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Tag Archives: The Raincatcher’s Garden

We Are Serious About Homegrown Tomatoes!

Every year at Raincatcher’s Garden we have had a bumper crop of tomatoes.  Not so last year. Not enough water and too much fertilizer caused the problem. Well, we are not going to duplicate that this year.

Jeff Raska, our horticulture program assistant, has put the “R” back in our Research, Education, and Demo title. We are embarking on tomato trials with the goal of higher and better tomato production. Jeff reminds us that his tomato plants at his home produce 40 pounds of tomatoes per plant. Ok, Jeff! Game on!

Fertilization Comparison Study 2018

Week 1-March 20, 2018

Celebrity Tomatoes


  • Prepare three raised beds and plant two tomato plants in each. Fertilize each bed with a different fertilizer (compost, organic, chemical) following label directions.
  • Each fertilizer is slow release and requires re-application every eight weeks.
  • Each Tuesday, measure the plant heights and weigh and record any tomatoes that are harvested.

    Syann dutifully measuring tomato plants last year. She has agreed to help with our 2018 study.


Bed #9- Compost

Week 1 – 1 Tbsp Epsom salts, 1 cup Miracle-Gro Compost (1-0-0)

Week 2 – Plant tomatoes

Week 8 – 1 cup  Miracle-Gro Compost (1-0-0)

Week 16 – 1 cup Miracle-Gro Compost (1-0-0)

Bed #1- Organic Fertilizer

Week 1 – 1 Tbsp Epsom salts, 1 Tbsp Miracle-Gro Blood Meal (12-0-0), 2 Tbsp Dr Earth (4-6-3)

Week 2 – Plant tomatoes

Week 8 – 1 Tbsp Miracle-Gro Bone Meal (6-9-0), 2 Tbsp Dr Earth (4-6-3)

Week 16 – 1 Tbsp Miracle-Gro Bone Meal (6-9-0), 2 Tbsp Dr Earth (4-6-3)

Bed  #2- Chemical Fertilizer

Week 1 – 1 Tbsp Epsom salts, 1 Tbsp Vigoro, Tomato & Vegetable (12-10-5)

Week 2 – Plant tomatoes

Week 8 – 1 Tbsp Vigoro,Bold Flowers (15-30-15)

Week 16 – 1 Tbsp Vigoro, Bold Flowers (15-30-15)


Celebrity tomatoes characteristics: All-American Winner Selection, 7 oz, determinate, harvest 70 days. Tom Wilten calls Celebrity the preeminent mid-sized tomato.


Fertlization Comparison study write up by Jim Dempsey.

Picture by Starla Willis

Ann Lamb

Read up on tomatoes by using our search box. We have recipes, growing tips, and advice to produce tons of tomatoes.



Rose Rosette Instructions

Thank you, Maddie Shires!

Video by Starla Willis

A Gardener’s Fright

Rose Rosette, Now What



“If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If a white post is left alone it will soon be a black post”  GK Chesterton said that in 1908.  He went on to say that it takes constant vigilance just to keep things the same.

Perhaps garden cleaning is not the first thing that comes to mind when reading Mr. Chesterton’s words. Perhaps the healthy eating plan was not carefully followed during the holiday and sadly things did not remain the same.

But now think about the garden. The natural look is wonderful however it actually requires the constant vigilance to maintain.  When a few plants overtake their companions and then move on to cover paths and obliterate borders, that is no longer really any look at all.  The fact is action is required if a space is  to be a garden.

Roger cleaning up the garden and putting fallen leaves to good use by shredding them for garden mulch. Yeah Roger!

Susan trimming back plants in our herb garden.

So, it is time for garden clean up. It’s a job with no glamour and little thanks but gardeners are tough and the time is NOW.

Susan Thornbury

pictures by Starla Willis

  • More garden clean up specifics will be posted next week. Get your tools ready!
  • It’s time to prune roses in Dallas. Click here for information.
  • Apple trees at Raincatcher’s Garden? Yes! Subscribe to our blog for future posts. We will give all our succulent secrets about planting apples.

Trimming Vitex

Hopefully, you have taken a moment to watch Evelyn  explain what our Vitex tree needed. Click here for the video if you missed it.

Vitex tree in need of a trim.
Here’s the before picture.

The dormant season is the recommended time for pruning, but sometimes your work force, needs, and timing come together in other seasons.  Evelyn  and Susan, experienced gardeners, took our large, unruly bush and gave it a comely shape.

Here’s the result:

Vitex tree after pruning

Read more about Vitex trees here and in Dallas you can see these trees growing outside the Nasher Museum in downtown Dallas and at the Dallas Arboretum.

