RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Dallas County Master Gardener Association

A March Day in The Raincatcher’s Garden

March 13, 2019

Three minutes of your time, please. Have you ever seen such motivation, such verve. Our gardeners, Syann, Sue, and Dorothy are in the garden under umbrellas pouring out plans from our vegetable garden.

And then, what are strawberry spinach seeds and what’s the best method for starting them?

Thank you everyone; the gardeners, the videographer, the greenhouse personnel, those who weed, those who work in the compost area, all of you who make Raincatcher’s what it is even on a rainy day. You inspire me.

Ann Lamb

video by Starla Willis

More about strawberry spinach seeds here.

Grow and Graze, Lecture and Lunch March 19

March 19, 2019

Tatsoi seeds were sown in January. Look at it now!

Have you ever grown Tatsoi? If not, you may want to give it a try. Our Salad Gardens class on March 19th will introduce you to this sassy little Asian green that delivers a unique flavor experience. Following the class, join us for lunch at the salad garden buffet where Tatsoi will be one of our “featured” greens.

After lunch, take a stroll through our edible landscape where you’ll find Tatsoi growing in abundance around the bay laurel tree. Our volunteers have become big fans of this small, spoon-shaped green that can be succession planted from spring through fall. We’re now referring to it as one of our edible garden “super stars”.

The sign up deadline for our Grow and Graze lunch on March 19 has been extended to March 15th. Please sign up here on eventbrite. We have 10 or so reservations for the lunch available but will need all reservations by March 15.

Mustard greens, sorrel, swiss chard, kale and parsley grown in The Edible Landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden

(Reservations are not needed if you plan to attend the class only.)

Linda Alexander

Grow and Graze with Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

Salad Gardens

Did you know that “salads” have been a part of humankind’s diet for thousands of years? Even the ancient Greeks and Romans made lettuces a part of their daily meals. Learn how to raise healthy, nutritious food that can be picked and eaten at its peak of flavor.

Tuesday, March 19th, 10:00 – 11:30am

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills * 11001 Midway Road

Instructor: Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

The class is free – no reservation required. The public is welcome, and Master Gardeners earn a one-hour education credit.

Immediately following Jeff’s presentation in the church sanctuary, you are invited to join us in the Community Hall for a …

Salad Bar Smorgasbord of Garden Delights

Choose from an array of textures, shapes, colors and flavors even Peter Rabbit would envy. Use your imagination to create your very own culinary masterpiece. Toss your creation with an assortment of dressings, crunchy vegetables and a few surprise toppings.

Garden Salad with Caramelized Almonds and Mandarin Oranges

Mixed Green Salad with Nasturtiums and Raspberry Vinaigrette

Fresh Spinach and Tatsoi Salad with Orange Curry Dressing

Orange Fennel Watercress Salad

Creamy Leek and Sorrel Soup

“Jump in” and finish your feast with a chomping delicious piece of Chocolate Beet Cake or that sneaky little rabbit’s ultimate pleasure…Blue Ribbon Carrot Cake

Lunch reservations must be received by Tuesday, March 12

$15 person, limited to 60

Future 2019 classes, no reservations yet but you can save these dates on your calendar:

June 18th… Herbs of the Mediterranean

August 27th… Corn, the Golden Essence of Summer, and Okra, a Garden Giant

October 22nd …Seasonal Splendor, Pumpkins and Sweet Potatoes


2019 Raincatcher’s Classes

Grapes growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden


We have three more events scheduled and more coming:

Saturday,February 16th, 10am-noon Grape Pruning and Growing class with Michael Cook, Viticulture Extension Program Specialist for North Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Michael Cook, Viticulture Program Specialist – North Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, has been consulting with Raincatcher’s to maximize production on our two grape varieties in the vineyard. We planted ‘Carlos’ Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) and Champanel, (Vitis champini X Worden), an American hybrid, almost four years ago. All that hard work paid off last summer, when we harvested well over 50 lbs of grapes. Michael will demonstrating proper pruning and training techniques for the backyard grower and provide advice on how to care for grapevines throughout the growing season for a successful crop. The class is free and open to all! Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills 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 class, please park in the west or north parking lots and come to the shade pavilion in the north garden.

Tuesday, March 26th,  10:30 am Growing vegetables in the home garden, Jeff Raska.

