Saturday, February 28, 2015

End of Month View - February 2015

February was a whirlwind of extreme temperatures - ranging from days close to 80 degrees, all the way down to lows in the mid 20s.  On the weekends of beautiful weather, I seemed to be in the garden all weekend, making obvious signs of improvement along the way.  The last couple of weekends have been nothing but wet and hovering around freezing, bringing spring-prep gardening chores to a halt for the time being.

Veggie Beds

There hasn't been too many changes in the veggie bed over the last month.  I continue to harvest lots of winter greens.  I cleaned up a couple of the beds that had left-over debris from last summer/fall and did some major Bermuda grass weeding in the beds (once they are in there, you never can fully get rid of them).  I also planted a few new seeds for spring harvests including some lettuce, kale, spinach and green onions.

Shade Tree

Before the cold weather hit, I ordered a LOT of mulch and started spreading it around the garden.  The shade tree got a fresh new layer of the native mulch after a major weeding session.  I didn't quite finish the job, so I'll need to complete the mulch-laying once temps warm up again (and more importantly, once it is dry again).


The parsley in the herb bed is pretty much out of control at this point.  I can't seem to use enough of it before it is producing more leaves.  I need the swallowtail caterpillars to come back and help me keep it in check.  The purple hyacinth bulbs have also broken through, though I haven't seen any blossoms yet.

Triple Threat

In these flower beds, the poppy rosettes are getting larger and the larkspurs and some other wildflowers that were planted last fall are starting to pop up.  Some bulbs, ranunculus and narcissus, are sprouting up.  I also planted several foxglove plants in this bed.  I'm not sure how they will do, since they aren't fans of hot weather, but I'm hoping I'll be able to enjoy their English garden feel for at least a good portion of the spring.


The pomegranate bed also got a new layer of mulch over most of the bed.  I still need to finish the job once things warm up a bit.  The spring bulbs are also starting to push through here, including the ranunculus, narcissus, and even a few tulips.

Neighbor Fenceline

While still bare, there has been a lot done to this bed to prep for the roses that will inhabit the area in the future.  I did some major weeding, turned in several bags of compost into the soil as well as laid down fresh mulch.  A couple volunteer blue bonnet rosettes have been left, otherwise the bed is a clean slate for my future rose collection.

Bulb Bed

Not much to report here.  I'm anxiously awaiting the blooms of my bearded irises, which were planted last year and I'm really hoping will bloom this year.

Front Fenceline

Some fresh mulch has been laid in this bed, otherwise, not too many changes since last month in this bed.


I've done some light pruning to this area, as well as incorporated a few cast iron plants in the shady corners of the courtyard for some year-round color.

I have yet to plant a new shade tree in the center of the courtyard - still leaning towards a Texas Ash for now, unless we get a better recommendation for a good, fast-growing shade tree that won't overtake the courtyard, yet will have enough height and spread for a decent shade canopy.  I also want something that will provide good nectar and fruit to my wildlife friends.

I've also been thinking about some new shade-loving, blooming vines that would be good for this space.  After several years, my wisteria still hasn't bloomed, so I think it is time to remove it from the back trellis and replace it with something more interesting, reliable, and preferably native.

Front of House

Nothing new to report here this month.

Thanks to Helen over at the Patient Gardener for hosting the End of the Month view.  Be sure to check out other gardener's End of the Month views!

Friday, February 27, 2015


It has been a chilly couple of weeks in Central Texas, with highs around 40 degrees Fahrenheit and lows around 27 degrees.  My garden has not been a fan of the below freezing temperatures.

I was most concerned about my Florida Prince peach tree, considering it was in the middle of blooming when the cold front came in.  To try to salvage the blooms, and ultimately at least a little bit of a peach harvest, I covered the tree in Christmas lights and then put a couple freeze cloths over it.  This might have helped somewhat, but with the wind that also blew in with the freezing temps, the freeze cloth didn't stay covering the full tree for very long.  I guess we will see once temps rise again if my efforts helped keep the peaches at all.

The greens, while normally cold-weather lovers, were not digging the freezing rain we've had the past few days.  They were all limp and defeated-looking this morning.  The good thing is that they generally bounce back pretty well once we get back into the 40s.

The poppies also took a beating.  I'm really hoping they bounce back like the other cold-weather greens.  I have so many poppy rosettes this year, it would break my heart if I lost them before getting to enjoy all their glory.

