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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 Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, a Research, Education and Demonstration garden at 11001 Midway Road in Dallas.

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

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Spring Is In The Air-Raised Bed Gardening

Good morning, Dallas Garden Buzz readers! If you are a subscriber and receiving emails of Dallas Garden Buzz posts, you can watch our informative videos by clicking on Dallas Garden Buzz at the top of your email. Pictures and videos are better if you go to our actual site rather than staying with the post in your inbox.

For those of you who have not become subscribers, please sign up to follow Dallas Garden Buzz by entering your email in the right hand column at the top of the page. We hope to have two posts a week during spring of 2017.

Recap of Jeff’s advice:

  • Top 12 inches of a raised bed should be a mixture of loamy soil amended with finished compost. We like homemade compost but it can also be purchased at garden centers by the bag or in bulk from companies who make it. Raised bed prepared mix by bag or bulk can also be purchased with compost already included.
  • Bottom portion of your raised bed could be hardwood mulch or even cut logs
  • 1/4 inch galvanized hardware cloth can be placed under the soil to deter unwanted critters from entering the bed by digging under it

What’s growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills?

Garlic, potatoes, onions, spinach, leeks, radish, and mesculun were planted earlier.

Tomato varieties, Black Krim, Celebrity, Sun Gold, and Green Zebra have been planted. We were able to plant them in late February  because of our early spring weather.

Raincathcer’s will also be planting a Three Sisters vegetable bed, Ambroisa melon, okra (of course!) and peppers.

Ann Lamb

Thank you Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

 

 

 

 

Rose Rosette, Now What?

There’s no doubt about it—the rose is the world’s most popular and acclaimed flower. Valentine’s Day is a natural time to think of roses, a symbol of love and beauty.

We are receiving or buying them for loved ones and also thinking about roses grown in our own gardens. Dallas gardeners know to prune their roses around February 14th.

Sadly my pruners will be on the shelf; my roses have fallen prey to the disease for which there is no cure, rose rosette disease (RRD). Instead I will be making  decisions about replanting my roses or planting perennials instead of roses.

Stephen Hudkins, Dallas County Extension Agent, Horticulture, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, encouraged me by reminding me that rose rosette has been around a long time and that other cities under its siege have eventually recovered. He also counseled me to plant a few roses and think of them as one- or two-year plants. Remove them if rose rosette returns.

Rose Buff Beauty to be replaced

Rose Buff Beauty to be replaced

We also have counsel from Maddi Shires who has answered several questions regarding Rose Rosette. Maddi is a graduate student, working on her PhD in Plant Pathology and Microbiology with Dr. Kevin Ong, Associate Professor & Extension Plant Pathologist, Dept of Plant Pathology & Microbiology and Director – Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Her research project is Rose Rosette Disease Resistance in Texas. The Raincatcher’s Garden has planted a research plot of 40 roses as part of her study. Here’s what Maddi shared with me:

Howdy Ann,

1) The gardeners that I have talked to are doing one of two things to replace their roses: Many are taking the chance and replanting more roses again. This could be a good idea for those who love roses, and many are willing to buy roses year after year to replace what was lost. There are many varieties that should be avoided, such as the Knock Out® rose family, Julia Child™, and Home Run® family, just to name some of the more prominent roses I’ve seen used in mass plantings in Dallas. The other thing that people are doing, especially those who do not want to have the cost of purchasing roses each year, is that they are moving away from roses and towards other plants.

2) I would never tell someone to not plant roses, however if they do not want to treat roses as a 1-2 year plant, people may not want to go back with them. In Dallas County and the surrounding counties, the disease incidence is high, and until we have identified a tolerant or resistant variety, it is likely that roses will have shorter lifespans when planted back in areas that have already had virus-infected plants.

3) As of right now, we have not identified any tolerant or resistant varieties, so if you enjoy roses and will be able to remove them if they become infected, I would recommend planting them! There is no reason to not enjoy a plant as long as you can remove it and properly dispose of it if it is infected by the virus. There are rose rosette trials going on all over the United States, and results are varied for many rose varieties. I have three varieties that I did not see infection in in the first 6 months of my trials—those were Basye’s Purple, Caldwell Pink, and Chuckles. Chuckles has been reported to have symptoms from a public garden in Dallas, so it may not be a good alternative. Stormy Weather, Carefree Spirit, and Sydonie are some others that have been suggested as tolerant. If you plant roses that are these varieties or others and they become infected, please let me know because we are doing a variety list of infected roses.