Thursday, April 25th – Plant sale and DCMGA monthly meeting

Details will follow and we hope to add more classes to the list soon.

All of the above classes qualify for CEU credits for Master Garderners.

All members of the public are invited.

Questions? Send us a comment.

For more education opportunities, check our Master Gardener website.

Ann Lamb

Picture by Starla Willis






Step by Step—How to Build Decomposed Granite Flooring and Paths

The Raincatcher’s Garden has a new look.  We are starting 2019 with durable, *ADA compliant, paths and a floor  beneath our shade structure.  The work has been done by a team of Master Gardeners led by Jon Maxwell who is one of the co-chairpersons of our garden.

Shade structure before!

Jon, we are thrilled with this accomplishment. Hearty thanks to you, Ed Wolfgang, Tig Thompson, Hans Wildburger, Joe LaBay, and Jim Miller (2019 MG Student).

Finished product. Read below for the how-to directions.

Please tell us about the process.

What other options were considered? Why did Master Gardeners choose decomposed granite?

We considered several different alternatives, including installing a concrete pad, putting down a 4” layer of hardwood mulch, gravel and decomposed granite(DG). We ruled out concrete as too expensive and with our Houston clay soils to likely to crack and become uneven. The mulch would too quickly decompose and thus require monthly additions to the pad in order to maintain a comfortable level, and most importantly would not have been ADA compliant. Pea gravel was also considered but again is not ADA compliant nor is it particularly stable for volunteers or visitors to walk on – not to mention the accompanying dust that would coat the tables and benches. Decomposed granite on the other hand, while initially expensive, would provide an ADA compliant surface when a stabilizer is incorporated or applied. The DG floor will over time require some maintenance to maintain an even surface degraded from traffic and/or rain run-off.

You started with bare compacted soil. Would you mine giving us the process from stage 1 to completion step-by-step?

a. Evaluate the soil, its condition, and its grade. We were fortunate that the lay of the land under the shade pavilion was somewhat level and had about a 5 degree slope from the north to the south that allowed for run-off and that it had become hard packed from use and being sheltered from the elements for the past year or so.

You must start with a firm base, the ground may need to be machine compacted or rolled prior to the laying down of the first strata of sub-surface materials. During the compacting process, if necessary, you should add soil to level out the proposed DG site and fix the grade, (slope), of the pad or walkway. If you have a project that is subject to rain water floods, ie downspouts, you should modify the downspouts by either incorporating a rain-harvesting process or by modifying the drainage system.

We have done both, the east side downspouts flow pattern was modified to run underground through a 4” pipe and flow up through a pop-up drain outside of the DG pad, which allows for that rain water to run out into the contiguous parking lot. For the west downspouts we are capturing that rain water into rain barrels, which we plan to use for homeowner demonstrations on rain harvesting and as another water source for our composting station.

b. In order to contain the DG you must use some type of border edging material. You can purchase metal edging from the box stores but it typically is not strong enough to prevent getting waves in it while the DG is being compacted. We selected a 3/16” thick by 5” tall metal edging from Collier Metal Specialties LTD, “COL-MET”, which is located in Garland. Various other edging materials are available in different sizes, thicknesses and colors. The edging needs to be installed about 2” deep into the ground. On the 5” edging that will leave 3” above grade for the sub-surface material and the finishing surface material. The sturdier edging is harder to work with as it requires a saw to cut the sections to fit the desired space. We chose to use 90 degree corners for all of our turns, so this worked out quite well for the pad installation. We used 30 10’ sections, 15 90 degree corners, and 275’ of rubber cap. If you are concerned about weeds, then before laying down the sub-surface material, lay down a fabric weed barrier but this is optional.

Edging in place at The Raincatcher’s Garden

c. Add the first layer of sub-surface material. We used crushed concrete purchased from the same source for the decomposed granite, Lowry Sand and Gravel, to establish at least a 1” base. It is far cheaper than any other material that might be used and provides a non-decomposable base. Some projects use only the DG without a sub-surface base but that is considerably more expensive and it does not help to “fix” in position the surface as well. Do not roll or pack the sub-surface material.

