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August Garden Survey II

 It’s August and  I wanted to write a little something for the blog that would encourage our readers and remind them fall is coming.   Here’s Patti Brewer’s reply when everything seemed so bleak and no rain was in sight:

Well, I’m flattered you asked.  This spring we had the shortest growing season I’ve ever experienced in all these years.

 We had one big flourish of zucchini and yellow squash and then  production was halted because of the intense early heat  and lack of rain out west of Ft Worth where I veggie garden. This area is not the same growing zone as Dallas!
 Squash plants were babied when the spring would not come and covered  up when a freeze came through in late April; then the heat came with a vengeance. Plus I am ruthless for “squashing” the squash bugs and their eggs that always appear. I am blaming the limited squash harvest on the on the heat and lack of rain.
Patti, we agree it’s not  your fault! 

Brewer Vegetable Garden Earlier This Year

The only thing we are harvesting  now is jalapeños and Serrano peppers. Bell peppers are struggling. We usually get our most productive harvest of peppers in Oct and Nov.

It was 111 degrees one weekend in July!   We are sandy loamy soil. So you can imagine how things are barely hanging on in the veggie garden.

Blooms on a Regenerated Spring Tomato in 100 degrees-August 2018

I am trying to regenerate about half of our spring tomato plants. I will sprinkle our homemade compost on the tomatoes and peppers this weekend because it is getting down in to the low 70’s

We are not on a drip irrigation system in the garden. I have mulched and mulched again which has helped. We were a failure at beets. Not sure why. I do have a loofa growing on supports that the English peas were growing on in the early spring, But It hasn’t bloomed yet.

 

 

 

For the fall we always plant the following: mustard and turnip greens, garlic, spinach, turnips and kale. Sometimes we don’t plant the spinach or kale till November.

I will be planting a new area for wildflowers in September. I have harvested many wildflower seeds from this past spring! Just hope we get the rain for those to germinate. Our farm locate west of Weatherford is experiencing big time drought.

Orb Spider Spins a Victim!

 

 

My  recent video of a hummingbird hawk moth and a picture of an Orb spider mummifying a grasshopper have been our entertainment. All from out here in Palo Pinto county!!

 

Patti, did you get any rain in the last week?

Yes!!! As of August 19th, we have received almost 3 inches!!  I’m seeing my bluebonnets sprouting!! I have a new seeded wildflower plot that is 20 X 25 feet. That makes me happy. Loofah is vining like crazy. Still waiting on it to bloom. Tomatoes and peppers have so many promising blooms!!  I have a few tomatoes on the vine too!!

Temperatures although mostly still in upper 90s with lows in the low 70s are making my garden happy. Black eyed peas are up along with mustard and turnip greens. Kale is up because I shook the dried seeds from my kale plants from last winter! Previously planted in the summer was zipper cream peas and black eyes. They look great now and I picked some even. I planted Blue Lake Bush green beans yesterday.

Rain was very important for our entire place. Fall is my most favorite season!!

Patti Brewer, Master Gardener class of 2012

 

Grazing Thru The Edible Landscape

The July Master Gardener meeting was a tasty success – a wonderful, informative speaker on our favorite topic – food!   …Well, to be more precise, the topic was about how to incorporate food plants into our landscapes.  Cheryl Beesley, a master gardener, horticulturalist, and landscape designer with an emphasis on edible landscapes was gracious, entertaining and educational.
Before the meeting and her talk, we gathered to graze in Raincatcher’s own edible landscape. Culinary creations from our own fruits, vegetables and herbs were offered and gobbled up.

Our culinary team showing off our tasty treats!

Through the garden gate – a glimpse of the landscape.

Starla with a photo-retrospective of our journey from old playground to new edible landscape.

Our guests enjoying the tasting; that’s the hugelkultur in the foreground.

Three of our planting scenes: our southern border lined with okra, our ‘rock garden’ with herbs, and the transformed swingset, now home to peppers and cucumbers.

Abbe sharing the chilled tomato-basil soup served in mini-tomato cups. Recipes coming!

Lisa with glazed lemon zucchini bread.

Lavender shortbread cookies – yum!