It has been a bummer having this crappy weather, mainly because it means I'm stuck inside and can't play in the garden.  At least I have a small garden indoors that I can enjoy on these cold and rainy days, like the hyacinths that I forced in a pot indoors.  Their heavenly pungent aroma fills up the entire kitchen.

And even my Madame Joseph Schwartz rose, which was brought indoors since I purchased it recently and haven't put it in the ground with the chaotic weather we've been having, sent out a bloom for me to enjoy while I wait for the spring weather to arrive.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Today's Harvest & Kale Chips

The winter veggie garden is still growing strong.  Today I harvested another full colander of salad greens, several more heads of broccoli, as well as plenty of kale, collards and chard.

I used the lettuce, arugula and spinach to make several salads, the broccoli became a side dish, and the chard and collards went into some green juice drinks.  But I thought I would try something a little different with the kale this time...kale chips.

I de-ribbed the kale, cut it into about 1.5 inch pieces, coated it in a couple tablespoons of olive oil, spread it on a baking sheet, and sprinkled some of my home-made herb salt on them, then popped them in the oven at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes, flipping the kale pieces about halfway through.

I love kale tossed in a salad or steamed as part of a side dish.  However, I've never actually had kale chips before.  I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but the kale chips didn't quite meet my expectations.  I think they were a bit more bitter than I anticipated.  They were also extremely light and airy and didn't satisfy any snacking cravings that I had.

 Or, maybe I just didn't prepare them quite right, in which case, I would be happy to hear about any tips or tricks you have in baking kale chips.

My harvest totals so far this year include:
  • 7.5 oz Cherry Bell radish
  • 1 lb 9.7 oz kale (unknown variety)
  • 2 lb 6.8 oz Flash collards
  • 11.7 oz Ruby Red chard
  • 6.4 oz Fordhook Giant chard
  • 4 colanders salad greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula) 
  • 1 lb 2.9 oz Meyer Lemons (5)
  • 1 lb 1.2 oz Broccoli (5)
  • 7.1 oz cilantro
  • 6.5 oz parsley

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - February 2015

With the warm, 70 degree days we have been having in Central Texas (zone 8b), there are early signs of spring with the blooms in the garden.

Most notably is the Florida Prince peach tree.  I love the pink and white blooms on this tree, but I'm heartbroken because we have some freezing temperatures in the forecast this next week, and I'm doubtful that my blossoms will survive, which means no peaches for me.

That's the trouble with selecting a peach tree that was not right for my location.  I recently learned at a home fruit seminar, held by the local master gardeners, that we require fruit tree varieties that need around 700 chill hours.  The Florida Prince only needs 150, which is why it blooms so early and is exposed to the danger of freezing its blooms.  Looks like I'll be taking this peach down and replanting a new one this year.  In the meantime, I'll enjoy its blooms while I can.

The veggie garden is also putting on a show of flowers.  Many of the fall and winter veggies have bolted and the bees are loving the blooms, especially on the broccoli.

This is the first time I've seen the arugula flowers - so dainty.

The peas are starting to shoot out blooms - I'm looking forward to some nice pea pods for stir-fry recipes in a few weeks.

The rosemary is a-bloomin' with its delicate violet flowers, which is buzzing with bees.

Finally, with the decent amount of rain and warm temps, the yard has sprouted up with blooming weeds that I appreciated for a moment before my hubby mowed them down.

Thanks to Carol for hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day on the 15th of every month.  Be sure to stop by May Dreams Gardens to see what is blooming in other gardens around the world.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!  I hope your day is filled with LOVE.

Pictured here is my Minerva amaryllis bulb.  She stopped flowering at the end of earlier this month, but I had to show her off all the same.

I had purchased the amaryllis bulb from a big box store last fall and completely forgot about it sitting in a constrained plastic bag until it was nearly too late.

I put her in a pot anyways in mid-December and gave her some LOVE (ok, maybe it was more the sunlight and water that did the trick...but the LOVE didn't hurt).  And this is what the poor thing looked like after a week or two in the pot...pathetic.

I thought for sure that was all I was going to get and that I'd just have to wait for next year to try Minerva again.  But to my surprise, after the first flower stalk died, she shot up another stalk (straight up this time), Not only that, but the new stalk bloomed TWICE.  The first set of flowers lasted about two weeks, and then the second set of flowers lasted about two weeks, giving me almost a full month to enjoy her beautiful blooms.

