Thursday, July 31, 2014

End of Month View: July 2014

Another month has flown by and it is time to look at the End of the Month view again.  This month seems a bit boring as I look around the areas of the garden.  Not much is blooming in the 100 degree Texas heat right now.  Most of the veggies are wilting under the intense sun (all but the okra...which I still have not found a decent way to cook, which is too bad, since it is a big heat performer).

Veggie Beds

The tomato plants are still large and overbearing, even after I chopped away at about half the plants that were toppling over the cages and into the neighboring bed.  Peppers and eggplant continue to produce.  The squash vine borers have gotten my second planting of squash, so I'm planning to cut my losses and turnover the squash bed to something that I might actually be able to harvest later this fall.  The okra and basil are going strong, but the cukes and melons are withering.

Backyard Beds

The butterfly bed is a hot mess right now.  Only a couple zinnias and cosmos are holding on.  Not even the lantana wants to bloom in this heat.

View of the empty (new) backyard beds.  Still need to get the gravel path down, clean out some of the beds that grew weeds and put in dirt, compost and mulch.  Goal is to have that all done by the fall so I can get some fall and winter planting in.

The fig tree in the corner is huge, considering it was completely cut to the ground when we moved in three years ago.  I can never get any figs from it though, since the birds and squirrels always get there first.  The cannas are lush, and the tree that fell down in the windstorm is growing a bunch of sprouts from its roots.  Looks like we'll be needing to rent a stump grinder soon.

The one redeeming bed in the backyard is the bulb bed.  It is looking so fresh and so clean after the major weeding that went down the last couple of weekends.  Let's hope I can keep it this way for awhile.


At least the plumbago is still going strong in the heat.

The wisteria doesn't mind the heat either.

Front Yard

Nothing blooming over here...

But look!  I spy some color over here!

 The Texas Sage is in bloom, adding beautiful splashes of purple color to the Central Texas scenery right now.

These pretty purple flowers are a welcomed sight among all the non-flowering plants in my garden right now.

Thanks for stopping by my End of the Month View.  Be sure to stop over to the Patient Gardener, where Helen hosts even more gardeners' End of the Month Views.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Weed or Wildflower?

The weeds have taken over my garden recently, thriving in the Texas summer heat.  I went out to the garden a few days ago, and found this guy pop up, looking quite content in some of the empty garden bed space.  With the way it sprouted up so quickly, I'm guess it is a weed of some sort.  However, it does have some pretty little flowers that some pollinators were enjoying, so maybe it is a wildflower that I should be honored to have in my garden, but I have NO IDEA!

Fellow gardeners, can you help me identify this plant?  Please and Thank you :-)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Today's Harvest: Cukes & Creamy Cucumber Soup

When life gives you cucumbers, make creamy cucumber soup!

While the veggie garden production has slowed somewhat in the high-90s weather here in central Texas, the cucumbers are still going strong.  I had so many cukes that I knew I had to find a recipe to use them up before they started to go bad.  I didn't want to pickle them, so I opted for a creamy cucumber soup instead, and I'm glad I did!


Makes:  4 servings, about 1 cup each
Prep Time:  35 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 cups peeled, seeded and thinly sliced cucumbers, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt


  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 1 to 4 minutes. Add lemon juice and cook for 1 minute. Add 3 3/4 cups cucumber slices, broth, salt, pepper and cayenne; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer until the cucumbers are soft, 6 to 8 minutes.

  1. Transfer the soup to a blender. Add avocado and parsley; blend on low speed until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Pour into a serving bowl and stir in yogurt. Chop the remaining 1/4 cup cucumber slices. Serve the soup warm or refrigerate and serve it chilled. Just before serving, garnish with the chopped cucumber and more chopped parsley, if desired.


  • Make Ahead Tip: Refrigerate for up to 4 hours.


Per serving: 173 calories; 12 g fat (2 g sat, 8 g mono); 2 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrates; 4 g protein; 5 g fiber; 494 mg sodium; 544 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (30% daily value), Potassium (16% dv).
As usual, I made a double-batch of the soup to have for meals for the rest of the week.  We served this alongside a rack of lamb - the flavors really complimented each other for a very Mediterranean flare.  My husband stated this was his favorite out of all the soups I've ever made.  Looks like we'll be cooking this one again!

