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Are You Growing Curry Plant?

June 15, 2021

You may have seen Curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) at local garden centers. Its silvery-gray to silver-green leaves are needle-like in shape, much like lavender or rosemary. Crushing the leaves gently in between your fingers, that familiar curry-like fragrance is easily released. If you happen to be in the garden after a refreshing rain, the scent intensifies. 

The Curry plant is a perennial with a bushy growth habit reaching to about 28 inches. It is in the daisy family (Asteraceae), and is related to many other herbs such as the marigold, dandelion, tarragon and chamomile. As is typical of herbs that originated from the Mediterranean it prefers a dry, sunny location. Planting in less humid, even sandy soils which have good drainage is recommended. Water sparingly and avoid a damp, moist location. During the flowering period, usually between late June and mid-September, it produces relatively small, bright yellow flowers. 

This easy to grow shrub usually requires no fertilizer. At Raincatcher’s we have grown it in the same spot for several years, choosing to mix in a little compost in early spring. Although the Curry plant is frost hardy, the extreme winter temperatures this year did cause some damage to our plants. We gave them a careful spring trimming which has helped to regenerate and restore most of the plants.  

Not to be confused with the spice called curry, curry plant is used in many different recipes including rice, pasta, paella, vegetable dishes, soups and meat dishes. Curry leaves are best enjoyed when freshly chopped. Branches can also be used for cooking certain dishes but should be removed before consuming. (For clarification, curry powder is a combination of herbal seeds and other seasonings including coriander, pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, turmeric and various other spices.) 

In England, fresh curry plant leaves are chopped up and used in a cream cheese spread on sandwiches. From Germany, a recipe using a combination of herbal seeds and spices caught my eye. Curry plant leaves are stir fried into the mix. It is an Indian style potato dish topped with yogurt and mango chutney. Figs and curry plant leaves are used to decorate the dish. 

For a multi-cultural experience, give curry a place in your garden.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Squash Vine Borers

June 12, 2021

If you are like me, you dread the thought of pests like the squash vine borer invading your garden. Beverly sent this helpful note this afternoon with a few tips.


I have been enjoying the stunning growth of the squash “volunteers” around Raincatcher’s. Last year’s plants dropped seeds that have become this year’s squash plants.  Having a big concern about squash borers, I read up on the subject.

 It seemed necessary to check each plant daily for the sawdust colored frass (poop) that appears at the stem when the larva is present.

After a week of wondering if I would be able to identify it, eureka! The squash plant below was planted in the Sensory Garden of the Edible Landscape. It went from healthy looking to kind of unhealthy looking overnight.

The next picture shows a close-up of the frass.  I removed the diseased section of the plant and replanted the remainder of the squash plant with 3 nodes in the soil.

Extra mulch seems to be helping other squash plants evade the borer so far. Continued vigilance will help us to slow down the squash borer population at least a little bit.

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

Many years ago at our Joe Field Location we had a lunch with every menu item made from squash starting with squash blossoms quesadillas! Links to the articles are provided below.

Squash squash and more squash

Squash recipes following our squashme event

Plan Ahead-Easy To Grow Late Summer and Fall Gardening

June 9, 2021

Planning your garden can be panic inducing. What do I plant? Do I start from seed or transplant? I like squash but so do squash borers (a lot)!


When planning our gardens we keep the basics in mind like irrigation plans, soil, light, and available space. But what to plant and when?


You might find it helpful to start with some tasty and easy to grow plants. 
Here are some plants with minimal requirements other than regular watering starting with okra as early as July.

Okra, seed outdoors in July or August. Harvest the pods every two or three days. Slice in half lengthwise, toss in olive oil, and roast in the oven at 425֯ F for 15 minutes or so. 

 

Swiss Chard, seed outdoors mid-August to late September.  It grows in hot and cold weather and usually can be harvested all year.  Remove stems and sauté as you would spinach.

 

Radishes, seed outdoors late September to mid-November.  Many varieties take only 25 days until ready for harvest. The French Breakfast variety was a favorite with the vegetable team this year.  Serve thinly sliced on buttered bread or a whole wheat tortilla. 

Artichokes (perennial!), plant transplants in mid-October.  We get many compliments on the beauty of the artichokes in the Edible Landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden. You may harvest the globes or allow them to develop into an eye catching and exotic looking flower. 

Happy gardening!

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

New DCMGA Partnership Brings PlantTAGG Mobile Experience to Their Gardens

June 4, 2021

Gardening in North Texas has a unique set of challenges. We know there’s always a story to be told and advice to share, from coping with the scorching, dry summer heat to planting in the unforgiving, heavy clay soil. Part of our mission at Dallas Garden Buzz is to share our journey through the triumphs and missteps of gardening. To that end, we are delighted to announce the new partnership between the Dallas County Master Gardener Association (DCMGA) and PlantTAGG!

What is PlantTAGG?

PlantTAGG is the most technically advanced mobile solution for helping gardeners learn about and care for their plants. It’s FREE to use; and because it’s a web app, there’s nothing to download or install and no credentials to remember. PlantTAGG uses patented formulas to analyze data from NOAA, USDA, Texas A&M AgriLife, and Master Gardeners from around the country. This data is turned into accurate, easy-to-follow plant care guidance localized for your yard and plants.

Beyond the technology, PlantTAGG’s goals to educate gardeners blends seamlessly with the mission of the Master Gardener program. Abbe Bolich, President of the DCMGA, said it best,

“We’re thrilled to partner with PlantTAGG on this exciting new program. Our shared mission to educate the public about best horticultural practices really comes to life in our community gardens with this new mobile experience.”

What does the partnership mean for Dallas gardeners?

This partnership sets the gold standard in gardening by coupling sophisticated, easy-to-use technology with proven, research-based horticultural information for gardeners of all levels. As part of the partnership, we’re rolling out PlantTAGG-enabled gardens across the DCMGA ecosystem – and Raincatcher’s Garden is one of the first to benefit from this new mobile experience. 

It’s easy to use PlantTAGG in the DCMGA gardens – as you can see in this quick video:

For now, you can also try the PlantTAGG mobile experience at R&B 1, Bath House Cultural Center, Lakewood Elementary School Gardens, and Plano East Senior High Pollinator Garden. Other community gardens will launch in the coming weeks, including the Texas Discovery Master Gardeners’ Garden.

What’s next?

Come and see us! We’d love for you to visit Raincatcher’s (or any of the DCMGA gardens) and try out the new PlantTAGG-enabled mobile experience.

Learn more about the DCMGA and PlantTAGG partnership on the Dallas Garaden Buzz blog at https://planttagg.com/planttagg-and-dallas-master-gardeners/

Be sure to follow @dallascountymastergardeners and @planttagg on Instagram to be alerted of new garden launches and other program updates.

Until then, text PLANTS to 46376 to get started at home with PlantTAGG. 

We’ll look forward to seeing you in the gardens!

Cynthia Jones, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2013

Lemon Balm and Rainy Days

May 27, 2021

After two glorious weeks of puddle-filling, gutter-gushing rain, I’ve had time to think and cook a little more than usual. Initially, my thoughts turned to an experience shared with another master gardener a few days ago in the edible landscape.

The two of us were having a discussion about a big clump of the common herb, lemon balm, that had taken over a small area of the Hügelkultur bed. It wasn’t planned for the space but, this spring, had volunteered to take up residence in that location.  Now, completely covering a new rosemary plant and a low growing French tarragon, the space was too crowded for all three to survive. Too many plants in too small a space and that “real estate”, we determined, belonged to our ‘Arp’ rosemary plant. Patti offered to dig up the lemon balm and move it to an open spot in our newly designed sensory garden.  

Lemon Balm on the left, Variegated Lemon Balm right

Because lemon balm is known for growing like a weed, some gardeners choose not to have it their gardens. The big clump Patti dug up could just as easily have been tossed into the compost pile but then we would have missed the fun of using it in more beneficial ways. Thankfully, the rainy weather had given me some time to research and learn more about this fragrant and tasty herb. 

Lemon balm is a lemon-scented, aromatic perennial plant native to the Mediterranean. It belongs to the Lamiaceae (mint) family of plants with four-sided stems. The genus name, Melissa, is derived from the Greek word meaning “honeybee”. This herb’s lemony fragrance attracts bees. Hives were once rubbed with its leaves to bring in swarms.

Lemon balm is easy to grow, accepting partial shade to full sun exposure. You can expect the leaves to turn pale yellow green in full sun. Some gardeners believe the plant is happier and more handsome when grown in the shade. Prefers moist fertile soil with good drainage. 

Just a few feet away from the clump Patti transplanted is a new variety of lemon balm that we found at a local garden center this spring; Melissa officinalis ‘Aurea’ (Variegated Lemon Balm). It is a robust grower with variegated gold/green foliage. Like its cousin, the variegated variety can be used for many culinary purposes. 

