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Tag Archives: Dallas County Master Gardener Association

Crane Flies

Have you noticed the plethora of winged insects with really long legs of late?  While admiring our blooming Texas Mountain Laurel, crane flies were spotted resting on the grape-soda scented flowers.  After taking way too many pictures, it was time to learn about them. We are seeing an abundance of them due to the wet weather and the fact that it’s early spring, the time they usually appear.  

There are over 14,000 species of Crane Flies.  “Mosquito Hawk” is the common name, which is a misnomer all the way around. It is not a mosquito, it’s a fly, and hawk nope, – not a predator, and it doesn’t hunt down mosquitoes either, but is often food for other birds and wildlife.  

They have beautiful stained glass-like wings as seen in this up close photo

These beneficial insects contribute to the ecosystem by feeding on decomposing matter in moist areas in the larval stage, which is 95% of their life span. The crane fly’s lifecycle is about a year, but adults only live for about 10-15 days. They do not bite, are attracted to light, and the sole purpose as adults is to mate and for the female to lay eggs near water.

Enjoy the brief time that crane flies occupy our airspace.  They are interesting to watch, helpful to our environment, and fun to photograph. 

Starla Willis  

 

Eagle Scout Project Completed At Raincatcher’s Garden

 

Newly completed handwashing station at Raincatcher’s

Another Boy Scout Eagle project has been completed at Raincatchers!  Boy Scout John Rehagen, a 7th Form, (Junior), student at Cistercian Preparatory School and member of St. Monica Catholic Church’s Boy Scout Troop 412, recently completed a very ambitious project in Raincatchers’ north garden.

This project is the fourth Eagle Scout project to be completed at Raincatchers since our relocation during 2015 from the garden at the Joe Field location.  The completed projects were: Construction of two substantial trash and recyclable receptacles, two garden cedar benches, and the garden information kiosk.

John’s project included the design and construction of a framed cedar surround with a roof, for a large galvanized tub, along with the required plumbing, for a 3 position hand washing station.  It also incorporates an additional 4th station for cleaning garden tools before being placed back into storage.  The hand washing station is now available for garden visitors, especially our younger guests, and volunteers during their time at the garden.  

As all Boy Scout Eagle projects require, John’s project had a written development plan, a formal approval from the Troop’s Boy Scout leadership, a plan for securing funding and volunteer workers, sourced from his troop’s members, friends and family members, along with an actual work plan and projected completion date.  

Eagle Scout project in progress

Upon receiving Troop leadership approval of his project, John used his considerable CAD/CAM skills to construct a “virtual” hand washing station.  The program provided him with the necessary dimensions and a list of materials required. Physical construction started on December 28, 2019 and, fortunately with our good weather, concluded on January 7, 2020.  Substantial manual effort and many man hours were invested by John and his volunteers, including his tenacious younger brother, Brian, during the construction time frame.  

Eagle Scouts demonstrate perseverance, discipline, motivation, leadership, accountability, and achievement.  These personal traits lead to tangible lifelong benefits and college admissions officers recognize the award for its value and it is given considerable weight in their admission decisions.  The fact that the attainment of the rank is based on accomplishing a set of national standards rather than some arbitrary local qualifications makes its achievement an outstanding personal accomplishment!

Very few Boy Scouts actually achieve this prestigious rank.  Only 4% of boys participating in the Boy Scout program since 1911 have achieved the organization’s most prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.

There are always prospective Eagle Scouts looking for worthy projects.  Dallas County Master Gardener project coordinators should reach out to the Boy Scout Troops located near their gardens whenever there is a construction requirement that might fit the description of an Eagle Scout project.

Congratulations, and a Dallas County Master Gardeners’ thank you to John, and his parents, Sarah and Chris, on their son’s truly worthy accomplishment.

