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Tag Archives: Dallas County Master Gardeners

Cardboard

Our first article about using cardboard in the garden was written in 2014.   Starla takes up this subject again below. Save your cardboard, and read her instructions.

Some tasks in the garden are not glamorous-ok a lot of garden tasks are that way-weeding, deadheading, and putting down mulch to name a few. With covid restrictions and shelter in place requirements keeping me at home,  several of the mundane jobs finally got my attention.

The trees have been trimmed, beds transformed,  plant material rearranged,  and, with the help of my husband, areas were weeded that were long overdue.

Now I need to mulch the paths in the area which were formerly my raised garden bed. You see, several years ago, I was inspired by friends to plant a vegetable garden and wrote about it in Dallas Garden Buzz.

I am a social gardener, so veggie gardening solo, was not as fruitful as I had hoped and now my beds are filled with weeds and paths are not walk-able. I wasn’t sure what to do about this problem until I read our garden’s weekly email.  Instructions on how to lay cardboard and mulch for a new garden area were included. Perfect timing!

Cardboard layer, mulch will be put on top

While at the garden, I found  cardboard had already been laid in several layers and then I came across Master Gardener intern, Dotti Franz. Tirelessly and seemingly indefatigable she was working to cover the 8 x 20 patch of cardboard with mulch.  It was hot with no shade, not ideal weather but because of determined Dotti I was inspired to pitch in and work with her.

Now it’s my turn in my yard.  These simple steps will help me as I take back yet another area of my yard!

Finished project, Dotti has covered the cardboard layer with mulch.

Here are the steps:
·        Place cardboard down overlapping and possibly several layers–
·       BE SURE THAT TAPE IS REMOVED FROM THE CARDBOARD BEFORE LAYING IT DOWN -the cardboard will decompose but the tape will NOT and it will be a nuisance.
·       Water the cardboard after it has been placed where you want it. – The heavier material is not likely to move and shift as much and the mulch has a better chance of sticking.  It will need to be watered again before all the mulch is distributed.
·       Put mulch down
·       If you have to transport mulch from a pile, a ”mulching”  pitchfork and wheelbarrow are needed-– we came to love the gorilla dump cart–Pull the lever and the back dumps!
·       Place the mulch on the cardboard and spread it with the flexible tine leaf rake.
·       Continue by overlapping where you’ve already been and then rake it to achieve coverage and the 4 inches of mulch –
·        After the mulch has been laid down, water it so it doesn’t blow away – There was a slight breeze which helped with our perspiration but not the fly away mulch.
This is not a one time job, good mulch will last a year or so, then you will need to have new mulch added.  Remember, the mulch is used to improve your soil and to keep weeds down and some people like it for its aesthetics.
Supplies:
  • Cardboard (the larger the better) – Remember remove tape
  • Water hose / water
  • Mulch – we have rough shredded tree mulch delivered to our garden —   bags are options as well
  • Rake with flexible tines
  • Wheel barrow to transport
  • “Mulching” pitchfork to move from pile to wheelbarrow
  • Water – moving mulch is hard work and we need to stay hydrated — before, during and after
  • Hat
  • Gloves
Thanks Jon, Fern, and Dotti for inspiring me and letting me know that I can do it.  I will tackle this job now that the weather is cooler.
Starla Willis

Edible Landscape Garden Tour

Tracy and Aaron

Tracy and Aaron McLaughlin live only a few miles away from the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. But after an hour and a half tour of the edible landscape last week, visits to the garden may be happening on a regular basis. 

Tracy first discovered the garden a few weeks ago when dropping her 3-year-old son off at preschool. A casual stroll around the garden resulted in a friendly conversation with several master gardeners working in the edible landscape. Sensing her desire to know more about the garden, an appointment was scheduled for the upcoming Friday evening with Tracy and her husband, Aaron.

 

Our tour began with an overview of the edible landscape garden objective of using only edible plant material to create a visually stunning design spanning all four seasons of the year. Tracy and Aaron were anxious to learn as much as possible during our visit. As we emphasized during our conversation with them, composting is the core project of building healthy garden soil. The method we use in the edible landscape was carefully explained. They were ready to give it a try. 

Time seemed to pass far too quickly as we toured each unique feature of the edible landscape. From the white velvet okra standing like soldiers in the Hügelkultur to the Stonescape surrounded by impressive mounds of Mexican Mint Marigold and the feathery gray, green curry plant, our guests left with hearts of gratitude and happy smiles across their faces. 

Following their visit, Tracy and Aaron shared some highlights of the tour:

We found a lot of awesome plants that we want to incorporate into our garden. Overall, we thought that learning about the expanded shale to help improve our soil was a huge discovery. We will be incorporating it into our garden beds! 

The tips about composting were especially helpful. Also, locating plants with similar watering needs together was good information.  And, using a variety of plant material in the garden.

We loved the scented pelargoniums. The overall beauty of the garden was inspiring. Going forward we would like to learn how to rotate crops and always plan ahead.”

