Gail of Green Living


Houston Farmers’ Markets
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A recent take-home from Eastside Farmers’ Market

Urban Harvest has just announced that the Eastside Farmers’ Market will be expanded as of this weekend.  You will have the choice to attend on Saturday from 8-12 or Sunday from 12-4!

If you would like to view homes within walking distance or a short drive from this market, I know this area and would love to help you find your dream home in Upper Kirby!

I get the impression that the vendors for Sunday will be different.  The Houston Chronicle featured this news in the Flavor Section yesterday.  Evidently there has been a waiting list of vendors wanting to work the Eastside Market, and Sunday will be their breakout day.  Dont’ miss this opportunity to check the new farms and vendors on Sunday, April 28.   And don’t forget to check out the homes in this area that are for sale!

 



Composting With More Experience

In July of 2009, I posted about compost, what it is and what you can do with it.  Now, I have more experience!  These are my current observations:

Pumpkin stem from 2011

Wine cork from 2009

Pumpkin stems and wine corks are not very good candidates for your compost pile.  From your kitchen, have a good mix of “kitchen greens” and “kitchen browns“.  It will be a natural process once you get started.

This is a typical kitchen waste container for the counter top.  I keep mine next to the sink, because that’s where I retrieve most of the kitchen waste from the disposal side.  The bags I use to line it are bio-bags, that are the same compost-able material as the yard waste bags required in the City of Houston.  They break down so quickly; you’d better empty the container every 2-3 days, or the bag will begin to break down from the liquids generated!  In the last couple of days, I have put in banana peels, coffee grounds with filter, paper napkins, dryer lint, apple core, ends of green beans, cucumber peel, acorn squash shell, and orange peel.  That’ all that I can remember anyway.

First, I used a child’s rake to stir the pot to aerate it.  Then I dropped the bag into the compostmachine“.

I covered it lightly, but completely, with fresh leaves and pine needles (brown yard waste).  I added pellets of compost booster to the mix and lightly watered the top, because it was very dry.  The lid is on and now the busy bugs can do their work.

Kitchen greens are vegetable and fruit scraps, rice and pasta, egg shells, coffee grounds and tea bags.  Kitchen browns are coffee filters, stale bread, paper napkins and towels, dryer lint and hair.  Pretty soon you won’t even have to think about it and you will have a good mix all the time

Yard greens are any fresh trimmings, flowers, etc. and yard browns are dried leaves, pine needles, small twigs and dried grass and weeds (no seeds!).

I started my compost machine on October 14.  How long do you think it will be before I realize good compost from the bottom?



Compost: A new way

My new Earth Machine Compost Bin

Thanks to my good friend, Jill, I have a new compost bin.  In the past 40 years, I have probably composted for 20 of them.  I have always just made a compost pile behind the garage.  But the City of Houston in its efforts to create a more green environment for our city, has been selling composting bins and rain-collection barrels for half the normal price, once a year.  Jill has several of each type and is expanding her efforts.  I’ll have to take a field trip to Jill’s garden and report back.

But meanwhile, I put my beast together easily.  The material is hard plastic and seems quite durable.  It appears to be the same material used for our recycling bins, which are made from recycled products.  There are long plastic screws that hold the frame in the ground.

Getting it started…

I put some unfinished compost in the bin to get it going.  Recently, a yard man put way too many grass clippings on the top of my compost pile, and it hasn’t been happy ever since.  Too much added at one time is not good.  The only grass I ever add is from sweeping the driveway or street gutters, so it’s not very much.  I use a mulching mower and never have to fertilize the yard…ever!

I am one of over 2 million users of the Earth Machine Composting Bin.  One family can divert over 500 pounds of kitchen scraps and yard waste a year.  The winners are the land fill and my garden!

This week I will share some new composting hints to inspire you to do this simple routine in your home.



FREE Downtown Houston Transportation

Greenlink – Free Downtown Houston Transportation

We now have FREE and convenient downtown transportation in Houston!  The Greenlink bus is made in the U.S.A.(!)  by Gillig, LLC., and their plant is energy-efficient using a sustainable process, which includes recycling oil, water and packaging waste, reducing solvent use, using low VOC paint, and using zero-emission machinery.  The structure is made from recycled aluminum with a stainless steel understructure that combats corrosion, which will make the parts last longer.  The seven buses are fueled by compressed natural gas, and produce much less emissions and waste than comparable buses.

Let’s get to the fun part!   Greenlink runs east and west between City Hall and the George R. Brown, and north and south to Pease by way of Smith and Louisiana Streets.  This includes 18 stops near the Theatre District, Minute Maid Park, hotels, office buildings, shops (including Macy’s), restaurants, Discovery Green Park, Toyota Center…oh, my!  This covers the heart of downtown!  Buses run from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, and you should not ever have to wait more than 7-10 minutes for a bus to come by.

I’ve been telling people they could ride the Metro Rail from their new home to downtown to go to a ball game at Minute Maid Park, or they could go to see a Broadway show at The Hobby Center.  I could tell by their response that they are not willing to walk that far in the heat, rain, or whatever weather, and now, there is an air conditioned solution…and FREE!

