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Category Archives: Vegetable Gardening in Dallas

We Are Serious About Homegrown Tomatoes!

Every year at Raincatcher’s Garden we have had a bumper crop of tomatoes.  Not so last year. Not enough water and too much fertilizer caused the problem. Well, we are not going to duplicate that this year.

Jeff Raska, our horticulture program assistant, has put the “R” back in our Research, Education, and Demo title. We are embarking on tomato trials with the goal of higher and better tomato production. Jeff reminds us that his tomato plants at his home produce 40 pounds of tomatoes per plant. Ok, Jeff! Game on!

Fertilization Comparison Study 2018

Week 1-March 20, 2018

Celebrity Tomatoes


  • Prepare three raised beds and plant two tomato plants in each. Fertilize each bed with a different fertilizer (compost, organic, chemical) following label directions.
  • Each fertilizer is slow release and requires re-application every eight weeks.
  • Each Tuesday, measure the plant heights and weigh and record any tomatoes that are harvested.

    Syann dutifully measuring tomato plants last year. She has agreed to help with our 2018 study.


Bed #9- Compost

Week 1 – 1 Tbsp Epsom salts, 1 cup Miracle-Gro Compost (1-0-0)

Week 2 – Plant tomatoes

Week 8 – 1 cup  Miracle-Gro Compost (1-0-0)

Week 16 – 1 cup Miracle-Gro Compost (1-0-0)

Bed #1- Organic Fertilizer

Week 1 – 1 Tbsp Epsom salts, 1 Tbsp Miracle-Gro Blood Meal (12-0-0), 2 Tbsp Dr Earth (4-6-3)

Week 2 – Plant tomatoes

Week 8 – 1 Tbsp Miracle-Gro Bone Meal (6-9-0), 2 Tbsp Dr Earth (4-6-3)

Week 16 – 1 Tbsp Miracle-Gro Bone Meal (6-9-0), 2 Tbsp Dr Earth (4-6-3)

Bed  #2- Chemical Fertilizer

Week 1 – 1 Tbsp Epsom salts, 1 Tbsp Vigoro, Tomato & Vegetable (12-10-5)

Week 2 – Plant tomatoes

Week 8 – 1 Tbsp Vigoro,Bold Flowers (15-30-15)

Week 16 – 1 Tbsp Vigoro, Bold Flowers (15-30-15)


Celebrity tomatoes characteristics: All-American Winner Selection, 7 oz, determinate, harvest 70 days. Tom Wilten calls Celebrity the preeminent mid-sized tomato.


Fertlization Comparison study write up by Jim Dempsey.

Picture by Starla Willis

Ann Lamb

Read up on tomatoes by using our search box. We have recipes, growing tips, and advice to produce tons of tomatoes.



Those @#$%&! Butterflies

Though curses aren’t usually the words usually associated with seeing beautiful butterflies soaring around your garden, if you are a home vegetable gardener or part of a community garden that donates produce to food pantries, there is one butterfly that you may dislike.

Large Cabbage White Butterfly on Cabbage

No, it is not the butterflies whose larval host plants are dill, parsley and fennel.  Many people who have butterfly gardens purposely grow extras of these plants as host plants for the butterfly larva. By following the rule “one for me, and one for the birds and butterflies.” you can have your share and the butterflies/caterpillars can have theirs.   However for vegetable gardeners, the sight of pretty white butterflies flitting around members of the brassica family (ex- kale, cabbage, mustard, turnips, etc) can mean only one thing:  an invasion of hungry larva caterpillars that will soon damage their crops.

Large Cabbage White Butterfly Larvae, note larvae color is green not pink as this photo shows

Cabbage white butterflies, also known by butterfly-lovers as “summer snowflakes,” are found in two sizes, the Small Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae) and the Large Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris brassicae.)  The small cabbage white butterfly, though still considered an agricultural pest, is not as voracious a feeder as the Large Cabbage White Butterfly and will be the focus of this article.

The Small Cabbage White Butterfly is found throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa.  It was accidentally introduced to Quebec around 1860 and spread rapidly throughout North America.  By 1898 it had spread to Hawaii and by 1929 to New Zealand.  Often, one of the first butterflies to appear in the spring, it lays eggs on the underside of a leaf.  The eggs are laid singly and are yellow making them difficult to spot.  The eggs hatch after about five to fourteen days and then the damage to members of the mustard family begins.  Using their powerful mandibles, the larva munch holes in the leaves.  Sometimes they will even eat into the heart of a cabbage, leaving a shell in its place.  The larva then pupate, to start the whole cycle again.

Cabbage Damage Due to White Butterfly Larvae

Thankfully there are safe biological and barrier controls for this pest butterfly.  In the mid 19th century the Australian government introduced parasitic wasps to control the damage produced by both species of butterflies.  However this approach is only suitable for large commercial growers.  There are other insects however that can help.  These include ladybird beetles, lacewings, and some species of insect-eating birds.  A physical control might include covering the plants with mosquito netting or other barriers.  Be sure to secure all the edges.

Perhaps the easiest organic method of control is to use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a naturally occurring bacteria that kills a caterpillar but leaves beneficial insects unharmed.  When the caterpillar eats a treated leaf, it will get an upset stomach, stop eating, and die within four days.  Just be sure not to apply it in wet weather as the spray will wash off.

By using Bt or other methods of control, you should be able to “have your cabbage and eat it too.”

Carolyn Bush








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



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