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Gardening Promises

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I promise to keep my promises this time.

I promise to thin the carrots I planted Monday. I will not let them crowd each other into a carrot top hedge of green. I helped my self by being a little less generous as I sprinkled the seeds into the rows.

I think I can grow bigger/longer carrots if I ask a few more to step up and become compost volunteers.

I promise to thin the lettuces as they emerge so they can develop into nice leafy heads of tender munching. New technique yesterday – I sprinkled seeds over a section that I am trying a no till approach. The area has a fairly deep mat of grass clippings, compost and some shredded leaves. After sprinkling the seeds I used a steel rake to tamp the seeds into the substrate, watered well and will monitor. I have read that lettuces like to be planted very shallow and benefit from exposure to light to germinate…..we shall see.

Lettuces and turnips crowded together in my friend John’s bed…I was just as guilty!

I promise to thin my beets so they can mature into good-sized globes of goodness. I started them in divots space about 4 inches apart – several seeds to each divot so I need to select the strongest to survive the thinning process.

I promise to thin my turnips – see reasons above.

A few made it to decent size but I had far too many nugget sized beets and turnips.

 

I added a few spinach seeds and a few chard seeds … may be a little early but I have many – many more….they may also need to be thinned as they sprout.

I should have reined in the sweet potato vines …. so if I plant some next summer I will do some thinning. We had two sweet potatoes that were sprouting in the kitchen so I just tossed them into the bed with my asparagus – no problems with weed control in that bed. The vines have overwhelmed the are smothering any chance the weeds may have had. The asparagus ferns are ginormous….also helping with weed control. The adjacent bed is also overwhelmed with the vines, also weed free. I did some trimming today but it is well after the fact…in hte process I have discovered new sweet potatoes….. how many more are hiding in the tangled jungle of vines?

This is an 8 foot bed by 4 feet wide. The sweet potatoes have covered this bed, choked out the weeds and climbed the cucumber trellis! WOW!

 

This is the asparagus bed – the two tossed out sweet potatoes landed here and spread like crazy! The asparagus ferns, if standing straight up are 6-8 feet tall. I used tall tomato cages to keep them partially upright! An 8 foot by 4 foot bed!

My long beds – 24 feet long – are somewhat cleared and seeded as discussed above. Some pruned tomato plants, some newer transplants in place, some cucumbers, are hanging on through the heat ( picked 3 this morning), a few flowers, ancho & anaheim peppers are still producing and i’m waiting for emerging seeds!

A look toward the asparagus bed and the sweet potato jungle. Early morning with a little shade from our big oak tree.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

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Another Gardening Convert

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I think I mentioned sometime in the not too distant past that my son Benjamin, (really just Ben – Benjamin is usually reserved for those occasions when we need to make a point), has started a vegetable garden in his front yard. His growing environment is very much like Houston but on average it can be a degree or two cooler and possibly a little more rain.

Talking rain…..this past weekend we had a ¼ inch on one day and 2.9 the next. For the metric folks the 2.9 is about 7.4 cm. It fell in just about an hour of intense downpour. I have raised beds for this reason, really one of many reasons, otherwise the plants would have soggy feet during the spring and summer rains.

Ok, let’s get back to Ben and his Baton Rouge, Louisiana growing efforts. He planted the first seeds in early June, some sugar snap peas….I smiled when he mentioned the peas. I suggested that they may not do well at this time of year. They sprouted shot up a bit and I never heard much more until he told me that they had expired, died, shriveled up, became compost material and just really browned up nicely in the BR heat.

Ben came home for a few weeks at the end of his summer session, puttered around, fished a little, watered for me when I was out of town and played with his dog, Sierra. We talked about his little plot in the front yard and what he thought he might plant for the fall. Most of my suggestions were dismissed – I proposed some items that would grow well and are good for him. Ben does not eat much that is green in color…..that pretty well limits his choices. He does love one green item – Jalapeno peppers. He adds them to his pepperoni pizza, sandwiches and other college kid snack fare.

