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Pollinator Friendly

August 10, 2019

Pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, bats, birds,   and wasps are the basis of a healthy ecosystem. They allow plants to reproduce and those plants provide us with countless varieties of fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  I have read that one in every three bites of food lands on your plate because of the work of these pollinators.

With that in mind, look at your garden in a new way. How are you providing for the pollinators who make your life happen?

Here are some of the plants we are growing with that purpose.

Above: Zexmenia hispida

Above: Rudibeckia fulgida and Gregg’s Mist Flower

Above: Tithonia rotundifolia or Mexican Sunflower in front of a 5 foot hedge of Lantana ‘Miss Huff’

Above: The delicate blossoms of the Desert Willow provide nectar

Above: Datura-an interesting flower that blooms at night and attracts the sphinx moth

Above: Pink Skullcap

On the right side of the page under Raincatcher’s Resources, take a look at the list of butterfly and hummingbird plants for more information.

Ann Lamb

 

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

 

 

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!

 

Edible Landscape Spring and Summer Planting 2019

May 4, 2019

Ana and Linda enthusiastically took center stage last week to proclaim the spring and summer plans for the Raincatcher’s Edible Landscape. The purpose of our edible landscape is to create a stylish and appealing outdoor space using vegetable, fruit, and herb plant materials. On top of that, think partial shade and an area formerly used as a children’s playground. Add in budget constraints and the lack of an irrigation system..

Without the fervor of Ana and Linda and their band of Master Gardeners, I doubt this garden would have flourished. But with its second birthday round the corner, the edible landscape is ready to take off its training pants and mature into a beautiful and thoughtful garden full of edible delights.

In the next few weeks, look for articles giving more detail about the 2019 design plan. The basil bed has just been planted with many different colors of basil. Hint: research the ombré look and we’ll explain later how it’s being used in the edible landscape.

South Sidewalk Raised Beds – Basil varieties/cultivars: Piccolino (Greek), Napoletano (Genovese), Eloenora (Genovese), Persian (Thai), Cardinal (Thai), Balsamic Blooms (Genovese), Red Freddy (Genovese), Amethyst Black (Genovese)

Ann Lamb

PIctures by Linda Alexander

Open this link for a list of the all the plants  and a plot plan of The Edible Landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden.

The Edible Landscape Adds a Food Guild

April 30, 2019

The idea of a food guild or food forest is interesting because it is a less labor intensive way to grow food and more sustainable. Everyone likes the idea of low maintenance and more crops, so watch this video to see the food guild we are creating to in our Edible Landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden.

The food guild utilizes layers of different types of plants. We are fortunate to have towering oak trees for our tall tree layer and also fortunate to have tasted acorn muffins made from acorn flour. So yes, our tall tree layer, the live oak tree is a food source. Next we will have a short tree, a vine will grow up that tree, then a shrub layer, an herb layer, ground cover and a root crop like horseradish or carrots.  As you read this, you should be getting the idea of plants growing together and utilizing each other’s strengths to create this sustainable food guild.

It’s a fascinating concept and you will get to hear of it’s successes and trials, as we watch it over the next few years.

Ana has given us a list of the plants we will be considering for The Raincatcher’s Food Guild. I’m excited about the mandarin orange tree.

Ann Lamb

video by Starla Willis

For more information about planting a food guild click here.

Grow and Graze Salad Garden Recipes II

 

See and taste The Grow and Graze Centerpiece of salad greens and to the left is our table-top appetizer featuring the peppery taste of Wasabi Arugula.

“Kick Up the Heat” Spread

Ingredients

¼ cup Wasabi Arugula, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup sour cream

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger, optional

Dash of sea salt

Assorted crackers

Directions

In a medium bowl, whip all ingredients together until smooth. Spread over crackers. Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few days.

Beth cooking dandelion salad for our guests.

Dandelion Salad

Ingredients

6 ounces young dandelion leaves, tough stems and base ends removed*

2 tablespoons blanched hazelnuts (filberts), coarsely chopped (optional)

3 ounces thick-cut sliced slab bacon, cut crosswise into pieces ½ inch wide

1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground coarse pepper to taste

Directions

Pick over the dandelion leaves, tearing the larger ones in half. Place in a wooden salad bowl. Add the hazelnuts, if using.

In a small frying pan over high heat, fry the bacon until crisp and its fat has been rendered, about 1 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the bowl holding the dandelions, leaving the fat in the pan.

Return the pan to high heat, add the vinegar, and swirl the pan or stir with a wooden spoon to pick up the sediment on the bottom.

Pour in as much additional oil as will be necessary to dress the salad, swirl once to heat a little, and then pour the contents of the pan over the salad. Season with salt and pepper, toss, and serve immediately.

Yield: Serves 6

*If dandelion leaves are not available, the outer dark green leaves of curly endive or spinach may be substituted.

After tasting a smorgasbord of color, flavors, shapes and textures, attendees indulged their sweet tooth with a few garden-inspired desserts:

Blue Ribbon Carrot Cake and Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting

Blue Ribbon Carrot Cake

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 eggs, well beaten

¾ cup vegetable oil

¾ cup buttermilk

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

2 cups grated carrots

1 (3 ½-ounce) can flaked coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts

Buttermilk Glaze

Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting

Directions

Combine flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

Combine eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla; beat until smooth.  Stir in flour mixture, pineapple, carrots, coconut, and chopped walnuts.  Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

Bake at 350˚F for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Immediately spread Buttermilk Glaze evenly over layers.  Cool in pans 15 minutes; remove from pans, and let cool completely.