That settles it, Minerva is my new favorite amaryllis.  Don't get me wrong, Red Lion was definitely a showstopper for Christmas, but the blooms only last a week or so.  I really LOVE how Minerva keeps going...and going...and going.  You really get the biggest bang for your buck.

Now the question is, do I plant my Minerva and Red Lion bulbs from this year out in the garden beds, or store them away and force them inside again next winter?  Knowing me... I'll place them in the garden AND buy more bulbs next year to force indoors.  I do LOVE my amaryllises!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Today's Harvest: First Broccoli

Today I harvested my very first garden-fresh broccoli!  About half of my broccoli plants already bolted (which the bees are absolutely loving right now), and about 1/4 of the broccoli has some very small heads that won't amount to much.  But I got three decent sized heads that went into a delicious quinoa side dish that we had with a fancy seabass dinner my husband made me.

I also harvested another large bowl of salad greens:  several types of lettuce, spinach, and arugula which was used for two large, delicious grilled chicken, tomato, avocado and goat cheese salads.

My harvest totals so far this year include:
  • 7.5 oz Cherry Bell radish
  • 12.5 oz kale (unknown variety)
  • 1 lb 2.2 oz Flash collards
  • 5.1 oz Ruby Red chard
  • 2.9 oz Fordhook Giant chard
  • 3 colanders salad greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula) 
  • 1 lb 2.9 oz Meyer Lemons (5)
  • 10.8 oz Broccoli (3)
  • 3.1 oz cilantro
  • 2.5 oz parsley

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Blackberries and Artichokes

Garden Goals for 2015 #6 has been achieved:  plant at least three more blackberry bushes.  Check.  On this glorious 70 degree day in Central Texas, I even over-achieved my goal by planting FOUR new blackberry bushes!

Two or three years ago I planted six thornless blackberries (and two boysenberries) bushes along our back fence.  All but one died.  I'm not sure exactly what the primary reason was, but I assume it was a mix of not having the right soil prep, not enough watering during drought conditions, and not mulching enough to keep the weeds and grass from stealing nutrients from the plant.  I also planted the blackberries right up against the chain-link fence, where the deer stuck their muzzles through and gnawed down the canes before they could produce any berries.

The one that remains is either an Arapaho or Ouachita.  I can't remember since I wasn't blogging and keeping very good planting records at the time.  I'm gonna bet that it is an Arapaho, since those do well in this region.

Today I planted four bare-root blackberry brambles purchased from the Natural Gardener in Austin, so all varieties do well in the area.  I got one Roseborough, one Brazos, and two Apache.

  • Apache (Thornless) Medium-large fruit; Ripens early July; Sweet and firm fruit; Erect plant; 1999 release from University of Arkansas; Resistant to rosette disease and orange rust.
  • Brazos (Thorny) Large fruit; Ripens mid- to late May; Soft fruit with tart, acidic flavor; Vigorous grower and heavy producer; Disease resistant; Good for cooking; Very widely adapted to most areas of Texas; Has raspberry and wild dewberry in its parentage; Introduced by Texas A&M in 1959.
  • Roseborough (Thorny) Large fruit; Ripens in late May; Juicy fruit with delicious sweet flavor; Erect plant; Heavy producer; Disease resistant; Released by Texas A&M University in 1977.

I planted them along the back fence again, however with amended soil (compost and manure), as well as far enough away from the fence (about two feet) so the deer can't reach them by sticking their tongues through the chain-link.

You can't see the little bare root brambles very well in this picture, but I assure you, they are there in the center of each wire "tomato cage."  From left to right we have Roseborough, three year-old mystery bramble (Apache?), Apache, Brazos, Apache.  Next weekend I plan to heavily mulch the area to limit competition with weeds and grass.

Another view of the tiny little stick that will one day grow up to be a beautiful blackberry bush (at least, that's what I hope and will work towards).

Also on this beautiful winter afternoon, I planted two more artichoke crowns.  I planted one small artichoke plant (Tavor) last spring, which has not produced for me, yet.  Today I planted two two-year-old globe artichoke crowns, again from the Natural Gardener.

