how the Sugery Tomato is looking right now

The Porter had been recommended to me by someone local as a tomato that stood up to the summer.  While it isn't producing any fruit, it also isn't dead, so I'm calling it a win.  The Sugery is also not looking great, but not looking horrible, so it also got a reprieve.

The back two raised beds in the vegetable garden (Ignore the toasted lawn...we don't water the "grass" back here)
You can see here that taking out the tomatoes had left two of my raised bed virtually empty.  All that's left are the two tomatoes I didn't pull and some strawberries and purslane along the edges.  I have a new batch of fall tomatoes ready to plant.  We just need to create a little temporary shade for them so they can get acclimated to the garden.  Hopefully next weekend.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cleaning Out the Coop

 This weekend we took some time to do work on the chicken coop.  As you can tell from the slightly blurry photo below, our "coop" is made up of two open runs and an enclosed coop.

First we need to do a few repairs.  Some of the chicken wire had come loose due to Blue, our large blue orpington hen.  She's rather nervous and when she gets startled she will sometimes fly into the chicken wire.  Due to her rather substantial size, she can pull the staples out of the wood framing.

So after some we did some stapling we dealt with a visitor that has been hanging around.  Tucker has had a few "epic battles" with a possum that likes to call the chicken coop home.  We aren't really interested in starting up a  home for wayward possums, so he had to go.  We basically created some Quickrete "rocks" to stop up the spots where the chickens like to dig and our new friend has been using to get under the foundation.  There are a few other holes that we need to plug up near the ceiling, but that is for another day.

Very classy looking isn't it.  The paper bag will eventually wear away.

Finally we cleared out all of the all straw from inside and hosed everything off.  We have been doing sort of deep litter method of bedding in the coop this last year.  It was pretty dusty and dirty. Fortunately Tucker did  the scooping and I did the hauling away in the wheel barrow.  We're using the bedding as mulch under some trees.

Once it was all cleaned out and had time to dry, we put down some new straw, refilled the waters, and filled up a pan of water for the chickens to cool off in.   I've read that after a big cleaning like this (especially when deep litter was used) and result in a bunch of flies in a few weeks.  I'm hoping that will not be the case for us.  We bought a fly trap to have on hand just in case.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Refreshing Shower

This evening we had a storm roll through.  Lots of wind, lightning, and some rain.  Looks like a lot of rain in this picture doesn't it...

 The rain gauge tells a slightly different tale.  Only about a quarter of an inch.  Not exactly the drenching rain we were hoping for.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cottage Gardens

The final nursery we visited while in New York was Cottage Gardens in Medina, NY.  We stopped here on the way to Niagara Falls.  (Tucker had never been there before.)

This garden was interesting, as it was made up of both a cottage style garden and row and rows of daylilies in a field.

We traipsed through the whole place.  It was pretty hot (especially for New York) but we had a good time and the whole place is really pretty.  Normally they are closed on Mondays, but since the owner had a group coming in the afternoon, he let our little group of two stop by in the morning.

There is a beautiful cobblestone style house on the property, surrounded by cottage style gardens.  While they featured daylilies, they also had vegetables, trees, shrubs and other perennials in them.  I love cottage style gardens.  Especially when they look sort of wild, like things have self sowed all around.

Cobblestone houses are made up of smallish round rocks that were deposited by glaciers.  Unlike other stone construction, these stones are small enough to fit in your hand.  Originally they got in the way of farmers and eventually they started to build with them.

Of course we bought a number of daylilies.  Since it was so hot and sunny I didn't get many good pictures, but Hudson Valley (above) and Karen's Curls (below) are two that are sitting in the backyard currently. 

We had everything shipped and it all arrived looking great.  They were potted up and added to the waiting plants from our other stops.  Most of them have already set out new leaves and we're expecting that they will be blooming in our garden next spring (once we created an appropriate bed and plant them of course).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Borglum's Iris Gardens

Borglum's Iris Gardens was actually one of the first places we visited when we arrived in New York.  We left the airport, had lunch at my parents, and then headed down to the finger lakes for the wedding rehearsal, stopping along the way. 

When we arrived we were greeted by Sylvia and got a quick tour of the property.  July isn't really the right time of year to visit, but I can imagine (and have seen some pictures on their website) of what spring looks like.  They have fields and fields of iris.  They also have display gardens, a bunch of peonies ( 200 named cultivars according to their website), some daylilies, and a large hosta collection. 

