The Semi-Winter Garden

The garden’s been quiet recently but it’s definitely not snowed over here in Austin. I’ve harvested the dried cowpeas and chopped the tops off, and I’ve occasionally thrown a few more veggie seeds in the garden beds. A week ago there was a hard freeze and the marigold plant out front finally died, along with the zinnias and dianthus. The mexican mint marigold and lemon balm look pretty dead too, but those may just be hibernating for the winter. Fingers crossed.

The Beds

Some of the seeds were placed in a row and some were just scattered haphazardly. It’s a good things weeds have filled in most of the other beds because this first one has a lot of sad exposed soil. There’s a lot of henbit around, what I believe is wood sorrel, and the occasional dandelion, plus unknown varieties of weeds. I should really learn how to mulch properly…

img_20161227_133056
One of three garden beds

Spinach

The variety is Monstreux de Viroflay, so the leaves are supposed to be monsters. Not sure if this plant is still in its infancy or if it’s just unhappy. But I’m pretty sure at least that it actually it spinach because the leaves have that spinach-y taste to them. Not bad. Too bad the others haven’t come up. I’ll try to start some more later in the winter.

img_20161227_133104
Monstreux de Viroflay spinach plant

Broccoli

This one I’m not so sure about. It could be broccoli or another weed. I’m assuming it’s broccoli because a month ago it was just stems in all direction. The leaves had been totally eaten by something that knows this plant is delicious.

img_20161227_133154
Broccoli plant… maybe?

Carrots / Celery

I sowed three varieties of carrots, a different one in each bed. And I threw some celery seeds in as well. These look like carrots to me. Someday I’ll learn to tell the difference between carrot, celery, and Queen Anne’s Lace.

img_20161227_133110
Carrots, I hope

Fava Beans

These are supposedly cold season beans, but are totally new to me. I don’t know if they’ll fruit or even if I have that disease which can result in death if I eat fava beans. Either way, these plants look nice and they’re scattered in various places around the backyard.

img_20161227_133208
Fava plants

Chard / Beets

Before the frost, several seedlings were popping up. The yellow ones are definitely chard, so I’m assuming that’s what the red ones are also since they look very similar. Beets are in the same family and some of those seeds were in there too, so only time will tell.

img_20161127_160241
Chard seedlings before the frost

Unfortunately, after the frost the numbers seem to have dropped off. But at least a couple of them appear to have revived.

img_20161227_133228
Chard plant that survived the frost, woohoo!

Onions

I didn’t see any of these left after the frost and was scared that these died, but the stalks are just really slender and easy to miss unless you’re looking really closely.

img_20161227_133135
A row of onion babies, still alive!

Garlic

Everyone in Austin should grow garlic. It’s the easiest thing in the world. Stick a few cloves in the ground in October, and then pull out full heads of garlic the next summer. It’s brilliant!

img_20161227_133149
Garlic stalks all sprawled out in the mess

Around the Yard

Some other edibles that showed promise outside of the three garden mess beds.

Potatoes

When we moved into this house in February, one of the first things I did was plant some seed potatoes in a random location amist grass. It was kind of late to be planting potatoes here but I ruined all chances of survival by promptly forgetting where they were and likely cut them down with the grass a few times.

But about a month ago, I saw four of these plants in a sort of row and, after some head-scratching, remembered the potatoes. Alas, since the frost I once again cannot find them. They must have been totally obliterated. We’ll see if they poke their heads out again in the spring.

img_20161126_121042
One of four potato plants, now gone

English Peas / Snap Peas

The English peas died a long time ago and the snap peas were never really happy. It may have something to do with the lousy unamended soil I planted them in, but it was really a test to see what would thrive here. One of the snap pea plants hung in there through and produced a couple of peas. I finally pulled it out today for a picture of what might have been.

img_20161227_133320
The only one of its kind

Southern Peas

The cowpeas had no complaints about the soil. They thrived even as I neglected to water them. I only ate a few handfuls fresh. The rest I let dry out before collecting, so as to have many to plant in the spring. We’ll see how they do in various areas around the yard to make sure it wasn’t just that one location. Besides, legumes are good for rotating with pretty much every other crop.