Passion fruit and tarragon truffles by Ana made with plants from our edible landscape.

Annette and Starla’s friend, Marsha Adams, enjoying a seat in the shade.

Cynthia Jones with our speaker, Cheryl Beesley and her husband, James.

Written by: The Edible Garden Team and Lisa Centala

Pictures by Starla Willis

Made For The Shade

Have you always wanted to grow a passion vine but have too much shade to grow the showy purple Passiflora incarnata?  Or perhaps you have a butterfly garden and are interested in providing one of the host plants for Gulf Fritillary, Julia and Zebra Longwing butterflies?  Well, if you don’t mind having a Lilliputian passion flower that is only about an inch in diameter, then Passiflora lutea is for you.

Passiflora lutea is also known as yellow passionflower, though the color of the flowers may range from chartreuse to off-white.  It is a native plant in Texas that blooms from May through September. In Dallas it is considered a perennial herbaceous climbing or trailing vine that can reach 15 feet in height.  Here it will loose its wide shallowly-lobed leaves in the winter but it comes back reliably in the spring.   The fall leaf color is a shade of yellow. Though considered somewhat drought tolerant once established, P. lutea prefers moist, rich soil.  Its flowers are followed by small black berries, which some say are edible but not very tasty.

 

Tiny Yellow Passionflower and Leaf From Carolyn’s Garden

I have P. lutea growing wild in my shady yard near White Rock Lake.  If I don’t keep an eye on it, the vines can grow rampantly in some spots.  However they are very easy to pull off from wherever they are growing.  I also have one pot of purple Passiflora incarnata and have noticed that the Gulf Fritillary butterfles tend to prefer to lay their eggs on P. incarnata rather than P. lutea.  However, one of my neighbors had P. lutea growing in her yard and had many caterpillars feeding on it.

One of the historic uses for the berries has been to make ink.  A recommended recipe is:  ½ cup of P. lutea berries, ½ tsp. salt, and ½ tsp. vinegar.  Crush the berries, and then strain the liquid through a fine sieve.  Then add the salt and vinegar.  Though this ink is not archival, the deep purple-black color is pretty

Yellow passionflower  is not often found in most garden centers. However,  Roseann Ferguson says that the annual plant sale at Texas Discovery Gardens will carry it.  The dates for this year’s fall sale are September 15-16 with the member-only sale taking place on the 15.  Many of their unusual plants sell out quickly, so get there early and consider becoming a member.  Further information about the plants that will be for sale will be posted on Texas Discovery Garden’s website (www.txdg.org) closer to the date of the sale.

Carolyn Bush

 

Arugula Has Its Day

Tuesday at Raincatcher’s we noticed that the arugula was bolting. Lovely little white blossoms crowned the tops of all the arugula plants in our raised bed.  The bees couldn’t have been happier.

However, it also reminded us that the time had come for one final harvest. Carefully we clipped our way through the plants with bees buzzing all around us.  A very generous amount of arugula, at least 6 pots full, was harvested and shared with our volunteers.

Here is a delightful recipe for using fresh, peppery arugula brought in straight from the garden. A nice addition to the salad would be 1 bunch fresh roasted beets.  Be creative, arugula supports a variety of many different ingredients.

 

Arugula Growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden

Arugula Salad

Ingredients:

¼ cup sliced natural almonds

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 ½ tablespoons red-wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

3 cups baby arugula (about 3 ounces)

3 or 4 radishes (thinly sliced)

Directions:

  1. Cook almonds in oil in a small skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until pale golden. Cool almonds in oil, (nuts will get darker as they cool). Transfer almonds with a slotted spoon to a small bowl and season with salt.
  2. Stir together shallot, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, salt and oil from almonds in a large bowl.
  3. Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, thinly slice radishes.
  4. Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over the top and toss well to coat the leaves.

Yield: 4 servings

Note: Freshly “pulled” radishes were added to the salad, as well.

 

 

 

 

Linda Alexander

Find out more about arugula here .

And here’s another way to use harvested arugula.