Now who wants to help me talk them into weekend service?  Check out the map below for route details:



More Odd Couples in the Garden

In early July, I posted about Odd Couples in the Garden, and I continue to find them in this hot, dry spell we are having in Houston.  Since my gardening is confined to containers, I must water every day during this time.

I have the prettiest basil in the pots with my Amaryllis bulbs!  The original basil plant is just on the other side of this pot, and it looks really terrible at this point, but it certainly sent out lots of seeds in neighboring pots to take over!

Bush Tomato

This bush tomato still hasn’t been transplanted into another pot.  I did transplant the other, and it is doing great, and like I suspected, it is a grape/cherry tomato and already has tomatoes on it.  First cloudy day, I promise to transplant it!

Cilantro and Company

This is the pot where I plant Cilantro in the Fall and early Spring.  A seed fell in the pot and the poor plant is struggling through the heat.  On the right, we have a sturdy Bluebonnet starting.  The bluebonnets were next to this pot in the Spring.  And on the left, we have another stray tomato.  I think I’m moving this family to the shade!

Have you adopted any stray plants and had success?



Summer Garden in June

Purple Hulled Peas

Let’s start with the GOOD things about my garden in June.  These purple hulled peas are growing in a pot about 14″ in diameter.  I can’t remember how many seeds I planted, but I know they are way more crowded than any seed packet would advise.  The first picking last night yielded only 1 serving, and I just need 2 at a time, so maybe next time, it will be better.  They are a beautiful summer plant!

Pumpkin

Now, this seems like a really odd-looking pumpkin, but it just might grow up to be a tall, skinny dude someday.  Two other small pumpkins have not made it as far as this one, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  The vines are resting on cardboard, because the ground underneath is full of tree roots and weeds.

Blueberry Bush

This is a ripe blueberry I ate right after the picture was taken.  It was the best one ever!  I have netting all around both bushes now, and I might get to eat the last 1/2 dozen on the bushes.  The Mockingbirds and Bluejays LOVE them, too, and they were clearly the winners this year.  My grandson ate two and I’ve had one.  I wonder how many bushes a city dweller needs to have enough production to matter!

Better Bush Tomato

Well you can see that I’ve had to cover the tomatoes with bird netting as well!  But I’m getting more tomatoes again.  They aren’t very big, but they are good.  This bush shows the result of heavy rains and heat…yellowing leaves and new growth.  So they won’t win a beauty pageant, but I’m counting on a nice bumper crop later in the summer.

Cucumbers

After enjoying several great cucumbers, all of a sudden, the leaves all withered and died.  I think it was too hot, but I’m going to try again.  This is the second crop getting started.

Parsley

Now parsley is usually not a big thing on my maintenance routine.  Usually, if I just keep it in the shade during the summer, it makes it.  However, about six weeks ago, I had bright green and black striped worms (and you can see where they stripped off the foliage), and after using the HOD method of worm control, I didn’t see anymore.  I’ve been seeing butterflies in and around it the last few days, so I am prepared for another round of worms any time now!  Someone tell me why butterflies like parsley.

I also found a very large hornworm on one tomato plant this morning.  Two things tell you to look for one and they leave clues about the location…no leaves left on stems of one area of the plant and worm “poop” directly below where that rascal is munching!

In Houston near the Medical Center, we need more consistent, but less heavy rains.  I hope your garden is doing well.  I hope to hear from my friend who has her garden in Maine every summer!  Her blueberry picking experiences inspired me to get my bushes!



GREEN Medical Center Home For Sale: The Windows

HurricaneShield® Impact-Resistant Insulating Glass

This high-end energy-efficient, Fortified-rated home in Braes Heights, a neighborhood quite near the Texas Medical Center, Rice University and the Museum District of Houston, TX, is for sale for $1,695,000.   I have written in previous posts about many of the energy-efficient features of this home, that are far beyond any I have ever read about or seen.  The Fortified Rated home designation has a lot to do with the choice of windows and doors.

The windows are from the Pella Architect Series/Hurricane Shield product line.  The Pella website describes these windows as follows: “An advanced polymer layer is sandwiched between two layers of glass, offering strong protection from flying debris — while increasing the safety, security, ultraviolet protection and energy efficiency of your home.”

The frames are reinforced aluminum clad all wood windows, which have a low maintenance exterior, and a paintable or stainable interior.  These windows offer protection from the periodic hurricane as well as any attempted break-in.  They have a great R and U value and unparalleled sound dampening.   This quality cost the owner an additional 50% on windows and doors, but windows of this quality were required for the Fortified Rating.  The increased costs should be paid back by savings on energy and having to have no replacements for many years to come.

This home also includes a Fresh Air System, low-vox paint, American made plumbing and electrical products,  and an Envirogreen Mosquito Control System.  The landscaping includes native plants watered by a drip irrigation system hooked up to the cistern where rain water is collected.

The owner shared with me that he thinks the increased costs to make this home qualify for LEED Platinum and the Fortified Ratings, were probably 20% over traditional building.  See more photos and details of this home.  Contact me and I will be happy to get answers to your questions and give you a tour!