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The Truth About Our Tomato Trials

We are disappointed, not giving up but yes, disappointed.

As you may remember, the Raincatcher’s Garden started off in early April with 6 tomato plants in our raised beds and high hopes.

We had vigourous plants with beautiful stems full of promise. Jeff complimented us on our healthy looking plants.  We lost one tomato plant but with 5 plants we harvested:

24 lbs of tomatoes on June 19th

19 lbs of tomatoes on June 24th

Tomato Trial Weigh In

but then it happened-our tomatoes were stolen.

Our tomato plants were loaded with healthy looking green tomatoes until someone wiped us clean, taking all our tomatoes and every single peach on our peach tree.

Promising Tomato Crop
Before!

We are not giving up but hoping  this wrongdoing  will give way to an understanding of our purpose at The Raincatcher’s Garden.

As a research, education, and demonstration garden, we grow so that we can teach others. Read back about our tomato trials to see how much work was involved and understand our goal. We believe most home gardeners wants to have a higher crop yield while conserving water and without pesticides. That’s what we want to teach through our research and demonstration.

What we did learn from our limited trial was that the results were not affected by the three different kinds of soil prep.

At the end of August, we are revamping the soil in our raised beds by adding a purchased compost mix. After that we will begin our fall planting.

Beds 1, 2-all kinds of lettuce: Romaine, Red Sails, Mesculin, Green Ice

Bed 3-bush beans

Bed 4- spinach

Bed 5-beets and turnips

Bed 6-radishes

Bed 7-broccoli and Brussel sprouts

Bed 8-kale and swiss chard

Bed 9-TBD

And yes, we will plant tomatoes again in the spring.

Ann Lamb as told  by Sue Weiner and Dorothy Shockley

Review our tomato trial protocol here.

 

August Garden Survey III

Kay Mcinnis and Wendy Leanse are the coordinators at the Temple Emanu-El Community Garden. This is Part III of our August Garden Survey. Great information from a fruitful Dallas County Master Gardener project on the grounds of Temple Emanu-El.

In August you should be planning for the fall. Take a look at the planting guide put out by TAMU. Its mostly too hot to plant seeds directly into the beds so it’s ideal to start plants indoors.

We are harvesting Long Beans, Cucumbers (particularly Armenian cucumbers which don’t seem to be bothered by aphids), okra, peppers, eggplant, collard greens and tons of black eyed peas and our Cucuzzi  squash has just started producing.

A Look Down Long Bean Alee; See Long Beans Dangling from the Vines

 

We have bitter melons planted that have also just started to bear. Ruth Klein introduced us to several tropical vegetables that don’t seem to be bothered by Texas pests that  have done well.

Bitter Melon at Temple Eman-uel Garden

We have 3 tomatoes planted to see if we can get a fall crop – maybe or maybe not…

We are at the end of our chard and will be preparing the beds to receive some Mustard Greens, Chinese Cabbage and various root vegetables that will produce through the winter.

As our current crops wind down, we will see if we can amend the soil and get a quick crop in or if we should re-new the beds with a cover crop. I have already ordered seeds for that since I found that last year things got sold out.

Last year we put in drip irrigation and are currently watering our beds 3 times a week for 60 min each. We will cut back if it ever rains again in Texas, or when it cools down. We also have volunteers that check our garden during the week to see if everything seems to be getting watered. We found that as the irrigation lines weather, they tend to pop off and need to be re-attached using hose clamps.

A Reminder of the Effort Involved to Lay Drip Irrigation, but it’s Worthwhile!

Our gardeners meet every week on Sunday at 8:30am where we clean up, weed, water what is necessary and harvest/prepare vegetables to take to the Vickery Meadows Food Pantry!

Kay McInnis, Master Gardener class of 2016

More information about long beans here.

August Garden Survey II

 It’s August and  I wanted to write a little something for the blog that would encourage our readers and remind them fall is coming.   Here’s Patti Brewer’s reply when everything seemed so bleak and no rain was in sight:

Well, I’m flattered you asked.  This spring we had the shortest growing season I’ve ever experienced in all these years.