img_20161028_183238
Mississippi Silver cowpea plant

Red Chili Bean

The seed beans were the same ones I’ve used for chili recently, picked up from the bulk bin at the supermarket, so no clue what variety they really are. But considering that I threw the few seeds on the ground on some partly dug up soil, then quickly retreated inside after ants attacked, and forever after neglected them, I am super impressed with the result. Then again, I had to pull the plant before the bean pod had fully ripened because bugs were starting to eat up the plant. I may try this again in the spring with a dedicated area. If the ants don’t scare me away again, that is.

img_20161126_120727
A lone red chili bean plant

Lavender

This may be cheating since these plants joined the garden from the store only a couple of months ago and haven’t grown, but I’m happy to say that they survived the frost and look as healthy as ever. (Note: The weed in the bottom center of this picture is almost definitely Queen Anne’s lace. I’m pretty sure that’s a different leaf shape than the carrots posted above. Pretty sure.)

img_20161227_133036
Low-growing lavender

Salvia

I have no intention of using this as an edible, but adding a picture here anyway.

img_20161227_133045
Salvia Greggii

Dwarf Buford Holly

Same for this shrub.

img_20161227_133017
The Dwarf Buford Holly looks exactly the same after the frost as before

Unknown Shrub

And this one. Although I have no idea what it is, I think it’s lovely. And it’s definitely thrived on the spilled water in its prime location directly beneath the faucet.

img_20161227_133453
Mystery plant

Meyer Lemon Tree

Still no lemons. Then again, it’s only two years old. I was tempted to give it some liquid fertilizer, but it’ll survive another couple of months before feeding it and then finding it a new home in the ground.

img_20161227_133710
Two-year-old Meyer lemon tree

The Indoor Garden

Or at least, the scattered pots sitting on the table near our only south-facing window. I’ve planted persimmon, plum, and meyer lemon seeds which haven’t yet sprouted. Broccoli seeds are the more likely candidates to survive. The Mexican Bird of Paradise plants were lovely for a while and then passed on, as did the American Beautyberry.

img_20161227_155712
The indoor garden

Rosemary

I’ve never grown rosemary from seed to this size before. The secret is apparently to not water it too much. Also in that pot are a couple of lantana seedlings. No point in replanting  into separate containers until I’m fairly certain that they’ll survive.

img_20161227_155738
Lantana on the left and rosemary on the right

Texas Mountain Laurel

Not a food plant. Somehow this indoor plant is already a smidge taller than the one I transplanted near the front driveway. That one survived the frost just fine, so I may transplant this one also before long. I have no idea which plant is poking out behind it. To the right you can also see what I believe is a Ruellia sprout based on the shape of the seed, but it’s dying so it won’t interfere.

img_20161227_155722
Texas Mountain Laurel once again

Tangerine

This bit of green just peeked out for the first time yesterday. So excited because I got the seed from a locally-grown tangerine, so if this someday turns into a beautiful fruit tree it will have a history in central Texas.

img_20161227_155658-1
Seed from a locally-grown tangerine, just sprouted

Rosemary

I went to Home Depot this morning so I checked to see if they had any of the rosemary Christmas trees that I’ve heard about recently. Sure enough, I rescued one at half off and am excited to have more rosemary out in the yard soon. I was tempted to get more, but no, I need an excuse to learn how to propagate these without killing them. Besides, this variety says it only grows to two feet tall and I love them large for yard decoration.

img_20161227_155756
Rosemary Christmas tree

Henbit

While writing up this blogpost, it finally struck me that perhaps henbit was edible and after a quick check online, it turns out that yes henbit is edible! Tomorrow when I get out into the garden again, you know what I’ll be sampling. Can’t believe I never thought of this before. 🙂

Advertisements

The Literal Windfall

Thursday morning was windy here in Austin. For a few hours, the winds averaged 20 miles per hour, and as I worked at the office I’d often stare out the window for a moment to watch trees swaying in the wind. I was mostly excited about the cooler weather that was on its way in, but when I got home Thursday evening something even more exciting happened. My back porch was sprinkled liberally with pecans! I greedily gathered as many as I could from the porch and surrounding yard and ended up with this large bowl of pecans before having to leave for other obligations.

img_20161021_114302
Pecans! Beautiful pecans!