Spread Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and side of cake.  Store cake in refrigerator.

Yield:  One 2-layer cake

Buttermilk Glaze

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon soda

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup butter

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Combine sugar, soda, buttermilk, butter, and corn syrup in a Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil; cook 4 minutes, stirring often.  Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.  Yield: about 1 ½ cups.

Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

½ cup butter, softened

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

1 teaspoon orange juice

Directions

Combine butter and cream cheese, beating until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla, powdered sugar, rind, and juice; beat until smooth.  Yield:  enough for one 2-layer cake.

Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

For the cake

2 medium beets, unpeeled but trimmed of their greens

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

6 ounces (¾ cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans

1 cup packed brown sugar

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans

⅔ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

For the frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons finely grated beets, mashed with a fork

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or scrapings of one vanilla bean pod

1-2 teaspoons milk, depending on desired consistency

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Pinch of salt

Directions

Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven.  Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Thoroughly wash beets under running water, and trim their leaves, leaving about ½ inch of stem.  Place clean beets in a piece of foil.  Drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil.  Seal up foil.  Place on a baking sheet in the oven.  Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.

Remove the beets from the oven.  Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely.  Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled.

Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the finest grating plane.  Measure ¾ cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting.  Set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚.  Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans.  Trace a piece of parchment paper so it is the same size as the bottom of the cake pan.  Cut it out and place inside the cake pan.  Butter the parchment paper.  Add a dusting of flour to coat the pan.  Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars.  Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture.  Beating on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk.  Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients.  Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated.  Try not to overmix the batter.  Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with a spatula to finish incorporating ingredients.  Cake batter will be on the thick side…not pourable.

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.  Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30 to 32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan).  Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.

To make the frosting

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth.  Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the beets.  Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt.  Beat on medium speed until smooth and silky   Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.

To assemble the cake

Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate.  Top with a generous amount of pink frosting.  Spread evenly.  Place the other cake on top of the frosting.  Top with frosting.  Work frosting onto the sides of the cake.  You will have extra frosting left over.  Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make cake easier to slice).  Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

Yield:  Makes one 8 or 9-inch layer cake

Linda Alexander

Pictures by Starla Willis and Linda Alexander

 

 

 

When and Why To Plant Trees

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and second best time is now.” ​ A Chinese Proverb

We live within an urban forest in Dallas County that comes from the natural topography and citizens who have planted trees around neighborhoods. Our urban forest is very important to our well-being and environmental health. Pavement and buildings cause a “heat island effect” which increases radiant heat within the city. Trees provides shade that helps mitigate this effect by reducing temperatures as well as absorbing pollution and decrease storm water run-off.

According to a University of Washington study, one tree that is 32 feet high can catch up to 327 gallons of water, and smog levels are reduced up to 6%. Oncor provides a tree-planting guide for selecting the right tree for the right location. Even though it is heart-breaking to see so many trees cut down or sculpted, we do understand the need for safety and our own need for reliable electrical service. Click here for the free guide.

Dallas County Master Gardeners have planted a border at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, 11001 Midway, that we call the Under-the-Power-Lines garden. We planted tree specimens that fall into the “low” category, staying under 20 feet tall. If you’re considering a low tree for a location near power lines, check out our border to see how the trees might look in your own landscape. Most of ours were planted around 3.5 years ago, including Mexican Plum, Possumhaw Holly, Texas Mountain Laurel, Mexican Buckeye and Royal Purple Smoke Tree (a favorite of ours that isn’t on Oncor’s list). Vitex is another good option, and we have a specimen near our Shade Pavilion. It blooms in summer with big purple spikes and can grow as a large shrub or small tree.

 

You can find this garden border on the north side of the Midway Hills Christian Church campus along the parking lot. The Dallas County Master Gardeners program is run by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Dallas County Master Gardeners encourage our citizens to plant a tree. Go to the following link which will help you select the right tree for your space, and planting instructions. http://texastreeplanting.tamu.edu/

Zandra Farris

Pictures courtesy of  https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/ornamentals/natives/GALLERYINDEX1.HTM except our own Vitex picture.


Tree Selection and Planting Class

Tuesday, February 5th
10am until noon
Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX

Community Hall and North Garden

Winter is a good time to establish new trees in your landscape. Tom Wilten will speak on selecting the right tree for the right location here in North Texas and teach how to plant and care for your tree with the confidence that it will provide many years of enjoyment.  Following the class in the Community Hall, you’re invited out to the north garden for an optional tour to see the Raincatcher’s tree demonstrations, including both shade trees and ornamental trees appropriate (and recommended by Oncor) for planting under power lines. The class is free and all are welcome!

Speaker, Tom Wilten, is a Dallas County Master Gardener and practicing general dentist who has maintained a long time interest in plants and horticulture. He loves to watch plants grow, and many of the trees in his large home landscape were propagated from cuttings. He has served as a past president of First Men’s Garden Club of Dallas, Texas, and as a national director and regional president in the parent organization. His original articles on various aspects of horticulture have been published in a national club’s magazine. Always an informative and entertaining speaker, Raincatcher’s is pleased to welcome Tom to the garden.

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 parking lot and come through the courtyard to the south building.  

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