Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pollination

We have two citrus trees, a Meyer Lemon and a Mandarin Orange.  Unfortunately, we do not live where citrus are reliably winter hardy, so they spend the winter inside.

 


Citrus bloom in the winter.  In our case, citrus bloom inside, in the winter, where there is a lack of natural pollinators.  This year we're helping things along with a soft brush.  Hopefully we're end up with more fruit than we did last year. 



Last year we got one fruit from each plant, so our odds look pretty good.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's Blooming: Spring has Sprung

After spending most of my life in the northern United States, I understand the joy that spring brings.  Winter is usually long, cold, and dreary.  On the first warm day it seems like EVERYONE is outside, trying to soak up as much of the nice weather as they can, because who knows, winter may make a reappearance tomorrow.

In my opinion winter in Texas is pretty warm, pretty sunny and really short.  Never the less, folks here are happy to see spring too.  Most of our bulbs are up and many are blooming, trees are leafing out and spring plants are blooming like crazy.


Our  Tete-a-Tete daffodils have come up and look so cute.  This daffodil is a small one reaching about 6 inches tall with blooms are 2.5 inches across.  Ours are planted on the south side of our house under the Mexican Beautyberries (Callicarpa acuminata).



A lot of our seasonal color ends up along the front of the house.  Our winter pansies still are looking great in the pots, as is the alyssum that we planted last June.  Our Musscari has started to bloom along the wired concrete curbing that all of our garden beds are edged with.  We have two types of tulips, one is called "Dallas Blooms", the other is a mystery tulip left over from a bulb class.  Maybe after it opens all the way we'll be able to identify it.




The okame cherry trees that started blooming in the beginning of the month, are now in full bloom.  They are young trees, so at this point they really don't put on much of a show.  In a few years, after they grow a bit, they will be awesome in the spring.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A New Veggie Garden: Part III

Today we added irrigation to the two beds with soil. (Rainy weather has thwarted our plants to get the last load needed to fill the third bed...but we're happy about the rain.)  Each bed has a few runs of soaker hose and can be watered independently of the other beds.  So basically what your looking at in the picture below is some blue hose running into the bed, being split by a "Y" splitter, with one pathway leading to the next bed and the other running water to the soaker hose.


We also started to plant some cool season crops.  Today we transplanted some onions from the old garden and planted peas, kohlrabi, Romain lettuce, and Swiss chard.  After we took the picture we ended up going to Lowes and picking up some buttercrunch lettuce and some strawberry plants.  The strawberries ended up inside the block voids on the right side bed.  The peas are trellised on some upside down tomatoes cages that you can barely see in the picture.

 


We also took out the stick fence that was around the old garden.  It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be due to all of the rotten wood.  Now we just need to move the large strawberry pot and  figure out what to do with the area
 
Going...
Going...
Going...
Gone!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The tulips are coming!

We planted over 800 bulbs this fall.  Now they are all starting to come up and it's looking we're going to have a great show.  I'm hoping that it doesn't get too warm to fast so we have time to enjoy them all.



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Blue skys all around us...

We had a string of sunny relativity warm days last week.  The Post Oaks (Quercus stellata) look great silhouetted against the blue sky. 



We love these trees, which is a good thing since our yard has quite a few of them.  In the summer they provide great shade, but it's really only in the winter that you can see the beautiful branching pattern these old trees have.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What's Blooming: Valentines Day

`Okame' Cherry

The pansies are still going strong as is the alyssum that we planted last spring.

Loropetalum Blooms

Not exactly a bloom, but we still have some of the purple berries from the Callicarpa acuminata (Mexican Beauty Berry)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Look what came in the mail.


About a week ago Tucker got to attend a trade show for work where he received, among other things, an order form for 15 free seed packets from Renee’s Garden.  So we filled it out, faxed to their office, and They arrived with Saturday's mail.  I will admit that most of the choices (or maybe all of the choices) were for my vegetable garden.