There may be some undesirable pecans in that batch as I learned soon after by reading some pecan-gathering instructions from another windfall recipient. I’ll sort them out at some point, but in the meantime I gathered two more bowls full of pecans and have them all hanging out in an extra produce bag. Waiting a couple of weeks for them to cure will be difficult but so worth it.

I’m full of gratitude at the moment:

  • That the house we got earlier this year already had a couple of mature pecan trees. It had been a dream of mine but I was uneasy about the ten years or so that it would take for a newly planted pecan tree to start producing.
  • That some other folks for whom a yard littered with pecans would have just been a nuisance didn’t get this home. 😛
  • For being healthy enough to go outside and pick the pecans from the ground one by one without pain or too much effort.
  • For the extra exercise opportunity. My thighs may have been a tiny bit sore today, but it felt good.
  • That there are now more pecans at the farmers market. While I already had my bags full of good stuff today, next time some of those are sure to go home with me. Have to stock up while they’re in season!
  • And finally, for the cool weather that the wind helped bring in. It was in the 40’s this morning, which for Austin is true Texas weather. It won’t get that chilly again for a while, so the brisk air was savored while it lasted.

And that, my friends, is what a windfall is. 🙂

The Fall Garden Begins!

It may feel pretty hot again here in Austin, but there’s some hope that we’ll see a little relief not too long from now, like those couple of beautiful weeks that we saw last month where it was a pleasure to be outside. A few weeks ago I described the couple of garden beds I planted during that brief pleasurable time. But now I know that it’s time for fall gardening. And it’s all because of this.

IMG_20160903_145751-1
A carrot!

Normally carrots take forever to germinate. Sometimes it feels like they never will. But one of my Paris Market carrots has already poked its head out of the ground and is telling me that it’s time to go.

IMG_20160902_165659
The canary melon vines have come back to life
IMG_20160903_103938
The pumpkin vines are also in bloom

I’ve decided to use go without any soil amendments for the fall garden and see what happens. No compost (because none of mine is ready) and no purchased mulch (crumbled leaves and grass clippings will have to do). But some new seeds were a must. As far as my Buy Nothing New project, I count seeds as food and therefore allow myself to buy anything I reasonably believe I can use. Last weekend I visited Shoal Creek Nursery to stock up. Reading about soil health recently, I ended up getting a few different legumes to experiment with, as well as some buckwheat. (Ignore that the buckwheat package says it’s for sprouting. I’m gonna plant it!)

IMG_20160903_222540
I intended to buy carrot and onion seeds, but things happened.

I’ve resolved to plant one row or square of something every day. So far it’s been just cowpeas and snap peas, but I have a lot of back lawn left to plant.

IMG_20160831_183259
The area chosen for cowpeas turned out to be really rocky. I cleaned out some, but it’s a good thing I wasn’t planning to plant carrots there. It’ll need more work in the future.

This morning I discovered something else wonderous.

IMG_20160903_150052-1
Some of the cowpeas sprouted already!

So today my husband and I went back to the garden center to get some onion seeds and maybe a few more beans to get into the ground while there’s still time. Somehow, with earlier season seeds on sale at 75% off, I ended up with this…

IMG_20160903_143536
So many seeds!

At least I’ll have plenty of time to learn about some of these varieties before starting them out in the spring. Other than carrot seeds (because I love carrots) and perennials, that’ll be it for me this year. Including the carrot seeds I bought a couple of weeks ago, I’ve spent altogether just over $20 on seeds and don’t at all doubt that I can grow $20 worth of food with minimal additional input. Well, that’s it, time to get gardening!

And my apologies for all of the exclamation points in this post. I’ve been messing around in the garden regularly for a couple of years now, and this is the most variety of veggie life I’ve ever had thriving at once so it’s pretty awesome. 🙂

Eat Your Weeds – Purslane

IMG_20160822_181750-2
Fresh-picked purslane

I’m not an expert forager. The only plants that grow in my area which I know are edible are pecans, dandelions, and purslane. Edible pecans are super rare in my experience thus far. And I still haven’t eaten dandelions because I haven’t yet gotten past the fact that they’re dandelions. But purslane? It’s like a dream.