4) I have not heard of anything specific that people are planting to replace roses. I would recommend doing research on plants before planting them to see if they have disease problems. For example, many people replace rose gardens with boxwood but boxwood has problems with blight, which requires treatment and can kill the plant.

As always, if you suspect that your rose may have rose rosette disease, please send a sample into the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic. Many times there are other plant problems confused for RRD, and plants are taken out that may not need to be. When removing plants, make sure to bag all plant material, dig up the roots, and properly dispose of the plant material.

Thanks,

Maddi Shires

 

Rose Replacements:

  • Althea (Rose of Sharon). I want to try the smaller variety, Lil’ Kim
  • Quince. There are so many varieties
  • Loropetalum, Chinese Fringe Flower. The color of the leaves replaces the red in your landscape if you lost Knock Out roses
  • Perennial Hibiscus. Try Hibiscus ‘Moy Grande’ for big color
  • Texas Superstar® plants

Ann Lamb

Rose rosette disease trials are in the early stages and nothing conclusive has been determined. If you read conflicting advice or have further questions, please respond back to us. Dallas Garden Buzz will respond.

 

Congratulations Again!

2016 Master Gardener Graduating Class

2016 Master Gardener Graduating Class

We salute the Dallas County Master Gardeners Class of 2016, who have already contributed 5002 total hours to Dallas County at a value of $118,000. 20 interns of that class have already each volunteered 100 hours or more! After a year filled with 72 hours of class time and at least 72 hours of volunteer work, 47 members of the Class of 2016 have graduated to become Certified Master Gardeners!

The Master Gardener Program is a volunteer development program offered by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, which is designed to increase the availability of horticultural information and improve the quality of life through horticultural projects. What really sets Master Gardeners apart from other home gardeners is their special training in horticulture. In exchange for their training, persons who become Master Gardeners contribute time as volunteers, working through their local Extension office to provide horticulture-related information to their communities. The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is just one of many Master Gardener projects that enrich the community and provide opportunities for volunteers to continue learning and share their knowledge with the public.

We recently celebrated the graduation of these newly minted Master Gardeners with a ceremony and reception, where we served this gluten-free dessert. We received so many requests for the recipe that we thought we would share it with you all. We usually share garden-inspired recipes here, but you could say this is “gardener-inspired.” I make batch after batch of this at the holidays – it looks so pretty packaged in a cellophane bag tied with a ribbon. And it’s always nice to be able to offer something gluten-free for your guests that might have food sensitivities. Make this easy bark any time!

chocolate-bark

Festive Chocolate Bark

Ingredients

1 cup shelled salted pistachios (about 1/2 pound if you’re starting with nuts in the shell)

12 ounces semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips work fine)

8 ounces white chocolate

3/4 cup dried, sweetened cranberries

Directions

If using raw pistachios, sprinkle with salt and lightly toast the nuts on a baking sheet in a 350⁰ oven for about 10 minutes and allow to cool.

Melt the semisweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, uncovered, on medium power for 2–3 minutes, stopping the microwave to stir once or twice. If using baking squares, chop them up to help the chocolate melt more uniformly. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. Melt the white chocolate separately following the same directions for 1–2 minutes, taking care not to overheat.

In a small bowl combine nuts and cranberries, then stir half of them into the semisweet chocolate. Using a spatula, spread the mixture to about a 1/2-inch thickness on a large cookie sheet. Drop the white chocolate by tablespoonfuls over the dark. With the tip of a butter knife, swirl the chocolates together to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle on the rest of the nuts and berries and lightly press them into the chocolate mixture.

Refrigerate the bark for about an hour or until firm, then break into pieces. Store the bark in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month (I find it keeps for much longer). Makes about 1 3/4 pounds.

Enjoy!

Lisa Centala

Congratulations!

 

2016 Master Gardener Graduating Class

2016 Master Gardener Graduating Class

We salute the Dallas County Master Gardeners Class of 2016, who have already contributed 5002 total hours to Dallas County at a value of $118,000. 20 interns of that class have already each volunteered 100 hours or more! After a year filled with 72 hours of class time and at least 72 hours of volunteer work, 47 members of the Class of 2016 have graduated to become Certified Master Gardeners!

