My Austin Garden In April

After an unseasonably warm winter, we’ve lucked out lately with some beautiful (not sweaty) weather lately. I’m doing my best to enjoy it while I can, and many of the plants are enjoying it as well. Even the fireflies are finally out again. Here’s a sampling of what’s been going on in my central Texas garden.

Cultivated Edibles

Only a few of my tomato seedlings and none of the eggplants survived. One thing I’ve learned this year is that cleaning the pots and using fresh potting soil really does result in healthier starts. Right now there’s one cherry tomato plant and one Roma tomato plant out in the yard, with one last seedling (started from a random tomato) still in the house.

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Cherry tomato starting to stretch out
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Roma tomato with a long ways to grow

The jalape√Īo pepper plants were eaten when transplanted outside. One my coworkers says that rats love them. I’ll bet the squirrels love them too. ūüė¶

At least one of the bell pepper plants is untouched, plus one more still inside.

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Bell pepper plant

The cucumbers and nasturtiums were planted in partial shade this year. Last year they looked really heat-stressed in full, full sun. Now that the trees have leafed out, though, I’m worried they may be in too much shade. Only time will tell.

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The fava bean plants which survived the winter have finally started producing pods.

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Fava pods at the base of one plant

I’ve planted random seeds all over the backyard. The bad thing about this is I always have to¬†be more careful where I step or I could squash a cherished seedling.¬†It’s also difficult to cut down the weeds while avoiding seedlings. That might explain the weedy situation of my backyard currently. But yesterday, I saw a dark sprout that I marvelled at recognizing it as a squash. Several sunflowers have sprung up, the beans are obvious, and many are a mystery.

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Butternut squash seedling
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Royal Burgundy beans

Sadly, I haven’t yet seen anything¬†that looks like a melon vine yet. It’s only the start of April, though, and I still have extra seeds to put out. I will have delicious melons this summer!

I finally pulled up some carrots in March. They were delicious even though there weren’t too many of them. A couple of dozen carrots from three packs of seeds is very unimpressive. I may have to¬†be a more attentive carrot gardener next year, because I really do love carrots.

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Paris Market and Scarlet Nantes carrots

I only got four corn plants from the whole pack of corn seeds. Maybe if I had watered more… nah. I’m probably not going to try corn again anytime soon.

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Corn, mulch, and a few not-corns

The cilantro is already flowering. I didn’t pick any because to me cilantro tastes like soap, but I’m hoping to harvest some coriander seeds before my current supply is exhausted. It’s one of my go-to herbs. Strange how that works.

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Cilantro en route to becoming coriander seed

Is the Fuyu persimmon tree dead? It still looks like just a stick in the ground.¬†The trouble with transplanting a dormant tree is that I have no way to gauge how healthy it is and if it there’s anything I can do to pamper it a little more. I did give it the scratch test, and there is a bit of green beneath the bark. I’ve also read in multiple places online that it can take months for a persimmon tree to come back after being transplanted. But I really really hope I don’t have to wait much longer.

Fortunately, the fig, kumquat, and citrus trees (meyer lemon and satsuma mandarin) are more visibly alive. The citrus leaves have some yellowing, but I’ve applied a little bit of nitrogen fertilizer and have been careful to water them only as needed. Most of¬†the other trees nearby have leafed out happily and the sea of green is mesmerizing. Even the pecan trees at long last have bits of green starting to extend from their branches.

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My new kumquat tree!
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Texas Everbearing fig still going strong
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Meyer lemon, surviving bug attacks

Landscape Plants

After months of patient waiting, the Bluebonnets are finally showing a bit of their namesake color. Unfortunately, grass and weeds are encroaching all around so they don’t get the full attention they deserve. Next year if I can get some started from seed, I’ll plant them out in the front yard bed.

