Tag Archives: gardening in Texas

Frustration in the Garden

24 Apr

It’s been a very busy past two weeks. After a weekend in Houston and a weekend in Oklahoma–meaning very little time spent in the garden–and a few rain showers, the garden was a mess. It’s taken us two full weekends of work to get it back in shape. It’s been a frustrating two weeks.

If I haven’t said it before, gardening is backbreaking work. I run 20-30 miles per week, walk around 10 miles a week, and do yoga almost daily, but nothing makes me more sore than squatting, bending over, and digging and hoeing in the garden.

The arugula is blooming--and thriving

The first weekend of garden reconstruction we did nothing but pull up weeds and grass. The grass has been unrelenting. We had an extremely mild winter and above average rainfall this spring, and the weeds have also been ferocious.

In addition, the bugs are out of control. We had some pest problems last year, but nothing like this. Something has ravaged the okra seedlings, chewing off half of each leaf. A few flower plants in the front garden have also been decimated, all their blossoms completely eaten off at the stalk and the leaves chomped up. It happened overnight, and I have yet to actually see what it is that’s eating everything.

Michael's pride and joy

Last week we had our first small zucchini appear on one of the plants. I have six zucchini plants with multiple blooms, but only one was actually producing a fruit. I checked on it one morning, and in the afternoon Michael asked if I had seen that something had taken a bite out of it. Sure enough, you could see a groove where two teeth had taken a bite. Four days later I noticed the same plant was wilted, and when I checked on it the entire plant had been sawed off in two.

Argh.

I’m going to make a guess that it’s cutworms doing the damage and put a ring of aluminum foil around the base of the plants.

After Michael inadvertently stepped on the two largest, healthiest okra plants, we moved the remaining poor half-eaten seedlings to another area of the garden to receive more sunlight. They look pretty distressed by the move, and the fact that their leaves are half eaten, but I have faith they’ll bounce back.

Could anything look more sad than this transplanted, munched up okra seedling?

Michael also transplanted all his pepper seedlings into the garden. We have one empty row of garden space left, to be filled with something that hasn’t been determined yet.

The tomato plants are tall and healthy and . . . barren. So far. None of the previous blossoms produced any fruit. Again, this was not a problem I faced last year. There are new flowers now, so hopefully some of them will produce tomatoes.

On top of all this, there’s a rogue chicken who has been roaming the neighborhood. I can’t help but wonder if the chicken is the culprit, especially in the front garden and the decimated flowers. And remember, we live a mile from the heart of downtown Dallas, so it’s not common at all to see chickens strutting around your front yard. And it’s not your average, run of the mill chicken either, it’s an ostentatious black and white speckled chicken that’s showy and noisy.

If I ever hear that chicken clucking in my front flower garden, all bets are off . . .

It’s only April and I’ve already had my first mosquito bite, but on a good note the fireflies have started to come out in the evenings. It’s strange, because I remember fireflies being a late summer treat from childhood. Fireflies in April already?

We do have one huge success: we’ve already had our first harvest of green beans. Other than lettuce, I can’t think of anything easier to grow than bush green beans. They’re like the gift that keeps on giving.

As for my front flower garden, it is thriving. It looks lovelier than it ever has. Last year I planted three delphinium plants. All three grew, but did not produce flowers. This spring the plants are HUGE and all three have big, beautiful stalks full of flowers. Best of all, the flowers are three different colors: white,  red, and pink. These things have quadrupled since last summer, and I’m pretty sure they will take over the entire flowerbed if I don’t stay on top of them.

I used to see these flowers when I lived in Switzerland. They didn’t bloom there until late July.

Seeds sown this past weekend: poppies and giant sunflowers, lettuce, and basil. Keep your fingers crossed.

Hopefully things will start taking off in the vegetable garden soon and the frustrations will end. I’ll be in Portland, OR next week running a half-marathon and visiting my daughter, and I’m expecting the garden to be a cornucopia of good eats when I return.

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Surviving the Weather

6 Apr

Between last week’s temperatures hovering around 90 degrees and this week’s scary outbreak of numerous tornadoes, our garden has already been through a lot–and it’s only the first week of April.

Gardening in Texas certainly has its challenges.