Piles of crushed concrete and decomposed granite ready for installation

d. After the sub-surface base is completed, add the first layer of DG, at least 1.5” is required. Lightly moisten the material and then roll or mechanically compact that layer. The 1.5” layer will compact down to about 1” actual. The initial layer should sit for at least 8 – 12 hours before applying the second and final layer. Once applied, the final layer will again need to be rolled or mechanically compacted as well.

Jim Miller ready to roll!

e. After compacting the final layer of DG you should determine if there are any uneven spots in your pad or walkway. We used a simple method of stretching a string line, both parallel and perpendicular, and eyeing it. If there are uneven spots, level with additional DG, lightly rake to level, lightly moisten and then compact those areas.

f. In order for the pad or walkway to be ADA compliant a stabilizer must be added to the DG. It can be ordered with the stabilizer incorporated, which increases the cost dramatically, or you can purchase stabilizer used as a drench to help make the surface harder. In either case, the addition of stabilizer increases the cost of the project substantially.

g. For safety consideration, since we are open to the public and provide tours to school children as well as adults, we are adding a rubber cap onto the metal edging to reduce the effects of someone falling and hitting the edge of the metal. Also available from COL-MET.

Thanks guys, for putting the metal edging in place and for the rubber caps that will be put on top of it for safety.

How many cubic yards of materials were used and at what cost?

Our project required 8 cubic yards of crushed concrete, about $40/yard delivered, and 20 cubic yards of decomposed granite, about $70/yard delivered. Fortunately, one of our supporters, Arrow Lift Rentals, provided equipment to move and compact the materials.

What was the total cost of the project for this 2200 square foot area?

Total cost of this portion of the shade pavilion project was less than $2,000.00.

Up close and personal with our decomposed granite! Fait accompli!

Now that it is finished so beautifully, what upkeep will be needed?

Fortunately, very little; just an occasional addition of DG in areas of heavy traffic or water run-off. That is one of the benefits of a decomposed granite pad and walkways.

Thank you, Jon.

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis


Arrow Lift employees and machines like this mechanical compactor placed us on solid ground.

More thank you’s to  COL-MET, Abbe Bolich and Arrow Lift Rentals. Arrow Lift helped us get in under the $2,000 line with their labor and equipment at reduced cost. Community partners are so important to the ongoing work of our garden.

*We will be ADA compliant when stabilizer is applied at a later date.

Butterflies at Raincatcher’s Garden, Fall 2018

Where have all the butterflies gone? We enjoyed so many this fall in our garden.

Monarch butterfly sipping nectar from Tithonia, Mexican Sunflower.

Cloudless Sulphur butterfly on a canna in our color wheel.

Queen butterfly alight Lantana, Miss Huff.

American Snout on an Okra blossom.

By late November, most butterflies have bred and died. Their  offspring  overwinter in egg, larva, or chrysalis form until next spring.

 Some adult butterflies have gone farther south and some overwinter in Dallas as adults.  Monarch migration is perhaps the most well knows but also  the Painted Lady, Common Buckeye, American Lady, Red Admiral, Cloudless Sulphur, Skipper, Sachem, Question Mark, Clouded Skipper, Fiery Skipper and Mourning Cloak  migrate to warmer regions.
Ann Lamb
Pictures by Starla Willis. Thank you, Starla!

Fascinating news from the Native Plant Society-click to read their newsletter.

Recipes from the Apples, Pears, Persimmons, Pomegranate Lunch

Nature’s grand finale plated!

Bake Brie with Roasted Persimmons


2 (8-ounce) wheels of Brie, rinds intact

Roasted Persimmons, chopped (recipe follows)

1 large egg

2 tablespoons water

1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

Seasonal fruit



Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut 1 wheel of Brie in half horizontally. Place half of Roasted Persimmons on one half of Brie, and top with remaining half. Repeat with remaining wheel of Brie and remaining Roasted Persimmons.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 2 tablespoons water.

On a lightly floured surface, roll puff-pastry sheet to ⅛-inch thickness. Place 1 Brie round on puff pastry; fold pastry over Brie, cut away excess dough, and invert Brie onto prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining Brie and puff pastry. Using an acorn-shaped cutter, cut 2 acorns from remaining dough. Using a pastry brush, brush dough with egg wash. Place 1 acorn on each Brie round, pressing gently to adhere; brush with egg wash.

Bake until pastry is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve with seasonal fruit and cracker.