A refreshing trio: Lemon Balm Shortbread, Roasted Blueberries and Lemon Balm Ice Cream and Lemon Balm Infused Green Tea

Acclaimed chef and cookbook author, David Leibovitz, combines lemon balm with roasted blueberries for a delicious ice cream treat. Other delightful recipes include Lemon Balm Shortbread with fresh Lemon Balm Tea. 

Give lemon balm a try this year. Hopefully, you will agree with poets and herbalists of old who referred to it as “heart’s delight” for its uplifting qualities. 

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Salad From The Garden

May 25, 2021

Thank you, Starla Willis, for the video and Beverly Allen and Sharon L. Wright for teaching us about salad gardening. It is my understanding that your lettuce varieties were planted the first week of March and may last through June.

If you are like me, and hate to see your salad garden coming to an end, make summer plans!

I hear Beverly is trying a heat resistant romaine lettuce from Johnny’s seeds called Monte Carlo. Along with using a location with part shade, she plans to harvest often and early to beat the effects of our summer heat. She also said with this cool spring, there might be time to get one more round of quick growing radish seeds such as Cherry Belle or French Breakfast planted and harvested before summer. Her favorite sandwich consists of thinly sliced radishes from the garden and arugula. Sounds good, Beverly!

More summer salad ideas-Swiss Chard and Malabar Spinach. Buy transplants from your local garden center and put them in your garden when your spring lettuce begins to bolt or turn bitter.

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018


Here’s more information from Johnny’s Seeds about heat resistant varieties. We can’t vouch for them yet, but plan to try some in our gardens. Dallas Garden Buzz readers, what do you grow for your salad bowl when the heat comes on? We would love to know.

Garden Guests

May 23, 2021

Carolina Wren Hatchlings

The Audubon Society describes it as a “rush and rumble” sound. It was exactly what I was hearing repeatedly over the past month while working in the greenhouse. Close by, yet unnoticed, a little wren kept darting in and out of potted plants on a high shelf just outside the back of the greenhouse. 

Sometime around mid-March, when the chance of freezing temperatures had ended, our scented pelargoniums were moved from inside the greenhouse to a large 5-tiered shelving unit outside. We were getting them acclimated to the cooler temperatures before planting in the edible landscape. Nestled on the top shelf, right next to the back greenhouse wall, five medium-sized peach scented pelargoniums were thriving in their temporary environment. 

As temperatures warmed, a decision was made to get the plants into the ground and ready for their semi-permanent, seasonal home. Reaching carefully for one of the taller plants, it seemed odd to find a scattering of leaves, twigs and stems surrounding the base. As I gently lifted the plant down to eye level, that familiar chirping sound filled the air. 

Thankfully, Starla, had agreed to meet me at the garden to take pictures. With our iPhones in hand, we quietly moved in to get a closer look. Much to our surprise, at least three tiny baby wrens were snuggled down in the make-shift nest waiting for mamma to feed them. Mamma wren had done such a fine job of camouflaging her babies that it was difficult to see how many were in the nest. Respectful of the home she had made for them, Starla quickly snapped a few photos of babies anxiously awaiting, with beaks wide open, for mamma to appear.

Seconds later, Starla had captured the perfect photo and we returned the plant to its location on the shelf. Two of the five peach pelargoniums have now been planted in the edible landscape. The pelargonium holding the wren’s nest will remain undisturbed until the little birds are old enough to leave. Two other pelargoniums are flanking it, giving them a little added protection from rain and high winds. Eventually, all pelargoniums will go to their new home in the edible landscape but, for now, we’re enjoying the sweet sounds of the wren’s cheerful trilling songs.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Picture by Starla Willis, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2011

Jewels of Opar

Jewels of Opar, an edible plant
and cottage garden favorite

Are you imagining a rare and brilliant necklace worn by a beautiful Persian woman of antiquity? If so, it may surprise you to learn that Jewels of Opar (Talinum paniculatum) is a plant which is native to the New World. My first experience with it was a few years ago when ‘A Year on the Plate’ was being created for the Dallas County Master Gardener Association.

Ann Lamb, my dear friend and one of the photographers for the cookbook, brought a small floral arrangement to the photo shoot for Lemon Verbena Scones. Earlier that morning, she had gone to her yard and gathered up a lovely collection of flowers and herbs. Placed perfectly in an ordinary “ball jar”, its simplicity was stunning. But it was the delicate addition of a branched display filled with tiny jewel-colored balls that caught my eye.

My curiosity led to a discussion of the plant which she quickly identified as Jewels of Opar. And so, the story continues with the gift from her garden and a recently discovered piece of information. True gardeners are always learning about the plant world. And, that information is easily shared through emails and texts or as we are working together in the garden.

