RSS Feed

Category Archives: Vegetable Gardening in Dallas

More About Frost Protection

A few more tips from our gardeners:

I always cover our variegated pittosporum and cyclamen when it gets down to low 20’s. I use frost cloth now but old sheets have worked just fine in the past. I’ll cover the  garlic, radishes and collards in my garden  to be safe. Susan Swinson

Water  well and cover with frost cloth being sure the cloth is held down but not smashing the leaves–pick some now if it’s at that stage and hope for the best.  It’s not too late to replant after the artic blast–must think positive!! Susan Thornbury


Good night garden, stay warm!

Ann Lamb



Frost Protection For Your Garden and Happy New Year!

A Winter Garden of Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce, Red Sails Lettuce, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Artichoke, Spinach and Broccoli. Frost Cover to be Applied!

Low temperatures are bringing in the new year. You can bet many of us are hoping to protect our winter gardens. Here’s a helpful article to help you prepare!

Ann Lamb








Chinese Long Beans—Green Beans for Summer—Even Here

Have you ever read or been told that green beans will produce all summer?  This is advice that must be met with a kind smile.  Bless their hearts, it’s totally untrue.   Obviously cannot be blamed for this mistake, they are just not from around here.  Anyone who gardens in North Texas knows green beans will not make it in summer’s heat.

Does that mean no more fresh beans? No, not if you plant Chinese long beans.  This delicious vegetable goes by many names: snake bean, yard long bean even asparagus bean.  A red variety called red noodle is also available.  Properly they are called Vigna Unguiculata.  As its “real name” makes clear, they are actually related to cowpeas or blackeyed peas and not ordinary garden green beans.  The important point is they grow in the heat of summer, in fact they require heat to do well.  Which wouldn’t matter if they didn’t taste good, but they do with flavor much like green beans and a touch of blacked pea.

Are you convinced? Plant the seeds as directed on the package.  It is essential to provide a sturdy support as these are vines not bushes.  Large tomato cages work well. The vines would probably like something ten feet tall to grown on but vines don’t always get what they want.  Compromise is key between you and the vines.  Give the vines plenty of room so  they can grow up and over supports but keep them within bounds so you can  pick the beans. Remember the vines will try to grab any innocent plant that gets in their way; be alert.

Trellised Vines of the Chinese Long Bean

Garden soil with compost is ideal.  Apply organic fertilizer when planting. As with any rapidly growing plant, regular watering is essential.

Once the production starts, check the vines every day. The beans grow amazingly fast and will need regular picking, pick them about twelve inches long  while they are still firm and dark green.

Chinese Long Beans, Ready to Eat!

When they are picked like this they are even good raw in salad. They are delicious prepared in many ways: simmered as green beans would be or fried as they are in many traditional Chinese recipes.

Try them and you will see for yourself!!

Susan Thornbury

Tomato Class and Tomato Sampler, Tuesday, August 1st

Growing Fall Tomatoes


There’s still time (just a little…) to get your tomatoes in for a fall crop. Jeff Raska, horticulturalist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and longtime tomato grower, will share his recipe for success with this garden favorite. We will also have a few extra tomato plants available for sale after the class.

Jeff has helped design a tomato trial, which we are implementing at Raincatcher’s. Our volunteers will plant two of the same variety of tomato into each of three raised beds to demonstrate results from different types of fertilizer: compost, organic and chemical.

Raincatcher’s is a demonstration garden and project of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Dallas County Master Gardeners located on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church. To find the fellowship hall, please park in the west parking lot and come through the courtyard to the south church building.

After the class, we will be hosting a tomato sampler lunch with suggested donations of $10 per person. Details below.

Bring a friend, the public is welcome to either or both events.

Lisa Centala

Tuesday, August 1

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, Fellowship Hall, 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX 75229


“Just-picked, Homegrown and Vine-Ripened”

Welcome to the World of Tomatoes!

Join us at the tasting table immediately following Jeff Raska’s presentation…“Growing Fall Tomatoes”

$10.00 per person suggested donation


Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Parsley Croutons

Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Peach Salad over Whipped Burrata Cheese

Summer Cherry Tomato Salad Dressing Tossed with Mixed Greens

Tomato Tart

Curried Pickled Tomatoes

Green Tomato Brown Betty or Tomato Ginger Upside Down Cake

Linda Alexander

Leave a comment on our blog if you have a question!

