This blog was created to document our first efforts at organic gardening in an urban setting. Our garden is located in the northern suburbs of Austin, Texas, in the city of Round Rock – thus the title of the blog, a title which, although it sounds aesthetically interesting at first, now appears somewhat generic. Sorry to disappoint, but there is no round rock in my garden – none of any significant interest. For those wishing to make a trip to this part of the country, however, the city of Round Rock is actually named after a large round rock in the river – so stop by and take a gander.
We decided to start gardening for a couple of main reasons:
(1) Our garden is an exercise in self-reliance. On so many different levels, Mother Culture has produced generations of people who rely upon the machinations of big agriculture, finance, industry and retail for the very sustenance they need to live. In so doing, there are generations upon generations who do not know how to grow their own food – they are cut off from the knowledge our ancestors have passed down for ages. The long, arduous days of working in the fields to produce meager offerings for one’s family to eat have been replaced by other careers, fast food joints, supermarkets and take out. Now, Americans consume more than they need and we are one of the leading nations in obesity. Our garden is one way for us to provide for ourselves and lessen our dependence upon the “system”.
(2) We are healthy eaters. People think we are crazy when we tell them we eat a 90%+ organic diet and never eat anything out at a restaurant or on the go. Organic food is more expensive than “conventional” foods, but it is proven to be healthier, more nutritious and better for the environment. One way to reduce the cost is to grow your own. So this is what we’re doing. Starting from organic seed when available, we have prepared raised beds with plenty of organic soil and compost to get our plants off to a good start and produce healthy produce for our family. This way we can avoid paying money to huge bio-agricultural corporations who poison the rivers, strip the land of nutrients, and grow Franken-foods, and save our health from the products manufactured with artificial crap.
No synthetic fertilizers or pesticides!
Because this is an organic garden, we do not use any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. of any kind. No Miracle Gro – unless it is something from their organic line. Utilizing compost, worm castings, fish emulsion and teas brewed from these three, we’re trying to do things the old-fashioned way with a new twist. Regardless, we’re cultivating an area where Mother Nature can do a lot of the work for us without toxic chemicals, residue run-off, nutrient depleting synthetic fertilizers and life-killing poisons. By building up the soil with beneficial nematodes, fungi, protozoa and bacteria, and by adorning the area with attractive flowering plants, we’re preparing a healthy environment for all levels of life to establish themselves and aid in our efforts.
We have constructed growing boxes made of pieces of 2×12 untreated wood nailed together with galvanized nails and reinforced at the corners with galvanized steel braces. Some of these boxes are 2′ x 2′, while others are larger: 3′ x 3′ and 3′ x 6′. These “boxes” are really just frames because there is no bottom. We leave the bottom open to allow worms to get in the garden dirt and work their magic. The only pre-preparation we do is the removal of sod underneath the box, followed by a layer of hardwood mulch to discourage weeds. The boxes are then filled with a mixture of organic dirt and compost.
Spring of 2011, we added another raised bed that measures 4′ x 8′ and 6″ high. We placed this in the sunniest part of the yard and filled it with summer vegetables.
The herb garden is what started it all. In the Spring of ’09, we built an herb garden using retaining wall stones near our back door. We purchased some herbs from a local nursery and dropped them into organic potting soil, including: (2) sweet basil, (2) English thyme, (2) culinary sage, (3) chive bunches, 1 marjoram plant, (2) varieties of oregano and, for decoration and smell, (2) curry plants. Since then, we’ve added spearmint, peppermint, curly and flat-leaf (Italian) parsley and two rosemary bushes. Spring 2011 we added tarragon, stevia, more chives, fennel and dill.
We love vegetables, so most of our gardening efforts focus on growing them! We’ve had success with carrots, lettuce, broccoli and spinach during winter. Last summer was a struggle getting bell peppers, beans and tomatoes to produce due to the extremely hot weather (peppers and tomatoes stopped setting fruit). We’ve also struggled with powdery mildew on our curcubits (cucumbers, squash and zucchini).
For Spring/Summer 2011, we’ve growing habaneros, jalapenos, bell peppers, cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, watermelon and cantaloupe.
Flowers and Native Plants for the Butterfly Garden
In the first year, the yard was colored by a few flowering plants: 1 bougainvillea, 1 hibiscus, 1 lobelia, 2 snapdragons, a handful of alyssum, 1 cuphea and 1 lantana. That started the butterfly garden fever.
The following spring, I built two additional beds and packed them with flowering plants for our butterfly garden. Those beds are home for Texas Lantana, Trailing Lantana, Sweet Alyssum, Prairie Moss Verbena, Black-Eyed Susans, Mexican Mint Marigold, Butterfly Weed, Common Milkweed, Salvia Greggi, Fall Aster, Indigo Spires Salvia, Four Nerve Daisies and Zexmenia. We also let our parsley and fennel flower and go to seed since they are wonderful nectar sources and host plants for swallowtail butterflies. In addition to these, I planted a Double Knock-Out rose bush and two Whirling Butterfly Gauras. Please visit our plant profile page to learn more about all of these plants.
The wildflower patch along the back fence put on a great Spring show of color in 2010 with over ten varieties of Texas wildflowers. Spring 2011 was disappointing, and rather than let the bed sit empty, I opted to turn it into a perennial bed for the butterfly garden. Now we have Maximillian sunflowers, Fern Leaf lavender, Mexican mint marigold, trailing lantana, Texas lantana, euryops, cuphea, red pillar salvia, and lobelia growing there.
As another addition last summer, we germinated thirty milkweed seeds and later transplanted them to a long bed along the north fence line. Several plants returned in the spring 2011, but those that didn’t make it will be replaced by newly germinated seeds and milkweed cuttings. We should have about fifty plants for Monarchs to enjoy.
Continuing the gardening fever, I put in a small bed in the front yard and put two Texas (Desperado) Sage bushes in there along with fifteen red pillar sage and fifteen lobelia plants.