Saturday, December 25, 2010

Jenny - Great Meatball Recipe

Great meatball recipe that I've just kind of jury-rigged together. Came out delicious!

1 lb of meatballs, beef or venison preferred
6-8 oz of beef gravy, jarred or homemade
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Roll the meatballs up, small to medium. Use whatever seasonings you like. I used salt, pepper, dill and parsley. Brown them in a pan. You don't have to cook them all the way through. You're just browning. Remove the meat from the pan. If you're making your own gravy, then deglaze the pan and make your gravy. I deglazed with a little wine and then added about 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper to taste. I then added water until I had about 6-8 oz of gravy. Dump the meatballs, the gravy, and 8oz of the wild plum jelly into a slow cooker and cook that on low until all the flavors are melded together. This took about 40 minutes for me.

Serve on a platter with toothpicks stuck into them for an appetizer, or in a bowl if preferred. I bet these taste great over egg noodles!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Michele - A Frost

Well, we have enjoyed the yield of our fall garden for more than a month, but sadly, the frost over the Thanksgiving weekend has put an end to it.  I'm wondering if there is anywhere I can get some onion bulbs this time of year.  Rumor has it that they will grow nearly year around, and I'm willing to test the theory. 

Just  because the vegetable garden is done for the moment doesn't mean it's time to rest.  Now is the perfect time to start pruning and preparing for spring.  It may seem a long way off now, but I seem to remember two ladies scrambling to get the rose bushes pruned before they put their new leaves on this past spring.  Don't procrastinate (like me), start now and you'll be able to relax and enjoy your efforts later.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jenny - Pepper Harvest

Yesterday my husband picked a huge harvest of peppers! There was danger of a frost overnight, so he ran out to the garden to salvage what he could. It's typical of us to have multiple pepper harvests out here. Our plants often last well into autumn. We'll be shipping some out to my parents on the east coast. Here's a pic, and these are not even all of them!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Jenny - What I'm Up To

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous out, and my garden beds are calling to me. Well, crying more like. So many things have been going on that I've fallen behind on my weeding something terrible. So the children and I are embarking on a fall cleanup project. We'll be weeding, straightening out and trimming back any plants that have misbehaved themselves out of shape.
Oh, that reminds me. Always check your plant resource (online, book, whatever you prefer) before trimming a plant back, especially if you intend to do a hard trim, where large portions of the plant are cut away (clematis comes to mind). As a general rule, waiting until just before or just after winter is best.
Once we're done we'll be moving on to the plants inside the house, so hopefully you'll get some posts from me on keeping your house plants happy. In the meantime....

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A quick update

OK, this may not be an informative post, but I've just checked on the garden and am now all excited, and I'm sharing the news with you. We have cucumbers! There, I said it. Now let me yell it - WE HAVE CUCUMBERS! They are six or seven inches long and not much thicker than a pencil right now, but they seem to be growing fast. The vines look great and are full of blossoms. I can't wait until next week when we get to eat them. I believe these are the Armenians but the English cucumber vines look good too.

Oh, and by the way, I opened up a jar of the spicy dill pickle spears I made a couple of months ago and they are very tasty. My son ate half the jar for lunch the other day and I'm working on the other half.  Here's a picture of those tasty things:

And since I've got you reading this anyway... I also picked a tomato, two green peppers and two chili peppers off of the plants left from our spring garden today. What a blast!

Monday, September 20, 2010


Hello again everyone. We've enjoyed a good growing season this year and I'm happy to say that our fall garden has been started. There are still many things to be planted, but the cucumbers are in and looking good.

My children and I all love cucumbers, so it's natural for us to plant them each spring in the garden. I have been looking for the best cucumber to suit our needs for quite some time, and have finally come up with a winner. For our house, we love the Armenian cucumber. It is also known as the yard long cucumber, and it's name speaks for itself. It is said that these do not make very good pickling cucumbers because they tend to lose their crunch. I made quite a few jars of pickles with our spares this year and will report in a month or two what I think of this. In the meantime tough, it must be said that we have never had a bitter one. I had a lot of trouble a few years back with bitterness in our cukes. Some research suggested that this can be due to heat and low water. I'm not very good at watering the garden and prefer plants that will forgive me for this. 'Regular' or pickling cucumbers can get very bitter. English cucumbers don't tend to get bitter, but they do like a lot of water in order to produce a good volume of fruit (or should I say veggies). Armenians seem to flourish with very little attention. That means it is right for us.