 We had one big flourish of zucchini and yellow squash and then  production was halted because of the intense early heat  and lack of rain out west of Ft Worth where I veggie garden. This area is not the same growing zone as Dallas!
 Squash plants were babied when the spring would not come and covered  up when a freeze came through in late April; then the heat came with a vengeance. Plus I am ruthless for “squashing” the squash bugs and their eggs that always appear. I am blaming the limited squash harvest on the on the heat and lack of rain.
Patti, we agree it’s not  your fault! 

Brewer Vegetable Garden Earlier This Year

The only thing we are harvesting  now is jalapeños and Serrano peppers. Bell peppers are struggling. We usually get our most productive harvest of peppers in Oct and Nov.

It was 111 degrees one weekend in July!   We are sandy loamy soil. So you can imagine how things are barely hanging on in the veggie garden.

Blooms on a Regenerated Spring Tomato in 100 degrees-August 2018

I am trying to regenerate about half of our spring tomato plants. I will sprinkle our homemade compost on the tomatoes and peppers this weekend because it is getting down in to the low 70’s

We are not on a drip irrigation system in the garden. I have mulched and mulched again which has helped. We were a failure at beets. Not sure why. I do have a loofa growing on supports that the English peas were growing on in the early spring, But It hasn’t bloomed yet.

 

 

 

For the fall we always plant the following: mustard and turnip greens, garlic, spinach, turnips and kale. Sometimes we don’t plant the spinach or kale till November.

I will be planting a new area for wildflowers in September. I have harvested many wildflower seeds from this past spring! Just hope we get the rain for those to germinate. Our farm locate west of Weatherford is experiencing big time drought.

Orb Spider Spins a Victim!

 

 

My  recent video of a hummingbird hawk moth and a picture of an Orb spider mummifying a grasshopper have been our entertainment. All from out here in Palo Pinto county!!

 

Patti, did you get any rain in the last week?

Yes!!! As of August 19th, we have received almost 3 inches!!  I’m seeing my bluebonnets sprouting!! I have a new seeded wildflower plot that is 20 X 25 feet. That makes me happy. Loofah is vining like crazy. Still waiting on it to bloom. Tomatoes and peppers have so many promising blooms!!  I have a few tomatoes on the vine too!!

Temperatures although mostly still in upper 90s with lows in the low 70s are making my garden happy. Black eyed peas are up along with mustard and turnip greens. Kale is up because I shook the dried seeds from my kale plants from last winter! Previously planted in the summer was zipper cream peas and black eyes. They look great now and I picked some even. I planted Blue Lake Bush green beans yesterday.

Rain was very important for our entire place. Fall is my most favorite season!!

Patti Brewer, Master Gardener class of 2012

 

Fig Fest Dessert Recipes and Lecture 2018

Dallas County Master Gardeners Working Fig Fest

We had a great day at the garden on August 7th, out working early, tidying up the plants and helping them through this summer heat, and then inside to learn about the care and feeding of fig trees, a (relatively) easy and delicious plant we can grow out here in north Texas.

“Fig Fest” was the third in our series, “A New Crop of Classes.” Entertaining, informative, inspirational, flavorful and delicious were just some of the comments we heard from those who attended…77 to be exact. Jeff Raska, our Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, shared the biology, history, and how-to’s of growing figs locally, and Lisa Centala shared nutritional information about figs, which are a great source of dietary fiber and vitamins K and A.

Highlights from Jeff’s talk included:

  • Figs: You can love them to death. Figs love poor soil, but keep it well-drained and water consistently. You can even raise the bed a bit when planting with compost and mulch. Don’t add nitrogen – it will cut back fruit production.
  • The flower is inside the fig, and a tiny wasp pollinates it by climbing in and laying eggs
  • Figs are a Mediterranean plant and want no more than 800 chill hours. We are about as far north as we can be and still grow figs, which means the plant may die back in the winter. Allow your fig to have several trunks, and don’t worry if one or all die back – it will come back in the spring. In fact, don’t trim the dead wood away until the leaves come back in spring so you know which branches are really dead.
  • There are two varieties of fig trees: those that are everbearing, and those that bear once a season. Texas Everbearing (or Brown Turkey) will give an early crop in late spring/early summer, and the rest of the fruit will ripen from June through August. Celeste is also a recommended variety for our area, but it’s “one and done.” Celeste gives one crop a season but is a bit more cold-hardy than Texas Everbearing, which is why we chose this variety at Raincatcher’s.
  • Harvest your figs when they’re ripe (they have a little give when you squeeze them), because they won’t ripen off of the tree. And eat them quickly! They’ll start to ferment in just a couple of days.

