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Let the Buzzing Begin!

January 31, 2023

Honey dripping from spatula with honeybees around

Happy 2023 and welcome to the beginning of a 12-month adventure
featuring honey and honeybees.

Along the way, we’re going to learn
some very beneficial facts about bees, honey and honey production.
Join the “buzz” each month for a closer look into the fascinating world
of honeybees. Discover secrets of the colony that will leave you amazed
at how efficiently these tiny insects perform their specific duties within a brief, but highly productive, lifespan.

Follow the wisdom from our monthly “Drops of Honey” for incredibly
interesting information. Learn the story of honey and how it is made.
You will quickly discover that the honeybee is truly a brilliant creature.

The Appeal of Honey

Throughout the history of mankind, honey has been celebrated by every generation, tribe and culture. Dating back to 2100 B.C. where it was mentioned in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings, the Hittite codes and the sacred writing of India and Egypt, honey is a subject with universal appeal. Its magical properties and versatility are treasured by people groups across the globe.

Over the next twelve months, our journey into the world of “honey”
promises to give us a growing admiration for the source of this golden gift
from nature: the honeybee. Hopefully, our understanding of the role each
tiny bee plays in the process of honey production will inspire us to be more
appreciative, and protective, of these fascinating creatures.
So, let’s get busy learning what all the “buzz” is about!

An adventure into the world of honey wouldn’t be complete without some favorite recipes using it as a key ingredient. Our first recipe featuring honey is a staple of Southern cruise: Honey and Herb Cathead Biscuits (many years ago in the Deep South, biscuits were so large they were described as being the size of a cat’s head). So, let’s jump right in and enjoy the taste of these flaky, tender and delicious gems drizzled with the superstar flavor of Sourwood honey. Top your biscuit with a small piece of honeycomb and freshly chopped thyme for a heavenly finish.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Seed Starting 2023 and Save the Date for our Plant Sale

February 1, 2023

Real gardeners are not letting grass grow under their feet; they are busy starting seeds. By starting seed indoors you can extend a plant’s growing season, scoop up new and varied varieties of seed rather than depending on garden center transplants, and maybe even save money. Packages of seeds are so much less expensive than transplants.

The Master Gardeners at Raincatchers Garden have seed starting operations in their homes.

This is Joe Armitage, Class of 2019, and his set up with LED lights. He started Tasmanian Chocolate and VR Moscow tomato seeds on 1/10/23.

Jackie James has a simple set up in her sunny window for seed starting and uses reading lamps to provide extra light.She enjoys up cycling take home containers. They work just as well as store bought trays with humidity domes for germination.Pimento peppers planted January 14th are already sprouting.

Peppers in production are:

Mad Hatter, Purple Jalapeno, Lemon Spice Jalapeno, Orange Spice Jalapeno, Aji Amarillo, Hot Hungarian Banana Pepper, Cherry Bomb, Pimento, Shishito, Fish Pepper, Hot Pops Purple Ornamental, Santos Orange Ornamental, Wicked Purple Ornamental. 

Sheila Kostleny has started pepper seeds for the North garden at Rainctcher’s and our plant sale. Sweet Jimmy Nardello, Northstar Hybrid, Gypsy Hybird, Habanada and Early Jalapeno are in production.  

As seen on the bottom rack, Sheila is trying paper towel germination for Marconi Sweet pepper, Tam Jalaepeno and Rainbow Blend Lunchbox Peppers.

Jim Dempsey uses a grow light with three trays and each tray holds two 72 count seed trays. He planted the peppers around January 18 and plans to start tomatoes in the next few days. Next he will plant flower seeds.

Jim has a total of 175 peppers in this tray.

These seedlings will be potted up and planted at The Raincatcher’s Garden in the spring. Many varieties will also be sold at our plant sale in May.

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005, with input from Beverly Allen


The Garden In January As We Wait for Spring

January 26, 2023

A quote from Southern Bulbs has captured my thoughts:

“Spring starts the day after Christmas.”

Working with our veggie team at Raincatcher’s last Monday, January 16th, spring was definitely in the air and now we have had over an inch of rain to further encourage our spring longings.

We sat at tables under our education pavilion planting tomato seeds with dreams of epic tomatoes. For a list of tomato varities we are seeding, see below.

Elephant garlic planted in November, to be harvested in June, was examined.

We considered the carrots that took a hit during the December low temperatures but have rebounded.

Last year the Raincatcher’s Garden delivered 700 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit to North Dallas Shared Ministries Food Pantry. The goal for 2023 is 1,000 pounds of harvest. With the dedication of this band of Master Gardeners and expert leadership, I am sure they will succeed.

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005


Tomato varieties and place purchased are as below. 