Jon Maxwell

 

Scented Geraniums, An Olfactory Pleasure

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is hopeful that by June, social distancing and shelter-in-place restrictions will be lifted. However, the health and well-being of our community is, of course, our highest priority. We will review the official guidance from health authorities and our local government, particularly Dallas County, as well as guidance from the Dallas County Master Gardener program, as our June 2nd date gets closer. If you purchase a ticket, you will be notified via email if this event must be postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.Taste of the Garden

 

Scented Pelargoniums (Scented Geraniums)

“An Olfactory Pleasure”

Snowflake geraniums and chocolate geranuims growing in The Raincatcher’s edible landscape

Learn how to bring color, variety and a whole spectrum of fragrances into your life. Following an enlightening talk about growing their aromatic foliage you’ll be treated to a tasting table of flavorful treasures.

Tuesday, June 2nd

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills…11001 Midway Road

Program 10:00 – 11:00am with
Dallas County Master Gardener, Paula Spletter
Free and open to all in the Sanctuary

‘A Taste of the Garden’ 11:15 – 12:15
$10.00 per person in the Community Hall

Reservation Deadline, May 26th

Menu

Rose Geranium Italian Cream Cake with Rose Cream Frosting

Strawberry Rose Geranium Ice Cream

Rose Geranium Buttermilk Pie

Rose Scented Geranium Lemonade

Sign up here and keep up with any news about this event on our blog:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/taste-of-the-garden-scented-pelargoniums-scented-geraniums-tickets-101252956318 

 

Questions? Leave a comment on this blog or contact lindawalexander@sbcglobal.net

Have Hope, Carry On

March 24, 2020

Hello dear readers,

Most everything, every event, every gathering has been cancelled in Dallas and we are under ‘shelter in place’ orders until April 3.

The Dallas County Master Gardener office is closed and our Dallas County help desk is not available at this time. If you have garden questions, send them to us in the comments area of this blog and we will try to answer quickly.

Please don’t fret, our gardens will survive and one day soon we will be welcoming you back to Raincatcher’s events, plant sales, garden classes, and garden visits.

In the meantime, look through seeds you have saved and begin planting. Seeds represent hope!

Some garden centers in Dallas are open and have pick-up service because they supply herbs and vegetables. I have an order in right now, for starts of squash, eggplant, jalapēno, green beans and hopefully sun gold tomatoes.

Starla took this picture yesterday of The Raincatcher’s Garden to cheer you.

Bluebonnets, Englemann daisy, redbud trees and peach, pear, plum trees in bloom.

Ann Lamb

Picture by Starla Willis

Grow Now!

Dallas County Master Gardener volunteers at the Raincatcher’s Research, Education and Demonstration Garden of Midway Hills share your concern for eating healthy during these uncertain times. We’ve put together a short list of ways that you can start growing and harvesting seasonal crops over the next few weeks and months. Here are some gardening (and recipe) suggestions to help supplement your meals with freshly harvested herbs and vegetables.

 If you do not already have a designated vegetable garden, try one of these options:

1) Find an open place in your flower bed that receives around 6 to 8 hours of sun, preferably from morning until mid or late afternoon. Give your soil a boost by adding compost. Good quality compost can be purchased at most local garden centers. Make sure you have a water source close by, and position the garden where you can keep a daily watch to head off any potential pests and weeds that could create problems if left unchecked.

2) Create a simplified version of a raised bed using cinder blocks. Place cardboard directly over a grassy spot in your yard that receives ample sunlight, then place cinderblocks in a rectangular shape around the cardboard, starting with 5 on each side and 3 at each end. Fill the enclosed space about 6 inches above the bed border with a commercial raised bed mix, and water thoroughly to let the soil settle. Space plants or seeds according to directions. Water as needed to maintain even moisture within the bed.

The cardboard method, a good way to smother weeds

A large cinder block garden bed

Start with 4” to 6” edible plants spaced according to label directions. Seasonal plants, including cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes, are currently in stock at many local garden centers, but don’t stop there.

Try the following options in your new raised bed or in your existing landscape as borders and ground covers, or plant a bay laurel to grow as a shrub or small tree. 

Arugula (Eat fresh in salads, or use in dips.)

Spinach (Eat fresh in salads, sauté with scrambled eggs, or use in omelets, quiches and vegetable dishes.)

Kale (Eat fresh in salads; sauté for kale chips.)

Lettuce (Many different varieties provide texture and color in the landscape.)

Radish (Eat fresh in salads; slice thinly and serve on buttered bread for sandwiches.)

