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Category Archives: Edible Landscaping

Grow and Graze Salad Gardens Lecture and Recipes

Our Salad Gardens Program last Tuesday, March 19th included everything from easy-to follow directions for growing a tasty variety of salad lettuces, herbs, and edible flowers to a buffet brimming with a variety of salads that stirred the senses.

Some useful tips to help us get started were:

*Locate garden near a source of water

*Use compost for drainage and nutrients

*Use mulch to help retain moisture

*Use deep, infrequent watering

For a healthy foundation…start with good soil:

*Remove weeds, rock, debris

*If needed, order a soil test from Texas A&M

*Need 8-12 inches of loose tillable soil

*Ideal pH is 6.5 – 7.0 (DFW = 7.2)

*Do not work soil when it is wet

*Consider raised bed with special soil mix to start

*Build a compost pile

Growing salad greens:

*Greens include lettuce, herbs, salad greens and leafy green vegetables such as cabbage, collards, kale, mustard, spinach and Swiss chard

*Most greens are cool-season crops and must be grown in the early spring or fall in Texas. Some greens, especially kale, will withstand temperature below freezing and can be grown all winter. And, even in our hot Texas summer climate there are partially shaded spots to grow certain greens.

*Greens grow best in a well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. They prefer full sunlight but will tolerate partial shade.

*The soil should be worked at least 8 to 10 inches deep in the early spring when it is dry enough not to stick to garden tools. Break up large clods and remove trash and weeds. Work the soil into beds about 4 inches high. Add compost or organic matter before digging the soil.

*Greens grow best when given plenty of fertilizer. Adequate nitrogen is needed to develop the dark green leaf color. Before planting the seeds, apply a general garden fertilizer such as 10-10-10 at the rate of 2 to 3 pounds per 100 square feet. Mix fertilizer into the soil about 3 inches.

When shopping for seeds or transplants, consider the limitless possibilities for filling your garden with a variety of leafy greens. Rich in vitamins and folic acid, salad gardens provide both nutrition and fiber. Our mother’s admonition to “eat your greens” really was good advice.

Edible Garden tour after lecture and lunch

Here are a few of the crowd-pleasing salads our lunch guests enjoyed:

Mixed Green Salad with Nasturtiums and Raspberry Vinaigrette Raspberry Vinaigrette

To lend intrigue to a salad of mixed greens, toss in a handful of peppery nasturtium blossoms.

Ingredients

¼ cup raspberries

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons raspberry or red-wine vinegar

½ teaspoon sugar

6 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Using a wooden spoon, push raspberries through a handheld wire strainer to puree.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons raspberry puree, lemon juice, vinegar, and sugar.

In a slow but steady stream, whisk in olive oil until emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper.

Vinaigrette can be made 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield:  Makes about ¾ cup

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Salad:

6 large handfuls of mixed greens, including wild rocket arugula, herb salad mix, etc.

6 nasturtium blossoms

Toss mixed greens with the vinaigrette.  Strew the blossoms over and serve immediately.  (Options:  may also toss with fresh blueberries or raspberries)

Fresh Spinach and Tatsoi Salad with Orange Curry Dressing

A “dressy” and inviting way to serve spinach. The addition of tatsoi gives it textural interest.

Ingredients

For the dressing

1 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons (heaping) orange marmalade

2 teaspoon curry powder

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 ¾ cups vegetable oil

For the salad

4 bunches fresh spinach, trimmed

2 cups tatsoi leaves, optional

6 apples (red and green), chopped

2 cups golden raisins

1 ¾ cups walnut halves, lightly toasted

6 green onions, chopped

¼ cup sesame seed, toasted

1 pound bacon, chopped, crisp-fried, crumbled (optional)

Directions

Combine the vinegar, marmalade, curry powder, sugar, mustard, salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce in a blender container.

Add the oil in a fine stream, processing constantly at high speed until thickened.

Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.  Chill, covered in the refrigerator until serving time.

Arrange equal amounts of the spinach and tatsoi on 12 salad plates or one large platter.  Drizzle with the dressing.

Sprinkle each serving or the platter with the apples, raisins, walnuts, green onions, sesame seeds and bacon bits.

Serve immediately.

