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Tag Archives: Dallas County Master Gardener

When Your Garden Provides the Ingredients…

Try These Three Recipes:

Asparagus, blueberries, garlic, jalapeno peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, basil, cilantro, Italian parsley, and mint are some of our Zone 8 seasonal garden crops. If you’re growing any of these springtime and summer favorites, consider giving them a starring role for breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner. Each recipe calls for a list of ingredients which can be picked, snipped and harvested directly from the garden. The combined flavor profiles will elevate that fresh-from-the-garden taste experience we find so satisfying to our palates.  

Caprese Roasted Asparagus with Grape Tomatoes

Fettuccine with Cashew, Mint and Cilantro Pesto

Blueberry Zucchini Muffins

You may have noticed that the common thread in each of these recipes is olive oil. This past Christmas, family members and close friends received themed gift packages from my husband and me featuring olive oil and olive wood products. From olive wood boards, bowls and spoons to different varieties of olive oil, each one was customized for the recipient. A recipe for my favorite olive oil cake was included with each gift. 

As the spirit of giving continues, throughout 2022 our family and friends are receiving a monthly recipe featuring new and unusual ways of cooking or baking with olive oil. The three recipes listed above were for March, April and May. Summer recipes calling for olive oil will include farm fresh garden vegetables (corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc.) and zesty, flavorful herbs. I’m even sharing a cobbler recipe that calls for ¼ cup of lemon olive oil!

 If you are an olive oil fan, check back for monthly recipes featuring this versatile product and its variety of uses. Writing in The Illiad, Homer revered olive oil as having the qualities of “liquid gold”. Let’s discover those possibilities together over the next seven months. 

A Bit of Trivia…It was the ancient Greeks who invented the salad dressing which was comprised of extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, sea salt and honey.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Another Reason to Visit the Raincatcher’s Garden at Midway Hills Christian Church!

As if it isn’t enough to make a trip to the Raincatcher’s garden to enjoy the beauty of the garden, make friends, work with other volunteers, get certification hours, shop at a great plant sale (May 19th from 10 am – 3 pm!!!), learn about plants and good gardening practices, etc., now there is one more reason to make the trip to the garden. 

We have a new feathered friend who has taken up residence in an owl box built just for him or her. The owl box is high up in a tree in the courtyard facing the parking lot and the view that this lucky owl gets to see is the beautiful edible garden.  The best part is, when the owl hears voices, he/she tends to stick its head out and seems interested in the conversation! 

Thanks to Colleen Murray(Dallas County Master Gardener) for organizing the owl box at the garden and to Stan Herndon(Community Volunteer) for the photo. 

Jackie James, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

Pepper Palooza at the Raincatcher’s Plant Sale

We made a decision last year to fill the courtyard at Raincatcher’s garden in 2022 with lots of pepper plants.  Some of the peppers will be grown to use in our very popular pepper jellies but several of the ones we selected are for ornamental purposes.  Ornamental peppers are safe to eat but they are typically used for their attractive color or ornamental quality rather than their flavor.  They are often considered too hot to eat by most people.  

Fish Pepper

A favorite ornamental pepper that you will see growing in the courtyard is the Fish pepper.   Last summer, we fell in love with this pepper plant growing in the edible garden.  In fact, most visitors to the garden asked us about this plant because it is so unusual and beautiful.  The Fish pepper is an African-American heirloom variety that dates back to the 1800’s. It is a large plant and the leaves range from fully white to part green and fully green.  I can testify to the fact that the peppers on this plant pack a lot of heat as I was asked to try it in preparation for the pepper class that was taught at the garden last summer!!!  

Fidalgo Roxa

Fidalgo Roxa is a pepper plant from Brazil and is considered to be “one of a kind.”  The flowers are white and purple and the plant will eventually be loaded with purple, pink and apricot colored peppers.  It is described to have a fruity flavor that is in the upper mid heat range.

  

Cherry Bomb

Cherry Bomb (AKA Hot Cherry Pepper) is another variety that we chose to grow this year.  It is a beautiful compact plant with brilliant red cherry-like peppers.  Despite its name, this pepper is described as having a heat level close to a mild jalapeno – medium heat with a sweet taste.  The pepper is fleshy and juicy and can be used as a substitute for jalapenos, in vinegars and is good for stuffing and pickling.  

 

Shishito Pepper

Shishito pepper is a Japanese pepper variety that is very trendy right now.  They are easy to grow and yield a lot of fruit in a short period of time.  The plants are compact and do well in containers.  They have thin skin which makes them perfect for quick frying, roasting and grilling.  The pepper is considered to be mildly spicy but occasionally you might find one that really packs a punch!  

Aji Dulce pepper

And back by popular demand, we have grown more of the Aji Dulce peppers for the sale this year.  This is a fun plant with red and green lantern shaped peppers.  They are sweet and can be used in many recipes.  If you read the article I wrote for this blog last year, you will remember that the seeds came from Puerto Rico from my good friend Paco.  We have had several requests for this “Paco” pepper plant from people who bought and grew this plant last year!!!   

The Raincatcher’s plant sale is on Thursday, May 19, 2022 from 10 AM – 3 PM at Midway Hills Christian Church (11001 Midway Road, Dallas 75229).  You won’t want to miss out on this opportunity to fill your yard with beautiful and useful pepper plants.  Other pepper varieties will also be available along with many annuals, perennials, herbs, shrubs, yuccas, ground covers, etc.  Hope to see you there!!!  

