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The arctic winds have been replaced by southerly breezes once again.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? 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hurry Up and Wait

Hurry up! Those wildflowers won't plant themselves. Huh? 

We're in prime wildflower planting season here in Central Texas. There's a very brief window for planting in the fall.  The optimal time is in the late part of October, but any time in October through mid-November will work.

Here's a little trick I like to use when broadcasting seeds by hand.  I mix the seed in a bucket with some compost and vermiculite (you could also use sand). The vermiculite or sand is a lighter color than the soil and will help you see where you have already spread seeds. Vermiculite has the added bonus of retaining water, which helps the seeds along. The compost adds bulk to the process, so I'm not tempted to spread the seeds to densely, and it helps lightly cover the seeds as well.

Early in October I had a idea. My poor hubby nearly ran screaming until I told him tractor work was involved. I didn't know it at the time, but he was secretly working on my birthday present out back when I asked him to use the box blade to cut me a wide, lazy S path right through the middle of the meadow. Bless his heart; he just rolled with the punches and helped me with my project. What a guy!

In the picture below, the path separates the meadow into 2 parts. In the space to the left of the path, I plan to grow clumping native grasses and wildflowers.  

To the right of the path, I constructed a low berm. The berm will allow me to grow cactus and other plants which require better drainage. To the right of the berm on the higher ground, I plan to grow small trees, native perennials, and more grasses.

Here is a close up of the berm.  It may not look like it, but I planted 30 - 1 gallon perennials and dozens of 4 inch plants in the berm and surrounding area.  The plants included various yucca, big red sage, wine cup, zexmenia, golden rod, and turk's cap among others.

I planted 6 trees on the high side of the path where the drainage is better; 3 Mexican buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa), a golden leadball (Leucaena retusa), a Mexican bird of paradise (Caesalpinia Mexicana), and the plant pictured below, the Texas olive (Cordia boissieri). 

The Texas olive, also called the Mexican olive, has beautiful white flowers that develop into a good sized fruit. Though not a true olive, the fruits are relished by birds and wildlife. 

While clearing the weeds from the wildflower planting area, I hit a snag. Yep, that's Bermuda. This area was never planted as a lawn, so I'm thinking the grass must have migrated to this spot from the nearby septic field.  

I started trying to remove the Bermuda by hand, but decided I probably didn't have enough wildflower seed to cover the whole space any way.  I think the Bermuda will have to be sprayed or solarized next summer.  It seems to be isolated to this one space, which I think may contain a seep spring that fed the grass over the years.

Mowing this area has made it tough to tell if any native species are still hanging in there, but I did find these three survivors. The first is a little bush with yellow flowers. This photo doesn't do it justice. It's really adorable. If you recognize it, please let me know.

The other two survivors can be seen in the picture below.  The grass on the left is a little bluestem and to it's right is an American beautyberry.  Both of these plants are native to this area, so I plan to encourage them along.

The wildflower seeds and all the plants were installed just in time for a little storm this past Monday.  Now all that's left to do is wait until spring.