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Tag Archives: Dallas County Master Gardeners

Kale’s Misfortune

August 6, 2019

We had grandiose plans; to indulge and savor, to be nourished and satisfied. Our beautifully designed spring kale bed promised countless ways to enjoy this luscious, leafy green. An imaginative plan was developed using five different varieties of kale. Our centrally located statuary garden would be transformed into graceful spirals of translucent whites to radiant pinks. Concentric circles of the lovely Scarlet Kale with her delicious frilly, red curled leaves gently ushered in sassy little Dwarf Siberian Kale, a very hardy and productive Russian variety.

Above: Scarlet Kale

Red Russian, poetically referred to as the peacock of the kale family, adorned our bed with its striking red leaf stalks and delicate purple veins running through silver green leaves. But it was the visually stunning blue-green hues of Blue Curled Scotch that completed the rich and vibrant look of our 2019 Ombre theme. Or, so we hoped.

Above: Blue Curled Scotch Kale

As spring rains gave way to the warm days of summer, we were increasingly pleased with our Brassicaceae family reunion. And then quite suddenly, Mother Nature spoke to us. Her language was somewhat stern and unforgiving. She reminded us that our visit had come too soon. While family gatherings are happy, joyful occasions filled with laughter and sweet memories, a time of separation is sometimes needed before a return.

Shamefully, we had not listened. Members of the same family had previously made a visit to our garden. Two other times to be exact. We should have known better than to include them a third time. Was it the unwelcomed pests harboring in the soil who were waiting for the right moment to “crash” our party? Or, had the lovely cabbage white butterfly swooped down from above to deposit her eggs on the underside of a leaf? Either way, our mistake had encouraged, even invited the destruction to begin. As the tiny little green worms emerged, along with them came a voracious appetite. A simple appetizer wasn’t going to satisfy, they had come for a feast.

After only a few short weeks of devastation, our bed of dreams began to resemble an alien invasion. The chomping and nibbling had wiped us out. Except for one indulgent over-eater, the lacy remnants of frass (aka, solid excreta of insects) was all that remained of our beautiful kale crop. The cross-stripped caterpillar showed no mercy, he was victorious in winning the battle.

Kale Bed in early July after the cabbage worm attack

Moving forward, we’ve learned a lesson the hard way. Instructions for the next family reunion will be respectfully observed.

  1. Members of the same family, in this case…Brassicaceae…won’t meet again for three years.
  2. Rotating plant families is important for managing pests and soil fertility in the garden.
  3. To improve the fertility status of garden soil, members of other families such as Fabaceae, the legume family, can be grown to add nitrogen to the soil.

Should nutrient-rich kale make a future visit, we hope to enjoy her delicious charms.

Linda Alexander

Pictures courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Refer to Caterpillar Alert, Who’s Eating our Kale?


2 Fantastic Classes, Learn, Learn, Learn at our Garden!

Everyone Welcome, no reservations required.

Tomorrow: Wednesday, August 7, 10am, Shade Gardening

Friday, August 23, 10am Texas Plant Tales Class

Balsamic Blooms Basil is a Superstar

I’m infatuated with this new basil, so I asked Linda to write about it-Ann.

Above: Balsamic Blooms Basil

 

Our first encounter with Balsamic Blooms Basil was in April of 2018. While the designation Texas Superstar® caught our attention, it was the beautiful deep purple blooms that we found most intriguing. We were smitten. Thankfully, we were able to locate six plants at a local garden center and then used them to create a border for our newly established hügelkultur bed.

People couldn’t stop talking about the “new plants” in our garden. As they continued to grow throughout the spring and into summer, everyone became more intrigued. A quick explanation convinced them that this was a plant worthy of adding to the home garden.

Balsamic Blooms Basil was named a 2017 Texas Superstar plant by AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturalists after three years of field trials around the state. To be designated a Texas Superstar, a plant must not only be beautiful but also perform well for consumers and growers throughout the state. Texas Superstars must be easy to propagate, which should ensure the plants are not only widely available throughout Texas but also reasonably priced.

Balsamic Blooms is truly is a game changer. It is the first basil to have flowers and leaves growing at the same time. You’ll be tempted not to harvest those long-lasting, gorgeous purple blooms, content just to admire their beauty. But you shouldn’t miss the delightful mint flavor of the tender young flowers chopped and sprinkled over a summer salad. The sweet flavor of the foliage may be used for a delicious pesto or other culinary uses.

We were so pleased with last year’s performance that for 2019, Balsamic Blooms took center stage in our ombre basil bed at Raincatcher’s Garden. Once again, it has thrilled visitors to the garden who don’t leave without asking about this lovely herb.

As with most basils, plant in a sunny area in well drained soil. It has a mounding growth habit reaching 18-24” and is a great addition for either the edible garden or landscape.

Linda Alexander

 

 

Crushing Heat

How do  you beat the heat in summer? What are your tactics? We asked several Master Gardeners and this is what they said.

