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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 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.

Deadheading, Just Do It

DEADHEAD—it sounds maybe dangerous—at the least not pleasant. But, I needs to be done.  Here is why.

Flowers bloom for a reason, it has nothing  to do with making gardeners  happy.  Flowers have a serious mission—they want the world to be full of plants.  Not just any plants of course—plants  like them.

Flowers attract pollinators to allow fertilization and seed formation. That’s it.  That is what flowers want.  When they have set seeds they can and usually do, go on to the great beyond with joy—mission accomplished.

We must stop them. Plants covered with fading flowers and  seed heads  do not make for a cheerful summer  show.  Gardeners want  lots of flowers on healthy plants..  For this to happen—deadhead early and often.

Pretty Flowers But Could Be Better With Deadheading

Rudbeckia in Need of Deadheading

How to do it? It’s not at all hard.  For many plants, such as zinnias, coneflowers or cosmos cut the stem of the fading flower back to the first set of full healthy leaves.  This hides  the cut and encourages branching and new flowers.  Do not cut just below the flower.  This leaves a stem to turn brown –not at all the way to tidy up the garden.

Deadheading Cosmos

Deadheading Cosmos

For some plants, like salvias, the best plan is to shear back all the stems about two to three inches. This removes the dead flowers and encourages a fresh flush of blooms.

Be sure to collect the blooms—they are great for the compost.

Don’t forget your herbs! If you want basil for fall tomatoes keep those flowers cut—remember  they are tasty and can go straight to the kitchen.

Keep the Herbs Coming by Deadheading as shown

Keep the Herbs Coming by Deadheading as shown

More flowers—tidy garden—sounds perfect—so why the resistance??

First— summer temperatures are still with us and its hot—that’s true.  Early morning is an ideal time to go out—do a bit each day and things won’t get out of hand.  Evening works too—just don’t put it off.

You will be rewarded. You will see things that might well have been missed.  A quick visit by a hummingbird,  a just hatched baby anole or delicate lace wing eggs that look like a tiny modern sculpture.

A Reward-Lacewing Egg Sighting

A Reward-Lacewing Egg Sighting

What about bees and butterflies? .

Are they still using those flowers? Well no, those flowers are past their prime for pollinators too. Really you are doing a big favor when you remove the old flowers—more will soon appear as the plant continues to try and fulfill its mission.

Susan

Buy Discounted Tickets Now for DCMGA 2016 Fall Garden Tour

alexander yard

Five spectacular gardens by members of the Dallas County Master Garden Association will be featured on the 2016 Garden Tour set for Saturday, October 1st.  Visitors will see formal English gardens on Swiss Avenue, edible landscaping in Preston Hollow, a buzzing pollinator garden in University Park, native perennials and ornamental grass in Old East Dallas and landscaping for gracious entertaining in Bluffview.

Make your tour complete by enjoying a seasonal Garden Brunch featuring recipes from A Year on the Plate, the new master gardener cookbook.  Guests will be treated to a menu chosen from fall produce, including Iced Herb Gazpacho and Artichoke Bites.  Brunch will be served on a lovely Bluffview patio shaded by live oak trees from 11am to 1pm the day of the tour.  Visitors can also preorder a copy of A Year on the Plate, the new DCMGA cookbook, at the same location.

Presale tour tickets will be $15 and on the day of the tour, $20 each. Tickets for the Garden Brunch must be purchased ahead at $15 each.  A limited number of brunch reservations will be taken.

Presale tickets for the brunch and tour will be available soon on the dallascountymastergardener.org website using PayPal. North Haven Gardens and selected Calloway’s Nurseries locations will sell only tour tickets in September.

Your ticket purchase will support a major fundraiser for the Dallas County Master Gardener Association. The 2016 Garden Tour is the first time DCMGA has opened its members’ gardens in three years. Please help make the tour a success by asking friends and neighbors to attend and by publicizing the tour in venues like Next Door. All profits go to fund the DCMGA educational programs and more than 30 community and school projects.