Carrot (Eat fresh in salads, roasted, or in soups and souffles. Use carrot tops to make pesto.)

Beet (Serve roasted, or grate for a cake.)

Swiss Chard (Eat fresh in salads, use leaves as a “wrap” for fresh chopped vegetables, sauté for turnovers, or add to soups.) 

Dill (Leaves can be added to salads, potatoes, meat and fish at the end of cooking.)

Fennel (All parts of the plant are edible – leaves and stalk make a wonderful flavoring for fish.)

French Sorrel (Can be cooked or used fresh like lettuce. Makes a good soup; adds zip to salads. Great on roast beef sandwiches.)

Nasturtiums (Harvest the leaves, buds and flowers anytime, and use fresh. Excellent in salads. Leaves make a great pesto.)

Artichokes (Excellent vegetable served roasted, sautéed or steamed—a beautiful and majestic plant for your garden.)

Thyme (Strip small leaves from stems and use to enhance the flavor of baked or broiled fish dishes or fish sauces. Thyme Cheese Roll: Combine 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 1 tablespoon chopped thyme, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, ½ teaspoon minced garlic. Roll into a log and refrigerate. Serve with toast or crackers for a quick and easy snack.)

Sage (Flowers and leaves are edible; flowers are nice in salads and for making tea, and the leaves are great for cooking and making herb butters.)

Rosemary (Use with foods rich in fat such as roasted meats, poultry and fish. Add to soups and stew. Use stripped branches as skewers for your favorite grilled meats and veggies.)

Chives (Snip the leaves at ground level when harvesting. Chop and serve with salad, potatoes, pasta and cabbage.)

Oregano (Sprinkle on fresh tomatoes or use to make a sauce; adds flavor to stews and soups.)

Marjoram (Rub leaves on all kinds of meat, chop into egg dishes, stir into soups and sprinkle it over vegetables)

Basil (Plant mid to late April. Use leaves for salads, pesto and sauces. Combines well with zucchini, beans and mushrooms.)

Watercress (Harvest and use fresh in salads, soups and sandwiches.)

Purslane (Use in early spring salads. Leaves can be cooked like spinach.)

Sweet Bay/Bay Laurel (Use the leaves of this evergreen plant in soups, stews and other simmered dishes. Cook a leaf or two with dried beans.)

We hope you will be inspired to start gardening with your family and experience the joy of bringing fresh, flavorful food to your table. 

How about a healthy robust minestrone soup using fresh garden ingredients. Picture by Linda

Click here for the recipe. 

Linda Alexander and Lisa Centala with comments by Jeff Raska, Horticulture Assistant, Dallas County

Follow these planting guides: TAMU Vegetable Planting Guide

Northaven Garden Spring Planting Guide

New to gardening? Read this pamphlet, pages 13-15 have specific recommendations for veggie gardening.

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

Calendulas in My Garden

Above: Calendula in Linda’s garden

There’s a new herbal flower growing in my garden that makes my heart happy. Calendula, sometimes known as pot marigold, signifies sacred affections, joy, grief and remembrance. With such a wide range of emotions, there are countless reasons to include it in your garden landscape design. 

 With hues from golden to apricot, deep yellow and bright orange, calendula flowers are eye-catching in any setting. An early morning walk in the garden will tempt you to take a handful of clippings for a lovely bouquet or gather up the flowers for some edible delicacies. 

Growing calendulas is quite simple. Plant seeds in good garden soil, keeping the ground moist until the plants appear. If planted in late summer or early fall, there’s a good chance that they will produce flowers from spring into summer. Some years it might flower almost year-round.

My calendula plants were put in the ground in mid fall, started blooming in February and are continuing to produce new buds weekly. The flowers are harvested often to use in cut arrangements and for ingredients in butter, cookies, cornbread, quiche and a scrumptious calendula cake. They can also be sprinkled on soups, pasta, rice dishes and salads. The Raincatcher’s volunteers recently sampled calendula quiche. The recipe is given below.

Above: Petals to be eaten!

In the vegetable or herb garden, calendulas encourage pollinators and other beneficial insects. If you’re looking for a plant that flourishes in cooler weather, blooms often and is easy to maintain, give this versatile herb a sunny location in your garden. 


