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Some of our sales from last year

The inbox is full of dates we dare not miss.  BUT this is the real thing:  RAINCATCHER’s PLANT sale is coming.  It’s May 19th from 10am-3pm and you really don’t want to miss it

Raincatcher’s gardens are special and the sale is too.  It is a chance to buy plants grown right here not brought from greenhouses or plant farms miles away.  These are the plants that did well.  That could be divided and passed along.  Conditions here are tough—only the strong survive and thrive—and those are the plants you will find at the sale.  There will be plants from the gardens around you as you shop and plants grown by the friendly gardeners that will help you pick the ones that will work for you.  Raincatchers is not just one thing—its large and diverse with sun, and shade veg and herbs plants for pollinators and plants just because they are lovely.  

Every garden should have a bit of fun and you will find that too—maybe just the pot you never knew you had to have or a piece of garden art for the finishing touch.  One of a kind things—to inspire the thrill of the hunt.

Of course it’s a fund raiser for the gardens—but its more RAincatchers goal is to spread the love of gardening and the sale is an important part of that.  The gardeners that will assist you really want you to find things that will work for you will make you happy and brighten your part of the world.

So —save the date May 19th.   We will see you soon.

Plant sale 2021

Susan Thornbury, Dallas County Master Gardener, Class of 2008

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

Pruning Demonstration from the Raincatcher’s Orchard

April 8, 2022

It was a grey day in March when Raincatcher’s volunteers gathered in the orchard to learn about fruit tree pruning with Jeff Raska.

Fruit trees are pruned to stimulate the growth of new fruit bearing wood and control the direction of the new growth, allowing for maximum harvest, sunlight and airflow.

You may feel like I do and would like to have Jeff standing beside you as you begin. We have provided this video and *some very good notes you can use next year before wielding those shears.

Seasoned Master Gardener Volunteers and Interns in the Orchard, happy with their work having learned the secrets of pruning from our Dallas County Extension Agents

*Fruit Tree Pruning Notes

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005

Pictures and video compiled by Starla Willis Class of 2011

Notes by Katarina Velasco Graham, Dallas County Extension Agent – Horticulture.  

Dates to Remember:

Dallas County Master Gardener Spring Tour-April 30 and May 1st

Raincatcher’s Plant Sale-May 19th

Beverly’s Seed Starting Saga

April 5, 2022

It is Spring. I will have my breakdown now.  

Things were going great in my expanded seed starting operation at home. The goal was to start every plant for the north vegetable garden from seed indoors. I admired the strength of teeny seedlings as they pushed through the potting soil. I delighted as true leaves formed. I carefully reapplied vermiculite to the trays to control algae at the first tinge of green.  I loved the camaraderie at our newly donated potting tables as fellow gardeners moved the seedlings from their trays to four inch pots. 

Then…screech….mornings and afternoons became a tiresome slog as I carried each tray of seedlings outdoors to harden off – first in the filtered light of the patio then in the harsh western sun of the backyard.  I increased their sunlight exposure at the agonizingly slow rate of one hour per day.  My family helped.  It was still a daily trial. 

The last week of March my slightly sunburned seedlings and I headed back to the north garden. The volunteer gardeners there placed them into the raised beds with loving care. 

I feel like Jeff Foxworthy might have something to say about a person driving around with 12 dozen tomato seedlings in their car. 

Now I miss them. 

The fellowship of the potting table – Gerry Infantino, George Coelen, Beverly Allen, and Colleen Murray. 

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

Dates to Remember:

Dallas County Master Gardener Spring Tour-April 30 and May 1st

Raincatcher’s Plant Sale-May 19th

Spring is Here!

March 30, 2022

An early poppy

At Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills we feel incredibly thankful for the refreshing sights and sounds of springtime. Walk with us along the garden path and discover the flourishing stages of development: bright green buds on shrubs and trees, tiny shoots of radish and lettuce peeking out of the soil joined by poppies poking out of the walkways while a wave of wildflowers explodes in a colorful display. Allow the sights of vivid greens to soothe you out of the grayness of winter and into the splendid joy of spring.

Linda Alexander

Beverly Allen…Vegetable Garden
After all the winter freezes, it is wonderful to be able to get all the plants we started indoors
from seed into the ground. I’m hoping for bountiful harvests of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers
and eggplant.

Sun Gold Tomato

Fern Brown…Edible Landscape
It’s amazing how a plant can transform in a short period of time. Just a couple of weeks ago, I
thought the asparagus was in plant Heaven but, lo and behold, it is alive and thriving!
Gardening, especially in the spring, is nourishment for the soul, a sign of new beginnings.