I was very careful the first few times, checking the smooth petals to make sure it was really purslane and not the poisonous spurge or some other unknown. Once reassured, I pulled off a leaf to try it out. Purslane tastes more like spinach than anything else, with just that little bit of tang in the crisp succulent leaves. Now it sticks out like a sore thumb whenever I pass a bunch, and if the area looks safe (not subject to chemical treatments, too much car exhaust, etc) I’ll grab a bunch and pluck off a few leaves at a time to drop into my mouth and savor during my walk.

Purslane is a true superfood, too. Iron. Magnesium. Omega 3 fatty acids. So many vitamins and other minerals. People have been eating purslane for thousands of years and praising its health benefits, so you know it can’t be all bad.

After discovering this bunch on the way home yesterday with lots of fresh growth probably due to the recent rains, I hurried over to my side yard where a few purslane plants were already growing. Unfortunately, they did not fare as well with the rain. A mold or some other disease got to them and they had started turning whitish at the edges. One side of the purslane patch still looked pretty happy, but upon further consideration I just left them. There’s plenty of other purslane. It grows all summer here, and summer isn’t over quite yet.

The August Garden

It’s 76° outside right now! A couple of days ago at this time it was a toasty 104°. Not only that, but there’s rain. It’s just been drizzling most of the time, but it still came out to an inch here yesterday and more is on its way.

That’s why this weekend I needed to throw as many seeds as possible into the moist garden beds to prepare for fall. If it gets too hot again (fairly likely), some of them won’t make it, but that’s a risk I have to take.

I bought a couple of packets of carrot seeds from Wheatsville while grocery shopping and pulled out a bunch of leftover seeds from this spring or last fall. Well, except for the turnip seeds which were intended for 2008 and which my mother found somewhere and decided I was the right recipient for.

IMG_20160813_124703
Seeds that went into the garden this week

So, without further ado, here’s my garden after living in this house for six months. The pics with all the wilted leaves are from Friday afternoon obviously, when the plants were trying to protect themselves from the heat.

Cucumber Variety Bed

This bed has not just a few cucumber seeds planted, but also nasturtiums, watermelon radishes, Jaune Du Doubs carrots, and a couple of broccoli. That may be too much to plant in this little bed, but I really wanted to get more things in the ground. And my experience with carrots is that they take many months to grow so they’ll probably wait to grow until I get rid of everything else.

IMG_20160813_112219
Future cucumber bed

The smaller cucumber bed that I prepared recently seems to be doing well enough. I’ll have to thin some out yet again. It’s always painful to see plants go in the compost, but it’s the recommended way for plants to have room to thrive.

IMG_20160813_112249
Baby cucumber plants, wilted in the summer sun

And right next to that, not worth it’s own topic is the yellow squash bed. More accurately, it’s the pile of dirt that I stuck some squash seeds into a couple of weeks ago when there was rain forecast. We’ll see whether or not I can still get a decent-sized squash from my yard.

IMG_20160813_112301
Yellow summer squash

Variety Bed #2

Unfortunately, the dirt in these new beds has dried up a bit since the summer harvest. I need to figure out how to start getting my mulch on. You can see a volunteer pumpkin vine growing in the corner of variety bed #2. This bed now has seeds for radishes, turnips, spinach, and a corner patch of lettuce.

IMG_20160813_112207
A place for vegetables

Melons

This is the same melon bed I’ve had all summer. Only now, I threw in a couple of seeds for Paris Market carrots because I read melons and carrots make fine companion plants and they should start really growing around the time I get those melons out of the way. That is, unless I have to tear up the whole bed to get the melons out.

IMG_20160813_112231
Melon vines still everywhere!

I tried looking very carefully for melons Friday and was surprised to discover what looks like an almost-ready cantaloupe. I’ll be keeping a close eye on that!

In the newer small canary melon bed, it looks like the plants are ready to be thinned again. There’s no telling if they’ll have time to produce this year.

IMG_20160813_112316
Canary melon vines

Lemons

Well, no, there aren’t any lemons yet. I planted this tree from a seed less than two years ago so there are still years to wait. But look how leafy and green it’s getting. I’m excited already. Do baby trees need to be pruned at all though? I’m wondering after seeing just how much it’s leaning after the rain.