I don't know how they will do in the cooler climate of a fall garden, but I'm determined to find out. Ever one to try new things, our garden is now sporting some Armenian seedlings, as well as some English cucumber seedlings. It may turn out that the English variety does better in the fall garden around here. I'll let you know if a couple of months!

There are a lot of web sites devoted to the various cucumbers, their pros and cons and preferred growing conditions. It may take a little research, but with some effort and experimentation, you should be able to find one just right for you.

Until then, happy gardening.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jenny - September Veg Gardening Duties

Hi, y'all. Sorry for the long absence. I wanted to chime in to talk about gardening in September. In some areas of the country, it's time to plant bulbs and shut down the veg gardens for the winter. Not so in Texoma. We have the blessing of a long growing season and can now prepare for what's sometimes called the short season. You can also often get away with the cooler weather crops that most of us don't dream about earlier in the year, crops like peas, beans, and lettuces. I know that's hard to believe while it's still so blazing hot outside, but it's true.
If you have tomatoes, you may have noticed that they're still producing. Great! This happens to me all the time, and I'll often have tomatoes all the way until the first hard frost. Keep them watered and happy, and see what happens. Our pepper plants are also going strong. We've been harvesting steadily all summer. We have so many, we've had to give them away! We'll be keeping them happy for as long as possible also, as well as harvesting seeds from the tastier ones.
So go ahead and begin prepping your garden beds and get to replanting. Clear away any spent plants from your spring/summer garden. Loosen up the soil if it has become packed again. You might want to fertilize, especially if you've grown soil sappers like corn or tomatoes. You can also plant soil rejuvenators such as peas in those beds. They can help return some life to the soil. Many crops ideal for the short season can be sown directly into the soil. Good. That saves time. Peas, beans, and many lettuce types are direct sow. Squash are direct sow, though avoid any super-long growers (Check the seed packet), or "juicy" squash like zucchini that might resent coldish nights. Perhaps most importantly especially while the days still blaze: water in well!
Every garden is very dependent on tree cover, shade/sun exposure, wind, etc. Even in Texoma the terrain can change from one town to the next. My garden beds set onto straight prairie land perform differently than my friends who have a lot more tree cover. You know your garden best. Check your seed packet instructions (or look it up online of course), trust your instincts and have fun with it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jelly Making

I was having a great debate with myself as to whether to title this post 'The Fruits of my Labor' or 'Plum Tired'. As you can see, I ended up choosing neither one. Just too big a decision for this time of night. 'Why are you so tired?' one might ask. Well, even if you didn't ask that, let me tell you. I've been making jelly. Lots of it. After twenty four pints of plum jelly from the plums off of the trees in our yard, ten pints of blueberry (my sad little plants didn't yield this year, so we went to a pick your own blueberry farm), and twenty seven pints of wild plum jelly made from plums my husband picked in West Texas last weekend, I'm tired of the whole thing. The good news is that I learned how to can and am willing to share what I've learned with you!

According to my mother-in-law, you can make any type of jelly you want without the aid of fruit pectin (more commonly known as Sure-Jell). After boiling the fruit long enough to get it soft, smash it up to get the juice and pulp out. Combine two cups of juice with two cups of sugar and boil it for ten minutes. To that mixture, add two more cups of juice and two more cups of sugar. Boil it for another ten minutes. Pour this syrup into your prepared jars, apply hot lids and relax. Each batch yields about two pints of jelly.

She says that starting with three or fours cups to make the process go faster just won't work. For whatever reason, you have to stick with two. I don't know the validity of that argument yet. I got tired standing over the stove stirring tonight, and started adding an extra cup of juice and sugar now and then. My figuring was that if you added a little extra, it would boil down a little slower, so you should add a couple of minutes to the boil time. I don't know how it will jell, as I just poured it into the jars and sealed them, but the liquid consistency looked about right.