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Bluebonnet plant finally in bloom

During my last stop at the nursery, I was looking at all the seed packets and finally decided to try some lemon grass. The envelope said “Germinates in 3-5 weeks” and I was prepared to practice some patience, but after just four days the first sprout appeared! Now must be the perfect time for it to germinate here, so I just started another couple of small containers today.

On the way home from the nursery last time, I came across this stalked bulbine, sadly abandoned on the sidewalk. This is a spreading perennial, so I’m delighted to add it to my garden.

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Stalked bulbine

It’s the perfect time for taking cuttings here in central Texas. …or so I’ve heard. I’ve never successfully rooted a cutting before. Anyhow, I took a few cuttings of my rosemary and salvias. Once I learn how to propagate these properly I’ll be able to grow a full yard of delightful plants. At the same time, the layering method is also being used to try to root branches¬†of these plants that I can transplant next year.

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Rosemary cutting time!

Sadly, the Esperanza also never came up. I’m going to take this as a sign that perhaps I shouldn’t try to plant things in January. The weather fluctuations between the 30s and 80s are probably too much for any reasonable plant to bear unless they already have a good foothold. Or maybe it’s just for advanced gardeners.

Wild Edibles Discovery

When I first saw the¬†wild onions in side yard, I thought they were the garlic chives sprouted from seed I scattered. Well, nope, the chives never showed. I’ve since seen the wild onions in other places around the neighborhood and even saw them mentioned on tv so I’m sure of the identification. I can’t seem to get a good picture of these, though.

Also, I knew wild blackberries live in some¬†places around town but I’ve never seen them firsthand. That explains why when I first snapped this picture I didn’t even consider it as an option until further explanation. Time to start cultivating the weeds!

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A wild blackberry perhaps?

… but I can sadly no longer recall where exactly¬†I took this picture and can’t find it anywhere. At least now I know better.

But the best discovery of all was the identification of one backyard tree as a Mulberry.¬†I don’t remember seeing any fruits last year, but maybe I wasn’t looking. Or maybe the squirrels got them as soon as they were ripe. This year my eyes will be open. This weekend I also made the fortuitous discovery of a tree with already-ripe mulberries not far away and they were amazing! I can hardly wait for the fruits on my own tree to ripen.

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Leaf and fruit sample from my tree. So the internet could tell me what it was.
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Ripe mulberries discovered in front of a house in the next neighborhood

 

Things I bought in March

March wasn’t so bad. I’ve enjoyed spending time in the garden rather than at the shops. I bought a couple of items from my wishlist and bought fewer plants than in February, but¬†did acquire¬†more free stuff than expected. And my wishlist is getting longer with big ticket home improvement purchases coming up. Maybe someday we’ll get a boarder for the extra bedroom so at least these costs wouldn’t be for just the two of us.

Check out previous lists from January and February.

Plants

The days¬†have already been starting to feel hot, so my plant purchases are finally dwindling down a bit. (Maybe next month they won’t require they’re own category?) I did buy yet another citrus tree as a splurge purchase. After all, the kumquat is¬†the one tree that I really wanted to buy but hadn’t been available in the nurseries every other time I checked. Other than that, just a couple of small potted plants and a couple of seed packs. Unfortunately,¬†I’m almost out of seed starting mix (it goes fast once you realize that using fresh mix every time really does prevent damping off) and may have to get some next month.

  • Meiwa Kumquat tree – yay! kumquats!
  • Chili pequin – because what could be better than a perennial pepper plant
  • English thyme – to see how well it spreads for groundcover potential
  • Lemon balm seed (already sprouted)
  • Lemon grass seed (sprouted in under a week¬†although the pack said 3 to 5 weeks) – because lemon grass is reputed¬†to repel mosquitoes
  • Succulent pieces (orphaned pieces that I hope to propagate into full plants)
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How could I resist?

Not New Stuff

Wow, this list is fairly long this month. I went to Goodwill and found exactly what I was looking for early in the month, but the other things just happened.