Tracy and Aaron McLaughlin

 

Linda Alexander and Beverly Allen

Garden Tour Guides

Paloma Eggplant…Creamy Texture and Slightly Sweet

Paloma Eggplant

Searching through the 2020 spring seed catalogs earlier this year, we found something that caught our eye. Entering into the new year, our garden “theme” had already been announced. The edible landscape would be adorned with the color “white”. From white pansies and alyssum to white carrots and white velvet okra, seeds were ordered and the fun began.

But, still needing that extra touch of white magic, we went back to the catalogs and started flipping through the pages. Almost immediately, we found the answer. A bell-shaped, velvety white eggplant named ‘paloma’ was the perfect solution. As soon as the seeds arrived, they were placed into our seed starting mix of perlite, vermiculite and sphagnum peat moss. After a few months in the greenhouse they were transplanted into several different locations in the edible landscape.

The summer heat seemed to slow down their growth initially but nearing the middle of August, things improved. We continued to keep them evenly moist in their sunny garden beds and waited for the first fruits to appear. And finally, over the past few weeks, we have been blessed with the most adorable little white eggplants you’ve ever seen.

Harvested Paloma Eggplant

Not surprisingly, the best part was yet to come. Anxious to experience the taste profile of our little gems, we tossed around a few recipe ideas for volunteers to try.

The one we chose to share with our readers is a favorite from a ‘Grow and Graze’ event last summer. We hope you enjoy revisiting Raincatcher’s Garden Summer Ratatouille with us.  Paloma’s smaller size makes it perfect to use with other vegetables in the ratatouille.

Linda Alexander

 

Candlestick Tree

Candlestick Tree

I should have realized that gardening was going to be an important part of my adult life as I stood in front of a candlestick tree as a child at the State Fair of Texas.  I stood staring at this beautiful, tropical-looking plant with a corn dog in one hand, cotton candy in another and a lizard on a string “leash” pinned to my shirt.  (As far as the lizard is concerned, I feel compelled to quote Maya Angelou:  “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”!!!).

Years went by and I didn’t give that fabulous plant a thought until I volunteered as a docent for one of the first Master Gardener fall garden tours.  I spent several hours at Kay Passmore’s garden that day and found myself staring at the candlestick tree again.  She had many in her yard and commented that they reseed freely.

For the past couple of years, we have been planting candlestick trees in the courtyard at Raincatcher’s Garden at Midway Hills Christian Church.  At this very moment, there is a big candlestick tree in the courtyard that just starting blooming.  Every time I work in the courtyard, I find myself standing and staring at this awesome plant, but without the corn dog (vegetarian now) and cotton candy (yikes!).  And, thank goodness, the only lizards in the vicinity are the ones running freely in our garden rather than pinned to my shirt (what were we thinking?)!!!

Our lopsided well loved Candlestick Tree in the Raincatcher’s courtyard

The candlestick tree (Cassia alata) is native to Central and South America.  It is an annual in Dallas and grows easily from seed.  It is best to soak the seeds in water overnight and then plant them directly in the ground in full sun after the danger of frost has passed.  It can grow from 6 to 15 feet in a season and it blooms late summer to fall.  It is a drought tolerant plant and it attracts pollinators to the garden.  Another fun fact about this plant is that the leaves fold up at night.

Next time you’re at the garden, take the time to check out this plant.  Or make a special trip to the courtyard just to see it – it will be worth your effort!

If you have never grown this plant, I strongly suggest you try one next spring.  Hopefully, we’ll have some seeds to share by then!

Jackie James, Master Gardner class of 1993

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

Summer Song

Have you discovered a summer symphony of enchanting sights, aromatic smells and textural pleasures playing in your garden? Does the air around you seemed to be filled with an overture of sweet and elegant melodies?

Let’s meander along the herb scented pathways together. Pause to listen as the music of the morning opens your senses. Find solace in nature’s serenade.

 

Papalo, sunflowers and juicy peaches soothe the spirit

 

Hoja Santa, and society garlic blossoms play a peaceful rhythm.

 

Celeste fig and purple basil create a pleasing tempo.

 

Okra leaves and blue borage in perfect harmony.

 

Carrot blossoms, eggplant leaves and lemon thyme keep up the beat.

 

Zucchini leaves and blossoms give garden sage a smooth, silvery sound.

 

Sweet potato leaves and balsamic basil for a jazzy little tune.

 

Cinnamon basil and scented geraniums (chocolate and peach) hit those base notes.

 

Lemon verbena in an encore performance.

Linda Alexander

More seasonal flower arranging inspiration-Bundles of Love

Desert Willow

When you visit the Pollinator Garden at Raincatcher’s, please take a moment to walk in the garden and see how beautiful and large the desert willow has grown. Tom Wilten would be proud! He gave us this tree just last year, and it’s happily blooming away. I wonder how many trees owe their lives to Tom’s passion for propagating and teaching us how to do it, too? What a wonderful legacy.