Christmas in July

      What fun! It isn’t very often in the hot summer months that a gardener gets to “unwrap”  a  rainbow of corn.  However if you grow Glass Gem Popcorn, each ear holds the excitement of different colors and combination of colors.  Shucking them is like Christmas in July.

Glass Gem Corn Grown by Carolyn

Pictures of Glass Gem Corn have gone viral on the internet—and for good reason.  Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds calls it “The Worlds Most Beautiful Corn!”  Bakers Creek’s description of it says: “105 days. Amazing color! Indescribably beautiful flint or popcorn in an endless range of colors.  Translucent kernels really do shine brilliantly like glass – on the cob they resemble strands of glass beads!  The 3”-8” ears are consummately decorative, but edible and delicious as well.  Makes firm little morsels when popped, and can also be parched, ground into meal, and more.  Sturdy plants reach to 9’ in height and throw numerous sideshoots where the season is long enough.  Bred from a number of Native varieties by Carl “White Eagle” Barnes, the famous Cherokee corn collector to whom we owe our gratitude for his life’s work of collecting, preserving and sharing so many native corn varieties.” 

     Carl Barnes was half-Cherokee and, as a way of connecting with his Native American heritage, he began collecting seeds. Throughout the years Native Americans gave him ancestral types of corn that had been lost when the Tribes were brought to Oklahoma in the 1800s.  Fascinated by the colors found in some of these Indian Corns, he began to select, save, and replant seeds from especially colorful cobs.  Over time this resulted in a rainbow colored corn.

A fellow farmer, Greg Schoen, met Barnes at a Native Seed gathering in 1994. Schoen and Barnes became close friends and many seed exchanges took place between them. When Schoen moved to Sante Fe, he crossed some of Barnes’ seeds with traditional varieties, and even more vibrant colors and patterns were produced. According to Schoen, Glass Gem corn came from a crossing of Pawnee miniature popcorns with an Osange red flour corn and also another Osage corn called Greyhorse.

In 2009 Schoen passed some of the seed to Bill McDorman who owned a company called Seed Trust. McDorman is now the executive director of Native Seed/Search and started offering the seeds on line. Within a short time, Barnes “rainbow colored” corn became an internet hit and even has its own Facebook page. today many different seed companies carry Glass Gem corn.

       In Dallas corn is usually planted from March 23- April.  It does best in fertile, well-drained soil, and is a heavy nitrogen feeder during the vegetative state.  Waiting to let the soil warm thoroughly is important for seed germination as is sufficient watering.  Corn is wind pollinated and it is recommended to plant in blocks of at least four rows.  To prevent cross pollination from other varieties, you can separate different varieties by time (plant at least 10 days apart) or distance (200 feet.)

Though there seems to be some inconsistency in how to classify different corn types, in general there seems to be four major types of corn:  sweet, flint, dent, and flour.  Sweet corn is what we eat on the cob or it can be canned or frozen.  It contains more sugar than other types.  Flint corn, also known as Indian Corn, has a hard outer shell and comes in a wide range of colors.  Dent corn, also known as Field Corn, is most often used for animal feed and to make different industrial products.  Dent corn is named for the dimple that forms in the middle of the kernel.  It accounts for 99% of all corn production in the United States.  Flour corn has soft kernels which makes it easy to grind.  Popcorn is actually a type of flint corn.  It has a hard outer shell over a soft starchy content. When popcorn is heated the natural moisture inside the kernel turns to steam that builds up enough pressure for the kernel to explode.

To use Glass Gem Corn as a popcorn, it is recommended to let the kernels dry out thoroughly. In fact, one review said it took nearly a year before it was ready to be popped. The resulting popcorn is white rather than colored as it is only that hard outer layer that contains the color.

It is possible to save seed and try to propagate your own color combinations. For example, if you wanted mostly blue corn, you could save seeds from cobs that were mostly blue. However, it is the glow of a rainbow of colors that makes Glass Gem Corn so unique.

If you want to try something different in your vegetable garden next year, try Glass Gem Corn—and have your own Christmas in July.

Carolyn Bush



Pretty Peas, Please

Magnolia Blossom Tendril Pea Courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

One of the joys about growing your own heirloom vegetables is to feel connected to the past as one learns about the rich history behind a particular plant.  Though many of us grow the “usual” vegetables, such as those found in the seed racks at big box stores, it is fun to experiment with more unusual varieties.  This year I am trying to grow several heirloom seeds from Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds,  They include Magnolia Blossom Tendril Pea, Clay Cowpea, and Glass Gem Corn.  As they mature, I hope to share some of their stories.

Peas are a hardy cool season crop.  Aggie-Horticulture recommends planting them from January 18 to February or from August 23-November for a fall crop in North Texas.  The optimum ground temperature should be around 40-75 degrees F.  Peas can be grown in any good quality soil; however an addition of plenty of compost or synthetic or organic fertilizer will help produce a larger crop.  Some gardeners dampen their seeds before planting and inoculate them with live rhizobial bacteria which will improve the growth and nitrogen-fixing ability of many legumes.

Peas can be planted 1-1 ½ inches apart at a depth of about 1 inch.  Some peas are bush types while others are vining.  If a vining variety, a study trellis should be used.  I often use an upside down tomato cage tied around a bamboo stake.  However, the Magnolia Blossom Tendril Pea’s vines grew too tall for the 52 inch tomato cage and the cage fell over since it was too top-heavy.

Some common insects and diseases of peas are the pea aphid, fusarium wilt, and powdery and downy mildew.  It is recommended to rotate pea crops to a different location every 3-4 years.  If peas are harvested frequently, they will tend to produce longer.  Peas left on the vine too long tend to get starchy and the pods become tough.

The unusual pea that I tried growing this year, Magnolia Blossom Tendril Pea, is noted for having less disease problems.  Bakers Creek Seed catalogue says of it:  “An innovative typertendril snap pea bred by Dr. Alan Kapular, PhD.  Hypertendril plants make enlarged tendrils in place of some leaves.  The tendrils make for a more open habit, allowing better airflow and reducing diseases.  And they are also good to eat!  They are wonderful in salads or as a garnish, and they taste just like peas.  Sturdy 5-8 foot plants are very productive. The plants yield deliciously sweet snap peas for weeks.  Vigorous 5-8 foot vines produce bi-color flowers.  Flavor peaks just before the string turns red.  70 days.”

Peas growing in Carolyn’s Garden

In researching this pea, not only was its hypertendril growth interesting (though the hypertendrils do taste like peas and would make an interesting addition to a salad, one reviewer said that his children felt like they were eating hair), but I was equally fascinated by an article about Dr. Alan Kapular, PhD, who bred Magnolia Blossom Tendril Pea.

An article from Fedco Seeds  ( said that as a child he was equally interested in both orchids and baseball.  He entered Yale at 16 and graduated first in a class of 1000 with his undergraduate honors thesis earning the highest grade Yale had ever bestowed.  After receiving his doctorate in molecular biology during the time that the structure of the genetic code was being discovered, he became dismayed when he felt that many of his colleagues were using their knowledge to develop lethal viruses for the US government.  To everyone’s surprise he left his job and lived in poverty on the west coast where he met his wife.  He started saving seeds because they were too poor to buy them.  Eventually he collected over 6000 seeds and started a company called Peace Seeds which was  bought out by Seeds of Change. Much of his work recently has attempted to de-hybridize hybrids to create open-pollinated varieties so the seeds can be saved and they can remain in the public domain.

Though next year I may try growing some other “unusual” vegetables, as I too found the hypertendrils to have a strange texture which was not to my liking, the flowers were quite pretty and the plant was vigorous.  Plus they certainly are a conversation piece.

Carolyn Bush

Picture by Baker Creek Seeds and Carolyn Bush


April Gardening, 2017

Making our raised beds even better!

Dallas County Master Gardeners at The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

Upcoming Educational Events-Bring your friends and neighbors:

Saturday, April 8th , Spring Lawn Care by Stephen Hudkins and Jeff Raska at the Extension office, 10am until noon. Call the Master Gardener Help Desk for more information-214.904.3053.

Address: 10056 Marsh Ln Ste 101B, Dallas, TX 75229.

Saturday, April 15th, Updating the Home Landscape for Sun and Shade by Brad Sandy at Raincatcher’s, 10 until noon.

Address: 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, Texas, 75229. 

Ann Lamb

Picture by Starla Willis

%d bloggers like this: