Friday, June 29, 2012

Kohlrabi, the results

So I actually had a chance to try out some of the Kohlrabi this weekend. So after looking around on the internet for a while I have basically come to the conclusion that people typically eat kohlrabi raw or pureed.  I did see a recipe where they pickled some kohlrabi and that seemed sort of interesting to me, but I didn't have all of the ingredients.  I also had no intention of trying it purred.  For some reason that just does not appeal to me.  So I decided to try out the recipe I mentioned in this post

So after a quick rinse off in the sink, I peeled and sliced up a few kohlrabi.

The I dredged them in seasoned flour and pan fried them in some oil.  (I was not very careful and got some extra flour in the oil.)

Once they were golden brown I drained them on some paper towels and seasoned them.  I went with paprika and salt since that was what we had available.

Then I ate them warm (like the recipe suggested).

The kohlrabi home fries were really good, but not as good as the raw kohlrabi was.  It tastes sort of like a mild cabbage and is really crisp.  It would be great added to a salad or maybe in a coleslaw.  I only have a few left to pick in the garden (and they are sort of small), so I will probably not bother cooking any more of them. 

So after my little culinary adventure, I have decided that:
  • I do like kohlrabi. Personally I think it's better raw and I have no plans to cooking it again.  
  • There is strong possibility that I may be persuaded to try pickling it since I do love pickles.
  • I will grow it again (and maybe more of it next time).

Monday, June 25, 2012

Shade Tropical Update

The shade tropical garden is really starting to fill in and grow.  We have suffered surprisingly little transplant shock and now that everything is mulched and soaker hoses have been set out, we're ready to the heat of summer.  This week is supposed to be in the 100's everyday, so we got the irrigation done just in time. 

Here are a few photos...

It still has that young garden look, but should fill in and become more lush over the next few years.  We are continuing to fill in spaces with interesting plants as we come across them in our travels.  So far it is turning out just as we hoped.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Kohlrabi...what to do

Whenever we look through the seed packets at any garden center I love to pick out fun new things to try and grow.  Some we buy.  Some we don't.  Some actually make it into soil. Some stay in the seed folder in the refrigerator.  Some actually thrive in the garden. Some send up a sprout, only to die off latter in the season.

This spring I started some kohlrabi seeds.  After a rather unspectacular start, they appear to be ready to harvest.  This is great, except I don't know what to do with kohlrabi.  I have spoken with "the ladies" at work to see what they recommend (nobody has ever cooked with it), and had to settle for suggestions of websites that typically have good recipes for slightly out of the ordinary vegetables.

In case you are also unfamiliar with kohlrabi, I give you a few of the high points.  It is a member of the brassica family and is supposed to taste milder than some of the other members of that family.  You can eat both the leaves and the swollen stem part.  Apparently you need to peel it, and then peel it again to remove a fibrous layer that can get stuck in your throat. Under that skin is a crisp, juicy vegetable that you eat eat raw or cooked.

This weekend I am planning on try to cook some kohlrabi. I am thinking of trying this recipe for Kohlrabi Home Fries, but may change my mind.  Most people seem to like it raw or purred.  I'm don't think I'm a purred kind of girl, but I may be convinced to try some raw.  After all, crisp and juicy sounds okay.

So, what garden experiments have tried lately? 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Crataegus Carnage

 We (and by we I mean Tucker, since I was at work) finally got around to installing the soaker hoses and mulching the shade tropical garden, but before we did that we took a stab at the weeds in that garden.  After all, some of the Crataegus were getting taller than the plants.  It took Tucker a lot of digging, but he got a bunch of the annoying suckers out.

The first summer we were here we assumed that all the little trees had seeded in under the large one, but the first time we tried to dig one up we realized that wasn't the case.  They were all suckers off the large tree, and while it's cool to be able to trace the path of the roots all over the yard, having about 1000 tiny Crataegus trees, knee high, covered with long thorns isn't cool.

Clearly this is why they have been so hard to kill.  Check out the roots on these things.  They are practically little bonsai trees from all of the years of being mowed down.

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18-24, 2012...Pollinator Week

The US Department of Agriculture has declared June 18-24, 2012 National Pollinators Week to draw attention to the declining populations of pollinators. 

What do you do to encourage pollinators to come to your garden?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Carnivorous Garden: Fabulous Foliage

In the carnivorous garden we mostly have carnivorous plants (hence the clever name"Carnivorous Garden"), but since they are all in containers due to their soil and water needs, we have other plants around them.  Right now the big star of the show is this unknown Canna.

unknown Canna

Really the plants around the carnivorous containers are there due to their fabulous foliage.  For example, we have a variety of coleus planted in the beds around the perimeter of the space.

Another interesting plant we have is Jatropha gossypifolia.  It has red glossy foliage  with long petioles covered with yellow-green hairs.  It is an annual here, but self sows all over the garden.  We pull whatever is in the wrong spot and keep a few that end up where we want them.

The plants in these beds also have different shapes, sizes and textures that add a lot of interest.  Below you can see one of the Jatrophas mixed with Castor Bean, Elephant Ears and a Canna.     

