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

 

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

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

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.

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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.

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The canary melon vines have come back to life
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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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. ūüôā