  • Rain boots – I now have no fear when trolloping around the poison ivy-infested side yard (from Goodwill).
  • Mini-blinds for the front¬†window for extra privacy. These were kind of new but I found¬†them at Goodwill so close enough.
  • 3 Shirts ‚ÄstSwapping out shirts I like less at the¬†Really, Really Free Market. I know it’s meant to be free stuff but I participate like it’s a swapping party.
  • Patio chairs ‚Äď I didn’t even ask for these but my mom dropped off a couple of old patio chairs one morning. They’ve actually been quiet convenient as a sort of shelf in the garden.
  • Plants¬†‚Äď I’ve been doing some research online, and of the plants already in my yard, I may just have wild onions, wild blackberries, wild Muscadine grape vines,¬†and a Mulberry tree. I’ll definitely¬†be paying close attention to see if my identifications are correct!
  • Soil – From a neighbor doing some landscaping.
  • Mulch – well, grass clippings and leaves collected from sidewalks, as well as a few lawn bags set out on the street that I furtively made off with.
  • A book – one of the other book club members gave me an extra copy of the book for next month, so I don’t even need to wait for it at the library.

New Stuff

  • Lawn bags¬†‚ÄstI’m not sure if these count because I bought them at my mom’s request (I don’t count the tons of stuff my husband chooses to buy), but I did buy them before helping her rake up some oak leaves in early March. (My mom’s composts¬†many things but the oak leaves just don’t seem to be breaking down.)
  • Line for the weed eater – The lawn (and weeds) that are already wide awake. My husband is happy to help out as long as it gets a clean trim, so weed eater it is.
  • Toilet paper

Things I didn’t buy

  • More tomato seeds – Even though I have only two tomato plants that survived this year, it’s already getting hot out and may be late for Spring planting. I may consider starting fresh tomato plants for the fall garden, though.
  • Machete – I was looking at these on Etsy but it’s too soon to determine if it’s worth purchasing. It’s on my wishlist below though.
  • Fast food –¬†I gave up fast food for Lent as well as eating out in general for the most part, but I’m ready to have pizza again. ūüėõ
  • Seed starting containers – In addition to the plant pots I’ve saved from previous nursery visits, working in an office means I have access to plenty of food to-go containers. It’s not hard to find on the perfect size and even with an already vented lid.
  • Esperanza – The one I bought last year is definitely dead, but I’m going to¬†give seed starting another try for this one. There are plenty of Esperanza bushes in the neighborhood to grab a few seeds from later this year.

Wishlist

Super long wishlist too! Fortunately, I know I won’t be indulging in all of these things in April.

  • A new roof! I finally got around to mucking out the gutters, and those shingles don’t look like they’re protecting our home that much anymore. Time to start checking out the roofers in this area. My goal is to get this done in the next month if possible.
  • Rain catchment system — gutters around the rest of the house and rain tanks. This is less about saving water than it is about saving my soil and preventing further erosion. (This has always been part of the post-new-roof master plan, but now it feels close enough to put on the list.)
  • Machete – My favorite lawn tool so far is definitely my scythe. It’s one of the most effective tools, the easiest, and hardly requires any storage space. With no lack of weeds, I’ve been considering a machete, grass hook, or other implement for the smaller spaces where I just can’t control a scythe with enough precision.
  • New tub? I’ve sealed up the crack again for now and caulked around the edges since the roof is first, but someday…
  • Bricks/pavers ‚Äď Am still collecting the rogue brick for use in the garden whenever I come across it.
  • Seed starting mix – As I mentioned above, I’m almost out and I’m trying to reduce how many seeds I’m starting inside¬†but will probably need more before long.

The Garden in March

There have already been several days in the 80s this year, so you know it’ll be just moments before the unbearable heat of summer hits us here in central Texas. March may be the best time to be out in the garden, so here’s a quick pictorial of what’s in my Austin backyard garden right now. Apologies for an exceptional amount of blur on some of the photos. The mosquitoes are already out, and I had to keep moving to keep them away.

