Friday, March 30, 2012

Gumbo Garden Beds - Update

Happy to report that my no till, double dig method conventional beds, which are still mostly gumbo, are performing beautifully. Their ability to hold moisture is remarkable compared to our raised beds, which have no black gumbo in the soil. All bets are off for our hot summers though. I'll report back then. So far, it looks like these beds were worth all the work to dig them out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grape Vines - Raw, Boiled or Stuffed, Grape Leaves are Good

I’ve been at it again.  It’s springtime and I can’t help wandering around the yard enjoying the sight of all things green.  In my never ending quest for edible perennials, I got to pondering our grape vines.  They are only a few years old and have yet to yield any grapes, but those leaves are beautiful!  I have heard talk of stuffed grape leaves, so decided it was time to do some research. 

It turns out that grape leaves can be eaten raw, boiled, or stuffed and then steamed or baked.  Of course, the first thing I did was run outside and snip a few leaves to try out!  My son and I decided they were ok raw, but would be better mixed in a salad as opposed to just munching down straight.  My next step is to try stuffing them.  Stuffed cabbage is good, so why not stuffed grape leaves?  There are a lot of recipes online - just search for them.  I found a couple that I want to make.  I’ll share the links here and then report back on my experiences after we’ve tried them out.

So you can eat them, but are there any health benefits?   Of course there are!  It seems that most things that Mother Nature provides us to eat are healthy in some way or other.  

Here is a link to some nutritional data:

If you don’t want to surf through all the information provided there, let me quote the summary for you.  This food is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Niacin and Iron, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper and Manganese.

The next big question is will they grow here in NE Texas?    Our experience shows that they come back year after year in our harsh soil and thrive with very little attention.  We have a large wild grape vine on or property that has never produced any grapes.  It tends to want to cover the garage so my husband has chopped that thing back many times trying to get rid of it.  No luck, it keeps coming back.  Now I have a use for it!   I still have hope that our not-so-wild (store bought) grape vines will produce grapes for us sometime in the near future, but am not worried now.  I know that even if we never get a grape off of them, they will still provide us with nutritional, tasty food.

Until next time, enjoy this beautiful weather!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Video - Starting Tomato Seeds

Penny from Penny's Tomatoes brings us a short video on how she starts tomato seeds.  This method would work well for pretty much any seed that you wish to start indoors.  As she mentioned the pre-soak is not mandatory, but if you prefer, you can also use just plain water or a compost tea.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hail Protection

In our area spring tends to bring some of our most severe storms. Hail can come unexpectedly, wreaking havoc in our gardens. Large-leaf and non woody stemmed plants can take the most damage. Most of the time the damage isn't the end of the world, but you can lose harvest.
There are several options that you can choose from to protect your plants from hail damage, ranging from a sheet spread over the plants to hoophouses or other structures. The idea is to cover your plants with something that the will hail will bounce off of. Simple as that. Here's a link to another blogpost covering several hail protection methods used in an area that gets struck with more hail than we generally do.
If you already have some hail damage, then here are some suggestions on what you can do to help your plant recover.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Events - Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse Free Seminar

Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse in Denison is offering a free seminar on Backyard Poultry this Wednesday, March 21st from 10AM-11AM.  Peg Albrecht will be offering information on keeping chickens.

Friday, March 16, 2012

It is, it is wild asparagus!

Back in December, I posted a couple of pictures comparing what I thought was wild asparagus already ferned out to the asparagus I had planted the previous spring in a raised bed.  It looked pretty similar, but I'm certainly not an expert.  Well, I watched and waited all winter, and when I saw the asparagus in the bed sprouting last week, I went over to check out the spot marked for the wild stuff.  Here is what I found.

Isn't it lovely!  The kids and I are going to keep a close watch on the area.  If we see any more come up, we're going to harvest it.

My husband also recently found a nice batch of wild onions growing on our place.  It's fun to find unexpected gifts from the land.  We're going to be keeping an eye out to see what other treasures we can find.