Raincatcher’s Fall Veggie Garden

Please take a minute to go to this link to see information about our fall vegetable gardens. This link contains names of varieties, spacing information, and you can enlarge the plot plan for easier viewing.  Thank you, Dorothy, for setting this up for us! https://www.growveg.com/garden-plan.aspx?p=777788

Don’t forget tomorrow’s garden tour and sale of our cookbook, A YEAR ON THE PLATE, at 5030 Shadywood.

Questions? Leave a comment, we will answer or call the Master Gardener help desk at 214 904 3053.

Ann

Buy Discounted Tickets Now for DCMGA 2016 Fall Garden Tour

alexander yard

Five spectacular gardens by members of the Dallas County Master Garden Association will be featured on the 2016 Garden Tour set for Saturday, October 1st.  Visitors will see formal English gardens on Swiss Avenue, edible landscaping in Preston Hollow, a buzzing pollinator garden in University Park, native perennials and ornamental grass in Old East Dallas and landscaping for gracious entertaining in Bluffview.

Make your tour complete by enjoying a seasonal Garden Brunch featuring recipes from A Year on the Plate, the new master gardener cookbook.  Guests will be treated to a menu chosen from fall produce, including Iced Herb Gazpacho and Artichoke Bites.  Brunch will be served on a lovely Bluffview patio shaded by live oak trees from 11am to 1pm the day of the tour.  Visitors can also preorder a copy of A Year on the Plate, the new DCMGA cookbook, at the same location.

Presale tour tickets will be $15 and on the day of the tour, $20 each. Tickets for the Garden Brunch must be purchased ahead at $15 each.  A limited number of brunch reservations will be taken.

Presale tickets for the brunch and tour will be available soon on the dallascountymastergardener.org website using PayPal. North Haven Gardens and selected Calloway’s Nurseries locations will sell only tour tickets in September.

Your ticket purchase will support a major fundraiser for the Dallas County Master Gardener Association. The 2016 Garden Tour is the first time DCMGA has opened its members’ gardens in three years. Please help make the tour a success by asking friends and neighbors to attend and by publicizing the tour in venues like Next Door. All profits go to fund the DCMGA educational programs and more than 30 community and school projects.

Elizabeth

GardenTourLogowithDate001

Gardening By The Yard

2016 FALL GARDENING SERIES

9:00 AM – NOON

  Raincatcher’s Garden Midway Hills Christian Church

 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, TX 75229

Cost: $15.00/session or $60/for all 5 sessions

 

July 23        Fall Into Gardening

Stephen Hudkins, County Extension Agent/Horticulture Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Dallas County

  • Establishing the raised bed garden- construction, soil, irrigation
  • Square foot garden design
  • Selecting the vegetable varieties
  • Planting dates for successful fall harvest

August 6     Water Conservation in the Home Landscape

Dr. Dotty Woodson, Extension Program Specialist – Water Resources Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

  • Rain Water Harvesting – Rain barrels and cisterns
  • Drip irrigation for landscape beds
  • Calculating needs and programming your lawn sprinkler system

 

August 20            The Earth-Kind® WaterWise Landscape

  • Dr. Steve George, Extension Horticultural Specialist Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
  • Fall is the best time to plant shrubs and trees in your landscape. Come and learn what are the best proven Earth-Kind® plants to have in your landscape that will stand up to the tough soil and weather conditions that we have in the Dallas Metro area.

September 3                   Establishing a Backyard Vineyard

Michael Cook, Viticulture Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Come and learn the art of backyard viticulture production

  • When do I plant
  • What varieties are best for our area
  • What soil conditions do I need
  • What about frost
  • What do I need to have for support
  • When do I get to have my first glass of wine from my grapes

September 17       Healthy Home Lawns

                   Stephen Hudkins, County Extension Agent/Horticulture Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Dallas County

    • Fall maintenance- fertilization, aireation, weed, insect and disease control
    • Maintaining the lawn during the winter
    • The pros and cons of over-seeding
  • You will also have the opportunity to see five turf grass types which are growing in the demonstration plots as well as view the drip irrigation system that has been installed under each plot.

Reservations not required, pay at the door. Master Gardeners can receive CEU credit. Public is welcome!

Some Like It Hot!

