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Tag Archives: Dallas County Master Gardener

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.

The Fragrance of Fall

Just a few steps into the garden and the air is suddenly filled with a soothing fragrance that leaves you mystified and, yet, curious to find its aromatic source. Moving closer in, hints of heady anise softened with a gentle touch of sweetness begins to calm your spirits. It only takes a moment to realize that you’ve been drawn into an intriguing area of the garden overflowing with the intoxicating fragrance of Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida).

Also known by its other names, Winter Tarragon, Texas Tarragon and yerba anise, this semi hardy perennial makes a spectacular showing in the fall garden. Slender stems rising unbranched from the base comprise the upright clumping shape of each plant. Tiny buds that started forming in late summer find their glory in the sunny days of autumn. Golden yellow clusters of marigold-like flowers dance gently across 3 feet tall stems in a show-stopping performance.

 

Mexican Mint Marigold in the Edible Landscape at Raincatcher’s Garden

Mexican Mint Marigold originated in the cool mountains of Mexico but has become a superstar addition to many Texas gardens. Grow it from seed sown after danger of frost has passed or divide plants in spring or fall. One simple suggestion is to arch a stem to the ground, cover the center with soil, and the stem will often root at the nodes. For optimum flower production plants should be located in an area that receives full sun to moderate afternoon shade. 

You’ll find Mexican Mint Marigold used as a substitute for the more temperamental herb, French Tarragon. Both the flowers and leaves are edible and used often in teas, salads, poultry and fish dishes. For a heavenly taste explosion use the leaves in an irresistible dessert we discovered a few years ago, Strawberry Sorbet with Texas Tarragon. 

Strawberry Sorbet with Texas Tarragon

Don’t be disappointed when your Mexican Mint Marigold plants take their winter nap. After dying down to the ground for a few months, they will reappear again in Spring just in time to start rehearsing for their next performance.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

The North Garden at Raincatcher’s

he North Garden continues to thrive with a crew of three to five gardeners on Mondays and help with hardscaping from the regular workday group on Tuesdays. 

We were especially grateful for the substantial progress made on Intern Day in the new Donation Garden where we will be demonstrating ridge and furrow gardening and donating the produce to area food banks. 

Making progress on the Donation Garden

This week we harvested peppers, okra and pole beans and put together 10 family packs of the vegetables for donation. There were plenty of peppers left for the jam and jelly team to make their popular jalapeño jelly. We also harvested the calyces of Roselle Hibiscus for jam.

Monday’s Harvest

Vegetables packed for donating

The pepper varieties we have growing are North Star, Gypsy, Jimmy Nardello, Tajin, Emerald Fire, Poblano, and Sweet Roaster.  North Star and Gypsy peppers are heavy producers and 0 on the Scoville Scale. North Star is known for production under a wide range of conditions. Both it and the Gypsy variety are very easy to grow. The Jimmy Nardello peppers are not quite as productive but they have an excellent sweet taste and nice crispy texture.

The Tajin and Emerald Fire are very productive jalapeño hybrids with low to moderate degrees of spiciness.  We didn’t see many Poblanos in the Spring and Summer but now that temperatures have dropped, the plants are heavily laden with mild green peppers.  The Sweet Roasters were productive and flavorful but unexpectedly hot.

We also grew Clemson Spineless and Hill Country Red okra. The Clemson Spineless is very productive but must be harvested daily to keep the pods from getting tough and stringy. The Hill Country Red is not as productive but it tastes great and the pods are very tender despite their ridged barrel shape. 

The Northeaster pole beans are surprisingly delicious. Several gardeners and visitors have tasted them in the garden and all were in agreement that they were very enjoyable even uncooked. 

Raincatchers volunteers are always welcome to sample any produce growing in the North Garden. It’s a great way to tell if you would like to grow the same variety in your home garden.

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018 

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