Elizabeth

GardenTourLogowithDate001

A Musical Squash for the Edible Garden

Have you wanted to grow squash in your vegetable garden but find that your plants are plagued by squash vine borers before you can harvest even one squash?  Or maybe you are looking for a variety of squash that can be used both as a summer or winter squash?  Or perhaps you would just like to try growing an unusual squash that would be an exotic addition to any edible landscape.  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then next summer you might want to grow Tromboncino Rampicante or Italian Edible Squash.

This squash goes by several common names: zucchetta rampicante, climbing zucchini, climbing crookneck, trombolino d’albenga, trombetta and serpentine squash.  It hails from the city of Albenga on the Italian Riviera where it is used in gnocchi and ravioli. Though most squash are in the species Cucurbita pepo, Tromboncino is a cultivar of Cucurbita moschata, which also includes butternut squash. Since its stem is not as hollow as C. pepo, it is more resistant to squash vine borers.  Even squash bugs and powdery mildew do not appear to affect it as readily.  Plus its name “Rampicante” gives away one of its other characteristics.  It grows “rampantly,” with vines often exceeding 15 feet in length.  These long stems, particularly if grown along the ground rather than on a trellis, can root at the nodes, thus giving the plant an even better chance to beat squash vine borers and other insects and diseases.

Some people compare the mild taste of a young Tromboncino to a zucchini.   If left to mature as a long-lasting winter squash, it is more like a watery butternut squash and it keeps very well.  If harvested at about 12 or up to 36 inches, the long neck makes perfectly round slices as opposed to other varieties of squash which have a less uniform shape.  Another advantage to the long neck is that there are no seeds in it. The bulb, which contains the seeds, can be stuffed with a variety of fillings.

squash-blog

Tromboncino is very easy to grow and likes our hot Dallas weather.  It can be started from seed in late spring, once the ground warms up.  A strong fence or arbor is recommended, especially if you want long, straight squash.  Even on a four foot fence, the Tromboncino pictured in this article started to bow once it touched the soil.  Tromboncino grown on the ground however tend to look less like trombones and more like French Horns, with many twists and curves.  Some people have said that the hardened curved winter squash make great legs for a Halloween spider; while the long straight Tromboncino squash make cute “weiner dogs.”  Because Tromboncino are so prolific, there are many recipes for how to cook with both the squash and the male flowers on the web.

So, if you want to make your garden sing, next year give Tromboncino Rampicante a try.  Just be sure however to give it a lot of room or you may find, like one of the commenters on the web, that he had “…really enjoyed seeing the plants take off and cover the compost heap where I planted it to give plenty of nutrients. I figured since pumpkins have done well as volunteers there that this squash would too, and this one did. Two plants covered the heap and would have covered my SUV, too, if the carport hadn’t shaded them too much.”

Carolyn

 

 

Pomegranates at The Raincatcher’s Garden

The orchard was one of the first things planned when we started up at Raincatcher’s garden of Midway Hills.   Six different trees were chosen and then planted in  January 2015.  Most of these were purchased, but the pomegranate was brought over from our previous location. One of the things about planning and planting an orchard is to realize that it usually takes 3 years for the trees to bear fruit.  So we planted, pruned, and then waited.   The first season was as expected – we could see the growth pattern of the different trees, but there was no fruit.

Our Very Own Pom Transplant

Our Very Own Pom Transplant

The winter came, and the trees lost their leaves and once again we waited till early February – and we pruned according to the type of tree – pears wrap around and grow vertically, while plums and peaches are pruned to a bowl type shape.

The last 2, persimmon and pomegranate, are more shrub-like and were not touched by the pruners.   They were about 2-3 feet tall at this time.

By March new growth was appearing and the effects of pruning was taking shape — a few blossoms appeared on the plums and peaches, but fruit did not follow. The pomegranate, however, was a different story – it began to grow, — and then blossoms appeared in March and April with this beautiful orange bud which then became a flower – the bees came to pollinate ,  and then fruit started to form.  The shrub is now over 5 feet tall and is laden with beautiful orangey pomegranates  -Yes  it’s only the second year, but we will have pomegranates in the late Fall.