Veggies

Some of the swiss chard that I planted a month ago in unamended soil has finally sprouted. We’ll see how well that grows.

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Swiss chard has finally sprouted

One of my coworkers shared some extra beans. I soaked them overnight before planting and they started sprouting within a few days. Beans seem to grow so well¬†here in Austin, and I’m looking forward to getting my cowpeas in the ground soon.

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Purple garden beans

A couple more spinach plants are starting to come up. These have grown way more slowly than I expected, though, and I’ve only had a few leaves most weeks. Next year I’ll try planting more.

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Spinach

The garlic looks pretty healthy. I have about 20 of these scattered around the garden.

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Garlic

Radishes haven’t turned out that great for me previously, so I’ve gotten lazy recently and just scattered seed on top of the soil. Still, there are some nice little plants forming which I can either use for radish greens or let them go to seed. I read you need quite a few radish plants for them to be pollinated correctly, so I may just let the radish bunches all go to seed.

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Radishes coming in

The one broccoli plant that grew has already bolted without producing any florets.¬†Next season I’ll try collard greens instead since I’ve seen those grow well in other gardens in the area.

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Broccoli in bloom

You can just make the edges of carrot fronds in these pics. The number is really disappointing considering I scattered three packets of carrot seeds this year. Next season will require some strategy because I love carrots.

I only have a handful of onion plants that grew from seed (planted in October), but¬†I have confidence that these are the toughest ones and they’ll grow into delicious onions.

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An onion grown from seed

Most of the onion transplants that I bought last month are doing alright. This picture is from a few days ago. I actually did weed and mulch a bit around them today. I just hope the rain stops knocking them over before they can put out some better roots.

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Onion transplants

The fava beans have grown tall and have sweet¬†white flowers on them. They’ve been covered with unidentified tiny dark insects much of the time, but then ladybugs came and enjoyed chowing down so I left them as is.

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Fava bean plant

The cilantro is doing well. If I actually liked cilantro (it tastes like soap!) I’d be using it already, unlike almost everything else in the garden.¬†I will pick a bit for my husband to enjoy, but really I’m growing it for the (coriander) seeds which is great seasoning for soups, pasta sauce, and many other things.

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Cilantro

Also of note is the garlic chives, which didn’t grow anywhere I planted them in my garden but¬†did grow from the few seeds I scattered in the side yard by the creek. If they survive until the fall, I’ll transplant a few for convenience.

Also not pictured is the cherry tomato plant–the one tomato plant I grew that hasn’t¬†died on me while still¬†a seedling. The plant is still fairly small though, and the tomato I took the seeds from was possibly a hybrid so there’s no telling how it will produce.

Indoors the only plants alive at the moment are a couple of eggplant sprouts, a couple of bell pepper sprouts, and a few tomato sprouts that just this afternoon poked up from the dirt.

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Eggplant

I’m tired of seeing seedlings die but may get some more Roma tomato seeds anyway as I really want to make and freeze some more tomato paste this year.

Perennials

The Mexican Mint Marigold is coming back to life after its winter slumber. This area also got the weeding and mulching treatment today so it looks a bit better than this now.

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Mexican Mint Marigold

The Mexican Honeysuckle looks almost exactly like it looked when I planted it a month ago. I was hoping it would grow into a small shrub. Maybe as the weather continues to get warmer.

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Mexican honeysuckle

 

Not pictured are the spearmint, a couple of rosemary plants, oregano, a couple of salvias, and a lavender. My trials of santolini, dichondra, and sedum also aren’t pictured because they still look exactly like they did when planted recently. Grow, plants, grow, come on!

In sad news, the lemon balm¬†didn’t survive my attempt to keep it as a houseplant. The chile pequin and lemon verbena which I planted late last year also appear not to have survived the winter, but I’ll keep checking.