Thanks to Susan Swinson, one of the volunteers at Raincatcher’s, we have just learned that Jewels of Opar is also an edible plant. Hooray! Remembering what Ann had told me back in 2016, to “choose your location carefully because once planted, your will always have it your garden”, our “Jewels” is growing in a small, manageable garden bed.  

Growth Habits and Characteristics:

*A self-seeding perennial that prefers full sun but can tolerate a small amount of shade during the day. Grows to about 24” tall.

*Does best in well drained soils and is tolerant of poor soils and heat. 

*Stunning lime green leaves with sprays of tiny pink flowers followed by ruby-orange seedpods. 

*Elliptical to rounded oval leaves are succulent and make an excellent addition to salads and sandwiches. 

*Seeds are tiny but nutritious and have recently been compared favorably with flaxseed.If you would like to add this beaded beauty to your garden, stop by Raincatcher’s on Tuesday, May 25th from 9:00am – 1:00pm. We have about two dozen small Jewels of Opar plants ready to be “gifted” on a first come, first served basis. 

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Spotted Manfreda Plant

May 12, 2021

Spotted Manfreda Plant

Several weeks ago during a recent work day at the garden, we noticed a flower stalk coming up from the middle of a couple of our spotted manfreda plants on the courtyard of Raincatcher’s Garden.  This particular succulent plant, also know as Texas Tuberose or Manfreda maculosa is short (grows 12 – 15 inches tall) with silvery green leaves and is covered with purple spots. It is native to southern Texas and northern Mexico and does best in full sun.  It is considered a tender perennial but is often an evergreen plant in mild winters.  It completely died back this past winter and not only came back this spring but quickly produced a flower stalk.  

Manfreda in Bloom

The plant eventually grows into a thick clump of shoots connected at the roots and is often referred to as a ground cover plant.  The best part about the growth habit of this plant is that it is begging to be shared.  In fact, I got my plant many years ago from a couple who were on the city of Dallas Water Wise Garden tour.  As soon as I asked the home owner about the plant, she quickly retrieved a trowel and dug up an offshoot for me.  I have lost count of how many of these plants I have given to gardening friends as well as planting several in the courtyard at Midway Hills Christian Church.

The Alien Looking Flower of the Manfreda

I did a bit of research about the flower and I found that the relatively tall inflorescent carries mildly fragrant tubular flowers.  The flowers lack colorful petals, but have especially long pistils and stamens.  One website described the flower as “alien looking.”   

This is a plant to consider growing in your garden or in a container.  And if you’re lucky, it will gift you with a large, alien looking flower!

Jackie James Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

We will have a couple of varieties of manfreda plants available at our plant sale on May 13th and 14th.   Hope to see you there.

Jackie James, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

Flower Photos by garden friend, Diane Washam 


PLANT SALE LOCATION: 11001 MIDWAY ROAD, DALLAS, TEXAS 75229

MAY 13TH AND 14TH

Edible Spring Blossoms…Our Top Ten

May 11, 2021

Want to bring some unexpected tastes to your palate? A recent walk around our edible landscape gave us the answer. Yes, we are growing kale for the foliage, chervil for its delicate, lacy leaves and chives to top baked potatoes and egg dishes but many other beautiful spring blossoms offer special gifts not to be missed.

Salads become more vibrant and enticing, soup receives a touch of elegance and lightly steamed or sauteed vegetables sparkle when flower blossoms garnish the dish. We’ve selected ten of our favorite spring blossoms to whet your appetite. Some are familiar, others may surprise you with their distinctive and very pleasant tastes. Enjoy your springtime visit to our garden to catch a glimpse of these lovely blossoms before they fade away.

#10…German Chamomile (Chamaeomelum nobile; Matricaria recutita)

Dainty, apple scented, daisy-like spring blossoms become the perfect ingredient for brewing a cup of German chamomile tea. To make the tea, place 1 tablespoon fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried) flowers in a cup. Pour 1 cup boiling water over the top and steep for 5 minutes. Strain out the petals before drinking or using in a recipe. Let the soothing taste calm and comfort you on a crisp spring morning. Petals can also be used in salads. 

#9…Scented Geraniums (Pelargoniums spp.)

At Raincatcher’s we’ve fallen head over heels with scented pelargoniums (geraniums). Their fragrance is so captivating that we’re constantly searching for new varieties. This spring, we’re growing some of the following: chocolate peppermint, lavender, lemon fizz, rose, peach and pink champagne. From smooth-as-velvet rounded leaves to deeply lobed, the foliage of scented pelargoniums makes a lovely statement in the garden. Use scented geranium leaves to lend a nice fragrant addition to cookies, cakes, butter, drinks, and many other types of foods. Garnish the beverage of your choice with a tiny blossom. For a sweet finish, give it a gentle swish in the liquid before consuming.