Yield: Makes 10 to 12 servings

Roasted Persimmons


¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup brandy

¼ teaspoon salt

1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise

4 cardamom pods

4 whole cloves

2 star anise

2 cinnamon sticks

4 persimmons, blanched, peeled, and quartered


Preheat oven to 450˚F.

In a cast-iron or ovenproof skillet, combine syrup, sugar, brandy, salt, vanilla bean, cardamom, cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Add persimmons.

Roast until fruit is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Remove persimmons, discarding spices and vanilla bean. Chop persimmons. Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Yield: Makes 2 cups


Butternut Squash-Pear Soup garnished with Parmesan and Chopped Rosemary

Butternut Squash-Pear Soup


1 (2.5-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 2-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup vegetable oil, divided

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided

1 ½ cups chopped onion

1 shallot, minced

1 quart chicken broth

2 cups half-and-half

1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary

2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger

6 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and chopped

Garnish: shaved Parmesan cheese, fresh rosemary


Preheat oven to 450˚F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and coat foil with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine squash and garlic. Toss with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Transfer squash mixture to prepared pan. Bake until tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool.

In a Dutch oven, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and shallot, and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add squash mixture, chicken broth, and remaining ½ teaspoon pepper Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add half-and-half, rosemary, and ginger, stirring to combine. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly. Add pears to mixture.

In the container of a blender, puree mixture, working in batches, until smooth. Return mixture to pan, and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Garnish with Parmesan and rosemary, if desired.

Yield: Makes 8 servings

Figs, Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pear Salad

Salad of Figs, Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pears


½ cup walnut halves

2 large heads frisee, carefully rinsed and stems trimmed

1 Fuyu persimmon, cut into thin slices

1 Red Bartlett pear, halved, cored and cut into thin slices

6 fresh figs, halved through the stem end


Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Arrange the frisee, sliced persimmon and pear, and fig halves on individual plates, dividing them equally. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts. Alternately, arrange salad on a large platter.  Drizzle with the Pomegranate Salad Dressing.

Yield: Serves 4

Pomegranate Salad Dressing


½ cup Pomegranate Syrup (see recipe)

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

⅛ teaspoon salt


Combine all ingredients in a jar; cover tightly and shake vigorously. Chill.

Yield: ⅔ cup

Pomegranate Syrup


4 cups pomegranate seeds (4 large pomegranates)

3 ½ cups sugar


Combine seeds and sugar in a large glass bowl; cover and chill at least 8 hours.

Transfer mixture to a heavy non-aluminum saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes.

Pour mixture through a cheesecloth-lined colander; press against sides of colander with back of a spoon to squeeze out juice. Discard pulp.

Pour juice into a 1-quart sterilized jar; cover with lid, and screw on band. Cool; store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Yield: 3 cups

Persimmon Cookies

Persimmon Cookies


2 large ripe persimmons, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 cup sugar

⅔ cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice


Position knife blade in food processor bowl; add persimmon, and process until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides. Measure 1 cup pulp.

Combine pulp, sugar, oil, and egg, stirring until smooth.

Combine flour, soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl; add persimmon mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in raisins and walnuts.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased cookie sheets.

Bake at 375˚F for 9 minutes. Transfer to wire racks placed on wax paper. Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice, stirring until smooth; drizzle over warm cookies. Cool.

Yield: 5 dozen

Autumn Orchard Crisp


3 pounds firm, flavorful apples

1 pound pears

Juice of ½ lemon

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut up

1 ½ cups chopped walnuts

½ cup coarsely chopped cranberries

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream


Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Peel, core and slice the apples and pears. Toss them in a bowl with the lemon juice and granulated sugar.

Place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, butter, and half the nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Process until blended and crumbly.

Spread one-third of the crumb mixture on the bottom of the prepared pan, top with half of the sliced fruit and scatter over half of the cranberries. Top with the second third of the crumb mixture.

Layer on the remaining sliced fruit and sprinkle over the remaining cranberries. Mix the remaining nuts with the remaining crumb mixture and spread over the top.

Bake until well browned and slightly bubbly, about 1 hour. Cool to warm and top with whipped cream or ice cream.

Yield: Serves 8

Review our horticultural lesson on

apples, pears, poms and persimmons here.

Linda Alexander

Pictures by Starla Willis and Linda Alexander


%d bloggers like this: