A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘fall garden’

In the Garden 11/21/10

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve been in the garden for any length of time.  Life has been busy.  We received news that we are expecting and will be having a baby at the end of May!  We’re very excited.  Needless to say, we’ve been visiting family as well as getting our third bedroom ready to receive the little one.  I don’t expect to be spending too much time in the garden this winter, but I do have a few things going.  I have sown my wildflower seeds, but have yet to see anything sprout yet.  I planted cornflowers, poppies, echinacea, black-eyed susans, blackfoot daisies and scarlet flax.  I also have a bed of spinach going and it’s doing well.  The broccoli plants are quite large – much further along than they were last year at this time.  The pepper plants are still producing.  Carrots are getting tall.  And lettuce seeds have sprouted.

Spinach bed

More spinach


A few bell peppers

cayenne peppers

More cayenne peppers

harvested and dried cayenne peppers

red bell pepper

carrot tops

new herb garden (chives x 6, thyme x 2, oregano x 3, parsley x 3)

Also, the Copper Canyon daisies are in bloom, the indigo spires are still going strong, as well as the verbena, Four-Nerve daisies and trailing lantana. This is a shot of the Copper Canyon, Indigo Spires and Tuscan Blue rosemary:






Monarch Nursery

Last spring I ordered ten milkweed cuttings from livemonarch.org.  When they arrived, they also arrived with 75 free milkweed seeds.  I sowed the seeds and then let them sit outside until July when I finally got around to transplanting them.  I ended up transplanting a total of 32 plants along the southern fence line.  The heat of the summer killed off a few of them, but I now have at least 25 plants over two feet tall and all of them are blooming.  Besides seeing a couple of monarch caterpillars and a couple of queen caterpillars, I thought that the monarchs must have missed me this year (I haven’t seen one land on any of the plants in the yard).  I was very excited to go out yesterday and find about thirty monarch cats busily munching away on the milkweed.  Here are some photos of them:

Milkweed bed looking west


Milkweed bed looking east



Fall is Coming

I took a much-needed leave of absence for the last month or so.  The hottest month of the year in Central Texas is August, so there was little I could do in the garden besides try to save a few plants that burned up in the hot, dry weather.  Now that the hottest weather has passed, I’ve managed to get outside the last couple of weekends to survey the damage, pull up unwanted plants and do a little maintenance.

The veggie garden is all but finished for the summer, but I still have some peppers and tomatoes that should be producing through the fall.  I have some broccoli in the ground now for the fall/winter garden.  I do have plans yet to get spinach, carrots and lettuce in the ground as well.  I can’t believe it’s that time of year again.  Last spring we were lamenting the fact that we would have no more fresh spinach and lettuce for awhile and now it seems it’s come around so quickly that I’m a little behind.

yellow and green bell peppers and cayenne in the back (not visible)


I certainly intended to be ahead of the game at this point, and indeed I was a month ago.  I sowed several broccoli and spinach seeds inside, but – due to neglect – they suffered and I decided to let them die off.  I bought broccoli transplants instead.  I made sure to put them in a different bed this season as it is recommended to plant them in the same place every three years.  The spinach I’ll sow directly as soon as this week – the time is right now.  The carrots will soon follow and then I’ll do successive plantings of lettuce through the winter.  I can’t wait until I get them on my plate!

The herb garden suffered a bit through my neglecting it the past month.  Then we received such a torrential downpour from the leftover tropical depression that the plants just looked downright ugly.  I harvested what I wanted, then ripped up the remaining plants and threw them onto the compost pile.  Fire ants had moved into the bed, no doubt relocating from some other spot due to all of the rain.  Having the garden bare was a good time to kill them off using several pots of boiling water.  I think I succeeded in killing most of them off, as is evident by the piles of red carcasses!

flat parsley, chives and oregano

In the meantime, I have more chives, parsley and oregano going, but I need to find some thyme as well.  I don’t plan to grow any more sage in the herb garden, and instead have expanded on the chives and oregano – and hopefully thyme (all the local nurseries were out).  I use those three herbs more than anything  – well, those and rosemary, but I have the rosemary planted elsewhere.  The basil plant grew so large due to my continuing to trim off the flowers that the weight of it finally tipped it over following the heavy rain.  I pulled a good six cups of firmly packed leaves off of the one plant and made pesto.  I have a tub of fresh pesto in the fridge that we’re eating on (we put it on some homemade pizza the other day and it was outstanding!) and another tub frozen in the freezer for later use.  I still have so many dried basil and sage that I can seriously provide for our needs for the next year or two, provided they stay fresh.

Butterfly garden

The butterfly garden is not disappointing me.  In early March I landscaped the area and dropped several plants in.  Now they have taken over the spot and are putting on a good show.  The verbena didn’t suffer at all through the summer and I’ve had to trim it several times to maintain a nice, compact bush.  The Texas lantana is sprawling out everywhere, especially now that I’ve cut back all of the fennel (which, by the way, is now growing back!).  The fall aster is gearing up for its fall show, with a beautiful display of lavender flowers.  The black-eyed susans look like they’re done for the year, but I’m still hoping they’ll come back this fall.  There are a couple of new flowers, but the foliage looks pretty bad.  The trailing lantana continues to push outward across the gravel walkway and will need to be cut back … again!  It has not stopped flowering since March.  The far end of the butterfly garden is in desperate need of re-spacing.  I’ll have to transplant the salvia greggii and the zexmenia, which has been overcome by the indigo spires and copper canyon daisies.  I’ll most likely have to move the rosemary, as well.  Since the tarragon didn’t make it through the summer, I now have room to move it over.  I’ll wait another couple of weeks to do that.

blooming milkweed (from cuttings) and verbena

indigo spires salvia and copper canyon daisies (right)

trailing lantana and four-nerve daisies (foreground)

whirling butterfly gauras

fall aster staring its fall show

zexmenia with a couple of blooms

Texas lantana and fall aster

thyme walkway

And the milkweed is doing well, too.  The largest suffered through the heat and dropped most of its leaves, but it has since rebounded.  The other cuttings are really flowering now.  Those that I started from seed are getting larger.  I was worried about them for awhile.  I had to water them literally every day to keep them alive through August.  The ground was so dry that a huge crack opened up along the entire length of the bed.  I lost a handful of the forty plants I had because they fell into the crack!  I put down some fresh dirt, mulched with compost and that seemed to work, but it wasn’t until all of the rain the past few weeks that the crack has filled in and the plants have taken off.  It’s almost time for the monarch migration.  I don’t know if they’re far enough along to generate much interest from them as they migrate, but there is always next year!  I was shocked to discover a couple baby monarch cats on them today, … so, we’ll see!  Despite my expectations, it looks like they ARE going to flower this year, even though they typically do not the first year from seed (which surprises me since I planted them in July!).    I have also harvested a hundred or so seeds from the cuttings that produced pods.  Perhaps I can get them going next spring …

milkweed bed grown from seed

milkweed plant

the cluster at the top indicates they will bloom soon

baby Monarch caterpillar!

I also ripped out all of the spearmint.  I wanted them to flower, which they did, and because of their invasive tendency, I decided to do away with them.  I pulled them up a couple of weeks ago, which was no easy task – they’re roots and runners sprawled in all direction.  Yet, after two weeks, there were no signs of them coming back to life, so I decided to plant a couple Turk’s Cap plants as well as Autumn Joy Sedum.  We needed more red in the garden anyway.

Turk's Cap (rear) and Autumn Joy Sedum

That’s all the updating I have for now.  I’m off to the nurseries to see what I can find, then I have a day cut out for me.  I’ll be brewing some more compost tea and doing some transplanting and trimming.  I’ll be back with some updates in the next few days, so thanks, in advance, for checking back.  I’m sorry, once again, for my absence the last month or so!

If you don’t mind, leave me a comment and let me know what you’re up to in your garden!

Planning The Garden

There are a number of factors I consider when I am planning my garden for the season.

The first thing I consider is, “What do I want to grow?”  That usually gets me looking online or in seed catalogs for seeds.  If you have ever looked at a seed catalog, then you understand what a difficult task it is looking through the catalog to find the variety you want to grow.  Not all varieties are created equal, however, and a prolific variety on the East Coast won’t necessarily be prolific in the Deep South.  That brings me to the next consideration.

What cultivar/variety is right for my area?”  Luckily, one is not without resources.  A simple internet search for recommended cultivars for your area will most likely provide most of the information you need.   When I type in, “recommended cultivars for Central Texas”, I find a helpful article in the Examiner with a long list of varieties growers in our area have particular success with.   I discover that, for best results, if I want to grow broccoli, I should obtain seeds of the following cultivars: Packman, Premium Crop, and Green Magic.

After determining what crops I want to grow and what varieties are best, it is usually a matter of shopping around to find those specific cultivars.   “Where can I obtain seed of the varieties I have chosen?”  Because the big seed companies are not located in my area, I did a search for “seed companies in Texas”.   I found that Willhite seeds carries many cultivars recommended for my area because it is a local seed company.

The next consideration is, “When is the recommended planting time for this crop?” along with the related question, “How long until harvest?”  Sometimes this makes a big difference on what ends up growing in my garden.  I may want to grow okra this fall, for example, but it isn’t the right time of year to plant them.  Or, I may want to grow bell peppers this fall, but it is now too late to start them from seed and I will have to transplant instead.   To determine the right times of the year to plant certain crops, I rely on the Travis County Aggie Planting Chart, which is the most local I can find.  I use this to determine the window of opportunity I have to get seeds or transplants in the ground.  If you do an internet search, you should be able to find something similar for your area.

Once I have chosen my crops, selected the variety for my area, and determined the correct planting time, it is next a consideration of, “Do I have room, and where will I put them?”  For me, this usually entails drawing an illustration of my yard and planting area.  I garden out of raised growing boxes, and I am limited to nine separate areas to grow in.  By drawing out the plan, I can visualize how the crops will be arranged in the garden.

Fall/Winter garden diagram

Another equally important factor is, “What have I grown in those locations before?”  It’s important to rotate most crops, planting them in one location once every three seasons or so.  By keeping record of what you have grown when and where, you can most accurately maintain a good crop rotation schedule to keep your garden plants and soil healthy.

Since I have several different boxes located in varying exposures to full sun, I also have to think about, “What crops do best in the longest amount of full sun and what crops do okay with a little more shade?”

Finally, it is important for me to think even one more season ahead and ask, “What will I want to plant the next season?”.  If I am planning a fall garden, I am also planning my winter garden.   This is because the fall garden will roll right into the winter garden, as I stagger in new crops after harvesting the old.   This is important so as to effectively use as many boxes I can at any given time.  For example, I am growing tomatoes and peppers this fall.  I already have them transplanted and have figured a max of sixty days until those plants have produced and will be done for the season.  According to my calculations, that means I will be ripping them out of the ground at the end of September, leaving that box open for winter planting.  If I plan my garden right, I’ll be able to use that box immediately to start a new crop.

Time to Think About A Fall Garden

It seems just a bit strange in the middle of the summer to think about fall planting and what my family will be eating fresh from the garden this October and even Thanksgiving.  Yet, if I want to be ahead of the ball, I really should begin my fall garden now and go ahead and send off for those seeds.

Another thing to think about is that some fall crops will not have time to mature before winter sets in, so to have a harvest, I will need transplants.  (I already have my tomato and pepper transplants in the ground for harvest later in the fall.)   Also, keep in mind that if you are growing from seed for later transplanting, it can take 4-6 weeks until the plant is ready to transplant.  So, if you have a transplant date of 9/1, for example, it’s time to get those seeds started now!

As July winds down, here are some important vegetable planting dates for Central Texas to keep in mind:

Start Now:

Broccoli from seed for transplanting 9/1
Cauliflower from seed for transplanting 9/1
Spinach from seed for transplanting 9/1

Now Through the First Week of August:

Plant your winter squash, you don’t have much time left
Plant another round of cucumbers

Now Through the Second Week of August:

Transplant those pepper plants (it’s too late to start from seed)
Transplant those tomato plants (it’s too late to start from seed)
Plant another round of sweet corn if you’ve got the space

By End of August:

Plant summer squash varieties (zucchini, yellow, etc.)

By Beginning of September:

Plant another round of snap or lima beans

Also on the horizon:

Carrots can be started September 1st

Snap and snow peas in Mid-September

Garlic, cool weather greens, lettuce, spinach , shallots and turnips all on horizon the last week of September.

What are your plans for a fall garden?

What’s up in the garden today

Lettuce Bed 1 with parsley

The lettuce bed is really looking nice.  The curled parsley is full and fluffy.  The cosmo savoy lettuce (romaine variety, right) towers above the others and is ready for harvesting any day now.  I lost one buttercrunch to a hungry caterpillar.  Unfortunately, I think he ate it off a little too low and it may not grow back.  The hard rain knocked a few leaves loose on the red sail, so I trimmed them off along with several others and made a salad.  I can see why the rain knocked them loose.  The leaves were so soft and tender.  I added just a dash of olive oil and raw apple cider vinegar and it was delightful.  They’ll continue to do well into the cooler parts of fall and through winter.  I’ve got sixteen (er, fifteen) plants above, and another forty or so started elsewhere.  Sometime this week I’ll get another round of seeds going to keep up with a three-week successive planting cycle.  I’m going to continue sowing seeds through March.

Cosmo savoy lettuce, a variety of romaine


The first harvest of organic home-grown lettuce. This is the Red Sail variety.


One of the buttercrunch variety lettuce - destroyed by a looper.

This is the damage caused by a green looper


Red sail after I took a few leaves and enjoyed a nice salad

Red sail lettuce after a contribution to my salad bowl

This is lettuce bed number 2.

The carrot tops are really growing.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I could make out distinct rows and now the tops have all grown together to create this really feathery feeling canopy.    I just had to get down on the “forest floor” – if you will – to take a couple pics.  I’ve got three rows each of Danvers Half Long and Big Top going …

You know, the spinach is proving to be disappointing.  I’ve read that it is slow to start.  It sure has been.  I read that spinach likes rich soil.  I’ve got that.  Plenty of fresh compost, tea, and small additions of worm castings and fish emulsion should be providing everything they need.  I read that a sulfur deficiency might cause them to be stunted.  So I mixed up some epsom salts and added it to some rainwater a couple of weeks ago.  Since then, I’ve notice an improvement, but nothing significant.   The unused beds on the other side of the house show promise.  I have five going there, and another dozen in the ground waiting to germinate.  Up until now, all the spinach I’ve tried growing has been germinated inside and transplanted.  Perhaps this is the problem.  From my experience with this batch of seeds, I’m betting about a 60 percent germination rate, so I hope to increase this by direct sowing.  Who knows.  I’m still so new to this, every day is an experiment.

This is the first spinach bed. They are struggling...

This is the second spinach bed.

Up close of one of the lil' spinach plants in the second bed.

The broccoli bed is doing good, but I’m afraid they won’t produce.  While the leaves are hardy the flower is not and the flower is what I’m after.  The first frost didn’t really hit us yet, but if it starts flowering I don’t think it will have enough time to form the nice stalk and head that I hoped for.  I knew this was likely to happen.  When I planted the seeds at the end of August, first of September, I thought I was right on schedule.  But, as I read more, I should have had transplants in the ground by that time.   So, I probably cost myself a harvest by thirty days or so.  Live and learn.  I’ll be starting seeds in January for late February transplanting and that should give me enough time for a spring harvest.

Nonetheless, here is the broccoli bed

In the corner of the yard is an experiment in how prolific mint plants are.  These started off as cuttings.  I’ve since buried several sections of peppermint as well as the spearmint.  Some of them have already popped up, but I’ll also add a nice peppermint clone to the lot of them.  I just need to take the time to do that.  Maybe the weather will be more agreeable tomorrow.

The peppermint and spearmint continue to spread

peppermint clone

I’ve got thirty bell pepper growing right now, all at different stages.  This one is almost at the end of the line, ready for us to enjoy in a nice stir-fry.  Meanwhile, I still have only one jalapeno!   For Spring, I’ve ordered some Cali Wonder orange bells and some ring-o-fire cayenne pepper seeds.  If need be, I’ll take my jalapenos inside and continue growing them for a couple of months until spring.  They should be nice, big plants by then – and hopefully a lot more productive.

This bell pepper is almost done. Just a little more green yet on the bottom ...

The beans are another one that I’ve struggled with.  I think this is because I didn’t opt to inoculate the seeds – something recommended for legumes, especially if growing them in a section of soil for the first time.  The transplants I added later did much better.  I grew them from seed in Jiffy Mix, which seems to have aided their growth – along with the compost tea.  The picture below is of one of the bean transplants, which is going to produce a couple of handfuls of beans from the looks of it.  I harvested another handful of beans, which I blanched, cooled quickly and stuck in the freezer.  I have enough for a couple of servings right now, but I’d like to harvest more and save them for later use.

more beans, almost ready to harvest

The last thing I’d like to note is the progress in the wildflower bed.  I’ve since edged it with rock to keep the grass from spreading into the bed and to keep the lawnmower out.  I can see a handful of different varieties at this stage, but I can’t really tell you what is what yet.

Morning in the garden

Each of these photos can be viewed large-size.


The color of this flower is striking and all the more beautiful with morning dew


I don't know what these are called, but I love the soft, fuzzy leaves


Looking down at one of the newest bean transplants

hibiscus bloom

this tropical hasn't received the memo that it's November. i'm happy about that.


this catches the life and death of Lobelia


the green pepper plant has over twenty good-sized peppers

shrooms among the carrots


this broccoli plant is loving the cooler mornings

sweet alyssum

the alyssum is blooming incredibly - here you see an emerging flower


I love the close-up texture of the beans


no, this is not a candy mushroom, although it looks dipped in sugar!