The new artichokes got planted near the Tavor artichoke, on the corner of the deck bed, which gets plenty of sunlight year-round.  My original plant is in the back, and the two new ones are in the front.  Again, kind of hard to see, but they are located in the little holes between the pine mulch.  Artichokes should be planted 3-4 feet apart, but I only planted mine two feet apart.  I guess I will see later if I regret my decision.  I just hope I can harvest a few artichokes this year!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Mint Propagation

One of my 2015 garden goals is to propagate more plants so that I spend less money on plants, as well as share more plants with friends and family.  I decided to try my hand at one of the easiest plants to propagate - mint.

I have both spearmint (above) and peppermint (below) in my herb garden, so I decided to propagate a little bit of both.

All I had to do was dig up a small clump of the runners and roots.  As long as some of the plant has some roots, it should be a cinch to propagate.

I places three to four root clippings into a small pot with potting soil and watered in.  There was no need to use any kind of rooting hormone, since the mint already had roots.  I then placed them on the grow shelves for a few weeks.

After four weeks, I was left with a jungle of mint to either plant around in other areas of the yard or share with friends (I'll be sharing most with friends).

Mint has been, by far, the easiest plant to propagate.  Now... who wants some mint?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wildlife Wednesday - February 2015

I'm excited to showcase the wildlife that has visited the garden over the past month because of my new toy - a Nikon D7000.  It was a late Christmas present from the hubby.  He originally wanted to buy me some jewelry, but after being indecisive about picking out the jewelry that I wanted, I decided I would get more use and enjoyment out of a quality camera. This is my first DSLR, so I'm still getting use to all the bells and whistles.

Feathered Friends

Being the middle of winter and natural food sources running low, the birds have really been flocking to the yard and feeders to supplement their diet.  And with more birds in the yard, there are also more predators hanging around.

I believe this is a Cooper's Hawk (please correct me if I'm wrong).  He has been seen in the yard frequently over the last month, usually making his daily visits at sunrise.  

I love watching this magnificent creature.  I'm still waiting for my "National Geographic moment" where I get to actually witness him make a kill.

The most distinctive bird sound that can be heard out in the garden right now is the pecking of the ladderback woodpecker.

This female ladderback is the more frequent woodpecker visitor right now.  Every once in awhile I'll catch a glimpse of her red-headed mate.

She especially loves grabbing a delicious snack of suet on the chillier winter days.

The visitors that warm my heart the most right now are the yellow-rumped warblers.

The warblers can be seen daily flitting through the trees and nibbling on the suet cakes that I've put out for them.  There have probably been at least 12 of these warblers hanging out in the yard.

And then there are the frequent patrons... the cardinals and sparrows...

...the wrens (not sure what kind - looks kind of like a Carolina wren, but different from what I at least thought was a Carolina wren)...

...the lesser goldfinches...

...the house finches...

...the pesky white-winged doves and brown-headed cowbirds...

...and then there is this mystery bird.  At first glace, it looks like it may be a finch or sparrow.  However, if you knew the relative size of the tree that it is sitting in, it is closer to the size of a crow.  Anyone have any idea what it may be?

Other Critters

While the winged creatures have been the highlight of the garden this month, I cannot skip out on showcasing some of the other critters that have visited the garden.

This Easter fox squirrel is munching on his winter stash of pecans.  The squirrels are generally pretty good about leaving the bird feeders alone, thanks to the several pecan trees in the area, plus the acorns that were finally present this year after the oaks received enough water this summer.

The scariest critter was this hairy guy.  I saw him creeping along the back deck at night (after almost stepping on him)!  After some help with identification, I believe he is a giant leopard moth caterpillar.  If so, I certainly hope I get to see him when he is transformed into his adult stage.  What interesting looking creatures!

While I'm disappointed some of my broccoli bolted before ever producing decent harvestable heads, I'm glad these bees are enjoying their blooms!  There are probably at least 20-25 bees constantly buzzing around the broccoli flowers at all times on warm, sunny days.

 Finally, there are the Eastern black swallowtail caterpillars that have been chilling on the parsley for the past several months.  I was shocked that they made it through some pretty chilly nights and days over the past couple of months.  However, I believe they finally met their fate about a week or two ago with some of the freezing rain conditions that they just couldn't make it through.

That's all the wildlife for this month.  Be sure to stop by My Gardener Says... where this meme is hosted by Tina every month and where many other gardeners showcase the wildlife in their gardens!