Above: Starla gives a pictoral  reminder for all of us

Susan Swinson says: Long sleeves and pants for the mosquitoes. I like the fabric in hiking pants. It’s pretty cool and wicks moisture. Hat and sunglasses of course and towel for mopping up. Enormous insulated glass of iced tea with a lid that I keep in the shade. If I’m working in the backyard I rig up a big fan with extension cord.

Lisa Centala: A hat and sunscreen are the first wave of defense! One way I stay cool is to drape a wet, cold cloth around my neck. I keep a couple to change them out and roll some ice in the towel if it’s really hot.

Jim Dempsey: Never go out into the heat without a good wide brim hat.

Jon Maxwell: In the Texas summer heat, “you have to start early and end early!
Its not just the plants that need water, remember to drink plenty when out in the summer garden, and not just when you feel thirsty!

Cindy Bicking: I try to get out early in the morning and get “finished” for the day by 10 a.m. If  I have a lot to do, I keep to the shaded areas as much as possible.  I also set a timer for 15-20 minutes and then go inside for about the same amount of time.  That’s when I drink my water.  Also, try to wear a hat. If it’s dry enough, I mow in the morning while it is cool.  Otherwise, I wait until just before dark.  Use bug repellent.

Also, I sometimes wander about for a few minutes and pull weeds, trim a littler here and there.

Dallas Garden Buzz Readers, please give us your heat crushing advice in the comment section.
Ann Lamb

 

Grow and Graze August 27th Sign-Up

Corn, the Golden Essence of Summer and Okra, A Garden Giant-GROW AND GRAZE AUGUST 27TH

Corn’s versatility is endless, lending a festive look to almost any dish. Discover the delectable potential of this simple vegetable. Savor its natural sweetness in a menu packed with everything from delicious openers to breads, chowders and desserts.

Okra is best described by award-winning chef, Michael W. Twitty, as “a globetrotter that dances so well with tomatoes, onions and corn that nobody remembers a time when the four did not carouse the kitchens of the Afro Atlantic world in search of lusty steam and the heat of a hot chili pepper looking to dance, too.” 

Tuesday, August 27th

A “Grow and Graze” Event Hosted by Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

10:00 – 11:00am * 11001 Midway Road * Church Sanctuary

Panel Discussion Led by Raincatcher’s Dallas County Master Gardener Vegetable Experts

(Master Gardeners earn up to two CEUs)

Immediately following the program please join us in the Community Hall for a Picnic-style Lunch

11:15 – 12:30

$15 per person, Reserved seating for 60, Tickets on sale July 24th, 10am, Deadline August 20th

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/corn-the-golden-essence-of-summer-and-okra-a-garden-giant-tickets-65175370287

Menu

Santa Fe Corn Soup Garnished with Fresh Oregano, Blue Corn Tortilla Chips

Fried Okra Pods with Pickle Aioli

Fresh Corn Cakes with Heirloom Tomato Relish and Tarragon Crème Fraiche

Warm Okra and Red Onion Salad with Pine Nuts

Esquites: Mexican Street Corn Salad Cups

Breadbasket Sampler: Cheddar Dill Cornbread, Corn & Jalapeno Muffins, Fresh Okra Muffins

Sweet Corn and Hazelnut Crunch Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Blackberry Verbena Sauce

Linda Alexander

All members of the public invited for lunch with a reservation or just come for the free lecture. Reservations thru the eventbrite link above open at 10am, Wednesday, July 24th.

Thai Basil Sorbet, a Cool Taste of Summer

Thai Basil Sorbet

When one mentions ‘basil’, immediately people think of Italian-type basil – the Genovese variety that is used for pesto and caprese salad.  Thai basil, if it’s thought about at all, is best known as a garnish in the popular Vietnamese soup pho.

But with its spicy licorice and lemon notes, this cousin of mint works well in desserts, too.  Any variety of Thai basil can be used – we have both Persian and Cardinal cultivars in the Edible Landscape and both worked equally well.

An ice cream maker does its magic by keeping the ice crystals small while they’re being created.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker or aren’t in the mood for sorbet, there are other ways you can enjoy this syrup.  You can make a granita or popsicle if you still want an icy treat, or simply take the syrup you’ve made and pour it over a white cake, brownies, or even the olive oil semolina cake from our Grow and Graze event – it’ll infuse the cake with a lovely extra layer of flavor!

Above: Cool and refreshing Thai Basil Sorbet

The recipe below makes about a pint of sorbet – feel free to multiply it and make more.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups water

1 cup sugar (192 g)

1 cup basil (leaves and/or blossoms) (about 55 g)

2 Tablespoons corn syrup*

2 Tablespoon lime juice

*The corn syrup is to keep the sorbet from becoming a popsicle without making the sorbet too sweet.  The alternative to the corn syrup would be a tablespoon of vodka (or rum).  If you’re not making sorbet, but the granite, popsicle, or syrup, you don’t need the corn syrup (or vodka or rum).