It’s that time of year again when it is too hot to do anything, much less garden in the full sun.  Cool weather crops of greens, lettuce, cilantro, and others have either withered away in the heat or gone to seed.  Even tomatoes, as the temperature climbs up into the high nineties, are beginning to get stressed.  Somehow, at this time of year, purchasing bags of pre-cut and washed lettuce and spinach at the grocery store doesn’t seem so bad.  Yet there are some green leafy vegetables that not only like the heat but thrive in it.

Malabar Spinach (Basella albra and Basella rubra) is an edible vine in the family Basellaceae.  It features dark green, glossy, thick leaves. In its native habitat of the Indian Subcontinent, New Guinea, and Southeast Asia it is a perennial plant.  Here in Dallas it dies in the winter but will often come up readily (occasionally too readily) from seed as the weather warms up in the spring.  It goes by several common names such as vine spinach, Ceylon spinach, and climbing spinach among others.  From its name you can see that it needs something to twine around.  Even an upside down large tomato cage will work, though a large trellis is better because the vines grow quickly and need to be constantly “put in their place.”

Malabar Spinach

Malabar Spinach at Hope Community Garden

There are two varieties of Malabar Spinach. B. alba has green stems and B. rubra has red stems and is quite ornamental.  Though both are called “spinach,” they are only distantly related to spinach and have an entirely different texture and taste.  In general, only the leaves are eaten, though in Africa the stems are cooked too.  Younger leaves have a very mild taste, though larger leaves, especially if not watered well, can have a peppery, astringent flavor.  When harvesting, it is recommended that about every other one of the small to middle sized, younger leaves be picked.

Malabar Spinach,Basella rubra

Malabar Spinach,Basella rubra

Malabar Spinach, like okra, is known as a “slippery vegetable” and some people find the mucilaginous texture of the succulent leaves takes some getting used to.  However, Malabar Spinach is high in Vitamin A and C, iron, and calcium.  It is also high in protein per volume and is a good source of soluble fiber.  It holds up particularly well in stir fries, egg dishes and curries.  Many recipes can be found on the internet for ethnic dishes using Malabar Spinach.  It is also good raw mixed with lettuce and other vegetables for a nutritious summer salad.

Growing Malabar Spinach is easy—just wait until the ground temperature is 65-70 degrees (like okra) since the plant thrives in hot and humid temperatures.  White flowers produce black seeds that will often readily reseed themselves.   Some internet sites recommend scarifying the seeds to help with germination or soaking them but often this is not necessary if the soil is kept moist.

Humans are not the only “animals” that enjoy Malabar Spinach.  Dallas County Master Gardeners who volunteer at the Dallas Zoo have helped grow Malabar Spinach in the past for the Zoo’s animals.  Aaron R. Bussell, Animal Nutrition Supervisor at the zoo, says this about the role of Malabar Spinach at the Zoo :

We had a great crop of Malabar Spinach last summer from the Green Life Education Garden, and it lasted into winter.  It was a great source of “Novel” greens for our primates that can get bored eating the same greens on the market.  Novel foods are rotated into the diets to provide nutrition and enrichment.  The diets we produce at the Animal Nutrition Center for over 2000 animals every day are tailor made for 400 plus species at the Dallas Zoo.        We substituted the Malabar Spinach into our Mixed Greens Salad which is shredded for birds, mammals, and reptiles throughout the zoo, and our full time Nutritionist evaluated it as an appropriate substitute for spinach or greens for our primates like chimpanzees, gorillas, and monkeys.  Having more variety of greens to offer these sometimes picky eaters is a great way to provide enrichment for their daily routine.  Malabar Spinach was grown not only for its nutritional value, but it provided natural stimulation when our Western Lowland Gorillas striped the leaves from the vine when served.  It continued to grow much further into the fall and winter as well.  We ended up serving the last of the harvest still entwined onto the bamboo trellis it was grown on.  Great vegetable.  We look forward to growing more again.”

So…. if you want to grow a spinach substitute and a plant favored by both man and beast, try growing Malabar Spinach. You may discover you like it.

Carolyn

 

 

 

Revised Onion Harvesting at The Raincatcher’s Garden 2016

Onions have been harvested at the garden during the last two weeks.

