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WELCOME TO DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ

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 on Joe Field 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.

Berms and Tree Planting at The Raincatcher’s Garden

We are excited about our new orchard.  Peaches, plums, pears, persimmons, pomegranates, and grapes, figs, and blackberries will be part of our future crops and future recipes.

Dig in to this video to learn the purpose of a berm. We built berms around our trees in the orchard. This is also useful information for other types of tree planting.

 

Next Tuesday, March 3rd 10-noon, we will be awaiting the arrival and planting of large container grown and balled and burlapped trees. Last week a Ginkgo tree was planted. Next week: Chinquapin oak ,Mexican Oak, Lacey Oak, and Cedar Elm. All tree huggers invited!

Best cinematographer: Starla

Our recipe list here.

Ann

 

How to Plant a Bare Root Tree

The Academy Awards are over for 2014.  This film was not released in time for review. Watch our film, How to Plant a Bare Root Tree, and see if you agree it really has merit.  Remember Elizabeth’s article about our orchard and the selection of the fruit trees and why we chose Halford stock. TAKE IT AWAY ERIC!

 

Ann

Movie by Starla

Best Actor: Eric

Beginnings

The dirt’s flying at the new Rainctcher’s Garden-into the new raised vegetable beds on the north field.

Straight rows of onions stand like little soldiers, the first vegetables planted at the new garden. We planted one bunch each of 1015y (yellow) and Southern Belle Red (red). Potatoes are next!

 Our First Onions Planted at The Raincatcher's Garden!

Our First Onions Planted at The Raincatcher’s Garden!

The top 12 inches of the beds have been filled with a generous gift of Vegetable Garden Mix from Living Earth Technology, made of compost, sandy loam, aged mulch, and other ingredients.  We topped it off with some of our homemade compost.

Living Earth, Sarah, and Judy!

Living Earth, Sarah, Tim, and Judy!

Last week the first of our trees, an urban forest demonstration was planted. Expect to see more about berm building and tree planting next week.

Ginko Tree Planted February 19, 2015

Ginkgo Tree Planted February 19, 2015

Pictures by Starla

Writing taken from Jim and Elizabeth emails

Onion Peelings here.

Onion Recipe

Ann

 

 

DON’T GO BLACKBERRY BUSH PICKING WITHOUT THE BBQ

Jim and I share many things, a love of dessert, finding just the right pencil for his beloved Martha’s crosswords, and The File.

My life was simple before The File. No longer.

For the last six weeks, my tired brain has been filled with the minutiae of helping Jim pick out trees and berries for an orchard at the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills.   (We tried to have an orchard at the garden on Joe Field Road, but for various reasons, it didn’t come to pass.)

The File is a brown manila folder about 1½ inches thick filled with downloads, printed emails, notes from extension agents, a parts list for  a grape trellis, and receipts.

It comes with a complimentary bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol.

Jim knew right off the bat that he wanted the orchard to demonstrate pears, peaches, plums, persimmons, pomegranates, and “phigs.”  Grapes, blackberries, and asparagus rounded out the list.

Apples, too. Well, until we found out about the sex lives of pears, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Jim downloaded recommendations for North and Northeast Texas from Dr. George Ray McEachern, Professor and Extension Horticulturist with the Texas A&M Department of Horticultural Sciences.  This is the guy Texas Monthly calls when they want the inside scoop on the pecan industry in Texas.

We also looked up fact sheets on each crop by Larry Stein, Extension Fruit Specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.  The peach article alone is 14 pages long.

Peaches, plum, apples, and pears are fruit tree crops that require a certain amount of cold winter weather, measured in chilling hours, to end their dormancy and promote proper blooming and spring growth, according to Doug Welsh in his Texas Garden Almanac.  Chilling hours are the number of hours during which temperatures are below 45 degrees and above 32 degrees.  If you goof, and plant a variety that requires more chilling than it receives in your garden, the tree may not bloom fully—or at all.  Dallas-Fort Worth falls in the 800-hour zone.

Pollination is a big deciding factor, too.  Without pollination, a fruit tree may blossom abundantly, but fruit will not develop.  Some trees require pollination from another variety and are called “self-unfruitful.”  Other trees are “self-fruitful” and can produce fruit from their own pollen.  Then, just to make it more fun, some fruit trees can have varieties that are self-fruitful and-–don’t you just love this—other varieties that are self-unfruitful.  (Remember, the Tylenol is complimentary.)

Briefly, Jim’s first choice for a peach was ‘Redskin,’ a free-stone variety with yellow flesh that matures about July 20th.  With our high alkaline soil, we needed the ‘Redskin’ grafted on Halford Rootstock, which led us to barbecue in West Texas.  (More on that later.)

Abbe Planting Peach Tree

Abbe Planting Peach Tree

The number of peach varieties is mind-boggling.  Freestone, cling, or semi-cling? Ripening date? White or yellow flesh? The real basis of selection, however, is matching the chilling requirements of the variety with the chilling hours expected in your area.  ‘Redskin’ requires 750 chilling hours.  Peaches are self-fruitful.