IMG_20160814_090448
The Meyer Lemon tree at 21 months

Bell Pepper

No signs of any fruit, but it’s still hanging in there.

IMG_20160813_112347
Bell pepper wilting its leaves to avoid peak heat

Peas

Finally, I soaked and planted the peas from last spring and planted them in their own little plot. Unlike last spring’s peas, these will be in my own backyard so I can closely monitor them and pick them at perfect ripeness.

IMG_20160813_114527
The pea plot

The Garden After 5 Months

We’re well into July now and the Austin heat means that most days this month have hit the triple-digits. I have a definite tan line on my neck from spending hardly any time outside, and most of the veggies just can’t take the heat. But anyhow here are the highlights of the garden five months after moving in.

Previous months:

Cucumbers

Dead now. But my Straight Eights were producing all through June and even gave me a few in July before they all shrivelled up and were a pain to pull because the vines had entangled themselves with other veggies I planted too close together. I hope to see more in the fall garden, though.

Peppers

IMG_20160716_105945
Not even close to growing a bell pepper

The jalapeño pepper is still a tiny little thing and has no hope of growing anything this summer. The bell pepper looks leafy at least but there’s no telling if any of those will wind up in my skillet either.

Tomatoes

IMG_20160707_175203
Front yard tomato

The Roma tomato plant I added at the front of my house is just barely leafier than this now. It doesn’t help that I sometimes forget about watering plants that aren’t in the backyard garden. There’s one tomato on it but it’s kind of pathetic.

Of my two Romas planted earlier in the year in the backyard, I pulled one as soon as I got overwhelmed with / sick of tomatoes earlier this month. (I harvested at least 50, which for me is a ton.) The other was butchered mercilessly as I composted it limb by limb before getting tired of the heat and failing to finish the job. A couple of days ago I noticed a new tomato on that plant, it’s a survivor! It hasn’t even been watered all month.

Melons

Melons are amazing. They’re the one plant that still looks really happy with the summer heat.I’ve been watering them only once or twice a week.

IMG_20160716_110030
All kinds of melon leaves
IMG_20160716_111050
A baby watermelon that wasn’t meant to be

After a few cantaloupes and canary melons, I was excited about finally getting a watermelon. The excitement was short-lived as I soon after saw the growing melon slightly larger than a softball but covered with a huge brown spot on one side. I got that away from the vines as quick as possible, hoping another healthier melon takes its place. Will probably need to get soil tests done in the near future though.

IMG_20160716_110659
A new batch of canary melons has sprouted

Watermelons may take too long to grow but I have a good feeling about the canary melons. I created this new garden bed for another round and the baby vines are looking healthy. I’ve already thinned them out a few times, hoping to keep the most vigorous few plants.

IMG_20160723_071603
Yes, even smaller melons need support

One of the older canary melon vines crossed over into the former cucumber bed, giving me the first mid-air melon I’ve ever grown. Despite reading and watching much advice about giving your melons proper support, I decided to experiment and see if this melon could hold its own weight. As it turns out, it can’t. I took this photo yesterday morning and then in the afternoon it fell to the ground. Not fully ripe yet because it’s still a bit small and the skin isn’t textured yet, but as what might be the last homegrown melon of the season I’ll savor it as much as possible. (Still, fingers crossed that more melons emerge.)

Chance of Rain

After weeks of dry heat, there’s finally a chance of rain this week (with slightly lower temperatures). To take full advantage, I transplanted my puny little next batch of tomato seedlings outside, stuck some yellow squash seeds into a mound of dirt, and put some cucumber seeds in the ground along with some support. It may not be the best timing to plant any of these things, but with plenty of warmth and water and love, just maybe they’ll make it through. *fingers crossed*

A Visit to Zero Waste Grocery Store in.gredients

The Austin Zero Waste Lifestyle Meetup is all about getting people to try new zero waste activities, and getting food is definitely one of my favorite activies so I was excited to see this as an upcoming meetup. Today we met at the in.gredients grocery store, with the intention of learning more options about buying without packaging waste. Of course, this idea stemmed in part from a recent book club discussion with Josh Blaine, manager of in.gredients.

IMG_20160723_143134
Welcoming entrace to in.gredients, with seating for eating 🙂

As we settled in I checked out the grounds and was pleasantly surprised to find a Little Free Library.