They are now drying in our storage shed.

Fantastic Haul of Onions!

Fantastic Haul of Onions!

Harvest Onions when the tops begin to naturally fall over and turn brown. Dig the onions from the ground up with tops intact and to keep the bulb from being damaged. We used a garden knife or trowel to get them out of the ground carefully.  Onions that have bolted are past their prime and can be left to reseed.

As a reminder, here’s how to braid onions:

and here are notes on storing, eating, and lots of other onion thoughts in these articles: The Lowly Onion and Beginnings

Ann

 

 

 

Orphaned No More – Our Incredible Edible Landscape Project

Here at Raincatcher’s, we have a wide variety of demonstration gardens spread all around: we have an orchard, raised vegetable beds, ornamental trees, five types of turf, butterfly gardens, compost demonstrations and even a mixed ornamental bed in the courtyard. But there is one, last, orphaned space; it’s known as the old playground, and in some ways, it’s the church’s secondary entrance.  Which means it’s a very visible space that most people walk past and all cars drive by.  Wrapped in cyclone fencing, the playground was deemed ‘unsafe’ by regulatory agencies, and had been sitting unused when we moved to the church from Joe Field, the location of our previous garden.  We initially used the old playground as storage for all the plants, soil, and other large objects we brought over during our move. Then we disassembled the playground equipment and put it aside, in case we might be able to use it for another purpose.

Playground "Before" Transformation

Playground “Before” Transformation

A year has gone by. The gardens have been installed.  The plants, soil, and other large objects have been moved into their new homes, and it became clear that the playground parts were not going to be needed.  We removed them, and what was left inside the cyclone fence was a greenhouse, the air conditioning mechanism for the church, a couple of compost bins, a chicken coop, mature trees, and the frame for the old swing set.  When you step back from that, you realize that the space is reminiscent of what most homeowners have in their own yards:  some nice things, some not so nice things, a fair amount of shade, some sun.

What it’s inspired us to do is play. (The space was a playground, after all!)  We’re going to be experimenting in this, last, garden, but we’ll be experimenting with a purpose.  Over the next year(s?), we’ll be installing an edible landscape in this space, this crowded, pre-owned space with some sun and a fair amount of shade.  We’ll be designing around our obstacles, turning them into features, and we’ll make the shade our ally instead of our adversary.  We’ll be showing off all sorts of different techniques from hugelkultur to vertical gardening to straw bales to edible flower beds.  Some will be raised, some will be inground; everything will be edible.  There will be some new crops, variations on common crops, and some old crops with new parts to eat.  And so in addition to growing these foods, we’ll also show you how to prepare and eat them.

Why are we going to do this? Because this space has so many similarities to the average homeowner’s yard, it’s a perfect teaching and demonstration tool, and teaching is our mission.  Why do it as an all-edible landscape?  Because there are many examples of ornamental landscaping, and plenty of examples of edible gardening, but there are not as many of edible landscaping.  We’re doing this because people are becoming interested in growing at least some of their food, but are often concerned that it won’t look good, or they can’t because they have too much shade.  This old playground gives us the opportunity to show everyone how they can create a beautiful landscape with edibles.

How are we going to do this? We’re going to do this in stages.  First, we’re going to start with the hardscape.  One of the biggest concerns people have about landscaping with edibles is the aesthetics – whether it’s an overgrown tomato plant, or the fallow season (too hot, too cold to grow edibles) for their climate.  To have a beautiful edible landscape, the first thing you need to do is make sure the landscape looks good before any plants are planted.  Plants (crops) are the ornamentation on top of a good looking base structure, your hardscape.  After all, there will be times when you may not have plants in your landscape; you might have had a crop failure, or have just harvested dinner!

In our next post, we’ll talk about hardscape ‘rules’, and show you how we’ll be incorporating them into our landscape.

Come along and follow our adventures – celebrate with our successes, and learn from our failures!

The Incredible Edible Landscape Team

Lila Rose

Picture by Starla

Note: Lila Rose will be speaking at the Whole Foods at Preston Forest soon about Edible Landscaping. Will add date to this post, so check back with us.

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