#8…Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)

After the deep freeze of February, chervil gave us a spirit-lifting surprise. Our tender little plants growing in the Hügelkultur stayed nestled in the ground just long enough to survive the bitter cold. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been drawn to tiny white anise-flavored blossoms covering the plants. Harvest chervil blossoms and leaves as close to preparation time as possible. Partner it with eggs, salmon, cream soups, and many classic sauces. Use the blossoms to garnish watercress for a simply divine salad.

#7…Begonias (Begoniaceae – Semperflorens Cultorum Group)

We are growing the wax leaf variety in our Statuary/Cottage Garden. The fleshy leaves and flowers are edible both cooked and raw. In Japan, India and Indonesia they have been cooked up as potherbs. The Chinese use them to make a sauce for meat. Children in northern Mexico and China eat them as a snack. Tuberous begonias are also edible. The flowers have a delicious, light, lemon taste and a crisp texture.  We hope to add some in the shady parts of our garden. 

#6…Rat’s Tail Radish (Raphanis sativus var. caudatus)

Edible podded radish plants look very similar to traditional radish plants except that the flowers are allowed to go to seed and form seed pods. Rat’s Tail radish is grown for its edible pods. The pods are green and pencil-thin with a smooth, somewhat lumpy appearance. Flowers can range from white to pink and purple and can be added to salads. Pods can be eaten raw or cooked, sliced and added to salads or crudité platters. Because Rat’s Tail radish plants are heavy producers, it’s fun to use both flowers and pods in different dishes.

#5…Kale, Red Russian (Brassica napus)

Kale is typically grown as a leafy green crop. But have you tasted the blossoms? Surprisingly, they are very tender and delicious. And, with the extreme cold in February, it brought out their sweetness even more. If fully opened, use them in salads. If they are still in the bud stage, try adding them to stir fry dishes. Or, after a light sauté, add them to soup or pasta. Other members of the brassica family also produce these tender flowering tops known as raabs. Raab is a tangible, edible sign that the kale (or broccoli or whatever you have) “overwintered” and survived into spring. 

#4…Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

With nicknames like pot marigold and poor man’s saffron, you might have missed the opportunity to grow calendula. At Raincatcher’s, we’re thrilled to have it growing alongside the greenhouse beds and in our sensory garden. Springtime is the best time to enjoy calendula flowers in the landscape and, especially, for culinary purposes. Calendula flowers have a spicy, peppery taste that give a nice flavor to cornbread, quiche, ravioli and sweets.

#3…Wasabi Arugula (Diplotaxis erucoides)

If you’re ready for tasting notes of horseradish and peppery aromatics, give wasabi arugula a try. It has deep green spoon-shaped leaves with slightly toothed edges and stems that are delicately crisp. Once it bolts, let the edible flowers attract pollinators or enjoy their tender, tangy bite in salads and as a garnish for your favorite bowl of soup. 

#2…Borage (Borage officinalis)

In our crescent bed, you’ll find both white and blue borage in full bloom. Bees are buzzing and can’t stay away from the striking star-shaped blossoms. Borage is an extremely old plant, originating from an area around Aleppo, a Syrian city that dates back to the eleventh century B.C. After spreading to Europe, Pliny the Elder wrote, “it maketh a man merry and joyful.” His comment, along with others, may refer more to the wine it was drunk in than the herb itself. Fresh borage flowers can be used in salads, dips and cold soups as a garnish.

#1…Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)

Not surprisingly, nasturtiums are the number one pick in our edible landscape. There are almost a dozen varieties of nasturtium on the market but this year we chose ‘Variegated Alaska Mix’ for our Statuary/Cottage Garden bed. Their unique variegated foliage delivers a colorful display of gold, orange, salmon and mahogany flowers on compact plants reaching about one foot in height. A big attraction for growing nasturtiums is that the flowers, leaves and seed pods are all edible. Their tangy flavor is mustard like with an added perfume and sweetness. (For a special treat, go to our link for Nasturtium Risotto. This incredible recipe includes all parts of the nasturtium plant.)


(FYI…Come back in a few months for our next seasonal look at a Baker’s Dozen favorite edible summer flowers.)

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Nasturtium Risotto

Nasturtium Pesto

Nasturtium Bouillon

Don’t forget our plant sale May 13th and 14th.

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