Until next time, happy gardening!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Potato Shoots

I noticed in my garden walk yesterday afternoon that the warm weather jump started all of the potato starts that my family and I planted a couple of weeks ago. There are cute little shoots popping up out of the hay mulch! I love seeing vegetables and flowers growing.
Potato starts are available now for purchase from garden stores. They can be planted right now in our area. You can check out Michele's previous post on potatoes to see the difference between potato starts specifically for planting vs using potatoes intended for eating.
I used red potato starts intended for planting. I want to mention that I picked these up from my local hardware/feed store for a much cheaper price than the home supply stores. It's always a good idea to check out your local shops before heading to the big box stores. You can luck out on some great deals.
Don't feel that it's late in the season to plant potatoes. It's nowhere near that. Last year it must've been halfway through April before I got mine in the ground. I still got loads of potatoes, lasting all the way until the heat and drought finally did them in.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Gardening in less than ideal conditions

Ok, I'll admit that this not the most awe-inspiring picture of a garden ever, but hey I tried.  At the bottom of the picture, you can see the fence we put up to keep the rabbits out.  It's not very impressive to look at, but it does the job and was made from materials we had on hand.  Given more time and resources, you can do a much better job, but I just wanted to show you that it doesn't nave to be fancy to work.

The top of the picture features some of the sprouts we are seeing.  These are some of the seeds that the kids toiled away to plant for me (I supervised).  The beans and peas are looking good, and the lettuce is ready to eat.  Yes, all of those white things in the pictures are rocks.   I am attempting to grow vegetables in a rock garden!  But look, it's working and the plants are growing.  It just goes to show you that with the proper nutrition, plants will grow in almost any soil.  We have added a lot of natural fertilizer to this garden over the years (rabbit, chicken, goat and horse manure) and it has paid off.   The lucky plants that are growing in the raised beds actually have nice, rock free soil, but honestly, the yield is about the same when I take the time to water properly.  

This post is mostly just to let you know that you don't need perfect conditions to have a successful garden.  Don't get frustrated and don't feel like you have to go out and buy a bunch of materials just to get started.  You only need a shovel, seeds, time and patience.   Compost, fertilizer, and mulch help out too!  Now no more excuses - get that garden started today!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Beautiful Day in Texas

Here’s a warning right off the bat – this little rambling paragraph or two has no actual gardening information in it.  Nor does it have any ideas on how to improve your garden or your yard.  I won’t nag you about mulching or weeding.  I’m only here today to share my thoughts on a beautiful Texas day.  So, you’ve been warned!

Well, it looks like spring is here.  Everywhere I turn outside, something is in bloom.  The weather is perfect and it’s a joy just being alive.  A pessimist will point out that summer is not far away, and with it the furnace like heat.  A pessimist will point out that mosquito and tick season will soon be upon us.  They’ll point out mowing and weeding and a slew of other mundane tasks.  Oh, but I’m the eternal optimist.  I can only look upon a day like today with gladness in my heart, throwing my face up to the sun and knowing that all is good.  Life, in all of it’s wonderful forms, is all around us.    The trees are blooming, seeds are sprouting, animals are showing their faces again after the lull that winter brought.  I’m even smirking at the rabbits, having built a fence around the garden.   This is the time of year that I convince myself that all will be better than last year.  I’ll keep the garden watered and weeded.  I’ll get the seeds in on time, make the jelly, and can the vegetables.  Nothing will go to waste and I’ll be supermom.  Even on a day like today, I can’t quite convince myself that I’ll keep the house clean, but I have big plans for the yard and gardens.  If every day was like today, I’d be the gardener of the year, in great shape and always smiling.  I know every day won’t be like today, but for now my hopes are high for whatever tomorrow might bring. 

If you haven’t taken the time to go enjoy this day, then do it now.  This is one of the best times to live in North East Texas, so take advantage of it.  You’ll be glad you did!