For more information on cultivating figs, please visit this Aggie Horticulture site.

And, once again, following Jeff’s presentation we savored a fig-inspired lunch that would have kept Adam and Eve in the garden. We hope you enjoy the photos and recipes from a delightful summer class. Congratulations to a new crop of “fig experts!”

Trio of Fig Desserts

Fig and Strawberry Tart

Ingredients

For the Crust

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

½ teaspoon granulated sugar

Salt

1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

¼ to ½ cup ice water

Directions

Make the crust: Pulse flour, granulated sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds.

Drizzle ¼ cup ice water evenly over mixture. Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together (it should not be wet or sticky). If dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse. Press dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.

Roll dough to a 14-inch circle (⅛ inch thick) on a floured surface. Fit dough into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch fluted round tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim excess dough flush with edges of pan using a knife. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Prick bottom of tart shell all over with a fork, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove weights, and bake until set, about 5 minutes more. Let cool. Leave oven on.

For the Filling:

¾ cup blanched hazelnuts, toasted

½ cup packed light-brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons Armagnac, or other brandy, such as Cognac

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

8 ounces figs (about 7), trimmed and halved lengthwise

8 ounces strawberries (1 ½ cups), halved if large

Garnish: whipped cream

Make the Filling: Pulse hazelnuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add sugars, zest, and ¼ teaspoon salt; pulse to combine. Add butter, Armagnac, eggs, and vanilla; pulse until mixture is almost smooth.

Spread filling evenly into tart shell. Top with figs and strawberries. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325˚F; bake until set and dark brown on top, about 1 hour more. Garnish with whipped cream.

Lemony Rice Pudding with Figs and Saba

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked long-grain rice

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

7 cups milk

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

½ teaspoon salt

1 vanilla bean, split

1 pint fresh figs, quartered

Saba is an ancient sweetener traditionally made from freshly squeezed grape juice, known as must. It is basically a sweet grape syrup. Order online or purchase at specialty grocers. After opening, refrigerate up to one year.

 

 

Directions

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in first 2 ingredients, and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes; drain.

Return rice to saucepan; stir in milk and next 4 ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes or until thick. Remove vanilla bean. Remove from heat, and transfer to a glass bowl. Let stand 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Spoon into serving dishes; top each with figs and a drizzle of Saba.

Yield: Makes 10 servings

Fresh Fig Ice Cream

Ingredients

1 (15-ounce) can condensed milk

2 (13-ounce) cans evaporated milk

Juice of ½ lemon

3 pints peeled, fresh figs, mashed

2 cups sugar

Whole milk

Directions

Put all ingredients in freezer container. If the figs are very ripe, you may not need as much sugar as called for. Add whole milk to level freezer calls for to ensure proper freezing. Freeze in a 6-quart freezer according to directions.

Yield: Serves 20

Note: In the dessert picture there is a grilled fig spread with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and a drizzle of honey. No recipe just buy and prepare!

Linda Alexander and Lisa Centala


*Our fourth and final class of 2018 is scheduled for Tuesday, October16th.

Apples, Pears, Persimmons and Pomegranates promises to be a another educationally inspiring class. And following Jeff Raska’s presentation; don’t miss a bountiful lunch buffet filled with seasonal flavors.  Information about the class will be posted on this blog in early September.

Hope you can join us!

Fig Fest Recipes 2018

Figgy Focaccia

Ingredients

1 medium-size red onion

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Coarse sea or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Plain cornmeal

1 pound bakery pizza dough

8 fresh figs, halved

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

Directions

Preheat grill to 350˚F to 400˚F (medium-high) heat. Cut onion into ¾ to 1-inch slices. Brush onion slices with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Grill onion slices, without grill lid, 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until tender and lightly charred.

Preheat oven to 425˚F. Lightly dust work surface with cornmeal. Stretch dough into a 10- to 12-inch oval on work surface. Place dough, cornmeal side down, on a greased baking sheet; drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Rub oil into dough. Arrange fig halves and grilled onion over dough, pressing lightly. Sprinkle with rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.

Bake at 425˚F on lowest oven rack 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.