The Master Gardener Program is a volunteer development program offered by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, which is designed to increase the availability of horticultural information and improve the quality of life through horticultural projects. What really sets Master Gardeners apart from other home gardeners is their special training in horticulture. In exchange for their training, persons who become Master Gardeners contribute time as volunteers, working through their local Extension office to provide horticulture-related information to their communities. The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is just one of many Master Gardener projects that enrich the community and provide opportunities for volunteers to continue learning and share their knowledge with the public.

We recently celebrated the graduation of these newly minted Master Gardeners with a ceremony and reception, where we served this gluten-free dessert. We received so many requests for the recipe that we thought we would share it with you all. We usually share garden-inspired recipes here, but you could say this is “gardener-inspired.” I make batch after batch of this at the holidays – it looks so pretty packaged in a cellophane bag tied with a ribbon. And it’s always nice to be able to offer something gluten-free for your guests that might have food sensitivities. Make this easy bark any time!

chocolate-bark

Festive Chocolate Bark

Ingredients

1 cup shelled salted pistachios (about 1/2 pound if you’re starting with nuts in the shell)

12 ounces semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips work fine)

8 ounces white chocolate

3/4 cup dried, sweetened cranberries

Directions

If using raw pistachios, sprinkle with salt and lightly toast the nuts on a baking sheet in a 350⁰ oven for about 10 minutes and allow to cool.

Melt the semisweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, uncovered, on medium power for 2–3 minutes, stopping the microwave to stir once or twice. If using baking squares, chop them up to help the chocolate melt more uniformly. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. Melt the white chocolate separately following the same directions for 1–2 minutes, taking care not to overheat.

In a small bowl combine nuts and cranberries, then stir half of them into the semisweet chocolate. Using a spatula, spread the mixture to about a 1/2-inch thickness on a large cookie sheet. Drop the white chocolate by tablespoonfuls over the dark. With the tip of a butter knife, swirl the chocolates together to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle on the rest of the nuts and berries and lightly press them into the chocolate mixture.

Refrigerate the bark for about an hour or until firm, then break into pieces. Store the bark in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month (I find it keeps for much longer). Makes about 1 3/4 pounds.

Enjoy!

Lisa Centala

Houseplants Are Not Clutter!

Clutter control is the hot topic of the new year. It seems no blog or magazine is without advice.  Amazingly, some of the advice involves buying lots of new stuff to control the old stuff causing trouble.  Analysis of this is badly needed,  but we haven’t the time.  Not now.  Not when house plants, living things, have been put , by some, in the category of clutter.

Now what is meant by clutter? The logical thinking might be that clutter is what gets in the way of the enjoyment of our surroundings.  Clutter would be things that are not pulling their weight.  Things that take up space but are neither useful or beautiful.  Things that crowd out what we treasure.

Another photo courtesy of www.urbanjunglebloggers.com

Another photo courtesy of http://www.urbanjunglebloggers.com

That couldn’t define indoor plants. First, they are useful.  Plants of course use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen—that has to be helpful.  Plants really do help in removing multiple toxins from indoor air.  Indoor air needs this.  In yet another example of the unfairness of life,  the more that has been invested in insulation and windows, the more likely toxins are to be building up in the air.  So, plants are good for physical health.  Breathing cleaner air has to be a benefit.  Mental health can suffer too when things outside are looking far too beige and grey.  Tending indoor plants can be a quick, and effective, therapy session.

Plants appreciate the attention paid to them. It doesn’t take much time or effort to clean a few leaves.  Clean leaves are more beautiful and also more effective at removing those toxins.  Take the time to check the soil before watering.  This one simple  thing can avoid  many problems, some of which are far from simple.  Small amounts of time and effort   lead to happy discoveries.  New begonia leaves are tiny works of art  and the sight of an emerging bloom spike on an orchid has to brighten any mood.

All these benefits—sounds expensive. It isn’t!! Friends and family may be glad to share plants—for free.  Clubs and organizations have sales and often offer interesting plants at bargain prices..

So plants aren’t clutter and they aren’t a luxury.  They bring nature to our homes every day—and nature is needed –every day.

