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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 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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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!

Hanging Out At the Mall

      There are always problems with anthropomorphizing non-humans. Just think of those cute cat and dog “shaming” videos where animals are just being true to their nature but we humans attach reasons and feelings behind their behavior.  Still sometimes, even insects seem to display some “human” characteristics.

I thought about this a few years ago in autumn when I was picking the last of the okra.   Though an occasional brown paper wasp was often seen in the garden, suddenly, as I was disturbing the plants, I was surrounded by more than one wasp.  As they did not seem particularly aggressive, I kept on picking.  However, when the same thing happened the next day, I began to look more closely at the okra plants.  There to my horror were two clusters of about seven or more wasps on the underside of two leaves.  After getting over my shock, I began to observe their behavior.


Every once in a while a new wasp would fly into the group.  The other wasps would rush to the “newcomer” and start feeling its body with their antennae.  At first I wondered whether the original group was trying to kill the newcomer, but realized that perhaps this was their way of communicating.  What was going on?

A quick Google search revealed that the behavior was common.  Stephen Bambara and Michael Waldvogel, Extension Entomologists with North Carolina Cooperative Extension say: “… paper wasps show types of swarming behavior during the cool and cold times of the year when there are no nests and no young larvae to protect.  During the fall, this behavior is connected with mating and is the wasp version of “boy meets girl.”  Male wasps look for the best place to “hang out” and attract females.  On these warm days during the fall, the future queens become active and fly about.  Dozens or hundreds might be seen around the upper stories of a building, transmission tower or other tall structures.” Were the male wasps that I was observing just acting like teenage boys and “hanging out at the mall,” waiting to find some cute girls?

Unfortunately for the male wasp, that is where the comparison to its human counterpart ends. At some time after mating, the males die and the impregnated females seek shelter for the winter.

Carolyn Bush




Celebrate the new year with friends and family at Fish City Grill on Tuesday, January 10th and help the Raincatcher’s Garden.  The local gathering spot is known for Oyster Nachos, fresh seafood and a fun, casual atmosphere.

Fish City Grill supports local organizations through its First Tuesday Benefit.  Raincatcher’s will receive 15% of the day’s receipts, including take-out!

Fish City Grill is located on the southeast corner of Preston and Royal, near Central Market. Enjoy your Smokin’ Hot Shrimp and Fish Tacos from 11 am to 10 pm.

Address: 10720 Preston Road #1012
Dallas, Texas 75230
Phone: 214-891-9979


New Year’s Resolutions

A new year is here, and with it comes hope. All those good intentions come roaring back, ready to improve our lives.  Last year, we began creating an edible landscape in the old, disused playground.  We promised you updates on our activities, and sharing what we learned as we experimented in our new space.  Those posts got written, but never published.

So our resolution for 2017 is to both write and publish our edible landscape adventure (with pictures, of course!)  We’ll aim to do one a week, keeping you informed of our progress, our activities, our successes, our failures, and any lessons we glean from all of it.  …And we’ll probably slip in last year’s posts (as they become seasonally relevant.)

edible-garden-januaryAbove: growing soil!

Right now, we’re growing soil. Aboveground, the garden looks asleep; belowground, many organisms are busy converting multiple layers of compost and mulch into rich soil.  You may have heard of it, it goes by many names:  sheet-mulching and lasagna-gardening are two common ones.  Growing soil doesn’t take much effort from the gardener (other than patience), so while the garden doesn’t need our immediate attention, we are inside, warm and cozy, surrounded by a mountain of catalogs, dreaming up the landscape for the upcoming year.  If you’ve got any suggestions for us, we’d love to hear it!  The only caveat is that the plant must have an edible component.  With all the trees in our landscape, shade-tolerant edibles get bonus points.

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



How often do you get an entertainment package with a nectar source?

Blue Porterweed, Stachytarpheta jamaicensis

Blue Porterweed, Stachytarpheta jamaicensis

My husband has mentioned several times how entertaining the Porter weed is which can be seen through our den windows. We have watched hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees drinking from it.

Now we must say goodbye and hope that it returns from its roots next year. Proper mulch has been applied.

Porterweed comes in several colors and be careful because the names and growth habits will switch according to species or cultivar.

Raincatcher’s has Coral Porterweed, Stachytarpheta mutabilis, in our courtyard garden and Lavender Porterweed Stachytarpheta mutabilis var. violacea in our butterfly garden.

Coral Porterweed, Stachytarpheta mutabilis

Coral Porterweed, Stachytarpheta mutabilis

Make a note to look for this favorite nectar source at the Texas Discovery Garden spring plant sale in 2017.

In the meantime, Porterweed, we are going to miss you!


Hope you read yesterday’s freeze information yesterday and for further info click here.

Note: I have seen Porterweed spelled as two words and one word.



Freezing Weather Coming…

I talked to Lisa today. She and Jim  were headed to The Raincatcher’s Garden to drain the pipes alongside our cisterns so the pvc wouldn’t crack if we have freezing weather and to make sure all faucets were covered.

Last week our gardeners were busy harvesting green tomatoes, some sugar baby watermelons(one last taste of summer) and herbs that would freeze like thyme, lemon verbena, and lemon balm.  Our basil was already on it’s last legs so only a little bit of it was worth picking.


Here’s some advice  from seasoned gardeners (hohoho)

about preparing home gardens before a freeze.

We were so lucky this time to have had rain because watering before freezes is so important. Buying  frost cloth is a good investment; the little sack like things are useful.  I just put those on two clumps of narcissus that are just about to bloom; it won’t hurt the plants but the blooms could be destroyed.  I think the kale will be fine but covered it just to be safe  of course all tropical have to be inside–and taking a small clump of lemon grass and just putting in the garage will be sure you have some for the next year. Lemon grass usually comes back but is tropical and can freeze.

Pick all vegetables. Green tomatoes usually ripen spread them out single layer–I use plates and put them in back rooms–my kids used to say they couldn’t sleep without green tomatoes on the dresser!


I’ve pulled out all my summer veggies, because I like to avoid the ugly frozen plants.

dorothys-frost-coversBecause I have now acquired 5 citrus trees, I don’t have room to move them in, so I covered them and have a light bulb down in the bottom.





Thanksgiving Menu

Thank you to our many readers who have purchased the Dallas County Master Gardener Association cookbook, A Year On The Plate. Copies are available on our website and at North Haven Gardens while supplies last.slide08

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Menu by Linda

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