If you want to make pectin free jelly with a tested and approved recipe, stick with the one above. I've sampled and tested plenty of it this week and definitely approve! Tonight's experiments may or may not prove successful, but I'll have fun finding out.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jenny - A Word on Hay

Hi y'all. Jenny here. I see that a lot of us have large melons cooking in our gardens, so it's a good time to talk about hay. Keeping our gardens well watered is essential for tasty fruit and veg, but the moist soil can sometimes cause rot spots in our large melons, strawberries and other things that lay or touch directly on it. It'll break your heart to see a gorgeous melon ready for the picking, turn it over, and... an icky, depressed soft spot. I've heard some tell me that they just try to turn the melons a bit to keep any one side from taking too much of the weight, but this seems like a good way to snap the thing right off the vine to me. I like hay for this job.
You get yourself a small, square bale of hay. You don't need a lot. If you have horse-loving friends or ranchers, perhaps they'll sell you a small portion of what they buy by the truckload. You lay down a couple inches of hay underneath your fruit, and voila, that should help reduce or flat out eliminate the rot spots. It lifts the fruit up off the soil and keeps it from getting too wet under there. The hay can even act as a mulch, keeping the soil underneath it from losing too much moisture in our burning hot, Texoma sun. That reminds me, don't substitute with your flower garden cedar mulch here. It's too strong.

Happy gardening!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hot, Dry Days

Summer time is finally here and the days are now long and hot. If you're from East Texas, you know what I mean. Unfortunately there are more things to water in our yard than I have time or inclination to take care of. The vegetable garden is suffering, the flowers are wilted and the fruit trees and vines are begging for relief. I'm thinking about looking into some better sprinklers than the ones we have now.

We did finally get the garden tilled up. I say 'we', but what I mean is 'my husband'. It looks good! If only I watered as well as he weeded we'd be in great shape. I have several empty rows now where early spring vegetables used to be. I have my great charts from the extension office that offer suggestions as to what to plant this time of year. It's time to quit the whining about the heat and just get out there and do it. My husband would love a few more rows of okra, so maybe I'll surprise him and put a little more in.

And just for the record, a momma rabbit has seen fit to have her litter of babies in one of our raised beds. Three little rabbits can now be seen hopping merrily around in our struggling blueberry patch. The kids think they're great and I'm not sure what I think. Since I'm not ready for hasenpfeffer dinner yet, I guess they get to stay a little while longer.

Stay cool and happy gardening!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Organic Rose Gardening Seminar

Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse will be hosting a seminar on caring for roses organically this coming Saturday, June 12th from 10AM to 11AM. Sue Zanne Petersen will be speaking. Admission for this seminar is free. Click here for Sweetwater's website.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Michele - Gardening seminar

The folks at Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse put on a great seminar last week. The topic was year round gardening and the speaker, Ed, was full of good information. Among other things, he pointed out that in our climate, you really can have a garden all year long. He showed charts and gave examples of vegetables that would survive cool Texas winters and well as ones that could cope with the heat of our summers. These charts are all available at the local extension offices, so if you haven't been there yet, you might want to check it out.

Another bit of information that I found to be very helpful was that you need good soil to grow good plants. Although that may sound obvious, I doubt that the soil in my garden would win any awards for proper nutrient balance. There are test kits available at most local garden centers that will do basic tests on your soil. Kits are also available at the extension office, and for a mere $10 they will send it off to be tested. You get a report back detailing what is good and bad about the soil, along with suggestions on how to get it up to par.

Natural pest control was discussed, as well as fertilizer, planting techniques, and the benefits of gardening. I always thought the main benefit of gardening was the food, but Ed pointed out that along with providing beauty and food, gardening is great exercise. It will get you outside on these beautiful spring days and get you moving.

Overall, it was a very well spent hour and I would recommend attending similar talks if you get the chance!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Announcement: Vegetable Growing Seminar

Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse in Denison will be hosting a Year Round Vegetable Growing Seminar this coming Wednesday in their greenhouse between 11AM and noon. Master Gardener Ed Supina will be hosting. Click here for details!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Michele - Patience

It's hard to be patient when there are so many tasty, homegrown treats just waiting to be eaten. Since these pictures were taken, some of the strawberries and mulberries have ripened. The kids have been having a great time running out there every morning and raiding the mulberry tree. They announced today, after picking a bowl full, that they wanted to make mulberry ice cream. Hey, I'm game to try!