Compared with peaches, there are very few varieties of plums adapted to Texas.  Jim chose ‘Ozark Premier,’ a large variety with red-and-cream streaked skin and yellow flesh that matures in late June. This plum is self-fruitful–but other varieties of plums are self-unfruitful.

Texas has a few native persimmons, but the Japanese persimmon is preferred by most gardeners because of its large fruit.  Jim picked  ‘Eureka,’ a self-fruiting variety recommended by Dr. McEachern.  ‘Eureka’ produces bright orange fruit as large as teacups in the fall.

We purchased a ‘Celeste,’ fig that is a smaller, brown “sugar” fig with sweet pink flesh and purple skin.  ‘Celeste’ matures in August.  Water is a big consideration with figs.  The trees will drop their fruit if drought-stressed and need heavy mulch and moist soils when developing their crop.  (Note to self: is fig on irrigation plan? I’m planning on fig preserves.)

Sarah brought the pomegranate from her backyard.  It was dug up and potted at the Joe Field garden, then pampered at Sarah’s for several months.

The big question with blackberries is, thorns? Or thornless? We decided to try a bit of both.  We purchased the time-tested thorned blackberry ‘Rosborough,’ the most popular of the TAMU releases.  It has a large berry, is disease resistant, and is widely adapted in Texas.  We will also try ‘Kiowa,’ a recent thorned blackberry release from the University of Arkansas.  Dr. McEachern noted on Neil Sperry’s radio show that ‘Kiowa’ was extremely vigorous and productive.

Our thornless blackberries, ‘Natchez’ and ‘Ouachita’ also come from the University of Arkansas.  They are known for their firm sweet fruit.

You would have thought growing grapes in Texas was easy.  After all, almost half of all grape species are native to Texas.  Native grapes are a cinch.  Wine grapes are another story.  Pierce’s disease and cotton root rot are some of the conditions that limit choices of grape varieties.  Womack Nursery, where we purchased our grapes, suggests ‘Champanel’ for prairie or blackland soils.  It has large black grapes that make a loose bunch, great for making jelly.

In addition to ‘Champanel,’ we decided to try ‘Carlos Muscadine,’ a grape variety used to make white wine.  Muscadines are the most disease-resistant grapes.

“If you only have one fruit tree, this should be it,” Dr. McEachern advised, when interviewed by Neil Sperry.  He was suggesting the ‘Orient’ pear, a variety that Jim picked for our orchard.  With pears—unlike fussy plums and peaches—the less you prune and fertilize, the more pears you get.  (More tree growth from fertilizer does not equal more fruit.)  We also picked a ‘Warren’ pear, since pears are self-unfruitful and you must have two varieties for good production.

Ana really wanted an apple in the orchard.  We realized at the last minute that both pears and apples need pollinators. Pears are much more disease resistant than apples, so the space in the orchard went to pears.

Judy and I looked at several area nurseries for fruit trees, but couldn’t find a place that had everything we wanted in stock.  One nursery carried the ‘Redskin’ peach, for example, but it was grafted on East Texas rootstock, rather than the Halford stock for alkaline soils.

The only solution was for husband Mike and I to have a road trip to tiny De Leon and Womack Nursery, “Your Texas source for fruit and pecan trees since 1937.”

Fruit Trees at Womack Nursery

Fruit Trees at Womack Nursery

Womack Nursery is often named as the premiere source for pecans and fruit trees in Texas by fruit and nut experts.  Traveling down two-lane Highway 6 between DeLeon and Gorman, you see a series of sheds and a small office.  The parking lot is filled with pickups—all white—as crews assembled orders.  Thousands of fruit trees, pecans, grapes, and berries were tucked in marked rows of sand.  Large boxes waited to be filled with trees and shipped to customers all over Texas.

In a few minutes, our order was packed in damp hay, wrapped in brown paper and plastic, and tightly tied, ready for the trip back to Dallas.

We weren’t quite ready for the big city lights, however.  Some of the best barbecue on the planet waited for us in Stephenville on our way home.

 

Elizabeth

Pictures by Starla and Elizabeth

More about blackberries here.

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Things at 11001 Midway Road, The Raincatcher’s Garden

What do all these Master Gardeners have in common?

Susan and Jackie

Susan and Jackie

Hans and Tig

Hans and Tig

They are all working hard to bring you beautiful things!

Today we bring you the music of Gungor and a video presentation of our work at the Raincatcher’s Garden. Starla made this video for us. Click here to see the progress at our garden and enjoy the music : http://flipagram.com/f/QGnnecIIrm

Thank you, Starla!

 

 

Garden Progress

“It won’t be a chore, it will be a garden.”

 Quote by Jeannie Mobley

Come with us on this journey as we  build and transform our gardens at 11001 Midway Road.    “It won’t be  a chore, it will be a garden.”  You can see  from these pictures that we are enjoying the process.