Yield:  12 servings

Orange Fennel Watercress Salad with Lemon Ginger Poppyseed Dressing

Ingredients

2 large navel oranges

3-4 ounces baby watercress

½ medium fennel bulb cored and thinly sliced crosswise

¼ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup salted roasted pistachios

½ cup cutting celery, lightly chopped, for garnish (optional)

Lemon Ginger Poppyseed Dressing

Directions

Using a sharp knife, cut about ¼ to ½ inch from the top and bottom of the orange to expose the flesh. Place the fruit on one of its flat ends and cut down to remove the skin and the white pith. Rotate and repeat, working your way around the fruit until the orange fruit is completely exposed. Slice, dice or cut between the flesh and the white membrane to create orange segments.

Place most of the watercress (reserve a small amount) on a large serving plate or platter. Top with sliced fennel, oranges, dried cranberries and pistachios. Drizzle with the Lemon Ginger Dressing. Sprinkle reserved watercress and cutting celery over the salad.

Yield: Serves 4

Linda Alexander

Pictures by Starla Willis

Now we understand why Peter Rabbit ignored his mother’s warning and stole under that garden fence for a quick sampling of both lettuce and danger. We hope you enjoy your salad garden adventures as much as he did.

 

Grow and Graze, Lecture and Lunch March 19

March 19, 2019

Tatsoi seeds were sown in January. Look at it now!

Have you ever grown Tatsoi? If not, you may want to give it a try. Our Salad Gardens class on March 19th will introduce you to this sassy little Asian green that delivers a unique flavor experience. Following the class, join us for lunch at the salad garden buffet where Tatsoi will be one of our “featured” greens.

After lunch, take a stroll through our edible landscape where you’ll find Tatsoi growing in abundance around the bay laurel tree. Our volunteers have become big fans of this small, spoon-shaped green that can be succession planted from spring through fall. We’re now referring to it as one of our edible garden “super stars”.

The sign up deadline for our Grow and Graze lunch on March 19 has been extended to March 15th. Please sign up here on eventbrite. We have 10 or so reservations for the lunch available but will need all reservations by March 15.

Mustard greens, sorrel, swiss chard, kale and parsley grown in The Edible Landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden

(Reservations are not needed if you plan to attend the class only.)

Linda Alexander

Grazing Thru The Edible Landscape

The July Master Gardener meeting was a tasty success – a wonderful, informative speaker on our favorite topic – food!   …Well, to be more precise, the topic was about how to incorporate food plants into our landscapes.  Cheryl Beesley, a master gardener, horticulturalist, and landscape designer with an emphasis on edible landscapes was gracious, entertaining and educational.
Before the meeting and her talk, we gathered to graze in Raincatcher’s own edible landscape. Culinary creations from our own fruits, vegetables and herbs were offered and gobbled up.

Our culinary team showing off our tasty treats!

Through the garden gate – a glimpse of the landscape.

Starla with a photo-retrospective of our journey from old playground to new edible landscape.

Our guests enjoying the tasting; that’s the hugelkultur in the foreground.

Three of our planting scenes: our southern border lined with okra, our ‘rock garden’ with herbs, and the transformed swingset, now home to peppers and cucumbers.

Abbe sharing the chilled tomato-basil soup served in mini-tomato cups. Recipes coming!

Lisa with glazed lemon zucchini bread.

Lavender shortbread cookies – yum!

Passion fruit and tarragon truffles by Ana made with plants from our edible landscape.

Annette and Starla’s friend, Marsha Adams, enjoying a seat in the shade.

Cynthia Jones with our speaker, Cheryl Beesley and her husband, James.

Written by: The Edible Garden Team and Lisa Centala

Pictures by Starla Willis

Bye-bye Parsley, Thanks for the Greens!

We pulled up our beautiful, gorgeous, healthy, vibrant parsley today.  Why would we do this to our stunning, laugh-at-freeze-and-drought plant?  Because we are creating a landscape, not just a garden, and one of the tenants of landscape design is repetition.  A standard front-yard landscape may have only three different types of plants, but they may be used over and over in different areas of the yard.  With an edible landscape, we usually want to eat more than three different types of plants, so we find ways to modify the rules of landscape design.

 In this case, our parsley was living in a low wooden bed underneath the old swingset. Along the length of the swingset are four other low wooden beds, and for this season, they’ve been planted with peppers – five peppers per bed.  Four beds of peppers with one bed half full of parsley looks, well, odd. So we removed the parsley, added five more peppers, and created repetition – and cohesion – under the swingset.

Don’t cry too much for the parsley, though.  Big, green, vibrant and fragrant, it went home with our volunteers to be made into tasty morsels.  Do you have some parsley in your yard or garden? (Or local grocery?) Consider using some to make:

  • pesto – substitute it for the basil
  • tabbouleh – a wonderful summertime salad made with bulgur
  • chimichurri with it – an  Argentinian sauce for grilled foods
  • fry up sprigs – your choice if you want to dip them in a light batter first
  • ravioli – chop it up, mix with some ricotta and egg, salt and pepper, and fill ravioli with it
  • toss it into your next omelet or frittata
  • vinaigrette (or make a green goddess dressing)
  • how about a cream of parsley soup?  or in a falafel?
  • add it in to your regular salad, potato salad, meatballs, you can stick some practically anywhere you want a little – or a lot – of green

One last note:  There are three cultivars of parsley – curly, flat-leaf, and root.  All are biennials in our temperate climate, and this was the second year for this parsley plant.  The cultivar we were growing was the curly variety. The root variety will create a nice, edible taproot you can eat raw like a carrot, or cook like a turnip.  Look to central and eastern European dishes to see it featured. Flat-leaf is more commonly listed in today’s Western recipes, but curly and flat leaf can be used interchangeably.  Middle Eastern recipes are more likely to use the curly variety. Most people think flat-leaf is more flavorful, but if you grow your own, you’ll see that there’s plenty of flavor in the curly variety as well.

So, bye-bye parsley, and bon appetit stomach!

Lisa Centala and Edible Landscape team

Save these dates June 26 and 28th. 

The Peach Fever lunch on June 26 is sold out but class is open!

 

Hugelkulturs and Tomatoes

This is a 4 minute video, taken in April, full of info about the origins and natural habits of tomatoes and the composition of a hugelkultur. Hugelkultur, pronounced Hoo-gul-culture, means hill culture or hill mound. Jeff Raska teaches us from our edible garden:

June update on tomatoes: It’s’s all in how you look at it.
We put leggy plants in late for our season, the hugelkultur soil is still very new (and we’re discovering that the angle of the hill is a bit steep in places). Add to that strong winds breaking the branches in some cases, and squirrels running around, breaking branches, digging, and harvesting the green fruit, and you don’t have a picture-perfect, ready for the cover of a glossy magazine hugelkultur.

Having said that, there are a couple of plants that seem to be thriving…

From The Edible Garden Team

Lisa Centala

Wonders of the Garden

Is it true that sometimes good things come in small packages? In this case, yes, except for me it was a box. Waiting on my doorstep was the package clearly marked ‘Please protect from freeze and extreme heat’. With the thermometer quickly climbing to the 100+ mark, heat was the main concern of this precious piece of cargo. Why all the fuss?

In March of this year our Raincatcher’s edible landscape team had just started to install the first green material for our newly redesigned garden. Converting the church’s abandoned children’s playground into a place of tranquility and sensual delight was a challenging task.

It had already been determined that one specific area, a 12’ square to be exact, would be anchored by a stately bay laurel. Surrounding it in grand Victorian style, would be those aromatic jewels of the garden, the fragrantly pleasurable scented geraniums.

Numerous trips to our local garden centers yielded a disappointingly small number, 4 chocolate scented and 8 nutmeg. Call, after call resulted in the same answer; “No”, we don’t have any old-fashioned rose scented geraniums this year. Finally, after one month of searching, the answer we had hoped for came from an internet supplier. “Yes”, we only have 8 left and this is the last of the crop. “I’ll take them”, was my immediate answer!

Carefully opening the box and sifting through layers of slightly dampened newspapers, my eye caught the tip of a jagged little leaf peaking through. And then, there they were in all their Victorian glory, 8 beautiful…happy and ready to be planted in our garden…’Old-Fashioned Rose’ Scented Geraniums. After a moment of delicately crushing and bruising the leaves, my head was filled with their heavenly scent. Yes, of course, it was worth the wait. And, we promise next month to share photos of their progress along with a few recipes using the leaves in some of our favorite baked goodies.  

Scented geraniums to be planted in the edible landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden.

Note: If you happen to notice more than 8 plants, SURPRISE, I couldn’t resist the temptation when the lady from Georgia taking my order said that she also had 4 peach scented geraniums available. Rubbing their fuzzy little leaves in between my fingers, I caught the gentle scent of a fresh Texas peach. For me, it was a moment of pure summer bliss.