This garden is really filling in and should look really lush in a few more weeks.  Here's a few photos to show how much it has changed already.  The first photo was taken in April, the second in May and the third in June.

Unfortunately, Texas summers are hard on the carnivorous plants themselves.  The summer heat doesn't seem to kill the plants, just kind of toast them, making the edges brown and dulling their colors.  It's a work in progress and hopefully we will eventually figure out how to give them the full sun they need while preserving their beauty.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chihuly During the Day

We made it back over to the arboretum and saw the Chihuly exhibit during the day.  It was totally different than at night, be equally as beautiful.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Weeds: Part I

We have a weed problem.  Actually we have a enough weed problems that I felt like I had to split this into two different posts becasue it was too long.

The first is bermuda grass.  It is just fine in the lawn, but since it spreads with runners...lots and lots of really long runners, it gets into everything.  Personally, I think it's the worst in the knock-out rose hedge we planted along our front fence last summer.  It always seems to grown right along the base of the rose bush where it is really hard to pull without getting impaled on a thorn or two, but I really don't like it creeping up into the vegetable garden either.  thankfully, it seems that it is really only an issue in these two places.

Bermuda Grass in the rose hedge              Bermuda grass in the cumbers
The second major offenders are a result of this tree.  It's was a Crataegus sp. (Hawthorn Tree).  The reason I say "was" a Crataegus is becasue we cut it down in order to the Shade Tropical Garden we planted this spring.
Before                                                                                                 After
The main reason we cut this tree down was that it was in the way of another garden we want to install in the future, but in order to cut it down safely, we would need to drop it where we were installing the Shade Tropical.  As bad a we felt cutting down a tree (especially since it was Earth Day), we made ourselves feel better by planting a bunch of Acer palmatum (Japanees Maples), a Eriobotrya japonica (lowquat) and a Ficus-carica (Fig) that day.

Crataegus suckers in the rose hedge
The other reason, that is almost as compelling as the "wrong plant in the wrong place" reason it the insane number of suckers it sends up all over the yard.  These are not simply little trees either, these suckers could be used as lethal weapons.  They are covered with inch long, perfectly smooth thorns.  We hate them, the dog hates them, they are horribly hard to dig out and they laugh in the face of herbicide.

Let me know if you have any fabulous ideas on how to irradiate these two from my garden.  We mulch, we lay down barriers, we pull, we dig, and from time to time we even spray herbicide.  Later on I'll tell you abound the other two weeds that are also a large part of our weed problem.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Building a Garden

At our old house we had a small yard.  It was a blank canvas when we moved in, and we quickly able to fill it up with gardening beds, vegetable gardens, a little greenhouse space, and even a small native meadow area.  We gardened at that house for about three summers and had really run out of space for anything new.  Granted we had lots of small pockets that we could fill with “special treasures” we found in our travels, but the overall design had been decided, built, and filled in with plants.

The garden at our old home
 Our house here in Texas has a much bigger lot, and while it was technically a blank slate when we moved in, we have had to do a lot more clearing out and dealing with some very invasive plants.  I guess it was really a blank slate as a wild slate.  The previous owner was not a gardener.  He seems to have been a buy one of something and plant it wherever type of landscaper.  This created some interesting results, some wrong plant wrong place and some just plain wrong plant.  What he did have was a really awesome garden art collection.  A collection we secretly hopped would be left at the house when he moved out.  The only pieces he left were the large bell and a pinwheel/windmill sort of thing on out deck.  We think they’re great, but then, we enjoy have some art in the garden.

The garden art that the previous own left behind in our garden
All the clearing out invasive plants, and cutting down weedy trees takes time and energy, but mostly time.  This is our third summer in our house and we have created a few garden spaces, but we still have tons of work.  It is such a contrast as compared to our old garden.  All the space is great and we have so many more possibilities because of it, but I have to admit that sometimes I wish that everything was done and we were at the “finishing touches stage”.  We figure that in ten years (so seven years left) we should be at the point where we were when we left our old garden.  

A vine in the Solanum genus that is attractive, but horribly invasive in our garden
I’ve highlighted some of the garden spaces we have already created and mentioned others that we are planning, but I’m going to start a series of posts that really talk about our plans for the different areas of our garden.  I’m sure that some will change over time (ten year plan and everything), but it’s fun to share our vision for what will be down the road.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

Somebody is eating on of the Passiflora vines...a gulf fritillary caterpillar (Agraulis vanillae).  I only found one, but he seems to be a hungry little guy. 

Once this caterpillar reaches adulthood, it will look like this.  The gulf fritillary's range extends from South America through Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean to the southern United States, as far north as the San Francisco Bay Area on the west coast.

I really enjoy having butterflies in the garden, so I am trying to add to our butterfly friendly collection of plants.  We also have plans to create a small native plant/butterfly garden where the old vegetable garden was.  What's important to remember is that you can't have the butterflies without the eggs and caterpillars, and therefore need to suck it up and tolerate some plant damage.

Do you have a specific butterfly garden or try to encourage them to spend time in your garden?