The blackberries and squash lack a few weeks and the plums and peaches at least a month. That's ok, it gives us something to look forward to, as well as adds incentive to keep up the work in the gardens. So far my little helpers seem more interested in eating than weeding. No surprise there I guess, but I did find that given the choice between cleaning the house or pulling weeds, every one of them will choose the weeds. I may be onto something!

Happy gardening.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jenny - Children's Garden Part 2

After a trip to Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse and our local home improvement store, the kids had a few plants for their garden. We got our hands dirty planting them in and just clustered them in the center of the garden for now. The tree rose looks beautiful, but the truth is, I was quite sure that it would be on its way out. I had pulled it up from the front walkway (to replace it with 2 matching potted versions). The kids couldn't bear to see it get dumped in the compost, so we potted it here in case it wants to live. Sure enough, within days the whole thing was brown and looked like it belonged in a Halloween display. A quick listing of the plants they chose: strawberries, snapdragons, lilies, petunias, celosia, diamond frost, and marigolds. I gently tried to steer them toward easy to care for plants, but let them chose pretty freely. It will be a good experience for them to learn how to care for each plant. Here's where we were after that.

Jenny - Children's Garden Part 1

We've spent the past couple of weeks creating a garden area for my two children (11 year old boy, 6 year old girl). They both wanted an area to play in and put plants of their choosing. I thought I might use this blog as a place to catalog our progress. On March 29th we started out staring at the area just outside my son's window. It was a prairie mess of johnson grass and other weeds. We pulled all that up, laid out landscaping fabric, lined the space out with some old bricks (in a pre-determined curve shape), and filled in the space with lots of gravel. Special thanks to Daddy for hauling and shoveling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of gravel. By the end of day we made very decent progress. Here's what it looked like.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Michele - Irises

The Irises in our yard are finally in bloom. We had to wait an extra week for the new 'surprise' ones to open up, but they finally made it. The burgundy colored ones are new ones. I think they make a fine addition!

Irises only bloom for a week or two a year. I love the plants when they are in bloom and am completely tired of trying to keep the weeds out of them by mid-summer. The great thing about them is their durability. You can mow them over when summer rolls along and they come back up grandly the next spring. You can dig up the bulbs and toss them in a bag in the corner for three months before replanting them. No problem. They'll still grow. Your big dog can lay in them, the cat claw them, the kids pull off the leafs - and they will still come back. So, if you want a flower in the yard and nothing else will grow for you, you might want to consider an Iris.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jenny - Ya Can't Beat Local Knowledge

Well, it's taken me 2 weeks, but I wanted to report on my visit to the local nursery that I mentioned in my last post on the Bonham garden expo. My family and I drove out to Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse in Denison the day after the expo. We wanted to check the place out and see how knowledgeable the owners, married couple Dave and Barb, would prove.
Well, we ended up staying there for about 2 hours! The establishment is a smallish one with one large greenhouse and a couple of outdoor areas beside it. They sell a variety of perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees. Though some of the more mainstream plants, such as petunias and pear trees, can be found at the larger discount stores, I did notice that Sweetwater tended to have a wider color variety. The plants were also in better shape than in the big stores, and clearly treated with more love.
Where Dave and Barb really excelled was in knowledge. They knew their plants. They knew the area. They had experience in planning and planting garden beds, and were willing to share everything in their heads to help you create whatever kind of garden or vegetable bed you had in mind. Have a problem area or a deathtrap garden bed (my front walkway)? Well, bring them a picture and lots of details on the soil, sun, traffic, etc going on there. They'll try to make some suggestions to help you turn that area around.
Their patience with me knew no bounds. After 2 hours of brainstorming, and a truckful of plants, including a lovely butterfly bush and a few very healthy strawberry plants, we went home full of ideas and enthusiasm. If you live in the Texoma area, and need a little collaboration on your flower or veg gardens, go and see Dave and Barb.

Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse
4400 W Crawford St
Denison, TX 75020

Friday, April 2, 2010

Michele - Buds and Blooms

It's been a beautiful week and we have been enjoying every minute of it. I took advantage of the weather and go outside to plant some of those ever-growing seedlings in the kitchen window. I cleaned out one of the raised beds and put the zuchinni in there. There was just enough room left over for the spinach. That still leaves a load of plants inside, but it's a start. I have another bed that I'm working on, but it's not ready for planting yet. I had watermelon in it last year. The plants were very happy, but got so thick that it was hard to weed in between them. It's hard to believe how much grass is in there now. I'll have it finished by this afternoon and get another batch of seedlings planted.

I have concluded that only seven of the original fifteen blueberry plants are coming back this year. Maybe it is too hot for them, but I'm not giving up. I shall baby these plants and give them vitamins and shade. It may be a few years, but we'll have blueberries yet!

All of he grapes and pomegranates have sprouted and look lovely. Yeah! I have noticed a lot of flowers in the area, but the irises in our yard are not in bloom yet. The are green and growing, but no flowers. In the past, we've had purple and white flowers, but a friend gave us a batch of mystery bulbs last fall and I'm anxious to see what color the flowers will be.

My young gardeners are still ready to help out, so I'm taking advantage of their labor. I'm still looking for ideas to keep their interest up over the long summer.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jenny - Fannin County Home & Garden Expo

Well, my family and I had a good time today at the Expo in Bonham. It was a smaller sized show, but full of information for our area. It included several talks from experts on things like home orchards, heat loving plants, and tips for growing your own veg garden. The vendors ranged from a very promising nursery that I intend to visit tomorrow, Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse, to an outdoor wood furniture maker, to handmade jewelry and flower arrangements and more. The Fannin County Extension Office had many representatives there to answer our questions (my husband grilled one on fire ant control), and one spent a lot of time with me describing the Junior Master Gardeners program. Being a homeschooler, I was curious as to how I could adapt their programs to our support group. She was wonderful and took time out to help me understand how I could do this. The Extension Office also had gobs of printouts for us on topics like fire ant control, rain barrel making, drought tolerant plants, and water conservation. I have a feeling that all of these printouts are readily available at the office in Bonham for those who are interested in picking some up. A couple JMG kids from a program run at a local school made my daughter a cool-looking hat out of newspaper,and another expo volunteer twisted up a pink balloon teddy bear holding a yellow tulip for my daughter. Fun day. I'm looking forward to putting into practice some of the tips I picked up today, and to checking out that nursery!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Garden Expo

The Fannin County Master Gardeners 2010 Garden, Lawn & Home Expo is on this weekend for any who are interested. It looks like it's tomorrow only. Find info here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jenny - Bulbs, Bulbs, Bulbs

Well, a trip to the Dallas Arboretum has propelled me into spring craziness. I've bought a TON of tulip and daffodil bulbs. Just a ton. But I dup up nearly everything along my front walk (a narrow, wickedly hard to maintain flower bed runs between it and the house). My intention is to fill up my doorway pots and plant the remainder in the walkway bed.
I've also bought snapdragons for the walkway. They spread beautifully and keep their flowers all the way through the summer. We had a mildish winter the year before last, and the darn things kept their green all through. Cool. So I'm just going to let those go as crazy as they like in that area.
I picked up 2 very large pots to plant my rose trees in. I'll flank the walkway with them. Roses are hard to get wrong around here. I fertilize mine with a rose fertilizer every year, and "rose prune" them throughout their flowering seasons. I'll blog on rose pruning in another post.
And for all of you who think I'm nuts to be planting bulbs that are pretty much already in full bloom, you're right. They won't last long. I'm really just projecting to next year, when these same flowers sprout back and in larger numbers. I'll have some immediate pleasure out of my arrangements now, but the real fun will be next year, when they come up on their own. I've always loved tulip beds. The more color, the better!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Michele - Early Spring

First off, let me say that it is very hard to snip the blueberries off those little plants that you're so proud of! I did follow Jenn's advice last year, did some additional research, and clipped them off. It hurt though. Here's to hoping that the plants grow bigger and better for it this year.

The seeds in the kitchen window are finally sprouting now. The spinach is doing great, and finally we have squash, cherry tomato, and cucumber seedlings stretching themselves toward the sun.