Ann Lamb

Picture and video by Starla Willis

Pruning by Susan Swinson and Evelyn Womble




Tagging Monarchs at Raincatcher’s

Monarch Butterfly Sipping Milkweed, Note the Tag

With a woosh of her net, Master Naturalist, Ellen Guiling, has captured another Monarch butterfly to be tagged and then sent on its migratory journey.

As per the Monarch Watch website: tagging information helps answer questions about the geographic origins of monarchs, the timing and pace of the migration, mortality during migration, the effects of wind and weather, and changes in geographic distribution of monarchs. Each year the information is collected and can be viewed at

You may remember Starla found a tagged Monarch from Kansas who visited our garden in 2015.

We have many butterflies visiting The Raincatcher’s Garden and the reason goes back to the careful planning and planting of host and nectar plants for many different types of butterflies. Review the butterfly plant list in our Raincatcher’s Resources on the right of our front page and enjoy the delights of your own butterfly garden.

Ann Lamb

Pictures and video by Starla Willis



Killing Nutgrass

If ever there was a villain in the garden, nutgrass would be the culprit.

It is one of the most hated weeds and very aggressive, robbing desirable plants of water and nutrition.   Nutgrass rankles my sister  so much she tells me she can see it out of the corner of her eye as she walks through her garden. Then, like any good gardener she attacks it and tries to dig up the whole plant along with the rhizomes and the tubers (also called nuts). Any tubers left behind will generate a whole new set of weeds.

Though it looks like grass, the plant is actually a sedge. The  varieties most often seen are  Cyperus esculentus (yellow nutsedge) and Cyperus rotundus (purple nutsedge).  Even our own garden has an unwanted plot of purple nutsedge in the Edible Garden area.

What should we do about this problem intruder? How can we kill nutgrass organically in a large garden area? *Kim Kirkhart has had success with her variation of the  loose landscape fabric method taught by Skip Richter, Texas AgriLife Extension  Agent for Harris County.

What’s  needed:

  • Heavy black plastic
  •  Plastic pots
  • Bricks or rocks to hold plastic in place
  • Time-this method takes several months  up to a  year

Recycled Plastic Pots

Begin by setting plastic pots in the garden area. The pots have a dual purpose. They  hold up the black tarp and also spot kill nutgrass. 3 or 4 pots are stacked together (turning them each to cover their holes).

As you can see, not all the nutgrass is under pots.  Don’t worry though, those invaders will die under the tarp, without light.

Heavy Black Plastic

Next lay the black plastic over the whole garden area on top of the pots. The pots keep the plastic elevated so emerging nutgrass shoots can not puncture through the plastic and let light in. Overlap the seams of the plastic to keep the light out.

Bricks hold the plastic in place, remember to keep the plastic lifted.

Carefully place bricks or rocks around edge of plastic and wait for the nutgrass to die.

This organic way of killing nutgrass requires patience. We started this process July 26 and plan to take off the plastic in October in time for fall gardening. We will let you know the results of our test!

Pictures  by *Kim Kirkhart, DCMGA class of 2006

Ann Lamb

Click here for Skip Richter’s article, Weed Wars.  We have used the expert advice in this article for our method of killing nutgrass organically.

September 2017 Classes at Raincatcher’s Garden

Simply Succulents, The Plants That Drink Responsibly

Tuesday, September 19th 11am until noon Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX North Education Building, Room 1

Paula Spletter, Dallas County Master Gardener, is a Creative Director for North Haven Gardens in Dallas as well as a popular presenter for both the Dallas County Master Gardener Association and North Haven Gardens. After converting her lawn into perennial gardens, she was a winner on the 2012 City of Dallas Water Wise Tour. Her serious interest in succulents began many years ago, spurred from her yearly trips to California and visiting Dick Wright’s succulent farm, who is known for his Echeveria hybridizing.

Paula will touch on all the facets of succulent care, including propagation, disease and planting. Learn the best ways to keep these great plants thriving and gain the confidence to expand your collection.

Raincatcher’s 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 covered sidewalk to the north building.


Grape Harvest – Home Wine-making Tutorial and Post-harvest Vine Care

Saturday, September 23rd 10am until noon Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX Shade Pavilion

Michael Cook, Viticulture Program Specialist – North Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, has been consulting with Raincatcher’s to maximize production on our two grape varieties in the vineyard. We planted ‘Carlos’ Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) and Champanel, (Vitis champini X Worden), aAmerican hybrid. The birds helped themselves to our first crop, but we’re hoping to beat them to the punch to harvest a second one.

Michael will discuss home wine production, teach the backyard grower how to determine when to harvest, and help us with vine care advice for fall and winter to ensure a good crop next year. Raincatcher’s 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 or north parking lots and come to the shade pavilion in the north garden.

Lisa Centala

Classes open to the public, Master Gardeners receive education credits when attending

Grape photo from our garden by Starla Willis

Succulent Photo courtesy of

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