The esperanza that I recently bought and planted is also not yet showing signs of life, while other estabilished esperanza plants in the neighborhood have. Hoping mine is just still putting down roots and will give some green soon.

Trees

This year has been a big one for fruit trees. I’ve acquired a persimmon tree, which is still dormant and still looks like just a stick in the ground, but persimmons are known to require some patience.

I transplanted my two-year-old Meyer lemon also. Some of the leaves are starting to yellow, but that’s either due to too much rain or not enough of specific nutrients that I can’t feed it with well while it’s getting so much rain. It had better hang in there until the dry season starts so I can give it more targeted attention.

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Meyer lemon tree

If that fails, I have another baby Meyer lemon tree inside that just needs a bit more time to grow big and strong .

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Baby Meyer lemon tree

The satsuma mandarin has the same yellowing leaves as the Meyer lemon. But it’s a survivor, I can feel it.

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Satsuma mandarin tree

Finally, there’s the fig tree which is the most promising so far.

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Fig tree, already leafing out since I brought it home a few weeks ago

In less fruity news, there are also four baby Texas Mountain Laurel trees growing strongly in the front yard.¬†Although just a couple of inches high now, they’ll keep growing slowly and in a couple of¬†years become beautiful little shrubs. And someday, graceful small trees.

Bonus

As a final bonus, we just discovered these growing in the side yard by the creek. From showing this pic around to coworkers, it sounds like they may be daffodils! They’re doing so well on their own that I’ll just let them be for a while longer.

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Daffodils?

Bonus #2

But¬†what’s this growing in a neglected part of the yard? Ugh, I don’t know how I can ever get rid of all this stuff.

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Poison ivy and Virginia creeper

Things I bought in February

I managed to stay away from the thrift shops all of February, so this shouldn’t be as long a list as last month.

However, one of the things I noticed was that last month I was eating out regularly — three or even four times a week. It’s hard to resist. Therefore, I’m giving up eating out for lent. All the food I purchase will be basics (maybe a jar or two of spaghetti sauce in there though), and I’ll be doing more cooking next month. That should get me back on the right track.

Plants

My plant-buying spree continued this month–a couple of fruit trees, some onion transplants, and a handful of small (perennial) plants to experiment with and see what grows well/easily here (I’m hoping for some of these to expand quite a bit). Fortunately, it’s already getting fairly warm out, with highs frequently in the 80s, so from this point out it’s mostly about keeping these alive. No more plant spurges until fall.

  • Fig tree, Texas Everlasting
  • Autumn Sage
  • Onion transplants
  • Mexican honeysuckle
  • Satsuma mandarin tree
  • Santolini
  • Dichondra
  • Sedum
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Fig tree, already leafing out since I brought it home a few weeks ago

Not New Stuff

Toward the end of the month, I stopped at the Really, Really Free Market again to drop off a few items and scored some great finds.

  • Shirt – I’m slowly refining my style, replacing one shirt at a time.
  • Pair of jeans – Not needed yet, but I’ll stash these as a backup pair. They’ll need hemming before I wear them anyhow.
  • Couple of bras – This is the first time I’ve found a bra secondhand which actually fits well, and there were two of them. So excited! Don’t worry, I did wash them.
  • Lentils & spices – Another rare find. Someone apparently cleaned out their panty, and I grabbed what I expected to use. Very glad to get some marjoram as I’m out of oregano, and marjoram will do in a pinch.
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Lentils and spices from the RRFM

New Stuff

  • Kitchen lights –¬†These are the long tubes and I’d like to switch to smaller LED lights at some point but that can wait a while longer
  • Bar soap
  • Toilet paper
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One of the two dead lights replaced in the kitchen

Things I didn’t buy

  • A new mailbox – Early in the month ours was hit by a car and it doesn’t quite close properly anymore. But after being re-erected, it’s functioning well enough.
  • Mulch – I can always use more mulch, but I stole a couple of leaf bags and an xmas tree left on the curb on lawn-waste pickup day. We’re rich with organic matter now.
  • Even more plants – Yes, I¬†could have gone much further.
  • A new umbrella – I left my umbrella one day and got rained on slightly. It wasn’t horrible.
  • Shampoo – I’ve been doing water-only hair washing for several months now and am never going back.

Wishlist

There are a few new items on the wishlist. I may be hitting the thrift stores in March for those first two.

  • Rain boots or other tall sturdy boots for gardening by the creek, now that the poison ivy is starting to spring¬†back to life.
  • Mini-blinds for the dining room window, for more privacy than the current curtains offer. (We’re right on street with high pedestrian traffic to look in.)
  • Fresh¬†tomato seeds if I keep killing off my tomato attempts ūüė¶
  • New tub? I don’t know who invented these cheap plastic tub-like shells. Not sure if this one can be saved.
  • Bricks/pavers – This one is difficult to score second-hand without a car, but I’ve been very slowly collecting the rogue abandoned brick for the garden and would like to pick up the pace a bit.

The Not New Rain Gauge

As a kid, an occasional chore I had was to water the plants. I never wanted to, so I never had to be told to¬†not water the plants. But now after getting into gardening a bit myself, that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn. That you can kill plants by overwatering them!

For a while, I wanted a really nifty rain gauge that would tell me exactly how much it had rained. After joining the Buy Nothing New project, I considered making one myself. It would just take a cup, a ruler, and a permanent marker to get my beautiful rain measurements.

But finally it dawned on me that I was still overcomplicating things. I threw a spare bowl outside and it now sits there¬†waiting for rain. Sometimes it rains and then the sun comes out, and by the time I look at the bowl it’s empty or with only a few drops clinging on. No matter¬†whether it was just a light rain or if the sun dried it quickly, it simply doesn’t count as a watering for my plants.

But today, oh, today. There was only some light drizzle when I woke up. I was disappointed that the forecasted rain had failed me again and most of the plants were likely still thirsty. Yet when I got outside the water gauge was full! This meant I could just leisurely stroll around the yard and admire the plants that were growing themselves. No need to even stick my finger in the dirt to check the moisture level. The plants will have their fill for at least a couple more days.

My rain gauge is perfect because I can read it even from the bedroom window, because it’s more durable than the flimsy plastic one I would have otherwise bought, and because once the neighborhood cat curled up inside the dry warm bowl for a nap. You’ll never see¬†that with a store-bought rain gauge. ūüôā

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The water gauge today reads “Don’t water the plants!”

Plant a Tree

After a week full of negative thoughts flooding my head, I wanted to do something positive. So I selected a location with plenty of sun, not too close to the house, not too far from the faucet, and with decent soil (almost no rocks found during exploratory digging). And soon my baby (2 year old) Meyer lemon tree had a new home, free from the plastic pot that had contained it for this past year. I made a ring of random bricks from around the yard, and then filled it slightly with a mulch of crumpled leaves and pine needles.

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Molly at 2 years 2 months

This plant is a survivor. After living the first year of its life cooped up inside, I had finally gotten the idea that it might like hanging out outside. Sure enough, being indoors must have been torture and this baby tree was finally able to stretch her wings and let her spirit soar after experiencing the warm sun directly and feeling the breeze rustling through her leaves. After a year outside, it was time to give her a permanent home in the garden where she is guaranteed plenty of room for future growth, both above and below ground.

And for her spiritual growth, I needed to find some companions. Today I had the day off work to go visit The Natural Gardener and do just that. I picked up a “Golden Bells” Esperanza shrub (after previous failed attempts to grow it from seed) and a Fuyu persimmon tree. A kumquat would have made a great companion but it’s apparently not kumquat planting time.

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Persimmon tree… or stick in the ground?

