Gail of Green Living


Ready for Fall Garden!

I’m very sure I am ready for Fall!  We had a “teaser” cool front a couple of weeks ago, and another is promised next week.  But the heat returned and cut my enthusiasm for gardening quite a bit. While it was cool, I did spend some time trimming dead limbs off my tomato plants and I think they will be good until we have a freeze.

Free tomato plant

This is my tomato plant I found in my Amaryllis a couple of months ago.  It is producing grape tomatoes now.  Since I never grew this variety before, I will have to assume the seeds came from my compost.

Free 2 Tomato Plant

This is the free plant that appeared in my Cilantro.  I think it’s another cherry tomato variety.  For those who have followed my blog for a while, I promised I would raise no tomatoes this fall.  But I have trouble with that when the plants are just there anyway!  And I have some of the bush varieties that started putting out new growth and blooms!

Bush tomato plant

There is a chance we could have a bumper crop of those nice bush tomatoes this fall!

I’ll update herbs next time.  I even have some to share.   Find out which ones are doing well in my garden in the next post!



Spring Garden: Final Exam

I know you must have been wondering what happened to my garden; it’s been doing pretty well, thank you!  I decided to give the Spring Garden a Final Exam, because the high temps these days are close to, if not at 90.  I’d say anything past 90 degrees constitutes summer weather and summer garden.

Green Bell Peppers

This bell pepper plant is really doing well.  You can see on the left, a red/green one, and tucked behind a leaf at about 3:00, is a nice-sized green one.  They have thin skins, few seeds, and I find them to be a great snack.  Because the leaves are not uniform in color, I’ll give this a B+.

Cucumbers: Straight 8

Cucumbers are producing well, and I have extras to give away all the time.  They grow so quickly, so you have to watch the vine daily to keep track.  The leaves toward the patio are yellow, and I’m sure that’s because of the heat it generates.  Another B+ here.

Blueberry Bushes

Blueberry bushes are doing great!  I planted them in “Blueberry Mix” potting soil, and I’ve only watered them, for fear of messing up the ph.  Last week at the Eastside Farmers’ Market, I asked a man selling gorgeous blueberries what I should do about fertilizing, because they are in containers.  He said to just treat them and feed them like azaleas.  So I need to pick up some azalea food.  The foliage is a gorgeous color and they are both growing well.  I’m giving them an A, but it’s not because of anything I did, except start them in the correct soil.

Organic Basil

The basil is beautiful with good color, large leaves.   The maintenance issue is pinching off the beginnings of flowers, because I don’t want them going to seed so quickly.  Anybody need basil for pesto?  A+

Sweet Millions

The squirrels are winning when it comes to tomatoes.  In the last two weeks, they have stripped almost all my green tomatoes off the bushes.  I have bought netting in hopes that at least it will slow them down.  The Sweet Million tomatoes are absolutely delicious, and the early ones were large, but now, they are more the size I’m used to having.  A+, despite the annoying squirrels!

Bush Tomatoes

All of the tomatoes here are Better Bush except the one in the left Dragon pot.  It is an Early Girl Bush.  The Early Girls were really producing, and then, the Better Bush started catching up.  The Better Bush have a better homegrown taste.  The smaller ones were planted about a month later than the large one.  Early Girl Bush, B+, Better Bush, A.

Onions

There are no more than half-dozen onions left after the pill bugs had their early spring feast, but these are looking really good.  I’m going to give them a B+, and it’s on quality and not quantity, for sure.

Purple Hull Peas and Yard Long Beans

The cucumber vine was working so well attached to the eave of the house, I decided to use another trellis, this one for Purple Hull Peas on the left and Yard Long Beans on the right.  These are both summer plants and I have a feeling that the beans will be more suited to the container than the peas.  I can’t remember how many plants it takes to generate a “mess” of peas, but I’m sure I will know soon!  These are both beautiful plants, planted in rose mix with expanded shale (See post from March 10), and I do need to water less. I’ll give these an A+, because they are such healthy plants at the moment.

Pumpkins

I wanted to plant pumpkins, just for fun, not expecting any great result.  I used a galvanized tub, mixed compost with rose mix, planted seeds from last year’s pumpkins, and they really came up and grew.  There is one tiny pumpkin, but I doubt it will mature, because the stem is not green anymore, so I think the nutrients are not getting to the pumpkin.  I elevated the tub, and put newspapers on the ground for the vines, because the ground in that spot is quite hard, full of weeds and tree roots (despite the tree, it gets lots of sun), and I didn’t want the vines to get mixed up with the weeds.  Newspaper makes a good mulch.  Because it does yearn for water at times, some of the leave have turned yellow.  I’m giving this plant a B.

I imagine that remaining garden posts will deal with summer heat and hopefully, not another drought like last year!  How is your garden growing?



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?



Early Spring Garden–“Forgotten Herbs”

Peppermint

How could I have forgotten to mention Peppermint in my post on “old” herbs??  I just trimmed it back a couple of weeks ago, and with our recent rains, it is gorgeous again!  It’s not so happy in the summer, but if you have a cool shady spot in your yard, you could have a pretty ground-cover in no time!