Jon Maxwell…Raincatcher’s Garden Leader
I really enjoy and look forward to the return of our families of purple martins. They add such a
spirit of joy and happiness to our gardening activities. They also are a wonderful indication that
the garden is awakening from its winter slumber and that bright, sunny, warm days are just
ahead for us.

The Return of our Purple Martins

Jackie James…Courtyard Garden
“Walking through the courtyard this morning, I was so excited to see a big yellow iris just
starting to bloom. It’s the first iris I have seen this year and I was so happy to catch it blooming
at Raincatcher’s Garden!”

Yellow Iris in the Courtyard

Ann Lamb…Wildflower Area
“Bluebonnet seedlings have sprouted all over the front area of our garden. I think we have the
best and prettiest stand of bluebonnets in North Dallas. This year Indian Paintbrush seeds were
planted in the early fall of 2021.

Bluebonnet seedlings

Dates to Remember:

Dallas County Master Gardener Spring Tour-April 30 and May 1st

Raincatcher’s Plant Sale-May 19th

Spring Is In The Air!

At the garden today, Jeff Raska will demonstrate orchard pruning. We have begun the task, but now it is time to hear from our expert. Our garden is bursting with energy, seedlings are sprouting, and things once dormant are alive again.

We hope you will also come out to work with us or take a spring stroll through the garden. Thank you to Starla for these pictures. Information will be coming about our spring plant sale on May 19th.

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis

DCMGA Spring Garden Tour, April 30th& May 1st

Tickets for the Dallas County Master Gardener Association (DCMGA) 2022 Spring Garden Tour are now on sale! They can be purchased for $15 through 6:00 pm on Friday, April 29th on the DCMGA website or online for $20 on the days of the Tour or at any of the gardens.  Your ticket is good for either or both days, Saturday, April 30 from 10 am to 4 pm and Sunday, May 1 from 1 to 5 pm.  There are six residential gardens and one school garden on the Tour, all located north of I-635 between Carrollton/Farmers Branch and Richardson. New this year, all the gardens will be PlantTAGG® -enabled, allowing tour visitors to access the most current, research-based horticultural information about featured plants using their cell phones.  There will also be a variety of educational programs presented in the gardens. 

You can preview all of the Tour’s stunning gardens on the DCMGA website:

Click here to buy your tickets:

Tomatoes Will Break Your Heart

I will listen to anything anyone has to say about about growing tomatoes. I have a tomato app on my phone. I’ve taken meticulous notes at many a tomato class. And what I have learned through experience is that tomatoes will break your heart in a new way every year. So select your varieties carefully- heirlooms for flavor, hybrids for disease resistance – and don’t even try the gigantic beefsteak ones you remember from your youth. Too much will go wrong before they are ready. Okay, try a big flavorful heirloom but hedge your bet with Sun Golds and Early Girls.

This year in the north garden we are going to try the Florida weave trellising technique to get the vines off the ground and improve the air circulation. The tomatoes in the how-to diagrams look very well behaved. I’m anticipating an amorphous blob of vines unless we prune daily, which will become a test of faith by the middle of April.

My best tip for obtaining delicious tomatoes for your BLTs is to make friends with someone’s uncle who has been growing tomatoes for a hundred years. Then one day your friend will say her uncle died and you will say you are so sorry to hear that while thinking, “I hope it wasn’t the one who grew tomatoes.”

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

You will manage to get some tomatoes at least this far. If your tomatoes tend to vanish in the night, harvest at the first hint of pink and ripen indoors.

Hornworms are not uncommon and will defoliate your tomatoes. If you let them live they will develop into beautiful sphinx moths. Thank you, tomatoes, for this dilemma.

Purple Wintercreeper, Euonymus Fortunei ‘Coloratus’

Purple Wintercreeper at Linda’s

Is it just the name? Why don’t more gardeners plant purple wintercreeper?

Listed on AgriLife Water University’s Top 100 Plants for North Texas , purple wintercreeper is one of the five groundcovers listed along with horse herb, frog fruit, snake herb and grey santolina. Texas gardener, Neil Sperry, also gives it a thumbs up.

It is evergreen, grows in full sun or partial shade, has reddish-purple fall and winter color and provides a wonderful texture to the garden floor. You might consider planting it instead of the ubiquitous Asian jasmine because it isn’t damaged by our cold weather temperatures.

Purple wintercreeper is easily established in a large area needing ground cover, just add mulch around the new plants and water as you would any new planting. After establishment, purple wintercreeper thrives on a moderate watering schedule.

Drip irrigation would be perfect as shown in this first photo.

In the next few weeks our thoughts will turn to spring, but while considering ground covers please don’t forget the one with the funny name, purple wintercreeper.