Yes,¬†it doesn’t look like much right now (as a bus rider I chose the smallest one available),¬†but it will grow. Fuyu persimmon trees grow up to 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It has a long taproot and is now situated in what looks like some fairly decent soil. All it needs is a few bricks or something around it to keep it cozy and maybe a bit of fertilizer once I’m sure there won’t be any more hard frosts. Lou here will grow up to be a behemoth and someday will provide us with lots of delicious fruits to boot.

It may seem like a small thing, but planting these two trees in the yard has made me feel a lot better. I’m looking forward to the future now, as these young plants¬†continue to grow and as more trees and shrubs join them in the future. I know the future will be a beautiful place.

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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Low-growing lavender

Salvia

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

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Salvia Greggii

Dwarf Buford Holly

Same for this shrub.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. ūüôā

Happy Texas Arbor Day!

texas-arbor-day

The national Arbor Day may be celebrated in the Spring, but here in Texas it’s celebrated the first Friday in November. This is because rather than worries about continuous freezing weather, here most trees need as much time as possible to grow strong before the intense summer heat.

I’m not sure if I even need to say this, but trees are awesome!

  • Trees sequester carbon and produce oxygen for cleaner air.
  • Shade from trees can keep your home cooler.
  • Shade from trees can make spending time outside in the summer bearable.
  • Tree windbreaks can reduce heating expenses during the winter.
  • Trees provide habitat for birds and other creatures.
  • Tree roots bind soil to prevent erosion.
  • The roots also filter water that is absorbed through the ground to replenish aquifers.
  • The tree canopy holds a lot of rain that never gets to the ground and helps with the flash flooding we regularly see here in Austin.
  • Deciduous trees drop their leaves, which make great mulch or compost.
  • Trees are beautiful. I’ve read that extra greenery can even reduce crime rates.

Sadly I’m not planting any trees soon. I do have some empty space on my lawn that could use it, but I want a kumquat for my next tree and citrus is best planted in Spring. Have you been thinking of planting trees soon? If you’re in Austin, TreeFolks even gives away some saplings and small trees throughout the season. Check their site for giveaway events.

However, I’m not doing nothing. I would love to watch a tree grow to mature size from seed and have been patiently waiting to see if my peach, plum, or persimmon seeds will sprout. They seeds were taken from delicious local fruits, so there’s hope that they may thrive here. The pomegranate sprouted earlier but is getting droopy and probably won’t make it. ūüė¶

On the bright side, I grabbed some seed from Texas Mountain Laurels (TML) in the area and my first attempt (planted September 30) is looking promising.

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my Texas Mountain Laurel at one month

TML is a slow-grower so it’ll be many years before it gets to full tree size. But I’ve seen them shrub-sized and that looks lovely also. I hear they are covered with beautiful purple blossoms earlier in the year, will have to look out for that next year! How did I never pay attention to this before?

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Medium-sized Texas Mountain Laurel near my office

This week to make sure that I at least have multiple chickens in my basket, I planted two more little pots with TML and am anxiously waiting for them to sprout. On the next Texas Arbor Day maybe they’ll find their home outside. ūüôā

Buy Nothing New Month 2016 completed!

October is over, and with that Buy Nothing New Month has come to a close. I’ve been working towards not buying anything¬†for a couple of years now, so there’s not much difference between this month and any other but it did turn out to be a slow month in goods needed for the house (other than the plants, of course). So without further ado, here are the non-food items that I purchased in October.