Jackie James, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

Vego Beds at The Raincatcher’s Garden

May 4, 2022

Hello to all our faithful readers especially vegetable growers aspiring to be homestead gardeners. We have busy replacing our worn out raised beds with Vego beds (rhymes with Lego).

Cucumber and pepper seedlings are being planted into our new beds.  black-eyed peas, okra, cucumbers, and melons can be started from seed outdoors. (Timing is good for squash seeding as well but we are taking a break from squash vine borers this year.)

Lisa and Mark unloading 1 of the 4 new Vego beds

Raincatcher’s Volunteers are using the existing soil from our veggie beds mixed with compost to fill these new beds.  Beverly suggested the hügelkultur method for those starting brand new beds.

Courtesy of the Vego website, this is a less expensive way to fill new beds.
Raincatcher’s Volunteers inspecting a Vego!
Visitors to the garden have complimented us on the basil and marigolds we have interplanted with the vegetables. We hope it will confuse the unwanted bugs.  Meanwhile, we are enjoying the blooms and the pleasant aromas of flowers and herbs. 

Ann Lamb and Beverly Allen, both Dallas County Master Gardeners!

Don’t forget:

RAINCATCHERS GARDEN AT MIDWAY HILLS

11001 Midway Road, Dallas 75229

Thursday, May 19

10:00 am  –  3:00pm

You are invited to shop our wide variety of plants grown, nurtured and donated by our fabulous volunteers at Raincatchers.  There will be annuals, perennials, tropicals, sedums, peppers and herbs as well as decorative pots, yard art and other gardening related items.  Prices start at $2 per 4” pot.  Come find that special plant or whimsical item to enhance your garden.

Spring Garden Tour

If you haven’t purchased your tickets for the Dallas County Master Gardener Association (DCMGA) 2022 Spring Garden Tour, it’s not too late! They can be purchased for only $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 stunning 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: https://dallascountymastergardeners.org/first-peek-at-our…

Click here to buy your tickets: https://form.jotform.com/220395346419156

Cynthia Jones, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2013

COMING SOON—–SAVE THE DATE

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

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.

More Vegetable Gardens at Raincatcher’s

The Raincatcher’s team has been busy putting in new gardens. Led by Leonard Nadalo and Beverly Allen a ridge and furrow garden was built in October with the purpose of growing food for the North Dallas Shared Ministries’ food pantry and demonstrating an alternative to raised bed gardening on our clay soil. It is aptly named The Donation Garden. One of our turf beds has also become a new veggie plot and is the home for turnips, beets, spinach and some struggling carrots.

Enjoy a look at seedlings of butter crunch lettuce, Georgia southern collards, Chinese broccoli yod fah, and purple top white glove turnips.

If all this planting is making you crave cruciferous crops, don’t delay. It is a little late to start seeds outdoors but transplants are available at garden centers. Which brings me to an important discovery: mini broccolis (thanks Beverly!) We planted Broccoli Atlantis F1 by seed in our garden.

It is called a mini because it is harvested mainly from side shoots that are smaller than what you buy in your grocery store. When you harvest the center first, side shoots branch out and can be harvested all through the winter. Other mini broccolis, such as Artwork F1, are also available as transplants at local garden centers.

The vegetable team has plans for the future that include increasing the production capacity of The Donation Garden and finding a carrot variety that can get happy in Zone 8a. 

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005 with additional information by Beverly Allen, class of 2018

Photo of Broccoli Artwork F1 courtesy of All-America Selections 

Note: We chose Atlantis F1 for it’s shorter days to maturity (33) when compared to standard broccoli (56 or greater).

Serenading the Snapdragons

Sunflower girl, as she is affectionately called, stands proudly in our garden as a reminder to pause for a moment of rest and relaxation. The quite, gentle sounds of her music take me back to a time in my life, when I too, enjoyed playing simple melodies on my flute.

She was a gift many years ago from my husband who somehow knew that her presence in the garden would make me smile. We named her “Sunflower Girl” as a tribute to my love of mammoth sunflowers. But the flute she gently caresses in her hands speaks sweetly to me of bygone days.

Seasonal changes in this small area of our garden seem to grace her with an elegance that she wears well.  Fall is especially joyful as the snapdragons surrounding her are bursting with a beautiful display of calming colors. I can’t think of a flower that would be more appropriate for my sweet sunflower girl to be serenading.

Snapdragons will always have a place in my garden, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned the answer to a perplexing question. Why are they called snapdragons, anyway? Thanks to “the spruce” for this rather comical but accurate answer. ‘The common name derives from the shape of the individual flower heads, which resemble the snout of a dragon, and which even open and close in a snapping motion, as often happens when pollinators open the jaw to reach the pollen’.

Snapdragons should be planted in springtime or fall in a full sun location with well-draining soil. After planting, clip the top stem and any long side shoots to encourage more flowers. When blooms begin to fade during summer’s heat, clip the plant by one-third to one-half and expect more blooms when temperatures begin to cool in fall. Keep evenly moist but let the soil dry out about an inch deep before watering.

The showy blooms of snapdragons are delightful to use in floral arrangements but, for me, that would leave a lonely sunflower girl with no one to serenade. The lyrical melodies she plays for them is a refreshing sound in my garden. Just listen, isn’t that the chirpy opening to Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2 in D major filling the air?

Note: Local garden centers currently have a wonderful variety of snapdragons in stock.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Snapdragons are long lasting and rabbit resistant. Read more about them here.

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