Susan Thornbury

Indulge in an oasis of plant information from http://www.urbanjunglebloggers.com and thanks again for photos from urban jungle photographers and joelix.com.

 

Munching on Lasagna

The Edible Landscape team at Raincatcher’s has been sharing their progress over the past few months. Update #2 follows:

There’s a statistic out there (isn’t there always?!) that states 80% of all New Year’s resolutions are broken by February. …And since you haven’t seen another blog post from us since the first week of January, we bet you thought we belonged to that 80%, didn’t you?

Happily, that’s not the case, we’re still here. But with the New Year came some new regulations we had to work through which postponed our posts.  Now, we think we’ve gotten them figured out and we hope there will be no more interruptions.  So without further ado, here is our weekly post! 

Munching on Lasagna

In our last post, we showed you a picture of one of our sleeping beauties, a bed quietly growing soil under its blanket of mulch.  We cavalierly referred to it as “sheet mulching” or “lasagna gardening” and left it at that.  We also mentioned having written, but not published, posts of our activities during the past year.

Lucky Reader, this is the week your patience is to be rewarded – with a bonus! Not only are we about to share with you the recipe for a gardener’s lasagna, but since we’ve waited a nearly a year, we’re going to show you the tasty results, too.

So what is a gardener’s lasagna? (It’s also known as sheet mulching, no-dig, and no-till gardening, but we’re using the lasagna term; it sounds so much tastier, and this is an edible landscape after all.)  Unlike its culinary counterpart, it is not made up of layers of pasta, cheese, vegetables/meat and sauce.  But it is made up of layers.  Layers of carbon and nitrogen.  In Compostese (the language of compost), carbon-rich items are ‘brown’ and include leaves, straw, paper, cardboard, (shredded) wood, and other similar materials.  Nitrogen-rich items are ‘green’, and encompass vegetables and fruits, grass clippings, fresh manure, and coffee grounds.

To make lasagna, a cook repeats layers of pasta, sauce and cheese in a casserole until the pan is full. To create a lasagna bed, a gardener repeats two-inch layers of ‘brown’ with two-inch layers of ‘green’ until you have a two-foot-high bed (more or less).  A cook bakes their lasagna in the oven at 350°F for an hour.  They know it’s done because the top is bubbly and a little brown.  A gardener covers their lasagna with a layer of mulch and waits…somewhere between a few months and a year, depending on how hot and wet the weather is (warmer and wetter = faster).  They know it’s done because that two-foot-high bed has dropped to four to six inches, and when they peek under the mulch, they see rich, black soil, ready to feed seeds and seedlings, and build them into big, strong happy plants.

Building the bed

Building the bed

 

And that’s mostly how we’ve created our lasagna beds. We did one more thing to our bed:  before the first layer of compost or mulch went down, we put down a double layer of overlapping cardboard.  (You could use 6-8 sheets of newspaper instead, but the cardboard was free and faster than newspaper.)  Our brown was free shredded tree mulch from tree-trimming companies*, and our green was partly-decomposed compost we had on site.  We managed to get it about 18 inches high before we ran out of materials and muscle.

Newly finished bed

Newly finished bed

 

We built our first lasagna bed last April (2016), and by October, it had dropped to about six inches high and attracted a wayward seed. By December, that little traveler looked like this:

One butternut squash plant

One butternut squash plant

 

 

It lived in the shade of the nearby oak trees, and never got watered by us. But the soil was so rich, it fed our butternut squash plant well.  When we pushed aside the mulch, we saw nice, rich soil (black gold):

Our new soil

Our new soil

 

We’re looking forward to a good year.

That’s all for today – see you next week!

Lisa Centala

*http://freemulch.abouttrees.com

Onion Planting at The Raincatcher’s Garden, 2017

It’s January and time to plant onion sets! Onion sets can be purchased at your local garden center. Sets are immature bulbs that were started from seed the previous year. The seed are sown closely so that they stay small and then pulled when they are about a half an inch round. Onion sets are inexpensive and contain about 75 onions. At Raincatcher’s we are planting Red Creole, Early White, and Super Sweet. Next week- Lancelot Leeks.

Dallas Garden Buzz is loaded with onion stories and recipes. Type onion in the search box to catch up on alliums!

Video by Starla Willis

Onion Planting by Dorothy Shockley

Ann Lamb

And did you know…

Thank you from The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills!

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