Calendula Quiche

Above: Calendula Quiche surrounded by Calendula Flowers at Raincatcher’s Garden

Ingredients

3 cups loosely packed fresh spinach

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

¼ cup (6 ounces) soft goat cheese, crumbled

½ cup calendula petals (from about 20 flowers)

½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Liberally butter a 9-inch pie pan. 

In a skillet over medium heat, cook spinach in olive oil until the leaves are fully wilted, about 3 minutes. Drain. 

Whisk eggs and cream together. Add goat cheese, calendula petals and salt and whisk again. 

Arrange spinach in the bottom of the prepared pie plate and pour egg mixture over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the custard is set in the center and the top is golden brown.

*Option: If you prefer, follow directions for the ingredients but pour into a prebaked pie crust.

Yield: One 9-inch Quiche

As in true Texas style, we suggest a few drops of Tabasco sauce on each slice for extra zing.

Linda Alexander

Photos by Linda and Starla Willis

Click here to learn how to pronounce Calendula correctly.

More Seed Starting Tips

Gail Cook has been a Master Gardener since 2003. She has worked at The Raincatcher’s Garden for many years and now has a new job with us. She is planting herb, flower and vegetable seeds. It’s a perfect job for her; she a nurturer. 

Gail, I heard you are doing a wonderful job with seed starting for the edible landscape. In December, I had the privilege of hearing from Jim about his seed starting methods.
I was wondering what equipment you use. Seed starting mats? Grow lights?Any tips you want to give our blog readers about seed starting. Do you mind letting me know of the potting mix you use? Do you purchase or make your own?

Hi Ann, How nice to hear from you!

Honestly, I’m in one of my happy places starting seeds and, with everyone’s help, we’re doing well with the seedlings. I don’t even have a back yard these days, just a long narrow brick patio with a bit of sun and a small utility deck with a 4-shelf zip-up greenhouse.

I have one warming mat and it does speed things up. To save time ( I can plant 72 seeds in minutes this way)and space, I’ve been starting most seeds in 72-count plug trays from amazon in clearance and seed starting mix from Walmart. There are 300 plugs germinating on my upstairs bathroom counter now. Then I pot them up in 4” pots right after germination.

I’m still working on mixing potting soil with perlite and/or vermiculite to get a lightweight soil because I haven’t found a brand I love yet. Northaven Gardens has a recommendation in a recent email that I plan to try when I can look it up. Some seeds go straight to the greenhouse once planted, depending on weather. It can be tricky to keep the soil at the just right level of moisture but we haven’t had a problem with damping off, even though they stay fairly wet with almost daily misting.

I’m also experimenting with diluted organic liquid  fertilizer after the 2nd set of leaves appear to get them to transplant size as quickly as possible. This requires patience. 

 The Raincatcher’s greenhouse is a huge help during colder weather, as are the other edible garden volunteers who check on the seedlings. I’ll come back to you on soil mixes. Don’t hesitate to remind me. Busy time at work just kicked in, another reason I enjoy the seeds.

Best, Gail

Gail Cook bringing borage seedlings to the Raincatcher’s greenhouse.

Gail writes again:

A couple more tips: Peat moss can be difficult to moisten so add water to the seed starting mix before filling pots. A bucket and your trowel are useful for mixing. 

When using a heat mat indoors or a greenhouse on warm days, monitor closely, preferably twice a day. The soil dries out very quickly and seedlings will fail to germinate or grow. Seedlings should be removed immediately from the heat map as they germinate, as they no longer need the warmer temperatures.

Gail’s Greenhouse

 

This little greenhouse is from Tuesday Morning  and is on it’s 4th winter. It is in a protected area and doesn’t get much direct sun. There are a few patches over tiny holes but it still works. I’ll probably buy another next year.

 My husband has started referring to the seedlings as our children because they are taking up so much of my time.                                                        

 

 

 

 

If you are feeling overwhelmed with all the information and purchase recommendations, Gail suggests starting with easy lettuce and greens for the first season. Simple can be better for beginners. Have fun!

Thank you, Gail.

Ann Lamb

 

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