IMG_20160723_135946
Bonus books at the grocery store

And then had a look around their on-site garden. Maybe one day mine will look similar.

IMG_20160723_143213
Groceries in the making

Inside the store, there was plenty of local food stuffs to make your mouth water. And they had bulk options for all the basics like flour and salt and chocolate-covered almonds, laundry detergent (no longer available at Wheatsville unfortunately), pet food, and even a soap log that you could cut your own bar of soap from.

IMG_20160723_141541
I still have enough soap for forever but really want to try this next time I need some

Since it was a Saturday afternoon, I was already stocked with groceries but tared one jar by the door for something special.

IMG_20160723_142719
Tare sticker. The only packaging waste I took home from this shop.

So, what did I get? They had samples of dragon fruit (so strange! yet delicious), which I was then sure my husband would want to try also. I managed to avoid the chocolate and grabbed some unsweetened coconut flakes to fill my jar. (Not a local option I’m sure, but they’ll come to good use.) Plus, I grabbed some long beans because they looked really good. I was already at the checkout when I spotted the package-free breads behind the register and took home a loaf of sourdough (in what was formerly a shoe bag).

IMG_20160723_142900
Groceries from in.gredients without waste packaging

Afterwards, the meetup organizer Melissa shared a bit of her kombucha, which was awesome for two reasons. One, because it was on tap and she was able to get it in her growler with no additional waste. And two, because in.gredients provides real cups to use when dining on-site. (They wash them of course.) This was my first taste of kombucha, and it struck me as tasting a lot like natural ginger ale. I may have to try more of that in the future also.

So all in all a successful meetup. And I’ll be back!

The Garden after 4 Months

Yay! Four months after moving in, I’m finally eating more food from the garden. For a short while anyhow. All of May was clouds, rain, and thunderstorms, even into the first week of June. The rain finally cleared a couple of weeks ago, but the plants didn’t get any opportunity to sunbathe without the heat. We’ve had highs in the 90’s almost every day since, and it’s not going to get cooler again for months. (Time to start planning the fall garden!)

Here’s the breakdown for all my food plants:

Tomatoes & onions

I was elated when the first green tomato that I picked and left on the dining table as an experiment actually started turning red after a week or two. Fortunately, after the heavy rains let up several of the tomatoes started turning red on the plant. Unfortunately, with the dry weather, several leaf-footed stink bugs took up residence. I saw some while they were still nymphs, but my collapsed tomato plants are kind of a big leafy mess to pick insects out of and most hid when they saw me coming. I’ve harvested a couple dozen of these tomatoes so far and will probably pick the rest tomorrow. Even if they’re still green, I want them for myself and not for the stinkbugs.

IMG_20160606_183358
Roma tomatoes visited by a leaf-footed stink bug

The onions around it never grew very large bulbs, but I’ve been harvesting a couple every week. They’re still full of good oniony flavor.

Cucumbers

I love cucumbers but had to give a couple away this week because they were all coming out at once. Like the tomatoes, they didn’t fruit until the rain stopped and we started getting sunny days. I’m not sure if these plants will make it much longer. That picture was taken just a couple of days ago, and in that time many more leaves have already started curling up and giving in to the summer heat. They probably would have produced more if I had planted them more upright so that I could more easily find the cucumbers at the right time instead of when they had swollen well past the diameter of large supermarket cukes. Lesson learned.

Melons

July should be melon month, so I’m trying to be patient but it’s hard. Every day I go out there to look at this tiny watermelon hoping it will have grown a lot, but I can’t really see any difference day-to-day. There’s one other similar looking melon that I’ve found also. Not sure if they’re from the Crimson Sweet seeds I planted or from one of the bastard melon seeds. I planted them all in the same area and the vines are completely intertwined now.

IMG_20160611_112528
Baby watermelon

I just saw this one for the first time a couple of days ago. It’s larger but was in hiding under the foliage. Looks like the cantaloupe seed I planted.

IMG_20160616_183344

Here’s hoping that there are others hidden away. 🙂 Also, I really hope a couple of canary melons come out this summer, but I’ll end up picking up a couple from Engel Farms at the farmers market anyhow.