  
We ordered:
  • Gourmet Ruby Chard Scarlet Charlotte
  • Southwestern Chili Trio
  • Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes Isis Candy
  • Sweetie Baby Romaine
  • Gourmet Kohlrabi Crispy Colors Duo
  • Ornamental Sunflowers Royal Flush
  • Shelling Peas Sabre
  • Green and Red Romaines Renee's Caesar Duo
  • Crafters' Gourds Bottles, Dippers and Bowls
  • Container Cucumber Bush Slicer
  • Mexican Tomatillos Two Color Fiesta
  • Baby Pumpkins Mini Jack
  • Heirloom Nasturtiums Alaska Mix
  • Tricolor Carrots Circus Circus
  • Heirloom Tomatoes Rainbow's End
 Here's a few particulars of why a few different varieites were selected.

Tricolor Carrots Circus Circus

I'm excited to try these carrots in the new raised beds.  I've never had good luck with carrots in any of my vegetable gardens.  They never seem to grow and always seem to be bitter tasting. These carrots are supposed to be eight inches long and "reliably sweet".  If these don't work out, I'm planning on giving up on carrots.

Mexican Tomatillos Two Color Fiesta
When we lived in New York, I had the opportunity to work with a group of teenagers in a job training program.  Part of their job was to maintain two community garden plots.  One of the girls decided to grow tomatillos and did they ever grow.  The next spring a bunch of "volunteer" tomatillo plants made an appearance.  We kept a few and we did a better job of picking all of the fruits.  The third year no plants grew from cast off fruits and the kids didn't want to plant any.   I'm looking forward to trying these out myself because while I helped the kids grow stuff, I didn't get to eat anything. (Unless I was eating something to show them it tasted good). I need to find some recipes that use tomatillos, since we didn't eat them growing up.


Heirloom Tomatoes Rainbow's End

 This packet of heirloom tomatoes is actually a mix of three different varieties: Brandywine, Marvel Stripe, and Green Zebra.  I've had great luck with Brandywines in the past.  They are a big pink colored tomatoes that taste great.  The only real drawback is there thin skins.  I always had a hard time giving them away without having a variety of skin breaks.  Nobody seemed to mind, people love a home grown tomato.  I have never grown Marvel Stripe and have had a rough run of luck when it comes to Green Zebras, so I'm hoping they will both work out great this year.  I just need to stay on top  of the spider-mite problem that seems to plague me every summer.


 Most of the seeds I got will be sowed outside, but the tomatoes, peppers and a few other things will be started in the plant room in the next few weeks.  Then I just need to wait for the temperatures to warm up and for the rest of the soil in the new raised vegetable beds.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Some New Friends

We had four new friends join our household last week, and I unfortunately do mean our household.  They are living in the sun room in a cardboard box for right now.  They will be moving outside tot he plant room just as soon as it gets warmer, or they get too big and stinky to be inside.



They look like a cross between chickens and dinosaurs right now.  In reality they are Rhode Island Reds and should grow out of this gawky teenager stage and become really good looking birds.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What's Blooming: Flower Quince

We have a raggedy looking flowering quince (Chaenomeles) in the shrub border near the chicken coop.  It came with our house and needs to be pruned badly.  Who ever pruned it did not cut the stems back to the ground, they just hacked them all off at the same height.  Since it's a winter bloomer here, we'll prune it back severely this spring and let it grow back in a more natural form.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Making new plants from the old

At our old house in New York we had an impressive collection of coleus plants.  At one point we had close to forty different types of coleus in our collection.  We would take cuttings every fall and propagate new plants in our basement for the next growing season.  Now our collection is a lot smaller.  We lost a bunch of plants to heat and stress when we moved to Fort Worth, and there isn't really a place to buy the assortment of coleus that were available in New York and New Jersey.

Coleus cuttings

Now we've started other plant collections and really just use our coleus as bedding plants in our shady yard.  This coming year they are going in one of the new gardens we installed last summer.  We've already started cutting of coleus, sweet potato vine, purple heart, and beefsteak plant.  I'll outline how to propagate from cuttings in an upcoming post.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Can an old hen learn new tricks?

Tucker is trying to teach the chickens to eat out of his hands.  Mushrooms are a favorite treat and Tucker's training tool of choice.  So far a few of the hens have caught on, especially our Blue Orpington hen.  They haven't pecked him to bad and seem to be able to distinguish food from fingers (for the most part). 

"Blue" eating a mushroom

Wednesday, February 1, 2012