Pomegranate Flowers Followed by Fruit

Pomegranate Flowers Followed by Fruit

Pomegranates are ready to harvest about 6 months after the flowers appear, so come later October or November our pomegranates will be ready. They should be the size of an orange and the color will vary from yellow to bright red.     We are looking forward to  celebrating this harvest by making some pomegranate jelly !

Pomegranates Ripening!

Pomegranates Ripening!

Starla

Orchard beginnings here.

Gardening By The Yard

2016 FALL GARDENING SERIES

9:00 AM – NOON

  Raincatcher’s Garden Midway Hills Christian Church

 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, TX 75229

Cost: $15.00/session or $60/for all 5 sessions

 

July 23        Fall Into Gardening

Stephen Hudkins, County Extension Agent/Horticulture Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Dallas County

  • Establishing the raised bed garden- construction, soil, irrigation
  • Square foot garden design
  • Selecting the vegetable varieties
  • Planting dates for successful fall harvest

August 6     Water Conservation in the Home Landscape

Dr. Dotty Woodson, Extension Program Specialist – Water Resources Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

  • Rain Water Harvesting – Rain barrels and cisterns
  • Drip irrigation for landscape beds
  • Calculating needs and programming your lawn sprinkler system

 

August 20            The Earth-Kind® WaterWise Landscape

  • Dr. Steve George, Extension Horticultural Specialist Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
  • Fall is the best time to plant shrubs and trees in your landscape. Come and learn what are the best proven Earth-Kind® plants to have in your landscape that will stand up to the tough soil and weather conditions that we have in the Dallas Metro area.

September 3                   Establishing a Backyard Vineyard

Michael Cook, Viticulture Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Come and learn the art of backyard viticulture production

  • When do I plant
  • What varieties are best for our area
  • What soil conditions do I need
  • What about frost
  • What do I need to have for support
  • When do I get to have my first glass of wine from my grapes

September 17       Healthy Home Lawns

                   Stephen Hudkins, County Extension Agent/Horticulture Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Dallas County

    • Fall maintenance- fertilization, aireation, weed, insect and disease control
    • Maintaining the lawn during the winter
    • The pros and cons of over-seeding
  • You will also have the opportunity to see five turf grass types which are growing in the demonstration plots as well as view the drip irrigation system that has been installed under each plot.

Reservations not required, pay at the door. Master Gardeners can receive CEU credit. Public is welcome!

Some Like It Hot!

It’s that time of year again when it is too hot to do anything, much less garden in the full sun.  Cool weather crops of greens, lettuce, cilantro, and others have either withered away in the heat or gone to seed.  Even tomatoes, as the temperature climbs up into the high nineties, are beginning to get stressed.  Somehow, at this time of year, purchasing bags of pre-cut and washed lettuce and spinach at the grocery store doesn’t seem so bad.  Yet there are some green leafy vegetables that not only like the heat but thrive in it.

Malabar Spinach (Basella albra and Basella rubra) is an edible vine in the family Basellaceae.  It features dark green, glossy, thick leaves. In its native habitat of the Indian Subcontinent, New Guinea, and Southeast Asia it is a perennial plant.  Here in Dallas it dies in the winter but will often come up readily (occasionally too readily) from seed as the weather warms up in the spring.  It goes by several common names such as vine spinach, Ceylon spinach, and climbing spinach among others.  From its name you can see that it needs something to twine around.  Even an upside down large tomato cage will work, though a large trellis is better because the vines grow quickly and need to be constantly “put in their place.”

Malabar Spinach

Malabar Spinach at Hope Community Garden

There are two varieties of Malabar Spinach. B. alba has green stems and B. rubra has red stems and is quite ornamental.  Though both are called “spinach,” they are only distantly related to spinach and have an entirely different texture and taste.  In general, only the leaves are eaten, though in Africa the stems are cooked too.  Younger leaves have a very mild taste, though larger leaves, especially if not watered well, can have a peppery, astringent flavor.  When harvesting, it is recommended that about every other one of the small to middle sized, younger leaves be picked.

