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Above: Nasturtiums, Watercress, Lavender, Fennel, and Broccoli

Gardening in North Central Texas is enough to make you throw away your trowel.  Our summers are hot enough for a blast furnace.  Our winter chill can freeze pipes and coat trees with ice.  We’re pummeled with spring storms and hail, but when we most need the rain, not a cloud is on the horizon.  Dallas’ unforgiving black clay forms clods hard as rocks and is so alkaline, its pH is off the chart.

DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ shares our journey through the triumphs and missteps of gardening in our North Texas heat, clay soil, limited water, and high alkalinity.  In the world of gardening, there is always a story to be told and sage advice to share.  As we dig, trim, harvest, and cook, we’ll give you the best information we can gather from our “hands on” work in the Earth-Kind/WaterWise Demonstration Garden at 11001 Midway Road in Dallas.

DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ is written by Dallas County Master Gardeners, volunteers trained by the AgriLife Extension Service, an agency of Texas A&M University.

We are Thankful

For Friends that have become Family

Dallas County Master Gardeners from The Raincatcher's Garden at the Craft Fair

Dallas County Master Gardeners from The Raincatcher’s Garden at the Craft Fair

For a place to garden and share

Midway Hills Christian Church-The Site of our New Raincatcher's Garden

Midway Hills Christian Church-The Site of our New Raincatcher’s Garden

For a time to sow and a time to reap

Chow Chow, Mustard Greens and Turnips

Chow Chow, Mustard Greens and Turnips

Harvest Blessings to You !

Everything by Starla!




“Dear Mrs. Jones, Thank you for the best field trip ever! It was awesome! Thank you for helping us make seed balls.  We had so much fun!!!!!”


First graders from Lakewood Elementary had a five exclamation point (!!!!!) assessment of their field trip to the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills.

One hundred and fifty pairs of sneakers never stopped from the moment they hopped out of four school buses on November 3rd .  Every 15 minutes, timers took the students to another station: seed balls, real live clucking chickens, wiggly red wigglers, “name that vegetable,” herbs and compost. Elizabeth Wilkinson, Cynthia Jones, and Annette Beadles organized the field trip.

“Dear Raincatcher’s Friends, I love you! I love you! I love pumpkins!” 

Lakewood -pumpkin measuring

Annette compared the circumference of pumpkins—and first grade volunteers.  Cynthia showed students how to roll, mash, divot, and taco-fold clay, soil and wildflowers to make seed balls for their school.

Journal coverDear Garden Friends, Thank you for a great time! I love my journal!

Jan Larson assembled 150 journals and sharpened pencils, one for each child.  They carried their journals all day, making notes at each station.


The field trip was even the topic of discussion at a Lakewood hair salon.  Jan was telling her stylist about the field trip, and a young woman in the next seat joined the conversation.  “Are you talking about the field trip to the Raincatcher’s Garden?” At Jan’s nod, the mom said she was a chaperone on the field trip and remarked that it was “amazing.” 

With some tears, the Lakewood visitors returned to their classrooms, long-used “temporary” buildings outside an old East Dallas school in need of major repairs.  The forty master gardener volunteers, including DCMG board members, might have kept these thoughts from Rachel Carson in mind:

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”


Pictures by Starla, poster pic by Cynthia

Learn with Lakewood!

Sign up for a field trip!


Fall Tomatoes at The Raincatcher’s Garden

Listen to Dorothy! I always do! Here’s our fall tomato report:


We have talked about green tomatoes almost as much as red, ripe tomatoes:

Green Tomato Primer

Fried Green Tomatoes

Dorothy’s Chow Chow

Fall Tomatoes


Video by Starla


Lakewood Elementary sent 157 children and 36 adults to our garden on Tuesday.

Cynthia, Denise, and Gary Greeting our Guests

Cynthia, Denise, and Gary Greeting our Guests

With super organization and passion, we were able to introduce the glories of gardening to each of these little students.

Follow Glenda to Your Next Garden Station

Follow Glenda to Your Next Garden Station

Students learned about pumpkin math, vermicomposting, growing vegetables and herbs, chickens, composting, and took home “seed balls” they constructed. Blooms begin next spring!

Denise Giving Brussel Sprout Lessons

Denise Giving Brussel Sprout Lessons

Each child is special to us.  Thank you, Lakewood Elementary, for sharing your first graders with the Master Gardeners at The Raincatcher’s Garden.

Lakewood, little girl vermicomposting



Pictures by Starla

Field Trip organization by Annette, Cynthia, Elizabeth, Lisa

Some of our regular volunteers had family/friends in need and were not able to be with us. You were missed, but we understand.  See you next time!



After the Field Trip we enjoyed lunch by Judy and Elizabeth and here are the requested recipes:


Prep: 10 min Cook: 20 min Serves: 12 people


24 slices of deli honey ham

6 Slices of swiss cheese, cut into fourths

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard

1/2 cup butter melted

1 tablespoon Onion Powder

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 packages (12 count) KING’S HAWAIIAN Original Hawaiian Sweet Dinner Rolls


1. Cut rolls in half and spread mayo onto 1 side of the rolls. Place a slice or two of ham and slice of swiss cheese in roll. Replace the top of the rolls and bunch them closely together into a baking dish.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together poppy seeds, dijon mustard, melted butter, onion powder and worcestershire sauce.

3. Pour sauce over the rolls, just covering the tops. Cover with foil and let sit for 10 minutes.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Uncover and cook for additional 2 minutes until tops are slightly browned and crisp. Serve warm.



1 rotisserie chicken- debone and shred. Set aside


2 pkgs. chicken flavored ramen noodles crushed. Flavoring pkgs. set aside

3/4 cup a sliced almonds

1/2 cup sesame seeds

3 Tbsp. margarine

Sauté all in a shallow skillet, over med. heat, stirring until golden brown


1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

2/3 cup sugar

In small pan combine both and bring to a boil stirring until sugar dissolves.


1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper

1 cup vegetable oil

2 flavor packets from ramen noodles

Refrigerate until ready to serve

Slaw Base

2 pkgs. broccoli slaw

8-10 green onions clean and thinly slice. Set aside

1 bell pepper chopped

Set aside

When ready to serve combine all four components in the needed amount making sure to shake/stir dressing. Reserve rest of ingredients separately because the crunchie parts will get too soggy. Enjoy!



Yield: 3 dozen cookies


1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter

1/3 cup (4 oz) molasses (Grandma’s)

2 ¼ cups (15 ¾ oz) sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground allspice

3 cups (12 ¾ oz) King Arthur Unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 large egg


¼ cup (1 ½ oz) meringue powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 to 4 cups (12 – 16 oz) glazing sugar or confectioners’ sugar

1/3 to ½ cup (2 5/8 to 4 oz) cool water

For the dough: Heat the butter, molasses, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over low heat, or in a bowl in the microwave, stirring until the butter melts and the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from the heat and stir in the spices.  Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Beat half the flour mixture into the melted butter mixture, then the egg.  Stir in the remaining flour mixture.  Cover and refrigerate the dough for 1 hour until firm.

To Bake:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Shape or scoop the dough into 1 ½” balls, a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2” between.

Bake for 13 minutes; they’ll still look soft and won’t have changed color much. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on the pan before transferring to a rack to cool completely.  They’ll become crisp as they cool.

For the frosting: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add 1/3 cup of cool water and the vanilla, and stir or beat on slow speed.  The mixture will seem had and lumpy, but the sugar will dissolve after 4 or 5 minutes and everything will smooth out.  Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition, to achieve the consistency you desire.  For a smooth, shiny glaze, the icing should be the consistency of molasses.  For colored icing, add food coloring or coloring paste a drop at a time.  Use a pastry brush to paint the frosting over the tops of the cookies; you want some of the nice craggy cracks to show through.  Place on a rack for several hours to let the glaze harden and dry.


Yield: 32 cookies/bars



2 ¼ cups (9 5/8 oz) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

2 cups (7 oz) old-fashioned rolled oats

1½ cups (11 ¼ oz) light brown sugar

½ tsp baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, soft

1 large egg


1 1/3 cups (14 oz) caramel (from jar)

1/3 (2 5/8 oz) milk


1 ½ cups (9 oz) semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips

1 cup (4 oz) chopped nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease (or line with parchment) a 13” x 9”-inch pan.

For the base: In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix at low speed until combined.  Add the softened butter a chunk at a time with the mixer running.  (Butter must be soft.) Once all the butter is in, add the egg, mix, scrape the bowl, and mix for another 30 seconds.

Put half the mixture into the prepared pan. Spread it evenly in the pan, then cover with plastic and use the bottom of a loaf pan to press it into place.  Peel off the plastic and bake for 10 minutes, until set.


For the filling: Combine the caramel and milk and heat, stirring frequently, either in a saucepan over low heat or in the microwave in several 2 minute intervals, stirring in between.

To finish: After you take the base out of the oven, sprinkle it with the chocolate chips and nuts.  Drizzle the caramel mixture over the chips and nuts, and sprinkle the remaining base mixture over the top.  Bake for 25-28 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool at least 30 minutes before cutting into bars.


October: Harvest, the Last Hurrah!

At The Raincatcher’s Garden we are offering not only our regular 4 activity station field trips, but also shorter, monthly-themed lessons w/follow-up activities that are based upon connections and the cycles of nature.  We began tracking these patterns with ”September:  Change is Coming” anticipating the turn of the season in the fall garden and planning ahead for spring wildflowers.

 Keeping w/in the monthly theme is “October:  Harvest, the Last Hurrah” in which we introduced our pumpkin unit, Pumpkin Circle, the Story of a Garden by Mary McKenna Siddals & Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons.  The title encapsulates the content of the book perfectly.  By studying life cycles, we learned about the “seed-to-seed” story of a pumpkin, then, related that to the “seed-to-seed” story of the entire garden. 

Pumpkin Class is in Session

Pumpkin Class is in Session

Pumpkins are historically & culturally significant; they were originally domesticated in North America (9000 year-old-seeds have been found in caves in Mexico) and continue to play an important role in holiday celebrations from Halloween Jack-o’-Lanterns to our traditional Thanksgiving feasts complete w/pumpkin pies, breads, muffins. 

Children also love pumpkins for their variety of colors and sizes, some of which are so outlandish and unique.  We even created our own “Pumpkin Patch” with specific samples of pumpkins, gourds, and squash. 

Factoid: Did you know there was a website with video of Libby’s canned pumpkin that details how “pie pumpkins” were developed specifically for their 16 oz cans?  Or, that our beloved tradition of carving Jack-o’-Lantern pumpkins comes from an old fable about a mean, stingy man named Jack who, after his death, was doomed to roam the world carrying a carved-out turnip illuminated by glowing coals, hence, the name Jack-of-the-Lantern or Jack-o’-Lantern? 

The most popular of our varieties, hands down, were our gnarly, orangey-green-colored Native American Squash, weighing in at almost 30 pounds, slightly less than the weight of our smallest 3-year-old visitor from The da Vinci School, and the Knuckle Head Pumpkin, a warty orange oval that raised the “Ick Factor” for ugly.  

As part of our study of the Scientific Process we used our carving pumpkins for “Pumpkin Math” – estimating & measuring (number of seeds, circumference, weight, lines/creases), recording data (individual charts for ESD Primer class & volunteers’ results for our 3’s & Pre-K groups), then reporting & analyzing our results.  Using standard & non-standard measurements, we also compared our weight in pumpkins, estimating first, then using our trusty bathroom scale, & guessing our waist measurements, then tape-measuring to compare that to the circumference of the pumpkin. 

Pumpkin Math with Master Gardener Mrs Beadles

Pumpkin Math with Master Gardener, Mrs Beadles

One child reported, “I weigh 4 carving pumpkins (8 lbs each) + a Cinderella Pumpkin + a Fairy Tale Pumpkin!”  Many of our 3-year-old and Pre-K visitors had smaller waists than our sample pumpkins which averaged 24-27 inches.  After all of the slicing and dicing and eviscerating was done, we separated seeds and pumpkin goop.  And, we still had survivors which eventually fell to the carving knife. 

Pumpkin Goop and Pumpkin Carving with EDS kids

Pumpkin Goop and Pumpkin Carving with ESD students

Later, we enjoyed a treat of toasted seeds (pepitas) and Elizabeth’s delicious pumpkin mini muffins.  Our young visitors returned to their respective schools excitedly reporting these facts and more to anyone who would listen.  


Pictures by Starla 

More about Pumpkin:

The Power of Pumpkin

Layered Pumpkin Pie in a Jar

Pumpkin Cheese Ball

Creamy Southwestern Pumpkin Soup


Grace Academy Field Trip 2015

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

Rachel Carson


Field trips to The Raincatcher’s Garden are designed to increase that sense of wonder about our natural world. Dallas County Master Gardeners assisted Grace Academy Second Graders as they made their very own journals to write about what they see, feel, and touch in the garden. 

Dallas County Master Gardeners, Nature Journals, and Grace Academy Second Graders

As you know, we spend quality time with worms and learning about vermi-composting!

The Wonder of Worms and how they are known as "Nature's Plough".

Worms are masters of composting. We also teach traditional composting methods.

Lisa, a Master at Composting and Teaching!

Metamorphosis, cocoon to butterfly is studied and the science of  host plants and nectar stations is seen first hand in our butterfly garden.

Grace 2015 Butterflies


Pictures by Starla

Favorite quote by Cynthia



More About our Rainwater Cistern Installation Class on October 15, 2015

Consider this an introduction by Dr. Dotty Woodson for our class Thursday.  We are looking forward to installing our rain cisterns at Midway Hills Christian Church and teaching the how-tos so that you can set up rainwater harvesting at your home or office and save water.

Date: Thursday, October 15

Time: 10am-12noon

Place: 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, Texas 75229

Who: All are welcome!

Cost: $10 per person


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