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005

From the Heart

Valentine’s Day this year is on a Monday and we are staying home for a warm, cozy dinner by the fire. Our menu isn’t going to be fancy. Instead, we’ve chosen to flavor it with a touch of nostalgia. To start our meal, the salad course is a revisit of an iconic 60’s dish known as “Southern Wilted Lettuce Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing”. Wilted lettuce is also known as “killed lettuce” or “kilt lettuce” because the greens soften under the hot, tangy dressing.   It was my late father-in-law’s favorite salad. Grandmother prepared it for him at least a few times a month.


Wilted Lettuce Salad

Wilted lettuce salad likely came from Eastern Europe with versions of it appearing in Poland and other countries. After the dish traveled to America with immigrants, Southerners began putting their spin on this wonderfully delectable salad. And, in true southern style, it was enjoyed with freshly baked cornbread or cornbread muffins. 

Outdoor spring seed starting season for lettuce is typically sometime between February 1st and March 15th so now is a good time to consider your options. A sturdy, spring lettuce such as romaine, spinach or red leaf works well for this salad. Look for other varieties that will keep some of their “crunch” when tossed with the hot bacon dressing.

Botanical Interests features a Chef’s Gourmet Spicy Mix with over six different texture-filled greens to excite your taste buds. Guerney’s offers a Premium Lettuce Seed Blend with a colorful combination of various textures and shapes. Have fun planning your spring salad garden.

Southern Wilted Lettuce with Hot Bacon Dressing

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

What Happened to Taking It Easy in Your Winter Garden?

Don’t believe it when garden writers say winter is a time to relax.  Here in the north garden vegetable area we are speeding up to get everything done in time for spring.

The cooler temperatures make it great time to take on hardscaping projects. We made an 80 foot long blackberry trellis from cattle panels and T-posts. The cattle panels are inexpensive, sturdy, and versatile but their 16 foot length requires some planning for how to transport them.

The vertically trained blackberry canes will get more sun and the berries will be much easier (and less hazardous) to harvest. Fortunately we pruned the second year floricanes after they fruited last summer making the task of training the remaining canes much easier.

Blackberry picking will be so much easier in May!

The vegetable team has been hard at work sheet mulching to create four new in ground beds.  We are also amending the soil in the Donation Garden and former watermelon patch with mycorrhizal fungi, dried molasses, and compost to enhance nutrient uptake. We have planted fava beans in the central in ground bed to fix nitrogen for the next crop.

Amending the soil in the Donation Garden.
Gerry Infantino and Len Nadalo .

January is the time to plant short day and intermediate day onion slips in Dallas. The day length refers to the amount of sunlight needed for the onions to bulb. We have planted the sunniest side of the Donation Garden with two short day varieties, the TAMU developed Texas Super Sweet Onion which is on the Texas Superstar list; and a disease resistant hybrid called Southern Belle Red Onion.

Gerry Planting Onions

It is also a very busy time for seed starting.  Buttercrunch lettuce started indoors on December 23 was ready to plant but the unusually warm December weather turned into a wave of freezes after New Year’s Day.  We ended up harvesting the outer leaves in a “cut and come again” fashion and adding them to a food bank donation of salad greens and the last of the fall tomatoes. The lettuce seedlings can still be transplanted outdoors and will tolerate light frost (28 to 33 degrees Fahrenheit).

Buttercrunch Lettuce

We are cutting it a little bit close but can still start our tomato seeds before the end of January.  This year we are sticking mainly with small and medium size tomatoes. Why? There is less time for things to go wrong before they mature!  Our varieties will include Super Sweet 100, Sweetie, Sun Gold, Early Girl, Roma, and Berkeley Tie Dye Pink, which was submitted as a favorite by area gardeners to The Dallas Garden School.

The Atlantis F1 Hybrid Mini Broccoli produced very well but we lost several plants during the worst of the early January freezes. Because it requires only a few weeks to mature we will able to have a second crop along with another fast maturing mini broccoli called Sweet Stem F1.

We tried several varieties of peppers last year and were pleased with how productive and easy to grow they were.  Also, our preschool visitors were delighted when they were each allowed to pick one.  This year we will be growing Jimmy Nardello, Gypsy, North Star, Marconi Rossi, Tajin, and Aji Dulce peppers. They can be started indoors by seed now and throughout February.

Radishes require only about a month to mature so we have a habit of planting the seeds anywhere we have a bit of extra space during the cooler months. Spinach takes 40 – 60 days but can be planted outdoors now through early March. It has been another easy to grow crop.

Garden writers, take note, winter is a time to get a lot done that will make spring and summer more productive.

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

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