It has been rainy here the last couple of weeks and we have been unable to get the tractor out to prep the garden. The coming week is supposed to nice and dry and we are hoping to plow the garden and prepare for planting next weekend. It is a little early for some plants, as there is still a good chance of another frost or two, but it's high time I got those onions in! Maybe by the time the soil is ready, the seedlings will be ready too. I'm going to miss them in the kitchen window, but will enjoy watching them grow outside.

I'm going to continue experimenting this year on way to get/keep the kids interested in helping out with the garden. They are very eager early on and all of them will help with the initial planting, but their interest seems to wane shortly thereafter. I'll keep you posted on any grand ideas I can up with on how to get them to weed the garden!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Jenn - More Words on Blueberry Bushes

I had 2 lovely blueberry bushes back in New England where they're easy to grow. My success so far with them out here has been dubious. I planted three. Only one has survived so far, and he's sad. I have very little shade around my house, and the sun just burns them up. Michele has had better luck with this. I do have a couple of tips to add to hers though.
For starters never just buy one bush. Buy at least two, and vary the strains. Blueberries need to cross-pollinate, and they do a better job of it when the bushes are not all the same type of blueberry. Check the plant hardiness zones carefully. You don't want to buy a plant that's suited to a colder climate than we have here. I've had some plant hardiness charts put us in growing zone 7A, but I often find zone 8 to be a better fit for our corner of Texoma. Once you get them home, look for a planting spot that isn't going to have the sun blazing down on them all the day long. That's how mine got burnt to a crisp. This wasn't a problem in Connecticut. It's a problem here.
If you're within 2 years of planting a new blueberry bush or if your bush is spindly & slow-growing, you should really pinch off the blossoms and not allow the bush to fruit. That sucks. I know. But bearing fruit actually puts a large strain on the plant and can keep it from getting nice and bushy. And if your bush isn't bushy, it won't bear much fruit in general. For a really long time, if ever. So though it breaks your heart a little, pinch off those blossoms on the new or struggling bushes. Give it the time it needs to grow in and widen out. You'll thank me later for nagging you now! :)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Michele - Fruits and Berries

The seeds are planted and sitting in the kitchen windows. There is a pretty good variety there, and I hope we have success in growing them. The spinach is the only thing that has sprouted so far. It's the seed that I wasn't going to plant, but my young daughter really wanted to, so we did. Funny how those things turn out!

As Jenn said, spring is sneaking up on us here. Last year, I took a fancy and decided that we needed more fruit trees and berry bushes here. To go along with the apple trees we planted a few years ago, we added some peach and pear trees. I have decided that apple trees are not the thing to plant around here. There are hanging in there, and half of them are still growing but they're struggling. The long, hot summers here are just hard on them. The peach and pear trees seem to be fairing better. I'm anxious to see what this year's growth will do to them. I also planted some pomegranates. This is pretty far north for them, but a friend in Dallas told me she was able to grow them there. With this winter being a little cooler than usual, I'm a little worried. I'll keep you posted. Let's see - my binge planting last spring also included grapes, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and pecans. The blackberries went wild and seem to be very happy. I planted the blueberries in a peat moss, compost mixture to get the soil acidic. They did ok. Not as happy as the blackberries, but they hung in there. I'm very glad to announce that half of them are already budding back out! The winter didn't bother them at all. I'll have to just wait and see on the other berries. I'm going to try to restrain myself this year and concentrate on keeping what I have healthy instead of adding to the plant menagerie around here.

By the way, I haven't pruned my roses in five years and it's high time I did. They look awful and I'm determined to chop them back this year and allow them to grow beautifully again.

Until next time, happy planting!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jenny - Prepping for Spring

I'm glad the temperatures are warming up around here (hope it lasts) because I need to get a jump on preparing the garden beds for spring. It's wisest to do this in late fall or winter, but I put it off. Now I've actually got a few plants popping shoots, so I've got to hustle. There are quite a few things to be done, but foremost is the trimming back. The decorative grass that I left up for fall & winter beauty needs to be trimmed to within maybe 5 inches or so from the ground. My rose bushes got spindly at the bottom last year (didn't cover them during a bad frost), and I've decided to embark on a rescue mission before giving up and replacing them. So I'll be trimming those back pretty heavily to see if they bounce back for me. I would never trim back the canes so heavily if they hadn't already become unreliable. The veg garden still has some dead to clear out and throw in the compost pile. Lots to do. But I hate working in the cold, so I'll pray that it stays warm! :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Michele - Planting seeds

Well, we are sitting around the fire today watching it snow. That's pretty exciting in this part of the country! On a day like today, spring planting seems a long way off, but the kids and I are preparing to plant our seeds. I bought a bunch of heirloom seeds last year, but they came in too late to plant. That means that I have a slew of seeds that I can start early this year. We have a bag of potting soil, seeds, and little plastic pots. We're in business! The biggest question is where we're going to put several dozen little pots in the house. I have a small greenhouse outside, but the winds here can be fierce at times, and the plastic didn't survive the winter. My husband has proposed getting some thin plexi-glass to replace the plastic, but that might be a few months in the future. For now, I fear the kitchen windows are going to be transformed into mini greenhouse shelves.

Plants make me happy, so maybe this is a good thing!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Hello everyone. I'm Michele, Jenn's Texoma land friend. I do like to garden, and learning how to do it properly around here has been an ongoing experiment. Although I live here in black mud country, my soil problem stems from the fact that the rock is only a few inches below the surface in a lot of the garden. We plow it up each year and pick out the largest chunks. The older half of the garden is starting to look pretty good now, but the half we plowed up new last year is still a rocky mess. I'll get the kids busy in a few weeks when it dries up and we're preparing the soil. We're trying some new fertilizer this year. Ash from the fireplace and rabbit and chicken droppings. Sounds nice, huh? No much fun to work with, but if I'm going to deal with the mess anyway, my garden might as benefit from it. I'll let you know how it goes.

I love this time of year. It's still cold (which I don't like at all), but you know spring is just around the corner because every farm, ranch, garden, or lumber store you go into will have onion bulbs out. They do go fast, and I only got a small bunch last year. That's ok, because like Jenny said, they grow great. The kids and I stuck them in our poor, rocky ground and up they grew. No fertilizer or bagged soil for them, but they still grew fat and happy. Now if only I could get the corn to grow so nicely. I'm working on it and will keep you posted!

Happy gardening. I look forward to sharing what I learn throughout the year with you!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jenny - Couldn't Help Myself

I couldn't stop myself from buying a few tulip and hyacinth bulbs yesterday while out shopping. I'm going to put them into twin half barrels that flank my front door. I love changing up the flowers in there each season. For the now though, they're hanging out in the sunroom. I also picked up onion bulbs for our veg garden. Pickins got very scraggly very fast at the stores, and I don't want to deal with that again. Texas Super Sweets (natch) and some red onions also. The reds betrayed me last year. Let's see if I can do better this season.
Onions by the way are probably the easiest thing to grow around here. They're even easier than tomoatoes. They seem to do just fine in our black gumbo soil, though to be honest, I mix mine pretty liberally with garden soil just to play it safe. You stick them in the ground, keep them decently watered, and pull them up when the tops start dying and flopping over, preferably before that stupid flower comes shooting up from the middle. Really the trickier part is curing them. I cut the stalks off (to make them easier to handle) and stick them in a sunny windowsill until the top looks nice and dry. Once I'm sure they're dry, into a dark drawer they go until I'm ready to cook them. I've kept home grown onions for MONTHS in this way. It's pretty foolproof, though I've lost a few to rot storing them before they were cured properly. So just be sure your onions are nicely dried out before storing them away, and you should be fine.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Blog

A friend and I have just decided to start up a blog as a place to catalog our experiences with gardening in Texoma. A little strange to be starting in the dead of winter, but you'd be surprised. Spring comes early to this region, and the stores already have annuals and veg plants out. Very silly though. One thing I've learned about Texoma is that there's always one last frost before winter finally gives up. And it's usually in late Feb or March when everyone starts putting their plants out. Last year I had my kitchen counter covered with trays of plants that I had bought too early and had to rush inside the house before a late frost swooped in to claim them. Stupid things spent about 2 weeks in my kitchen before I could get them out again! So I'll lay low this year and wait until I'm sure the freezing temps are over.