Green beans are ready to blossom

Thankfully, we didn’t get hit by any of the 15 or so tornadoes that touched down in the Metroplex, but we did get pounded by a deluge of rain and some serious lightning. We were also lucky enough to escape the baseball sized hail that hit other areas.

Tuesday was an experience unlike any other I’ve ever had. It was scary, surreal, and a harsh reminder that Mother Nature is always in charge.

I don’t know if it’s a result of the storms, but the tomato blossoms I photographed last week have all fallen off, with the exception of two. This same thing happened early in the spring last year, and I think it’s mainly the result of the high temps and humidity we’ve had these past two weeks. Hopefully, with more reasonable temps expected this week, we’ll get more blossoms and fruit will set.

Have I said that gardening in Texas has its challenges?

Our first bell pepper

One more okra seedling has made an appearance, which brings us to a total of nine plants.

And the mystery seedlings? Two are definitely zucchini, and they are thriving. The other plant, which was blown over in the storm but not killed, is still unknown.

No mystery here: the mystery seedling is most definitely a zucchini plant

I’ve pulled up most of our winter lettuce, which has now shot up to waist height. About six lettuce plants were snapped in half by the high winds from the storms the other day. Better the lettuce than our trees. I’m pulling up about six plants a day, cutting off the top leaves for salad, and pulling the bottom leaves and cutting up the stalks for the compost bin.

I hope to plant some of my new varieties of lettuce this weekend.

The Brussels sprouts haven’t handled the heat well at all, and the small sprouts hidden under the leaves have grown too quickly and opened up. It was a good learning experience for us, and maybe we’ll try again in the fall.

All in all, we have much to be thankful for this week, when so many people lost their homes in the tornadoes. While gardening in Texas does have its challenges, at least our little patch of dirt is still in one piece.

(Just in case you missed it above, my post about the tornadoes: In Dallas, April Showers Bring . . . TORNADOES)

Our Urban Garden,Year 2: The Texas Miracle

15 Mar

After The Winter that Wasn’t, we started our garden early this year. Year 2 of our small, urban garden is well on its way to producing a bounty of wonderful eats. Let’s hope it isn’t as hot as last summer. I consider it a Texas Miracle when anything grows during the summer months, let alone vegetables.

This past winter we grew broccoli, spinach, arugula, brussels sprouts, and lettuce. Our loose leaf lettuce grew all winter long, and now that it’s warm we are drowning in the greens.

A small portion of the lettuce we grew this winter

We weren’t quick enough on harvesting some of the broccoli before it bloomed, but it’s attracted tons of bees–which is a very good thing.

I had no idea broccoli made such pretty flowers

Last year we mostly transplanted vegetables we bought from a local nursery. This year we’ve decided to live life on the edge and start from seed.

We planted: carrots, green beans, peas, okra, and peppers. The carrots and peas have sprung, the green beans as well (though some of the seedlings look like they’ve been chewed on), and the peppers are coming along nicely.

One of our first green bean plants to sprout

Tiny tendril on the peas

Then there’s the okra . . . Last year we bought five okra plants and they thrived in our Summer That Never Ended. I ate okra at least once a week up through October. It’s a good thing I love okra, because Michael, sweet Yankee that he is, can’t stand the stuff.

It looks like we may have only one okra plant that’s sprouted so far. Disappointing, but we can always buy some plants if need be.

Our only okra plant to sprout

Ever the optimist, Michael thinks we can grow strawberries here. He feels the same way about homegrown strawberries as I do about tomatoes: ain’t nothin’ better. His strawberries got off to a rough start last summer. After surviving the hottest, longest summer on record, the dogs pretty much trampled them to death.

This year we have a dog fence and seven surviving strawberry plants. Six have flowers and small berries, and the other has new leaves. I can’t believe how many berries have appeared!

An ever so slight blush of red on our first strawberries

This year I want to be a little more proactive against pests and get rid of them before they become a problem (and I’m not talking about the neighbors or dogs). And I want to keep everything organic.

I also want to plant some zucchini. Last year we planted three plants, which quickly took over the entire garden and produced enough food to feed the entire street. Inexplicably, all three plants developed a blight or bug and died within three days. I mourned, but Michael was glad our Zucchini Problem solved itself.

What did we learn from our first attempt at gardening last summer? Things want to grow. Even in Texas. Even in the hottest, longest summer on record. We started our garden with little to no knowledge and things grew anyway.

A true Texas miracle.

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