Desert Willow given to The Raincatcher’s Garden by Tom Wilten

 

Lisa Centala

Other Dallas Garden Buzz articles with Tom’s advice:

Tomatoes and North Texas

Seed Saving: It’s a Good Thing


More information about Desert Willow trees from Texas AgriLife Extension

and Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center.

 

Pictures From A Master Gardener’s Very Own Yard

Jon Maxwell, MG class of 2015, is one of the leaders of The Raincatcher’s Garden. Below he is sharing pictures of his home landscape.

In August, do you feel like I do? Your yard is a wilting mess and you want to throw in the trowel!

Jon recognizes the  same challenges and reminded me this is a portfolio of his garden taken over many months.

Here’s a late summer tip: Jon says, ” August is a trial because our water is alkaline so I plan ahead to catch rain water in multiple 5 gallon buckets and use it to water planters and hanging baskets.”

As for his stunning summer flower pots; Jon writes “Each year, other than this one due to the virus, I try to make visual statements that draw your eye to the container. Notice the Brazilian Plume with wild pink slender petals.  My two plants are now 4 years old.  I try to carry them over each winter without a greenhouse.”

Thank you, Jon.

Ann Lamb

Other posts by Jon Maxwell:
Eagle Scout Project
Step by Step, How to build decomposed granite flooring and paths 
Protecting Fig Trees and Grapes

Growing Artichokes for Blooms or Dinner?

Starla sent pictures of her artichoke blooms. To enjoy the exotic blooms you have to forgo the harvest.  After looking at these pictures, you might pick the okra and eggplant out of your garden for dinner instead.

Looking top down at an artichoke blossom

Side view of artichoke blossom

Artichoke Bud

Artichoke plants benefit us in two ways as beautiful ornamentals and as a food source.

For those two reasons, we have grown this plant in the edible landscape on top of the hugelkultur in semi shade and they have returned for several years bearing as many as 7 artichokes per plant.

Pretty artichoke growing at Raincatcher’s in our edible landscape

We are often asked if the artichokes on the hugelkultur are cardoons. Both plants have a beautiful thistle like bloom and a striking architectural appearance in landscapes. They reach heights of 3 to 6 feet but the cardoon has a rangier growth habit and the edible part is the stem not the flower.

Now what will it be, blossom or artichoke? Feast your eyes or your stomach?

We vote both! Let some flower and cook the rest.

Here’s how Beverly Allen cooks the artichokes she harvests. https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/amazing-roasted-artichokes/

Ann Lamb with input from Beverly Allen

Pictures by Starla Willis

Grape Harvest

I have always heard that grapes are the most labor intensive crop because of pruning.  And that is true.  But it is also rewarding to have producing grapes and to join the ranks of countless farmers who have enjoyed and drunk the fruits of their labor for thousands of years.  Master Gardeners at The Raincatcher’s Garden began their orchard with Champanel and Carlos grapes in 2015.

Champanel Grapes growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden

In mid-July Jon Maxwell and the Master Gardener 2020 interns picked 2 buckets of champanel grapes. Jim Dempsey (and lovely wife, Martha) took on the job of juicing the grapes and jelly-making.

See the beautiful product below.

 

Later this year we hope to sell grape jelly to raise funds for the maintenance of our garden.  Raincatcher’s exists to teach and demonstrate good horticultural practices for North Texas gardeners. We have hosted several grape classes and events and plan to begin classes again when it is safe to do so and in accordance with the city of Dallas guidelines.

Until then, here’s more reading on grapes:

Dallas Garden Buzz gives a short history of grapes, with how-to grow them and use them in making dolmas and 3 more “grape” recipes.  We heard it through the grapevine

Grape variety profile from Texas AgriLife ExtensionChampanel Grapes

Denton County MG’s promote viticultureGrowing Grapes-Viticulture in your Backyard

Dallas Morning News Article advising grapes  provide excellent shade when grown on an arbor and provide the fruit we are all after. Growing Grapes in your Backyard, is not an Indulgent Fantasy

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

 

Amaranth

Hopi Red Dye Amaranth Growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden

The leaves of Hopi Red Dye Amaranth are edible and the plant is commercially grown in southeast Asia and India for this purpose.  I haven’t eaten the leaves but was told by a neighbor that in India the leaves are quickly cooked in a hot pan with garlic and chilies and are delicious.

The tiny seeds are also edible and are often part of ancient grains mixtures.  The seeds have to be separated from the flower petals which is harder than it sounds.  The high price of amaranth products is justified!  When just a few plants are grown, which is usually the case since they are huge, one could try popping the seeds in a hot dry skillet and using them for a snack or for salad topping. This has been my plan for a long time; this may be the year!

Close Up View of the Beautiful Amaranth Seeds

Amaranth were once very common plants and should be again.  They are not difficult to grow and add that touch of drama every garden needs.

I will be glad to share seeds just come and ask. You can usually find me at The Raincatcher’s Garden in the butterfly habitat on Tuesday mornings. The seeds should be ready to share in a month or so.

Susan Thornbury
Pictures by Starla Willis
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