Squash

I think my squash plants are dying already also. They’re certainly less vigorous now. Spoiled by the constant rain but then sudden heat. Even though the yellow squash here hasn’t grown full-size yet, I’ll probably pick it tomorrow to ensure I get some sort of harvest from this crop.

IMG_20160615_165722
Squash plants no longer vigorous

Scattered plants

I transplanted this bell pepper a few weeks ago now, and it looks pretty happy although there’s still a ways to go before it’s large enough to produce any fruit.

IMG_20160615_170104
Bell pepper

The lemon tree sapling that was starting to look good last month is looking even better now, but the other one is pretty dead. 😦

IMG_20160615_165555
Lemon tree – 1 year 8 months old

The tomato plant I recently transplanted into the front garden bed is starting to look pretty happy also.

IMG_20160616_182614
Tomato plant in the front yard

The jalapeno pepper that’s in another bed out front is still pretty small, but peppers are supposed to be able to stand up to the Texas heat so it probably still has plenty of time to grow. I obviously didn’t do a very good job of removing grass from this bed.

IMG_20160616_182550
Jalapeno Pepper

Not pictured here but yesterday I also stopped by my mom’s to pick some oregano and the garlic that I planted in the garden there last fall. I got five good sized bulbs with nice papery skins so they probably won’t need too long to finish curing. There are still a couple more to harvest, but I’ll do that next week when I go collect seeds from the lettuce plant that bolted a while back.

The Garden After 3 Months

It’s been a month since my last garden update, making it three months since we moved into this new home and started attempting to grow some food. It’s been storming a lot lately, so it’s great that the plants haven’t been damaged by the harsh weather. Plus with all the rain, I haven’t had to water much.

Lately I’ve also been reading articles and blog posts about people just starting their veggie garden now, and there’s always a brief moment where I think to myself “Wow, they must be crazy!” Living here in central Texas, the clock is already counting the days until the sun becomes insanely menacing and kills the garden for the summer. So without further ado, let’s get to business.

Squash Bed

IMG_20160518_165236
Yellow squash blooming

It was only about a month ago that I planted this found pallet with a bag of compost, yellow squash, and a couple of nasturtiums. There are plenty of leaves, I haven’t seen any insects yet, and I think that little guy at the bottom center of this picture may be the beginning of my first-ever homegrown squash.

Melon Bed

IMG_20160518_165307
Various melons and nasturtiums leafing out

I planted three varieties of melon in this bed–cantaloupe, canary melon, and watermelon–and expected them to be sprawling out of the bed more by now. But it’s okay, they may just be waiting for the warm weather that’s coming very soon.

You can see from this picture that my bright idea to use these hollow-frame doors for the garden beds turned out to be a rather poor idea. They’re not holding up to the weather as well as the plants are. Lesson learned: even with the best intentions upcycles sometimes quickly become downcycles.

Cucumber Bed

IMG_20160518_165323
Cucumber vines taking full advantage of the tomato cages
IMG_20160518_165427
An infant cucumber!
IMG_20160518_165408
Holey radish leaves

The cucumber plants look pretty healthy so far. They’re vining out everwhere and I’ve seen at least a couple of baby cucumbers. The radishes that were planted in the bed haven’t fared so well, but I didn’t expect much from them since they’re a cool season crop and were primarily here as a companion plant for the cucumbers. I did get to eat a few of the radish leaves before insects got to them, and the roots are pretty much non-existent.

Tomato Bed

IMG_20160515_174448
This is what happens when you grow tomatoes without support.
IMG_20160515_174625
Adolescent tomatoes

I’ve gradually been eating the onions from this bed. They’re not big-bulbed, but they’re still oniony and with plenty of greens. The tomato plants have been crowding them out anyway.

Speaking of tomatoes, I bet these two plants have a gazillion little tomatoes growing on them. I can’t bring myself to cut any of them off, so we’ll just have to wait and see if the plants have the strength to bring all of these babies to adulthood. I’m eager to try a truly fresh tomato for the first time.

The real star of the show in this bed, though, is the borage. I didn’t know what this was before this year, but it is beautiful. And surprisingly huge. The leaves are supposed to taste a bit like cucumber and they really do! A bit fuzzy, but you can either just deal with it or cook them so the fuzz texture goes away. I hear they’re also prolific self-seeders so there just might be even more borage in my future.

