Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Drawbridge

In January of 2012, we received 5 inches of rainfall in a matter of a couple of hours. The rain fell in the early morning hours, but even in the dark we could see that something was very wrong.

We had recently laid down 12 yards of mulch and the timing could not have been worse. The mulch had not had time to settle and floated off to our fence line creating a barrier which caused the water to back up instead of draining away.

In the dark, my hubby and I worked to clear the blockage and the water was able to drain away. By the end of the day, the water had receded leaving a muddy mess.

Fast forward to October 2013. We received 8 inches of rain in what people in Central Texas now refer to as the Halloween flood. The garden flooded again, but this time it wasn't as bad. The main issue causing water to back up this time was the bridge we refer to as our "tractor bridge".

The tractor bridge is a very heavy and strong bridge that was built to accommodate, you guessed it, our tractor. The main problem with this bridge is that there is not enough clearance under it which causes leaves and twigs to clog up the flow. The water backs up, flooding one of my ornamental gardens and finally, when the water gets high enough, it pushes it's way around the bridge.

We decided it was time to raise the bridge. We propped the bridge up temporarily turning it into a sort of drawbridge. While the bridge was in the up position, we added cement cap blocks for the bridge to sit on. The blocks gave us an additional 4 inches; not a lot, but hopefully, enough.

It would be very cool if we could rig up a permanent drawbridge and simply raise the bridge when rain is forecast. Unfortunately, this bridge is super heavy, and my knowledge of such things is somewhat limited. By trade, I'm a database administrator and they don't teach drawbridge 101 at computer school.

In addition to adding the extra clearance under the bridge, we decided it was time to completely eliminate the mulch along the edge of the dry creek. The mulch mostly stayed put, but we decided that decomposed granite would be a better material for the job.

We continue the decomposed granite along the dry creek, past the fire pit and down the path into the meadow. 

Transitioning materials can be tricky.  I wasn't sure how the mulch would work butted directly against the decomposed granite, but I like it.  Now, we just have to see how it holds up against the next big gully washer.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mushroom Wonderland

What do you get when you mix bunny manure and 8 inches of rain?

You get a fabulous mushroom wonderland!

Where else but Wonderland could mushrooms grow to the size of dinner plates?

A standard sized egg, provides a sense of scale, while resting in the shadow of a large mushroom.

I actually prefer my mushrooms small and cartoon-like.

Mushrooms come in so many fascinating shapes and sizes. Seashells anyone?

How about some flap jacks?

Something about these mushrooms seems dangerous to me.

I think I'll leave these to Alice and the White Rabbit.

Friday, November 15, 2013

We're Still Standing

Ha! Ha! Ha! We're still standing!

Central Texas just experienced an unexpected early freeze.  My garden weathered the first night effortlessly with a low of 36 degrees.  I thought I was out of the woods, but I should have been watching that one, two punch.

Pink Knockout Rose
The second night, which was actually supposed to be warmer than the first, turned bitterly cold and some locations near me dropped to 28 degrees. 

Fire Cracker Fern and Day Lily
I had a brief opportunity to check the vegetable garden on Thursday morning before heading to work and I cringed when I saw my beautiful veggies covered in a blanket of frost.  But, today, it's all a distant memory.

Gomphrena Globosa
The arctic winds have been replaced by southerly breezes once again. My vegetable garden turned out to be unfazed by the frost. Even the Castor Bean, one of my more cold sensitive plants, is still still standing and looking fine.

There was some light damage here and there.  My morning glories were a little toasted along the top of their trellis, but other cold sensitive plants like this Almond Verbena are still reaching for the sky.

I'm pretty happy to have escaped any serious freeze damage.  With temperatures heading back up to the 80's by this weekend, the plants in the garden can continue their chaotic end of season blooming. 

Purple Coneflower, Coral Nymph Salvia, and Cigar Plant

Forsythia Sage and Copper Canyon Daisy
Since the current 7-day forecast is for mild temperatures, I will get to enjoy these blooms for a while longer.

Chinese Lantern

Pam's Pink Turk's Cap

Candlestick Plant

Mountain Sage
Happy Bloom Day! Garden bloggers from all over are showing off their blooms today. Please visit May Dreams for a list of other blog sites to visit and enjoy.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Veggie Patch

The weather buzz today is about an arctic cold front that is coming next week, so it's time for me to start thinking about the final pepper harvest. The last pepper harvest of the season usually occurs sometime in November, so we're right on schedule.  

In the spring I planted a large bell called big Bertha, a yellow pepper called gypsy, a sweet red pepper, a jalapeno, and a black pepper. These plants have produced a steady supply of peppers, but the fall harvest is by far the best.  

Big Bertha produces beautiful, large bell peppers.  The cooler nights of the fall yield thick walled peppers which are far tastier than the peppers harvested in June and July.

This year's performance award goes to gypsy.  She is quite the overachiever.

For me nothing beats the flavor of the sweet red pepper.  Big Bertha's peppers will turn red if allowed to ripen on the plant, and they are fabulous.

No, this isn't an eggplant, it's a black pepper given to me by a fellow gardener.  It's fun to try new varieties and share with your friends. Thanks Teresa.

Jalapenos are a summer garden staple that will keep producing until the first frost. Jalapenos and other peppers can be chopped and frozen for use in recipes all winter long.

With pepper season coming to an end, the real focus of the vegetable garden is the winter produce.

This pretty patch of carrots promises some tasty eats.  Just don't tell the bunnies.  Knock on wood.

The news of my fabulous veggie garden has spread far and wide to worms of all kinds.  This dinosaur kale will bounce back in no time and the chickens don't complain when the produce isn't perfect.

Here's a heart warming sight. The black, desiccated thing hanging from the leaf below is a dead cabbage looper. The organic worm treatment I used did the trick and this worm isn't going to be bothering these Brussels sprouts anymore.

Successes and failures are part of gardening, but if you want to be successful most of the time, grow radishes.  This vegetable is among the easiest and fastest producing.  You can't grow wrong.

Leafy crops like endive, lettuce, chard and kale are also fast growers that I usually have pretty good luck with.

I don't know how she'll hold up to our upcoming freezes, but this chard called Scarlet Charlotte really adds a pretty pop of color.  I think I'll provide her some frost protection just in case.  The more attractive chard seem to be less cold hardy, so better safe than sorry.

Artichokes are harvested in May here in Central Texas, so these little guys have a ways to go.  If we get any hard freezes, I will provide them with some protection.

The broccoli and cauliflower I'm growing are still a ways from producing their edible flowers, but this early Jersey cabbage is already producing a head.  Cabbage and ham soup is a favorite of mine for a cold winters day.

Do you have a favorite cold weather veggie?