Sunday, August 29, 2010

Planning a Fall Garden @ Urban Harvest

Last week I attended one of Urban Harvest’s classes called Planning a Fall Garden. The instructors were my neighbors, Gary Edmondson and Ray Sher. I think they have been on the Westbury Garden Tour just about every year. They have turned their entire yard into a fruit and vegetable garden with some flowers thrown in for good measure. Ray sells his city grown produce on Saturdays at the Urban Harvest Eastside Market. He is also the mastermind behind the new Westbury Community Garden.
I’ve actually already planted my fall garden, so why go to a class on planning a fall garden? Well, you never know what you might learn. This class was great for both novice and more experienced gardeners.
Here are the top ten things I learned:
  1. Do not use bark mulch as a mulch for your vegetable gardens, it may contain natural growth inhibitors and it can rob the soil of nitrogen. You should always use partially decomposed material as mulch. They recommended alfalfa hay or compost.
  2. Cottonseed meal is a good fertilizer for just about anything.
  3. You can use tree leaves as a mulch for fruit trees but not veggies.
  4. They recommended a digging knife, expensive, but worth it.
  5. Save your seeds in the refrigerator in a sealed container with a little rice or powdered milk to absorb any moisture.
  6. If you have old seed, a good way to test if it will germinate is to put it in a damp paper towel. Keep the paper towel damp, after a couple of days start checking daily if the seeds have germinated.
  7. Put soft phosphate or bone meal in the planting hole of onions and tomatoes.
  8. Plant leaks in a trench and slowly cover them as they grow.
  9. Put garlic in the refrigerator for 2 months before planting. For Houston, plant garlic in mid-October and harvest in May.
  10. There are two kinds of arugula. The one I am familiar with is spicy and has an oak leaf shape and is referred to as wild. The other (Astro is one variety) is less spicy, has a more rounded leaf, and has shorter time to harvest.
If you are new to fruit and vegetable gardening in Houston, I highly recommend Dr. Bob Randall’s book, Year Round Vegetables, Fruits, and Flowers for Metro Houston.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Monthly Garden Bouquet-August

IMG_1321 I saw this meme on Tropical Texana, it is hosted by Ramblings from a Desert Garden. I love to have cut flowers in the house, but I always have the feeling that the flowers in the garden should stay there for me to enjoy while I’m in the garden.

But, no longer! It’s fun to walk around the garden to find what you have that will create a nice bouquet.

In my first bouquet, there is duranta (small purple flowers), a pass-along pinecone ginger, persian shield (purple leaves) and two different elephant ears (in the background).

I started the bouquet off with the pinecone ginger because it is in a far away garden in my yard and would not be enjoyed much from there, then I walked around adding things to the vase that were looking nice that day.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Macro Monday

I was roaming around the yard this morning after watering my vegetable seeds and noticed a few flowers blooming today, that were not in bloom yesterday. As I was taking photos, I thought to myself, I need a meme for Macro Monday. After a quick search, I found Lisa’s Chaos, she is the host of Macro Monday.

clerodendrum bungei
Clerodendrum bungei

obedient plant
Obedient Plant
If you enlarge this picture, you’ll see white specs on the bee, I guess he’s covered in pollen.


zipper spider
Argiope aurantia
This zipper spider has been chillin’ out here for a few days. Hope he’s catching something.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

August Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

I have finally succumbed to the heat, but thankfully the plants have not. This morning as I toured the garden, I was pleasantly surprised by how many plants are still flowering.
The torenia are doing surprisingly well in this very dry flower bed.

The plumbago is still working on its comeback from the winter.


Magnolia 'Little Gem'
I’m surprised to see this magnolia blooming right now. I put some cottonseed meal on it a couple of weeks ago. Could that be why?

Chenille plant with shrimp plant in the background

Variegated Gaura
Angelonia and Rose of Sharon

Banana Tree

Texas Rock Rose and sedum
Turnera alternifolia
Obedient Plant & Crepe Myrtle in the background
I started this crepe myrtle from a cutting (or rather a piece I ripped from a tree I saw in front of some fancy new condos) a couple of years ago. It was trampled when the new fence was put in and again when the gazebo was built. Luckily it’s hard to kill a crepe myrtle.

Okra-Clemson Spineless

This duranta was about 10 feet tall last year, but it froze to the ground over the winter. Now, it’s about 4 feet tall and covered with blossoms and bees.

Other plants blooming right now include bottlebrush, Blue Daze convolvulus, calibrachoa, firecracker plant, several cupheas including Batface, indigofera kirilowii, rudbeckia, knock-outs, cannas, eggplant, & peppers.

As I finish up this month's Bloom Day, my computer is telling me it is 100 degrees outside and 43% humidity. This is the first weekend all year, it was just too hot to stay in the garden. I retreated indoors around noon both days after spending most of the morning watering. And so, the garden moves into survival mode, this is when we find out who is tough enough to survive a Houston summer.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out other Garden Bloggers' Bloom Days at May Dreams Gardens.