IMG_20160515_174524
Flowering borage
IMG_20160515_174542
Borage flower

Lemon Tree

IMG_20160515_174208
Meyer lemon at 1 year 6 months of age

My first Meyer lemon plant is still sprouting more leaves, so I think it’s going to make a come back. It’s still many, many years from fruiting though (if it ever does). Sadly, it looks like the other lemon plant didn’t make it. It maybe time to start a couple more, which means it’s lemonade time!

Front Yard

IMG_20160518_172144
Small transplanted Jalapeno and tomato plants with a couple of marigolds in between (and grass and weeds)
IMG_20160518_172130
Front bed in progress

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve started pulling some of the grass and weeds from the area by my house. My mom brought some rounded brick pavers she didn’t want anymore, which has blocked off a section of grass-free zone. I mulched lightly with some newspaper ads and planted some marigold and zinnia next to the couple of rosemary plants that I added almost immediately after moving in.

Digging up the beds a bit has unearthed tons of small stones, and I’ve already started on adding a row of these stones right next to the house, both for walking on and to keep bugs slightly further away from the structure.

Up front, I also transplanted a couple more tomato plants and a jalapeno plant. Not sure yet how well these will grow since they’re on the north side of the house, but any greenery up front will add to the curb appeal.

Coming Soon

IMG_20160515_173620
Lonely bell pepper infant

I have a large hollow brick so this weekend this little guy can go outside and be amongst friends. If there’s one thing I’ve learned gardening, it’s that plants hate being pampered and are most likely to thrive if you let them do their own thing. Maybe I’ll get better at gardening eventually, but why worry if they do just as well on their own.

IMG_20160515_173647
Rosemary babies

I’d read online that rosemary is very reluctant to start from seed, so I wasn’t expecting much. But they must have liked some of the warm weather we had when they were planted because these sprouted right up. Then again… we’ll see how long they survive.

Well, that’s it. There are so many other foods I wanted to plant, but I’m still a novice and shouldn’t get too far ahead of myself. As the storms ease up, I’ll need to be extra vigilant about insects who want my delicious veggies for themselves. No way, insects! They’re all mine!

Eating Less Meat

I was looking at the Extinction Facts campaign today, and no matter how many times I’ve heard it already, it always strikes me the amount of resources that go into meat.

SaveMoreWater

And the really sad part of it is that about 20% of the meat that gets to market doesn’t get eaten. A huge contributor to the following:

lake-waste

global-wasting

waste-land

At the start of the year, my husband I decided to drastically cut back on meat and dairy consumption for our health and for the planet. And so far, so good. It’s given us a chance to try new veggies, new fruits, new grains. He’s lost weight. I have more energy. And my favorite part is not having to deal with stinky meat wrappers.

Initially I thought this would just be temporary. I am, after all, a Texan and love some brisket. But amazingly it’s become normal now. We eat meat only a couple of times a week and even then in much smaller portions than previously. Sometimes our normal meals are something as simple as lentils and rice. Or we chop up a variety of veggies to go into our fried rice or vegetarian chili.

My husband is still generally sold on the concept of meat as part of every meal but is more than happy to get some tofu, chickpeas (which to him really do taste like chicken), black bean burgers, TVP (soy shaped like beef crumbles) much of the time. Surprisingly, he also loves the lentils and rice. I wish I had known that back when money was really tight!

If you’re a meat-eater, I’d encourage you to also try going vegan every once in a while and try new foods to see what you like and what you love. If that’s unthinkable, I encourage you to just take your leftovers to go at the restaurant. Even if that means taking home a foam clamshell. Eat them for lunch the next day, or reinvent them into a new food creation. If you buy meat at the supermarket and aren’t going to eat it right away, freeze it until you need it and put it in the fridge to thaw the day before to ensure it doesn’t go bad. And don’t ridicule you’re uncle Harry for gnawing on the chicken leg until every last bit of meat is gone; that’s the way to do it.

earths

With some simple changes, we can make less food go further. We can prevent meat waste and savor every delicious morsel. Apologies to the vegetarians out there, but I still find meat to be truly appetizing and appreciate it even more now that I don’t eat it every day.