Malabar Spinach,Basella rubra

Malabar Spinach,Basella rubra

Malabar Spinach, like okra, is known as a “slippery vegetable” and some people find the mucilaginous texture of the succulent leaves takes some getting used to.  However, Malabar Spinach is high in Vitamin A and C, iron, and calcium.  It is also high in protein per volume and is a good source of soluble fiber.  It holds up particularly well in stir fries, egg dishes and curries.  Many recipes can be found on the internet for ethnic dishes using Malabar Spinach.  It is also good raw mixed with lettuce and other vegetables for a nutritious summer salad.

Growing Malabar Spinach is easy—just wait until the ground temperature is 65-70 degrees (like okra) since the plant thrives in hot and humid temperatures.  White flowers produce black seeds that will often readily reseed themselves.   Some internet sites recommend scarifying the seeds to help with germination or soaking them but often this is not necessary if the soil is kept moist.

Humans are not the only “animals” that enjoy Malabar Spinach.  Dallas County Master Gardeners who volunteer at the Dallas Zoo have helped grow Malabar Spinach in the past for the Zoo’s animals.  Aaron R. Bussell, Animal Nutrition Supervisor at the zoo, says this about the role of Malabar Spinach at the Zoo :

We had a great crop of Malabar Spinach last summer from the Green Life Education Garden, and it lasted into winter.  It was a great source of “Novel” greens for our primates that can get bored eating the same greens on the market.  Novel foods are rotated into the diets to provide nutrition and enrichment.  The diets we produce at the Animal Nutrition Center for over 2000 animals every day are tailor made for 400 plus species at the Dallas Zoo.        We substituted the Malabar Spinach into our Mixed Greens Salad which is shredded for birds, mammals, and reptiles throughout the zoo, and our full time Nutritionist evaluated it as an appropriate substitute for spinach or greens for our primates like chimpanzees, gorillas, and monkeys.  Having more variety of greens to offer these sometimes picky eaters is a great way to provide enrichment for their daily routine.  Malabar Spinach was grown not only for its nutritional value, but it provided natural stimulation when our Western Lowland Gorillas striped the leaves from the vine when served.  It continued to grow much further into the fall and winter as well.  We ended up serving the last of the harvest still entwined onto the bamboo trellis it was grown on.  Great vegetable.  We look forward to growing more again.”

So…. if you want to grow a spinach substitute and a plant favored by both man and beast, try growing Malabar Spinach. You may discover you like it.

Carolyn

 

 

 

Starla’s Garden Adventures #2

Well, Summer has arrived and things are heating up.   This is  garden2.0 in my raised beds .  The radishes and carrots were eradicated on Mothers Day, and now, a month later considerations of “what next” crosses my mind.

The last vestiges of the Fall garden,1.0 are waning. The onions , still in the ground have not become very bulbous, but the green tops will make a nice addition to a summer salad– the kale needs to come out but hasn’t quite made the trip  – And then there is the dill – It  has reached to the sky and given us a beautiful show of  delicate green but now it is very sad looking, with brown clumps of dill seeds hanging on the  umbels.

dill Starla

Yes, it is time to come out– it’s in the way of my path, it’s ugly and it must go …But wait,– hold on,  after making the decision to remove,  but before I yanked it out,  I spy not one, but 2 caterpillars munching on the dill seeds while enjoying the morning sun!   This plant must stay, at least a few days longer to house the honored guests.   So much for a neat and tidy garden right now – Maybe garden 3.0.

The Honored Guest: A Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on Dill

The Honored Guest:
A Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on Dill

Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and beans, are putting on new growth and blossoms  The tomatoes are surviving  — I wouldn’t say thriving, but they are not dead and gone  — I even get a few golden and red gems that never seem to make it back to the house.

The cucumbers were planted sinfully late, but are climbing up the wrought iron fence and acting like they want to perform. I must remember to water regularly, but with a trip planned, not sure how that is going to go.  But I continue, learning with each step and misstep, and enjoying the journey.

Thus continues the saga of this little garden that brings me joy in the most unexpected ways.

Starla

 

 

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