Friday, August 13, 2010

It’s Alive!

green bean seedling
Black Beauty Zucchini
The green bean (Blue Lake 274 Bush Beans), zucchini (Black Beauty), and arugula I planted last Saturday are up! These seeds all happen to be from Botanical Interests. The Black Beauties were in my Buffa10 goodie bag!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What do I do with Okra?

IMG_1235 Okra is one of those classic southern vegetables. It loves the heat and scoffs at 95 degree temperatures and 80% humidity. It proudly stands at 5-6 feet tall a month after the tomato plants have withered and died.

Even though I grew up in Texas, I did not grow up eating okra. Probably because as a kid I didn’t like vegetables and I bet my parents were not fans of okra (maybe they’ll leave a comment on this post and we’ll find out why we never had okra ;)). I’ve never eaten okra as an adult, so what possessed me to plant it in my garden!? Please refer to paragraph #1.
Last year I planted an okra plant. It did great, but I had no idea when to harvest or what to cook, so no okra was actually consumed. This year, I have two Clemson Spineless plants. They’ve been producing for about a month, but I never seem to get out to the garden fast enough to harvest them before they get too big, so most have gone to the compost pile.

When you see so many 5” long okras, it skews your perception of what is ready to be picked and what isn’t. According to the internet, okra should be picked when it is 2”-3” (but that does vary according to the variety you plant). That means checking on the plants every other day so the okra doesn’t get too big. It grows so fast you can almost see it growing right before your eyes.

Tonight, I chose the smallest of the okra that I’ve harvested, I had about a cups worth (which I am equating to a half pound). I cooked Indian-style Okra from a recipe I found on It turned out great! I used butter, just like the recipe called for, not margarine or any other butter substitute. We get our organic grass-fed butter from US Wellness Meats.
There’s more okra coming every day, does anyone have any other okra recipes I should try?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A weekend in California

As I mentioned in a previous post, after Buffa10 I flew to San Diego for a conference. My husband and I happen to be in the same line of work, so we met there on Sunday evening. After a long week of conference sessions and nights out on the town, we spent the next weekend making our way from San Diego to Los Angeles.

Friday evening we visited Bonnie (Vintage Garden Gal) and her husband John at their home/vineyard. The house is almost ready to move back into after a major remodeling project. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to show, you’ll just have to trust me that everything was amazing.  They greeted us with some of their homemade, award winning red wine made with grapes from their very own backyard vineyard and delicious plates of grapes and cheese. We enjoyed the cool California evening on the patio near the grape vines with their five friendly chickens that pecked away at the ground around us. It seems that almost wherever in the world we visit, I always hear the comment from my husband, “we could live here”. He’s usually right and this time was no exception.

Saturday was spent in Temecula on a wine tasting tour. Not the most popular wine region of California, but that also meant it wasn’t the most crowded. We are not wine connoisseurs by any means, but we did enjoy the vineyards and old town Temecula.

I dropped my husband off at the LA airport Sunday morning, then set out for Long Beach (where the office is). I did my homework the night before and scoped out a botanic garden that was on my way.

IMG_1164South Coast Botanic Gardens is on Palos Verdes Peninsula, just south of L.A. It’s definitely not what comes to mind when someone says L.A. And probably most locals would not say that they live in L.A. At the entrance to the gardens is a large pergola that provides some great shade from the summer heat.

The next garden you come to is the fuchsia garden. Which held my attention
for quite awhile. Fuchsia is another one of those plants that can’t take the Houston heat.


I’m not sure what the next gardens were called, but they were full of color.



The Rose Garden was quite impressive. I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of rose gardens, but this one was huge.

IMG_1193Somewhere along the way, I saw this cool looking salvia, it’s called Salvia clevelandii ‘Winifred Gilman’

And there were lots of shady spots to relax and read a book.

The Children’s Garden was full of whimsical statuaries and secret hiding places.
This house looks big in the picture, but actually it’s only about 4 feet tall.

For those millions of you that live in the Los Angeles area, you should definitely check out this local botanic garden.

IMG_1211Another thing I love to do is go to teahouses. Not the Japanese kind with the tapioca, but the English kind with scones and little sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Long Beach has a great tea house called Vintage Tea Leaf.  You enter through their boutique where they sell tea-themed gifts, jewelry, purses, & greeting cards.

At the entrance to the tea room, you are instructed to pick out your teacup.
IMG_1208Their menu has a complete selection of typical tea time eats and a long list of teas to choose from. Even though I was dining alone, the experience was quite enjoyable.

That’s the end of my adventures in California, now its back to work for me. I definitely recommend visiting Temecula, South Coast Botanic Gardens, and the Vintage Tea Leaf if you are ever in the area.