METHOD for SORBET:

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the corn syrup and lime juice.

Spin it in your ice cream maker using the manufacturer’s instructions, then put in the freezer to finish hardening off.

METHOD for GRANITA:

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the lime juice.  Don’t use the corn syrup.

Place the syrup in a shallow pan (metal is good, but something it would be okay to scratch with a fork, or use a plastic container) in the freezer for about a half hour.  Pull it out and with a fork, scrape the frozen portions into large flakes.  Return to the freezer and repeat 2-3 times or until the whole thing is a bunch of frozen flakes.  Cover, and store in freezer until ready to serve.  When you go to serve, use that fork again to make sure you’ve got flakes!

METHOD for POPSICLES:

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the lime juice.  Don’t use the corn syrup.

Pour into popsicle molds and freeze!  This is a pretty intense way to enjoy the basil flavor – I’d suggest adding some berries to the mold and have a berry basil popsicle.

METHOD for SYRUP (over cakes, brownies, etc.):

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the lime juice.  You don’t need the corn syrup for this use, but it won’t hurt your final product, either.

The Edible Landscape Team

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

Protecting Fig Trees and Grapes

July 20, 2019

To protect your fig trees from hungry birds, cover the tree canopy with bird netting.  The netting operation needs to be completed before the fruit begins to ripen. Timing is critical. Generally the birds leave unripened fruit alone but once the fig or grape shows color they are all in for their feast and little will be left for you.

This was our project last week at Raincatcher’s. We were lucky enough to have Captain in the US Army and Dallas County Master Gardener, Jon Maxwell, leading us.

Netting for the fig was from Lowes; netting for the grapes was purchased on line as it needed to be larger, 28′ x 28′ vs 14′ x 14′ from box stores.

Jon’s tips for bird netting application-have a lot of help and keep your fig tree pruned short.

Above you see Jim Miller, Jon Maxwell and one of our Dallas County Master Gardeners interns at work.

Annette Latham is a steady help with the net in the top picture.

The netting was large enough to basically hang to the ground, so heavy objects were placed at the bottom  to help hold it in place.  Mockingbirds, who love figs and grapes, have been quite furious!!

Written by Ann Lamb as explained by Jon Maxwell

Pictures by Starla Willis


Looking forward to fig harvest? Here’s few fig recipes from last year’s Grow and Graze event

Don’t forget Grilled Figs with Thyme Honey and Gorgonzola Toasts.

By the way, if you are interested in the Dallas County Master Gardener program, call our help desk at 214- 904 -3053 or go to our website here. Classes start in January when it’s cool!

 

What’s Growing in July Vegetable Gardens in Dallas?

July 16, 2019

Dallas County Master Gardener, Ruth Klein has joined the The Raincatcher’s Garden Team to work in the vegetable garden.  I asked her a few questions about what’s growing at Raincatcher’s.  Her advice-go tropical!

Thanks, Ruth!

July tends to be a slow time in Dallas for vegetable gardening except for black eyed peas, okra, and sweet potatoes.  We introduced some tropical crops which needed to be trellised.

To make use of the materials already in the garden,  we rummaged through the shed and found some lavender colored PVC pipes.  We bent them between the beds and stuck them in the soil.  This was not stable enough for Dallas winds, so the guys , led by Jon Maxwell, purchased PVC connector pieces and put them on the top of the arches.   The arches were then covered with bird netting to act as supports for the vines connecting it using zip ties.

Above: A view of the vegetable garden with new trellis

We were pleased that the supports were attractive,

something like the Calatrava bridges over the Trinity.

  Seeds of red noodle beans, bitter melons, and loofa squash, (aka sponge squash) were planted.   As soon as we got the netting up, the vines rapidly began climbing.

Bitter Melon

Loofah bloom visited by a pollinator

Black eyed peas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red noodle beans can be cooked like green beans.   Wash and salt them, add a little butter, and steam  in the microwave- very easy and delicious. Even the bigger ones that I was afraid would be tough are delectable.

The black eyed peas can also be harvested as immature pods and be prepared like green beans.  Traditional green beans can not tolerate the heat and tend to get rust, but the black eyed peas and noodle beans are disease free.

 

One of the in-ground beds has compacted soil, and attempts to grow corn in it were unsuccessful this year.  We filled it with black eyed peas, and they are thriving.  When the peas are spent, we plan to cut them off at the base and let the roots degenerate before turning the soil over.  Hopefully, this will act as a cover crop and help to enrich and break up the soil for future planting.

 

Sadly, the Spring tomato crop was decimated by squirrels or rats, and we fear, two legged pests.  We have begun plans to build a chicken wire enclosed “house” with a door which can be locked for the next Spring tomato crop.  It is too hot now for heavy work, so we plan to begin soil prep and construction after the first cold front in the Fall.

Most of the Fall planting dates begin in late August, so we will harvest and begin soil prep before then.

Ruth Klein

Pictures by Starla Willis

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