Gail of Green Living


Spring Garden Mid-Term

Cucumbers on Trellis

This morning I gave my garden a Mid-Term exam.  The Straight 8 Cucumbers are finding the trellis very well, I think, and there are a couple of cucumbers developing under all that foliage.  My challenge here is having the south exposure in summer is going to cause a lot of heat radiating off the patio.  The plant had a couple of afternoon melt-downs this last week with mid-80 temperatures.

Sweet Millions

I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite so many cherry tomatoes on one stem.  I was counting 17 this morning!  Sweet Millions is not a variety that should be in a pot, but here it is anyway!

Pinto Beans

We had a small serving of pinto beans a few days ago, and they were delicious and very tender.  I picked quite a few this morning, and with another day or two, we can have enough to eat again.  They won’t last much longer, so I’m glad I started them a month ago!  I haven’t seen green, young pinto beans for sale in a long, long time.

Better Bush Tomatoes

This Better Bush plant has the strongest, stoutest stems I have ever seen on a tomato.  This makes it absolutely perfect for containers.  Look how dense the foliage is.  I see a few tomatoes in there, but I have no idea how this variety tastes yet.  The plant gets an A+!

Early Girl Bush

The Early Girl Bush variety sets blooms at cooler temperatures so it is understandable that it would be loaded with fruit already.  The stems are strong, and they are holding up a lot of fruit already.  I’ve never tasted these either.

Onions

I’m afraid the Onions get a D-!  Two days ago, there were some red onions and white onions growing in this pot, but today I noticed an army of pill bugs have finished off most of the tops!  I’m going to see if I can get rid of the army and see if the green tops will return.  They may have eaten the bulb below the soil, but I didn’t check.

How would you grade your garden at this point?

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Brightwell Blueberry Bushes

Brightwell Blueberry Bushes

Brightwell Blueberry Bushes–I like the alliteration!  Last Saturday Urban Harvest had their fruit tree sale I’ve been anticipating.  I chose the Brightwell variety, because the sign said they had “heavy production“.  Thank you, Mr. Brightwell, for your research in developing this variety.  I don’t understand why someone would choose a variety with “lesser” production.  I’m glad I was early so I could buy these!   My limited research says that the berries will be large and juicy, and almost seedless.  They should ripen in June and July and be of excellent quality.  Since a serving of blueberries has been part of my breakfast every day for several years now, I will look forward to finding them in my backyard, rather than my freezer or refrigerator.  I’ll let my grandson pick the first one; he loves blueberries!

Brightwell Blueberry

Here’s a close-up view of some of the berries that have already set.  The lady from Urban Harvest was considerate to tell me that they require sandy and acidic soil, or it wouldn’t work.  Houston has clay soil that leans toward alkaline, if you are not careful.  So I went to Southwest Fertilizer and told them I needed sandy, acidic soil for my blueberries, and the gentleman asked me to turn around, and facing me was a stack of soil bags labeled “Blueberry Mix“!  What a deal!   Urban Harvest also told me that coffee grounds would be great for the soil, too.

I feel like I have done something correctly the first time, for a change.  I usually have to experiment and find the best practices on my own.  But now that there are so many people who are limited in garden space in Houston, container gardening is very popular and there are lots of classes and places to find information online.

Have you tried something new this year?



How High Will They Go?

It’s even higher at $4.09 at the corner gas station on Kirby!  I can say I have never spent that kind of money on gasoline, but I may have to do that soon.  As a Realtor, I have to use my car for business, to take my clients to see properties, and to check on my listings regularly.  How can I save gasoline?

I have been working the last few years, to save a day a week when I don’t take my car out of the garage.  The result of this effort is not only saving money and gasoline, but the pollution, and wear and tear on the car.  It has also changed my way of scheduling the rest of the week.  I consolidate my errands, appointments and regular activities, so that I save time and gasoline, too.  For instance, my office is not far from my church.  If I need to drop something off at the office, I can easily arrange to do that before choir rehearsal at church, and on the way home from rehearsal, stop by the supermarket for grocery shopping, because it’s on the the route.  I seldom leave the house with only one stop on my agenda.

I also turn off the air conditioning in the car and open the roof window as much as possible.  This seems to really make a difference in gasoline consumption.  We’ve had a very mild winter, and I am scared that we will have an early summer, so I may not be able to do this much longer.

I noticed in January, I only filled my gas tank twice.  That is something I’d like to strive for every month.  I continued showing property, checking on clients’ homes, etc., but I was careful to plan.

How do you conserve gasoline?  Share your ideas so we can all make a difference in our pocketbooks, as well as our environment!



Organic Foods

I am able to find more and more affordable organic produce at the supermarkets these days.  I still love shopping the Farmers’ Markets, but I am finding even canned goods for use in recipes that are organic products.

There are certain things I will not buy unless they are organic.  One is strawberries.

Organic strawberry

Strawberries are on the list of the top ten foods that absorb pesticides the most.  I find the organic strawberries just taste sweeter and last longer. This organic peanut butter is more often than not, the basis of my lunch.  The list of ingredients?  Roasted dry peanuts…period.  I love the “lack of salt” taste!

Organic Black Peppercorns

I find it easy to find organic spices in the supermarket today.  They are comparably priced and sometimes even lower than traditional brands.

Other foods I buy only organic include 5 lb. bag of raw carrots, celery, apples, and lettuce.  I am making it easier by growing our own greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, herbs, green beans, and onions.

Tell me something you find organic that might surprise me.



Organic Container Gardening: Class Notes #2

Diane Norman discussed soil, soil amendments and organic fertilizers for container gardening.  I wish I had her class years ago when I started putting my vegetables and herbs in containers, because she could have saved me a lot of water and time, I think.  The BIG AH-HAH in my class last week was …

Expanded Shale

Expanded Shale.  It has porous pockets that allow it to trap moisture and release it when the soil becomes dry.  It also aerates the clay soil we have in Houston.  This year, I had used the correct brand of soil to put in my pots, just not the correct blend that included expanded shale.  You can be sure that from now on, I will use it!

She mentioned some organic fertilizers that were new to me.  Crab meal, shrimp meal, lava sand, and dry or liquid molasses.  Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I had issues with my compost pile not getting hot enough, and therefore, my plants have weeds sprouting.  Dry molasses added to my compost seems to be the solution.  As soon as I can, I will add that and let everyone know how well it works for me.

Fertilizers I have used with great success are fish emulsion, blood meal, bone meal and Epsom Salts.  Diane says that Epsom Salts minimize yellowing of leaves and the increase blooming and setting blooms on vegetables.  I never had pinpointed that as the reason for my plants having dark, green leaves and lots of blooms.

Sweet Million

It’s hard to see these tiny cherry tomatoes, but there are three of them.  This variety is Sweet Million, and I’ve grown them before with great success.  I would like to expect 999,997 more on this vine, but I think someone is exaggerating!  They are the first to bloom and have the blooms set.  I fed them Epsom Salts about two weeks ago, and then again a few days ago.  It works!!

What organic fertilizers work best for you?



Organic Container Gardening: Class Notes #1

Last week I took an Organic Container Gardening Class from Urban Harvest.  The teacher, Diane Norman was so full of information and didn’t hesitate to answer any and all questions.  She knows her stuff!  The first bit of information was about the various container choices we have.

Clay Pots

I think the most popular and most common container is clay pots.  Clay breathes and dries quickly to keep the plant’s roots from sitting in water.  The bad news is that they are heavy and difficult to move and they break easily.  But because they are heavy, they are less likely to blow over on a windy day.

Plastic Container

Most plastic containers you purchase will look just like the clay pots.  But this clever person has used a former City of Houston recycling bin for starting plants and this could hold a large plant or several small ones.  Plastic is cheaper and lighter weight, so they are easy to move.  Over time, they deteriorate from UV sunlight, but mine have lasted a long time.  They do blow over easily when we have a windy day!

Wooden Container

Wooden containers can rot, but they last a long time.  Redwood and Cedar are the best woods to use.  Avoid using any wood that has been treated with creosote or other toxic compounds, since they can affect the plants.  We once used railroad ties to build our garden, but now, I know better.

Wooden Raised Table

This is a great way to use wooden containers.  No more back-breaking gardening, unless you leave it on the ground.

Ceramic Containers

To make your garden area even more interesting, ceramic containers can match a color scheme or provide a stark contrast, for attention.  Ceramic pots require several drainage holes.

Metal Container

This is my new favorite!  I bought a large galvanized tub, my husband drilled lots of holes in the bottom, and I planted pumpkin seeds in it.  I am going to place it in an area where tree roots keep grass from growing well, and lift it up for drainage, and let the pumpkin vines grow over the edges and spread over the ground area.  The area is not very shady, so the pumpkins should get plenty of sun.  I’ll keep you posted on how that works.

What kind of unusual containers have you used for gardening?



Early Spring Garden–More Real Food

Straight 8 Cucumbers

Last year, my cucumbers were productive and tasted wonderful, but I would give the planting in the pot a D+.  When summer winds started blowing, the tomato cages blew over with the heavy cucumbers and after about four “recoveries”, I gave up.  This year, I planted organic seeds indoors, then transplanted them into two large pots, but the big difference is that I placed the pots on the south side of the house, and …

Cucumbers with bamboo trellis

I hung a bamboo trellis from the eave of the house.  We will see how well these cucumber vines fare this year.  They should get plenty of sun.

Pinto Beans

I promise the seed package said these were bush beans, but they are climbing up the tomato cage.  Unlike the cucumbers, the beans will not be heavy.  And they will not even be around very long, because Pinto Beans are not fond of hot weather.  But I hope to get enough to eat at least one meal.

California Wonder Bell Peppers

This is last year’s bell pepper plant.  I pruned it recently and it already has blooms.  These peppers are so delicious, with thin skin and few seeds.  I am adding epsom salts to make the leaves green again.

Don’t forget that your container plants require plant food more often, and only use organic.  There are so many now, and no one needs chemicals!