Plants

They’re new, but I had an explicit exception at the start of the month because October is the perfect time to plant perennials in central Texas. I have a huge, mostly empty yard now but if I keep getting a handful of perennials each year and learn how to propogate them so they multiply, well, eventually¬†it’ll be full of life¬†and beautiful. My plant finds from the nearby nursery include:

  • two lavender plants
  • a foxtail fern just because they’re so cute
  • a Mexican mint marigold (smells delicious to me, horrible to mosquitoes)
  • a variety of salvia greggi
  • a lemon verbena plant which smells divine but was getting a bit straggly¬†in the¬†clearance section
  • a chile pequin, also straggly-looking, also from the¬†clearance section, probably would have been tossed¬†without my intervention
  • pack of carrot seeds for my mom’s garden

A Mirror

One weekend while browsing Goodwill, my husband and I found a nice mirror with keyhooks to put by our front entryway. I also found what looked like a great light jacket but it turned out¬†to be¬†slightly too large when I tried¬†it on. I don’t really¬†need another light jacket right now, so I returned that one to the racks and will wait to find one I truly love.

Shirts

Not sure if I should even mention this because they’re not only not new, I didn’t even buy them.¬†Anyhow,¬†I stopped by the Really, Really Free Market this month and found a few shirts that I¬†wanted to try out. Two immediately got placed back in the bag to return next time after I got home and tried them on, but I have a couple which are likely winners. If I don’t love them after wearing them once, they’ll also go straight back. I also picked up a couple of random pillowcases to use as wraps for Christmas gifts.

Books

Speaking of Christmas gifts, I arrived at¬†Recycled Reads¬†early for book club this month to search for some second-hand finds to give to family. For most of them, I have no idea what they would really enjoy getting for Christmas, but there’s a common expectation to get¬†something. This trip found me presents for four people for the hefty sum of $4. Some of them may appreciate also getting the cash that I¬†could have spent on something that would wind up in the trash quicker; so for them I’ll be sure to slip in a special bookmark. They might use it to buy new crap, but at least in those cases it’ll be new crap with a higher likelihood of making them happy.

Toilet Paper

I’ve given up on most disposable products but, nope, not this. Does it count as not-new if it’s made from recycled paper? ūüėõ

That’s everything. I’ll have to declare this Buy Nothing New Month a resounding success!

Buy Nothing Day is November 25th

If you missed BNNM and want to participate, don’t feel like it’s a requirement¬†to do so only in October. My first time I missed it and did my own BNN month in November. And even if you’re not interested enough for a whole month, I strongly encourage you to participate in Buy Nothing Day this November 25th (a.k.a. Black Friday).

I have a colleague¬†whose post-Thanksgiving tradition is to stay home, watch the news reports and laugh at the people who get trampled in the Black Friday stampedes when the stores open. Now, I’m not encouraging anyone to laugh at folks who are getting hurt, but I do advocate staying home, staying safe, and avoiding the stress, the crowds, the long lines of Black Friday. What do you say? Do you thrive on shopping or are you ready to give your wallet a break?

Celebrate Buy Nothing Day - November 25, 2016
This year it’s November 25, 2016

 

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween folks! I didn’t do any decorating, but apparently a spider¬†around my house celebrates the holiday and spun up this beauty¬†by the back door for me to marvel at yesterday. They’ve never built a web there before, so I know it’s the Halloween spirit.

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large web but no spider in sight…

I haven’t gotten any candy to give out this year. I just couldn’t stand the thought of handing out individually-wrapped, tooth-decaying sugar bombs to little children, so I’m likely going to keep the lights off and pretend I’m not home. Does this make me a horrible person? Maybe. I’ve got to figure out something for next year.

On the bright side, I made a tiny harvest from my garden for the first time in weeks. The jalape√Īo first appeared a few weeks ago as I was doing some weeding and was shocked to realize the jalape√Īo plant that I had taken for dead was actually alive and produced this bite-sized offering.¬†Most of my Mississippi Silver cowpea plants now have pods on them, so I picked a few to sample. I never had southern peas before and was pleased that after boiling them they didn’t taste excessively bean-y. They were probably a bit immature still as they’re a¬†crowder variety and didn’t look all that crowded in the pod yet. I’m hoping that when they mature a bit more they’re also easier to shell, yeesh!

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Young cowpeas (Mississippi Silver) and a tiny jalape√Īo

Well, that’s all. Have a spooktacular day!