Unlike Grace Gardens, Borglums has areas of plants that are for sale, some that are for display, and some that are growing for future sale.   We visited with Dana and Sylvia Borglum in the shade (since it was pretty hot) until we had to leave to get changed for the wedding rehersal.

We made a second trip after the wedding on our way back to my parent's house.  We picked up a few  Supria Iris and a few hostas for my parents.  This little lady followed us around during our plant buying visit.

The hostas have already been planted in New York and the Iris have been potted up in Texas.  Hopefully we'll be up in New York in the spring at some point and visit again and see Borglum's Iris Gardens at it's peak!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Finally: Dividing Hostas

I started this ponst back in June and never published it....a quick lesson on how to divide up hostas, or any perennial for that matter.

There are a few different ways you can create new plants.  Planting seeds is an obvious one, as is propagating from cuttings or layering branches.  Another easy way to increase your plant numbers is by dividing your plants.  When we bought the new hostas for the shade tropical garden we did some dividing before we planted them. Diving plants can seem a little brutal at first, but really is easy.

When you are picking out a plant you want to divide, you want to try and get a really full, healthy looking plant that is able to be propagated through division.  Some plants can be divided and other don't really like this rough treatment..

Once you get your plant home, you will need to take it out of the pot and examine the structure of the plant.  You need to decide how many time you want to divide it and where you are going to make your cuts.  The goal is to end up with leaves and roots in each division, so you need to do a little pre-planning.  Lots of times you can see natural places to divide where the different "tuffs" of foliage come out of the ground.

Once you decide where the dividing line is going to be, it is time to cut the plant.  You can use a sharp shovel of some type of a knife.

Now you will have two plants.  If you want to divide them further, go ahead.  I can remember and have helped my parents divide hostas down to almost one leaf.  I didn't go this extreme, and divided each of the hostas into about 3-4 plants.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Grace Gardens

One of the nurseries we visited in NY was called Grace Gardens, located between Genvea and Penn Yan.  Like many of our gardening adventures we read about this nursery in a book.  In this case, The Adventurous Gardener by Ruah Donnelly.

 They have a 4 acre daylily display garden with over 2,000 different daylily cultivars.  

Lots of the flowers were amazing.

Dallas Star

David Kirchhoff

Peppermint Lady

When we first got there we were a little confused on whether any of the dayliles were for sale.  As it turns out, Grace Gardens actually digs daylily fans out of their display.  You walk through the garden and take notes on what you like.  Then you look through the price list and see if what you want is available (some are display only).  We bought some dayliles to bring back home with us.  Here are a few of the daylilies we brough back with us.

Notify Ground Crew (This daylily can get up to 72 inches tall!!)

Seneca Brave

Sweet Seneca Butterflies (a cultivar by Kathy Rood, one of the owners)

Judge Roy Bean

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Trip Up North

Last week we got leave the Texas heat and head up to New York for my sister's wedding.  It was pretty hot there too, so while we didn't really get to cool off, we did have a great time (and managed to fit in some Horticulture tourism).  The wedding was at Glenora Wine Cellers

The whole wedding was great.  The food, music, cupcakes, etc.  The ceremony took place on the hill overlooking Seneca Lake. Check out the view!

After the wedding we went to stay with my parents.  They have been doing a lot of work on their garden the last few years and this was the first time I had gotten to see it in the summer (Somehow you don't get the whole picture in December when the garden in question is located in western New York).

The fish pond had to be redone due to a leak.  Not surprising since it was installed when I was in Middle School. I think it may have been the project that started the garden rehab.

My mom LOVES hostas.  They are featured heavily in the backyard.  It's shady there and since they had some tree work done that opened up the canopy, they have been growing like crazy.  It was mentioned that they were blooming really well this year.

 Here's another view of the backyard.  Lots of hostas, ferns and shade lovers.

They also had a lot of work done in the front yard.  The landscape that was put in when the house was built was getting really overgrown and the timber retaining wall was rotting away.  It was time for a change.  I have been able to see all the new hardscape work when I've been up in the winter, but it was great seeing all of the plants!

I'll tell a little bit about the interesting nurseries we visited on our trip latter on.  It's good to be back in Texas, even if we near record breaking temperatures yesterday.