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Confused ?


Confused by the weather this year?  One minute you are wearing your winter clothes and the next day it’s almost 90 degrees, with it feels like the same amount of humidity.  Then Dallas suffered through a severe drought, only to be drowned by flash floods.  Even the dogs and cats can’t decide whether to shed their winter coats or curl up into a warm ball in their beds. — And just think about the plants.  If we are having difficulty adjusting, what must they “feel.”

Many of our native plants have evolved to handle Texas’ “if-you-don’t-like-the-weather, just-wait-a-minute” fluctuations.  However this year’s drastic changes in temperature and moisture have been particularly hard on onions.  Jim Dempsey reported that after the last hard freeze, at least one fourth of the Demonstration Garden’s onions were lost.  Now many onions are beginning to bolt (i.e. go to seed).  Other vegetable gardeners throughout Dallas are reporting that more than the usual numbers of their onions are bolting.  Why is this happening?


An Onion in Full Bolt!

An Onion in Full Bolt!

According to Dixondale Onion Farm ( in Carrizo Springs, Texas, there are several causes for onions bolting.  Bolting in onions is a survival mechanism in response to stress.  The onion “thinks” it is dying and sends up a flower stalk in order to reproduce to insure its survival into the next generation.  Temperature fluctuations and cold weather stress are the most common cause of this.  Dixondale’s website says that “when the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit for a prolonged period, the plant becomes dormant. When the temperature rises, the plant grows. If cold weather returns, the plant goes dormant again, and with returning warmth, it will grow again. Two or more dormant/growth cycles will likely result in bolting.”  This certainly sounds like our winter/spring!!

Other factors that contribute to bolting in onions are: (1) Too loose a soil:  if onion roots are too disturbed, the onion may react by thinking that it is starving and begin to prematurely go to seed; and (2) Over-fertilization which results in the onion’s growing too quickly.  Though both of these causes may be prevented by correct onion planting practices, there isn’t much that can be done about the weather.

If your onions are bolting however, don’t despair.  Though bolted onions have stopped growing and cannot be stored for a long period of time, they are perfectly edible.  So go ahead, pick them, and enjoy them in your salads, soups and casseroles.  Yum,,,,,,,,,,


Onions, onions, onions here.

Picture by Starla

Perfecting the Pond

Like mud? Try enlarging the pond in the wildlife area of the Demonstration Garden on a cool Tuesday morning.  The dirt—well mud—was flying as Jim, Michelle, Sue and friends dug out the pond and added six-inch shelves for bog plants.  After adding a thick new liner, the pond is perfect for a picture for DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ! Gardeners arranged flagstones around the pond edge to hold the liner, filled the pond with water and returned aquatic plants, and installed a new pump with a fountain head.  Whew! As Jim commented, that’s a lot of work!

Dallas County Master Gardeners: Jim, Starla, Sue, and Michele  Taking A Rest After Digging the Pond

Dallas County Master Gardeners: Jim, Starla, Sue, and Michele
Taking A Rest After Digging the Pond

Vegetable updates: Radishes and lettuce planted last week are up and growing; carrots are taking their time to sprout.  Onions and leeks planted a few weeks ago are doing well; the spring potatoes have not made an appearance yet.

Master Gardeners also worked to trim back roses and grass, pull weeds, and start rose cuttings for the May plant sale.   We had a great turnout (welcome interns!) and good productive workday in the Demonstration Garden.


A “Farm to Table” Menu

Looking Back at the May Master Gardener Meeting

Planning to feed over 125 Master Gardeners a satisfying lunch fresh from our garden can be quite a daunting task.  Preparations must start early.  This year was no exception. 

In late January Jim set out over sixty 1015 onion slips.  By mid March it was time to plant green bean seeds.  We weren’t sure of the variety because the seeds were given to us.  However, they ended up producing one of those “bumper” crops.  Then in April some radish seeds were added to one of our raised beds.

Already in the ground and doing well after three years were four different varieties of blackberries:  Natchez, Rosborough, Womack and Brazos.  Also, our upright rosemary was so large it was about to overtake the raised bed planted three years prior. 

Blackberry Blooms at the Demonstration Garden

As May rolls around with the thought of providing a healthy and delicious lunch for our Master Gardener friends it’s time to get started with menu ideas.  Our speaker for the event was going to be a professional “bee keeper”.  How appropriate for our group since we all value and understand the importance of bees in the garden.  

Why not offer the group a “honey” based menu?  Here’s what we finally decided was doable with limited oven space but volunteers determined to meet the challenge. 


Rosemary Chicken Skewers with Satay Sauce

Rustic Onion Tarts

Garden Salad Bowl with Fresh Green Beans and Radishes

Honey Lime Vinaigrette

Old Fashioned Blackberry Cobbler 

Blackberries Picked for our Cobbler

Here’s how we did it.  The onions were fully developed and ready by mid May so the harvesting and drying in bundles of eight began.  At the same time, our blackberry bushes were heavy with luscious ripe berries in beautiful shades of purple, black, and burgundy.  Picking them over the next few weeks was a treat. Our strategy was: eat one, pick a dozen.  And so eventually we dutifully harvested over 15 gallons and sent them to the freezer.  

Happily, our “garden to plate” plan produced the following: 

  • Enough 1015 onions for ten rustic tarts (each tart yielded 12 slices)
  • Plenty of “thyme” for flavoring the tarts
  • Blackberries to make six 13” x 9” cobblers (each cobbler fed 25)
  • 125 10” rosemary strips for the chicken skewers
  • Six gallons of green beans for the salad
  • One lonely radish (if you have to supplement somewhere, why not with radishes?)  Rosemary Skewers on the Grill

Thanks to Abbe’s husband, Neal, for bringing his grill to cook the chicken skewers on site.  What an enticing smell as MG’s were arriving!  It was a delightful morning for our event.  Lots of full and satisfied gardeners celebrated the joy of locally grown, fresh organic food.   

Waiting in line for homegrown cooking!

 Now it’s time to get our hands dirty again and put that fall crop in the ground.  After all, some new menu ideas are buzzing around in our heads! 


Onion Tart

Back in January Jim planted 1015 onions in one of our raised beds.

After several months they grew to be some of the biggest, best looking onions ever seen.  We harvested them in late April and used them in May to let our fellow Dallas County Master Gardeners fall all over themselves the way we did when tasting an onion tart made from our harvest.  Oh my!

Rustic Vidalia Onion Tart

Rustic Vidalia Onion Tart

2 Tbs. butter

4 medium-size Vidalia onions, thinly sliced(we used our 1015 onions)

(about 6 ½ cups)

1 ½ tsp. chopped fresh rosemary or thyme

¾ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

½ (15-oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts

Parchment paper

1 egg white, lightly beaten

¾ cup (3 oz.) shredded Gruyere cheese, divided

1.  Preheat oven to 425*.  Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and next 3 ingredients.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until tender.

2.  Unroll piecrust onto a lightly floured surface.  Pat or roll into a 12-inch circle.  Place piecrust on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Brush with egg white.  Sprinkle ½ cup cheese in center of crust.  Spoon onion mixture over cheese, leaving a 2 ½-inch border.  Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup cheese over onion.  Fold piecrust border up and over onion, pleating as you go and leaving a 4-inch-wide opening in center.  Brush crust with egg white.

3.  Bake at 425* on bottom oven rack 17 – 19 minutes or until crust is golden.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Yield: 6 servings.

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