Harvest Totals (since April)
  • 5 lbs Cherry Bell Radishes
  • 3 lbs Giant Fordhook Swiss Chard
  • 3 lb 5.5 oz Pic-N-Pic Summer Squash (5 squash)
  • 5 lbs 6.3 oz Black Beauty Zucchini (3 squash)
  • 13.7 oz Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas
  • 11.6 oz Mucho Nacho Jumbo Jalapeno (13)
  • 11.9 oz Jalapeno
  • 2 lb 2.4 oz Bush Blue Lake 274 Green Beans
  • 1 lb 3.6 oz Gypsy Sweet Peppers (9)
  • 1 lb 11.8 oz Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato
  • 2 lb 7.5 oz Juliet Roma Grape Tomato
  • 3 lb 12.0 oz Early Girl Tomato (12)
  • 1 lb 10.4 oz Big Boy Tomato (3)
  • 1 lb 7.3 oz oz Bradley Heirloom Tomato (4)
  • 2 lb 2.3 oz Roma Tomato (22)
  • 4 lb 4.4 oz Long Eggplant (16)
  • 6 lb 3.5 oz Black Beauty Eggplant (5)
  • 10.9 oz Pablano Pepper (5)
  • 1 lb 2.0 oz Acorn Squash (1)
  • 1 lb 1.0 oz Butternut Squash (1)
  • 1 lb 6.6 oz Spaghetti Squash (1)
  • 1 lb 3.1 oz Green Bell Sweet Pepper (6)
  • 1.1 oz Cayenne Pepper (3)
  • 10 lb 13.0 oz Marketmore 76 Cucumbers (9)
  • 3 lb 4.1 oz Okra (59)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Taking Control

This spring and summer have been busy.  Jon and I were busy for a couple months training and participating in the Texas Water Safari, a.k.a. the "World's Toughest Canoe Race," a 260 mile canoe race from San Marcos to Seadrift, TX.  Then, my project at work got hectic and included some international travel to Malaysia.  Needless to say, I haven't gotten to spend as much time in the garden as I would like, and even less time doing necessary things, like weeding.  I will be going on another international business trip soon for a few weeks, so I knew I needed to get on top of the weeding, before things get even more out of control.

I started with the bulb bed, since this was the bed that has the most flowers that were being overrun with weeds.

After several hours of serious weeding (I generally use my pick ax for these situations, which help break up the weed root systems the best), I put down several layers of newspaper, and then brown mulch on top to try to keep down future weeds.

I had two bags of mulch left over, so I decided to next weed and mulch my bougainvillea plant that is in front of the backyard deck.  I ran out of newspaper, so before I put the mulch down, I used some old weed-block material I had lying around.

Finally, I wanted to start prepping one of my new backyard garden beds for planting, so I weeded it and laid down cardboard to prevent the weeds from growing again.  I plan to order some dirt and compost later this week, which my helpful husband said he is willing to haul into my new bed for me.  The dirt and compost will go on top of the cardboard, and the cardboard will decompose over time.

I still have several of the new beds that I need to weed out before we can prep them for planting, but they will have to wait for another day.

New Backyard Beds

This spring, right after we put in our new front yard landscaping, I was inspired to continue with our landscaping efforts.  I'd been dreaming about having multiple garden beds in the back for more bulbs, herbs, fruit trees, and roses.  The backyard is completely fenced in, so it will be wonderful to have the freedom to plant whatever plants I wanted, without having to worry about the deer nibbling everything down.

There was a perfect place in our backyard for my new garden area - a corner part of our plot that had nothing but the one Florida Prince peach tree that we planted a couple years ago when we moved into the house.  I've also been wanting to plant rose bushes along the fenceline between our yard and the neighbors.  We also cleared a tree from the fenceline area when we had the strong winds blow through earlier this spring, leaving more room to grow new things.


I had been thinking about the design for awhile.  I wanted it to be functional so I could have access to all the beds easily and have it laid out in a way that maximized my growing space, but I also wanted an artistic flare for some beauty.  I outlined the design that I wanted with some spray paint.  Then, my husband's coworker, the same that helped with the front landscaping, came out to tear up the grass and had a mason lay down the stone work for my EIGHT new garden beds!