Spiced Fig Preserves

Spiced Fig Preserves

Ingredients

½ lemon (unpeeled), thickly sliced, seeded

1 ½ pounds fresh ripe figs, halved (about 4 cups)

2 ¼ cups sugar

1 3-inch cinnamon stick

2 ¼ teaspoons mined peeled fresh ginger

⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

Finely chop lemon in processor. Add figs. Using on/off turns, process until figs are coarsely pureed. Transfer mixture to heavy large saucepan. Add sugar, cinnamon stick, minced ginger and cloves. Simmer until mixture thickens to jam consistency and candy thermometer registers 200˚F, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick.

Divide hot preserves among hot clean jars. Cover tightly and refrigerate up to 2 months.

Yield: Makes about 3 ⅓ cups

Orange, Walnut, Gorgonzola and Mixed Greens Salad with Fresh Citrus Vinaigrette

Orange, Walnut, Gorgonzola and Mixed Greens Salad with Fresh Citrus Vinaigrette

Ingredients

¾ cup walnut halves

10 ounces mixed salad greens with arugula

2 large navel oranges, peeled and sectioned

4-5 fresh figs, quartered

½ cup sliced red onion

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup vegetable oil

⅔ cup orange juice

¼ cup white sugar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Directions

Place the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly browned.

In a large bowl, toss the toasted walnuts, salad greens, oranges, and red onion.

In a large jar with a lid, mix the olive oil, vegetable oil, orange juice, sugar, vinegar, mustard, oregano, and pepper. Seal jar, and shake to mix.

Divide the salad greens mixture into individual servings. To serve, sprinkle with Gorgonzola cheese, and drizzle with the dressing mixture.

Fig Fest note: We omitted the gorgonzola when serving the salad at Fig Fest since it was already a topping for the flank steak. Otherwise, it is nice to include in the salad.

Abbe Bolich’s husband, Neil, and grandson grilling flank steak.

Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa

Ingredients

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves, minced

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 (1 ¼ pound) flank steak

3 cups chopped fresh figs

1 green onion, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

3 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Directions

Stir together first 4 ingredients and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Rub into steak; cover and chill 30 minutes to 4 hours.

Preheat grill to 400˚F to 450˚F (high) heat. Toss together figs, next 3 ingredients, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Grill steak, covered with grill lid, 5 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness. Let stand 5 minutes.

Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin strips and arrange on a serving platter. Spoon fig salsa over steak and sprinkle with Gorgonzola.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Linda Alexander

August Garden Survey

Dallas Garden Buzz asked several other gardeners to give a report about their August gardens. In the next two weeks, we will be posting their stories with information about what worked and what didn’t. Garden plots produce success and failure. Keep trying and learn from these honest accounts!

Sheila Kostelny, a Master Gardener from the class of  gardens at her home in North Dallas.

Sheila, what’s growing in your garden in August.

Sheila’s Sweet Potato Vines

 

My sweet potato crop was planted with Beauregard starts from last year’s harvest.  My harvest last year yielded a fantastic harvest and I’m hopeful for another.

The bush lima bean has done well this year and the produce is so delicious.  It is still producing.  There was no particular variety for the lima bean.

 

 

 

I planted Kentucky Wonder green pole bean and Henderson bush green bean. They were a total disappointment this year.  I harvested a total of ONE pole bean and maybe 2 handfuls of bush beans.

What was a favorite spring success?

The potatoes were harvested late spring.  These were Red Norland and Yukon Gold.  I had good luck fooling the borers this year.

Sheila’s Potatoes

 

Fall garden?

I will be planting beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, collards, lettuces, mustard, parsley and spinach in the fall.

Sheila Kostelny

Recipes from Fig Fest coming tomorrow.

Grape Harvest at The Raincatcher’s Garden

Our Fig Luncheon on Tuesday, August 7th is sold out but we have plenty of room if you would like to join us for Jeff’s Fig Lecture.

 

Champanel Grapes Harvested at The Raincatcher’s Garden, summer 2018

Jim’s grape notes:
33 lbs. of grapes were picked last Tuesday, July 31st. Previous week’s harvest was 16 lbs.   The ripe grapes were juiced providing enough for 5 batches of jelly. That should make about 40- ½pints of jelly. We have been wanting grapes, well… we are getting grapes now!

Thank you, Jim Dempsey and everyone who picked the grapes!

 

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