Here we are beginning to build the raised beds:

Here we are, beginning to build our raised beds-Jim, Judy, Dorothy, Elizabeth

Jim, Judy, Dorothy, Elizabeth

Knowing we will be having school field trips in the spring, our first order of business was to get the vegetable garden beds built.  This was possible because of a generous donation from Loew’s on Inwood.

Vegetable Beds and our Crew of Dallas County Master Gardeners

Vegetable Beds and our Crew of Dallas County Master Gardeners

We are also working on a shade garden demonstration for the lucky people in Dallas, Texas who have shade. The courtyard at Midway Hills Christian Church is being renovated.   Asian Jasmine and Mondo Grass have been removed to make way for shade gardening with winter color in mind, WaterWise of course.

Hans and Michele, part of our Courtyard renewal team!

Hans and Michele, part of our Courtyard renewal team!

This spring you will see swaths of daffodils and Hardy Amaryllis .  The Amaryllis came with us from the old garden. You’ll see; they multiply like crazy.

Evelyn on the left, Sarah, Carolyn, and Cynthia on the right, Amaryllis top right

Evelyn on the left, Sarah, Carolyn, and Cynthia on the right, Amaryllis top right

By the way, this would be a good time to study bulb nomenclature and you can do that by clicking here.

Ann

Pictures by Starla

 

A Passion for Passion Vine

Passion Flower

Passion Flower

Though it doesn’t bloom until the heat of summer, usually long past Easter, the flowers of Passifloraceae are often said to refer to the symbolism of the Christian crucifixion, from which it gets one of its common names, passion vine.   The beautiful and unusual pink, blue, red or purple blooms are said to represent Christ’s passion. The 10 petal-like parts represents the disciples of Jesus, excluding Peter and Judas; the 5 stamens the wounds Jesus received; the knob-like stigmas the nails; and the fringe or corona the crown of thorns; while the leaves are reminiscent of the Roman spear; and the tendrils are their whips. However like many plants, the passion vine has other common names. The name Maypop, which is used by many Southerners, comes from the loudly popping sound that the hollow, yellow fruits of P. incarnata make when crushed.

     Passiflora is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants.  They are mostly vines, with some being shrubs, and a few species being herbaceous.   In North Texas several species of passion vines grow well here.  The two most common passion vines found in area nurseries are the Texas native Passiflora incarnata (Maypop) and the Hardy Blue Passionflower, P. caerulea.  Maypop can withstand temperatures as low as 18 degrees F, while P. caerulea can tolerate temperatures to around 25 degrees.  Other species of passion vines are becoming more available; however most of these are tropical plants and should be either treated as annuals or brought inside for the winter.

Passion Flower Fruit

Passion Flower Fruit

      Though the leaves of passion vines have been used in herbal medicine as a remedy for sleep disorders, nervousness, and many other ailments by indigenous peoples and the fruit was a staple of their diet, today most gardeners grow the plant for its quick growing, vining qualities, beautiful flowers and as a butterfly host plant.

     In general, passion vines require full sun (though they can tolerate some partial shade), regular watering, and excellent drainage.  According to Scott Perry’s article, Planting Passion, in Texas Gardener magazine, a 10-5-20 fertilizer should be applied several times a year at four-to six-week intervals throughout the growing season.  However, overfeeding can cause root damage; and fertilizers too high in nitrogen can cause excessive foliage development and reduced flower development.

     Passion vines, which can grow up to thirty feet in a season and should be grown on a strong support, are remarkably pest free.  However there is one “pest” that can defoliate a passion vine quite quickly.  However, this same “pest” is the reason why many butterfly enthusiasts grow passion vines in their gardens.  The passion vine is the sole host plant for several Texas butterflies of the family Heliconius.  This family includes the Zebra, the Julia, and the Gulf Fritillary (a very common butterfly found in Dallas.)  The rather fearsome looking (but harmless to people) caterpillars, when feeding on the passion vine, derive some toxic compounds from the leaves. This, in turn, makes the larvae and butterflies somewhat toxic to predators.  Many butterfly gardeners either grow a large enough stand of passion vines so that some defoliation will not matter or relocate the caterpillars to a designated butterfly garden where the passion vine is grown specifically to be a host plant.

One More Picture of the Amazing Passion Flower

One More Picture of the Amazing Passion Flower

     If you are interested in planting a passion vine in your yard and “growing your own butterflies,” a very good place to purchase many varieties of passion vine is at the Texas Discovery Gardens (www.texasdiscoverygardens.org/plant_sale.php) plant sale.  This year’s sale will take place on April 18-19th, 2015, with the Members Preview Sale on the 17th.   It’s a great place to buy organically grown butterfly host and nectar plants as well as many unusual varieties of plants not found at most area nurseries.

     See you there!!

Carolyn

Pictures by Starla

Note: The Passion Vine at our Demonstration Garden flourished without fertilizer of any kind.

 

 

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