Johnny’s Selected Seeds – Hybrid Cherry BHN-968, Early Girl, Five Star Grape, Tasmanian Chocolate and Juliet.

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds – Cherry Falls.

Botanical Interests – Patio Choice Yellow. 

Tomato Growers Supply Company – Red Robin and Wild Cherry. 

Natural Inspiration

In the “paint” world, each new year begins with the big reveal. For 2023, Pantone has taken inspiration from the natural world with the announcement of Viva Magenta as their color of the year. Described by the company as a powerful and vibrant shade of red deeply rooted in nature, it promises to be “bold and fearless” while adding a joyful and optimistic tone to your interior.

Pantone’s glamorous appeal is convincing; “Viva Magenta descends from the red family and is inspired by the red of cochineal. The cochineal beetle is an insect that produces carmine dye, one of the most precious, strongest, and brightest natural dyes the world has known”.  They add, “it was chosen to reflect our pull toward natural colors.”

Seems the botanical industry has taken notice with promotional ads now featuring a stunning array of floral options for your landscape. Not surprisingly, it would be difficult to find a flower that more dramatically captures the true essence of “magenta” than the zinnia.

As you can see from this stunning photograph, I was, indeed, “drawn in” and quick to imagine the perfect sunny location for it in my summer garden. It’s from The Gardener’s Workshop in Newport News, Virginia.

The name and description they’ve given this zinnia is impressive; ‘Uproar Rose’. It is being held as the next knock-out zinnia by cut flower growers everywhere.

My seeds have been ordered and will be planted directly into the garden after our last danger of frost. I’ll follow their very professional harvesting tips:

*Harvest the blooms when fully mature.

*Make the first harvest cut above the bottom two side shoots as this establishes a branching habit for the season.

*Make future cuts at the base of the stem.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener class of 2008

Glorious Gardening in The North Field

December 2, 2022

Joy in the garden and what to expect in your fall and winter gardens:

Our gardeners who work in the gardens pictured are called the “vegetable team.” Beverly writes-I have been thinking about the gratitude the vegetable team has for the harvests we have donated. (over 675 pounds donated) When we are trying a variety that is new to us, we taste it-often as a part of lunch before we go home from our workday. I’m grateful for that fellowship.  I’m also grateful for the gardeners who start seeds for us at their homes. 

The loofah and Zucchino Rampicante (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) escaped the raised beds and trellises after the worst of the summer heat was over. The loofah seeds were saved from a prior year and direct sowed. 
Aji Dulce peppers are mild and productive. They become very sweet when allowed to turn red. Our seeds were a gift and we save them from year to year.  They are becoming easier to find at some of the specialty seed outlets.

We planted small varieties of carrots such as “Little Finger” from Botanical Interests and kept the soil consistently moist until they germinated.  

Even though garden centers have turned their inventory to Christmas trees, you can still find lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, kale, and herb transplants. Also, keep direct sowing radishes.  You may get a wonderful winter crop of vitamin packed vegetables. 

Ann Lamb and Beverly Allen, 2 Dallas County Master Gardeners

Pictures by Starla Willis, Dallas County Master Gardener-2008

Broccoli Romanesco

November 21, 2022

Grow your own garden art! Romanesco is a cole crop with characteristics of broccoli and cauliflower. It is widely grown in Italy and gaining popularity in Texas. Thanks to Romanesco, vegetable gardening is not just rewarding and nutritious it is also beautiful.

Romanesco produces thick stalks and wide, rough leaves. Leave a large space to grow this vegetable. The central head grows very large and eventually the plant can span 2 feet in diameter.

Me-Ann Lamb holding a Brocolli Romanesco from my garden in 2016

Sow seeds in a fertile location from February 1 to March 5 for a spring crop or August 20 to September 20 for a fall crop. Fall crops are ofter more sucessful as this plant thrives in cool weather. Sow seeds tinly and cover with 1/2 inch of fine soil. Keep evenly moist. Seedlings will emerge in 10-21 days. Thin to about 16 inches apart when seedlings are 1-2 inches high. Transplants are also available and much easier to grow. These plants will reach maturity in 75-100 days. To harvest, pick the enitre head before it begins to seperate.

Romanesco is a true photo opportunity. Take a close-up shot and it looks like and apple-green mountain range. The scientific name for this unusual ordering of rows is a “fractal.” Fractals can be thought of as never-ending patterns-nothing wrong with bringing math into the kitchen.

Susan Thornbury, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Photo by Starla Willis, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

The Raincatcher’s Garden Fall 2022

November 18, 2022

A note from Jackie:

I thought I would follow up the beautiful fall photos Starla submitted to the blog with these photos of our garden that I recently received from our friend, Diane Washam.