After a night at my house, our precious cargo will go to its new home; the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. Please visit us at 11001 Midway Road. We’re in the garden every Tuesday from 9:00 – 12:00noon tending to our babies.

Linda Alexander

Two events coming up at Raincatcher’s:

Peach Fever-June 26

Edible Landscaping Lecture and nibbles from the edible  garden-June 28

Harvest It and They Will (be) Come(ly)

One of the concerns about edible landscaping is that if you eat your edibles, you’ll lose your landscape!  That’s a valid concern.  So here at the Edible Landscape of Raincatcher’s garden, we have pictorial proof to poof away your fears!  We planted our circle of greens in our shade bed about two months ago from 6-inch transplants.  The bunnies in our neighborhood really liked the swiss chard, so we added a little fence to discourage their visits.

Our bed of greens this morning when we arrived.  Full and lush and beautiful.  Can’t you see that gracing your front yard?

Our bed of greens this morning when we arrived.  No, wait!  This is After we harvested from it.  Can you tell the difference?  Maybe it looks even a little more neat and tidy.  I guess maybe we didn’t harvest too much from it.

Our harvest.  Really!  How many people could you feed with all these lovely greens?  We’ve got kale, mustard greens, French sorrel,  parsley and spinach and we can use them raw in a salad or steamed, tossed in a little cream sauce over pasta, or chopped up and thrown into a soup.  If you like a little challenge, how about juicing them and using the juice to make a green pasta?  Or chopping  and mixing with bread dough for rolls?  If this was in your yard, you could harvest a little every day and no one would know you’ve been eating your landscape.

There’s going to be a talk on Edible Landscaping at 11001 Midway Road on Thursday, June 28 at the June Master Gardener meeting. Lecture starts at noon.  Come join us and see our edible landscape in person.  Or stop by any Tuesday morning, we’ll be out there, harvesting our greens.

“This post comes from The  Edible Landscape team at Raincatcher’s,
Lisa Centala
Pictures by Starla Willis

Peach Tree Pruning

Next summer the peaches you enjoy will be the result of hard work on the part of orchard growers all across Texas. Whether you enjoy East Texas peaches, Parker County peaches, the ‘redskin’ peaches from the hill country or any others remember peach orchards are labor intensive operations. In our small orchard, we gathered around our peach tree as Jeff Raska clipped away at it.

Here’s some of what we learned:

Prune  your peach tree for the best possible peaches at picking height, as disease free as possible, with maximum production. Our peach tree tops out at 8 feet and has 4-5 main branches.

  • Your peach tree should be open in the center so that the fruit receives maximum sunlight and air flow. They call this the wine goblet effect.

    Can you find the goblet shape in the peach tree above?

  • Cut off dead wood, suckers and all branches that cross.
  • Remove any spindly, pencil-thin branches and any that are growing toward the interior of the tree.
  • Remove older gray shoots; they will not fruit. Leave 1 year old reddish color shoots.
  • Remove limbs that grow straight up.  They are called water limbs. We removed 2 water limbs, 10 feet each.
  • Prune out any branches that are growing horizontal or downward. They have a tendency to break when the fruit gets heavy.
  • Cut back the remaining red shoots to about 18 inches, at an outward facing bud.

    Above: The angle of this cut causes the branch to grow away from the center of the tree.

Fruit thinning will be the next major job.  Fruit thinning can be done by hand when the fruit is the size of a quarter. This allows the remaining fruit to be larger and spaced out on alternate sides of the branches. A mature peach tree should produce 300-400 peaches in a season.

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

Maybe now you want to try grape pruning and planting, Saturday, April 14th from 10am-11:30am. This class will be taught by Stephen Hudkins at The Raincatcher’s Garden. Info here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Science Of Decay

What am I ?

 

It appears that the latest visitor to the edible landscape garden is a Brown Shelf Fungus. It was found on one of the logs that has been used as a garden seat. Fungi are many-celled filamentous or singlecelled primitive plants. They lack chlorophyll and must live on decaying plants to get carbohydrates.

The Brown Fungus produces hydrogen peroxide to decompose the cellulose in the wood. Since the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a small molecule, it can move rapidly through the wood. This will mean that the decomposition will not be just surrounding the area of the hyphae or filaments of the fungus. The log will eventually decay and become part of the surrounding soil. 

Mark Jones

Picture by Kim Kirkhart

 

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

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