Two of the beds wrap around the back deck.  One of those is a small one where the bougainvillea sits.  I plan to put herbs and some artichokes in the larger bed, eventually.

The peach tree is surrounded by three beds that have two layers of limestone.  These beds will have a variety of different flowers.  I'm not sure what exactly, I just know I want it to have a cottage garden feel.

One of the largest beds is the neighbor fenceline bed.  This is where the tree that fell down in the wind storm used to be.  This is also where I imagine I'll have various rose bushes, a couple new fruit trees (pomegranate and frost orange, perhaps), and various other flowers.

The other large bed is the one that surrounds the two large shade trees.  Normally, there is a hammock swinging between these two trees.  I definitely want to plant turk's cap and American Beautyberry bushes under these shade trees (out of the way of the hammock).  Since there are a lot of large tree roots in this bed, I will need to add plenty of new dirt before I plant anything.

Other than structuring the beds, I've only been able to put dirt in two of the beds so far.  I have plenty more to do to prep the rest of the beds and the rest of the new landscaped area before it is ready for planting.  I plan to put dirt and compost in all the beds.  We will also be putting down plastic and gravel on the pathway. Of course, we got busy with life during the summer and these plans have been put on hold for the time-being.  I'm hoping to pick these activities back up soon so that I can start planting all my new plants this fall.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's the Circle of Life...

[Cue Disney music] Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba.  Sithi uhm ingonyama...

In case you ever wondered, those Zulu words translated from the Disney song mean "Here comes a lion, Father.  Oh yes, it's a lion."  While this is not a tale of a lion, it is about one of the moments when my sweet and precious poodle, Atticus, becomes a hunter.

This past weekend, Atticus' killer instincts kicked in, and he caught (and ate) one of the white-tailed doves in the yard.  As an avid bird-watcher, it broke my heart a little bit when I saw the damage Atticus had done.  I can only hope the bird was already injured or sick, making it easier for Atticus to catch the dove.  However, I know Atticus does have some skill catching little creatures, so I wouldn't put it past him to catch a completely healthy bird.  

Normally, I would try to stop the incident and discourage my dog from attacking the birds (why couldn't he catch one of the rats or even a squirrel instead?), but by the time I realized what had happened, I knew the bird was already dying, and I didn't want him to completely go to waste.  So, I let Atticus eat the bird.  Thankfully, the bird was not wasted.  Only a few feathers were left as evidence of what took place.  I can only hope this attack improved Atticus' skill to catch vermin, and didn't leave him with a hankering for more poultry.

Since this story is a bit depressing, I thought it would be good to close with some beautiful things in the garden recently, and a nice zinnia bouquet to honor the fallen feathered friend.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2014

Today I'm joining Carol over at May Dreams Garden for the monthly showing of what is blooming in my garden.  Unfortunately, I don't have too much to show and tell about this month.  Being away from the house for over a week, not planting enough mid-late summer bloomers, and a low to zero amount of rainfall the past few weeks have contributed to the shortage of blooms this month.  However, there are still a few tough performers that managed to get by...

 Plumbago - a reliable bloomer in the mid-summer Texas heat!

I love all the surprise sunflowers that are planted by the birds.  I only have one dahlia currently growing in the garden - this white variety.  I definitely need to plant more next year - this is such a beautiful plant, and makes a gorgeous cut flower!

The dill didn't grow very well in the container this year, except for this one stalk and bloom.  I'm planning to plant both dill and fennel in the ground next season to attract more caterpillars and butterflies.

The canna lilies are in full bloom, but are wilted in the hot, nearly-100 degree afternoons.  The Black-Eyed Susans have seen better days, but I'll include them anyways, since they are pushing through the hot Texas summer heat.

The zinnias that were planted from seed in the veggie beds in early spring have been the best performers all year long.  They are constantly blooming, creating great cut-flowers, as well as a constant source of delicious nectar for the hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

Finally, the marigolds have been a great constant bloomer all summer long, needing no maintenance other than the sprinkling of water they get from the soaker hose from time to time.

What's blooming in your garden?