Check out this bee visiting our Mexican Honeysuckle Plant. This plant blooms from late spring to fall.
I have never seen garlic chive seeds look so beautiful!
This lizard looks quite comfortable on the spotted manfreda plant.
Mexican Mint Marigold looking pretty after the rain.
Lambs Quarter is in the same plant family as spinach, chard and beets.
This is the Fidalgo Roxa pepper. We planted it on the courtyard as an ornamental plant. The beautiful, colorful peppers look like candy! However, don’t let the candy like appearance fool you as this pepper is extremely hot.
It was a good year for peppers! This is one of the many pepper plants that we planted in the edible garden, the donation garden and the courtyard garden. Many of these wonderful peppers were donated to the food bank, many of them were used to make our jalapeno jellies and a few were just there as ornamental plants to add interest to our gardens.

Jackie James, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

Photos by Diane Washam

Before the First Frost

This is look at The Raincathcher’s Garden before the first frost. Temperatures may drop this weekend and then around mid to late November you can expect our first frost. Take a good look now through these pictures from Starla. She snapped many pictures and kept saying “the garden looks amazing.” Starla saw butterflies, a Texas spiny lizard and laybugs enjoying our fall garden.

Lots of pollinators like this Orange Sulphur on Mexican Mint Marigold

A Gulf Fritillary on Red Salvia
A Queen poised for her next flight
And a Morning glory blossom hosting a honey bee

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005

All photos by Starla Willis, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Today is the pick-up day for The Raincatcher’s Pansy and Plant Sale 2022. Thank you all for your orders! We’ve had a very successful sale and can’t wait to see you today for pickup.

If you haven’t already made arrangements for delivery (larger orders only) or late pickup, please plan to come by the garden on Wednesday afternoon between 1pm and 4pm to pick up your order. There will be volunteers on hand to help you load them from the north parking lot at the shade pavilion.

Raincatcher’s is located on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church at 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, TX.

Raincatcher’s Pansy and Plant Sale

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is offering fall annuals at a fantastic price for your fall and winter landscape color. Pansies, violas, and alyssum are $20/flat of 18 4″ pots, which includes tax. The online sale begins at 7am on Saturday, 10/15, and ends on Thursday, 10/20, at midnight. Flats will be delivered to the garden on Wednesday, 11/9, the peak time for fall planting, and are available to be picked up from 1pm until 4pm.

All orders must be prepaid, either through Signup Genius using your credit or debit card (fast and easy) or by check. Orders will be placed with the nursery after payment is received.

Order your fall annuals through our convenient Signup Genius account and find out more information about the sale by clicking on the following link:

Thank you for your support! Funds raised support Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, a Research, Education and Demonstration project of Dallas County Master Gardeners, a program run by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and supported by the Dallas County Master Gardener Association. Follow us to learn about gardening in our North Texas climate and soil conditions and to find plant recommendations, recipes and stories from the garden. You can find our garden on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church at 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX.

Searching for a Borer Resistant Squash

October 11, 2022

I have to say that the squash vine borers (SVBs) were getting me down.  After spending the summer of 2021 removing borers from the squash plants and still not seeing much of a harvest, I swore off growing squash, almost. 

The SVB larva grows inside the squash vine (often killing the plant) and then makes a cocoon that overwinters in the soil. The adult moth emerges from the cocoon in spring and lays eggs on the undersides of the squash leaves. The eggs hatch and the larvae begin destroying your plants again. 

One solution is not to have any squash handy for the adults to lay their eggs on (thus the almost swearing off). You can also interrupt this cycle by finding and removing the eggs. That is a real challenge unless you have a small number of plants and time to check every single leaf every day.

We started off the spring season with some lovely Italian cucumbers that were producing well but suddenly began to droop just like the squash had the previous summer.  It turns out that if they don’t find any squash, the borers may settle for your favorite cucumber.  It almost seems spiteful. 

I was persuaded by a team member to try growing butternut squash in late summer. Cucurbita moschata has a reputation for borer resistance.  Throwing caution to the wind, we decided to try zucchino rampicante and calabacita as well.

Despite my skepticism, we have a raised bed full of butternut squash maturing now with no sign of SVBs.

Cucurbita moschata, Butternut squash

The zucchino rampicante is in the same family and has a hard stem that I assumed the borers would not be able to breach. However, we found a few larvae in the stems and removed them. The plant now has huge beautiful leaves and vines that run about 12 feet.  It is producing two foot long fruits that weigh a pound or so. 

The calabacita (Cucurbita pepo), also known as tatume or Mexican zucchini, has a tough, thin vine and has shown few signs of distress from SVBs.  It is taking up a lot of garden space but makes up for it by being very productive. The fruit may be eaten like a thin skinned summer squash or allowed to grow into a soccer ball sized pumpkin.

Going forward I will swear off swearing off. 

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

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