Sage

“The Sage in bloom is like perfume, Deep in the Heart of Texas!”  And it is, indeed!  I put sage in poultry recipes.  This plant has been around several years and tolerates temperature extremes well.

Chives

The Chives have been around a long, long time.  Last year I took them out of a pot, and they were very root-bound.  I cut a small portion out and re-potted them, and I put them in a larger pot this year.  The rest I gave to a school that was starting a vegetable garden.  Chives are great in salads and to use when you don’t have any onion and you need one.

You don’t ever need to put chemical fertilizers or bug repellent on these herbs.  Add compost once or twice a year and water when they tell you they need it.



Early Spring Garden–Old Herbs
Thyme

I’ve been learning new things about container gardening; I’ve even signed up for a class with Urban Harvest!  I don’t ever want to stop learning…about organic gardening, real estate, life, etc!  NOTE:  I have never put a chemical fertilizer or bug repellant on my herbs.  They just don’t need it.  A healthy dose of compost a couple of times a year is all they ask!

One thing I know from experience is that herbs are super-duper raised in pots and most last for years!  I have had this pot of Thyme so long, I’m guessing it must be at least 15 years old.  In the winter, the foliage turns reddish, but it tastes the same.  It is a tangled mess, and it just keeps giving!  But having herbs in pots keeps them more contained, because in a garden, they tend to crawl or give out seeds, and they can take over the place!

New Rosemary

The New Rosemary is only about 14 months old at our house, after receiving it as a small Christmas tree last year.

Old Rosemary

The Old Rosemary has been around longer than any other, I think.  It has a wood trunk that has lots of character and the trunk has put out long, flowing fronds full of wonderful fragrance and delicate purple flowers.  These stems don’t even mind the intense heat of the patio in the summer.  We love this herb on chicken and pork roasts and added to garlic new potatoes!

Sweet Marjoram

Sweet Marjoram is from the Oregano family, and this herb is wonderful in stews and soups!  It’s been a part of the herb presence in our yard about 15 years, too.

Oregano

The Oregano bush is about 4′ in diameter and continues to bloom and seed a zillion seeds every year.  I can’t give them all away!  You just can’t make an Italian dish without it!  The Oregano and Sweet Marjoram are way too big to bring in during a freeze, so I just cover them well with a sheet.  They even made it through the 20+ degree freeze we had last winter.

Next time I will post about newer herbs we have added recently.  What herbs have you grown for a long time with success?



Pumpkin Surprise!
November 12, 2011, 10:31 am
Filed under: Gardening, Green Living | Tags: , , , , , ,

After you’ve finished celebrating Halloween, compost your jack-o-lanterns,  instead of tossing them in the garbage.  I cook mine, but I still have plenty left for the compost pile–the ends and stems and the peel after cooking.  I wash the seeds and roast them; they are very nutrituous.

Pumpkins, which of course are 100% natural, will break down quickly as  compost in your yard, providing you with valuable nutrients for your lawn or  garden. As you probably know by now, pumpkins aren’t exactly light, so they  otherwise take a considerable amount of fuel to haul to the landfill — plus  their bulky size means they take up space.

To get the best results in your compost pile, cut up the pumpkin a bit to provide more surface area. Layer with other types of  materials, like shredded leaves, green weeds or grass clippings. If you want to maximize the opportunity, add manure, or a nitrogen supplement like cottonseed meal bone meal or dried blood (you might have some of that left from Halloween, too!). Keep the pile moist and turn it over frequently.  Once a week I add a compost maker.  Some items, like pine needles, need a boost.

If all that sounds like too much work, don’t worry about it. In most areas,  you can simply toss things in a pile, and just alternate materials as you get  them. It may not make the most super-dooper compost, and it may take a little  longer to break down, but you’ll still get some nice nutrients, and you’ll be  helping the planet one little bit at a time.

And you may get a surprise in your compost:

Pumpkin Plants

Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/going-green/tips/compost-pumpkins-461008#ixzz1dVS87OXX



Fall Garden: Planted!

This morning I got a head start on the Labor Day weekend and planted my organic garden, which is in pots.  First, I took the rich dark soil from the bottom of my compost pile and mixed it with a commercial organic soil mix.  Then, I took out the soil that supported the summer garden, and put it in the mix.  Then I had plenty of room to plant the tomatoes really deep and maximize the root growth.

From the top of the picture toward the bottom:  Cucumber Dasher with a tomato cage to support the vine, Celebrity Tomato, Rosemary, Husky Red Tomato, Solar Fire Tomato and Arkansas Traveler Celebrity has been a winner for us for several years, but I have never tried the others.  They are advertised as “heat tolerant“, so I’m banking on that!  On the south side of the house they get early morning shade and plenty of afternoon sun, which will become less harsh as the sun falls in its lower arc for the winter (I can’t wait!).  And they will get more morning sun once the trees lose their leaves in November and December.

Planting my garden gives me a spirit of optimism with a new beginning.   I look forward to sharing the progress.  …and rain would be nice!