Just before he headed back to school last week, I bought him a couple of Jalapeno pepper plants from the local nursery up at the front of Kingwood. They are local folks, they know the growing environment and what grows best. They tend to stock the plant varieties that the big box stores don’t. I scored a couple of Juliet tomato plants for my fall planting. I love this indeterminate variety of tomato and missed having them available for my spring and summer choices. I am hoping that I will have a good harvest before it gets too chilly and the days too short. The pepper plants – well they seem to be able to overwinter here with a little care.

The pepper plants in Ben’s bed show evidence of a little too much water but they are hardy plants. Ben is studying construction management at LSU and seems to like having everything plumb, square and laid out nicely. You may notice that he has laid a grid….square foot gardening style, in his beds….I am not so precise in my plantings!!!!!

Ben’s Jalapeno – one of two in his front yard plot

TTFN

Bishop

 

I Like Cobbler

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This morning as I was catching up on some of my favorite reads in the blog world I found this – I Don’t Like Pie – by The Orange Bee – Linda – great recipes, great stories and quite a beekeeper. Thank you Linda for the inspiration.

http://theorangebee.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/i-dont-like-pie/

I like my grandmothers lattice topped cherry pie nut it has been 30 years since i last enjoyed one. I am a huge fan of Blackberries and cobbler – I think I shared this recipe a long time ago but it being summer and berry picking and consuming time I thought that I would share it again – It has been a prize winner for several folks that have provided it for local dessert contests.

Meme’s Blackberry Cobbler – it is so good!

The recipe again for those who have a deep 12″ cast iron skillet…

MEME’S BLACKBERRY COBBLER

I added an extra cup of blackberries to this recipe from Virginia Willis’ Bon Appétit, Y’all: Recipes and Stories From Three Generations of Southern Cooking (Ten Speed Press, $32.50).

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 5 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen 6 is better in my opinion!
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more if desired for berries
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Vanilla ice cream, to serve – it really needs to be Blue Bell

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in a large iron skillet; place skillet in oven to melt butter.

Put blackberries in a large bowl. If they are frozen, let them soften a few minutes. Crush lightly with a potato masher. Sweeten with extra sugar if you like.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and 1 cup sugar in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine milk and vanilla. Gradually pour wet ingredients into dry while whisking.

Remove skillet from oven. Add melted butter to batter. Stir to combine. Pour batter into hot skillet. With a spatula, scrape the berries into the center. Bake cobbler till it is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the cake (not the berries) emerges clean, about 1 hour.

Serve warm with ice cream — and prepare for a walk down memory lane.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Nature and Sharing

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I am sitting in my kayak about 400 yds offshore, big rollers sweeping by, sharing the morning with my oldest son……….Ben

Saturday August 11th my son Ben and I loaded up and headed down to the Galveston area for a day of fishing. Fishing wasn’t so good and we had quite an adventure “trying” to navigate the much heavier than usual surf getting back in.  Ben shot this photo in the early morning light….he caught the mood of the day – kind of solitary but shared with a fishing buddy and in this case, someone I love and care for.  We don’t normally have lots of conversation….he and I are sometimes pretty quiet. We share a lot quietly. He is back to school at LSU and we will quietly remember this day spent together. The photo perfectly captures my heart and emotiuons…Thanks Ben

On Sunday Ben drove me out to the airport to drop me off. He did more than drop me off though… he walked around to my side of the truck gave me a big hug, it didn’t need words… I felt the love. Thanks again Ben….. I love you too!

Garden Helper

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I was just reading one of my favorite blogs, it cover a wide spectrum of topics gardening included. In today’s post Kathryn has a little ditty concerning a Chameleon. You ought to go over to her blog and poke around a little, she is quite creative. The post reminded my to look at the digital images I took this past weekend with relatively new macro lens that I don’t use as often as I could/should. There is a wonderful world on a small-scale that we walk past every day and never notice. The lizard in the photo is kind of like a chameleon because they appear in two shades, green with blue eye shadow and beige – wood fence color.

My little green garden helper.

I have written about these guys in previous posts and they seem to be visible more often. I may have as many as 5 or 6 patrolling at any time. They are not a chameleon but are called a Green Anole – Anolis carolinensis for you Latin lovers! They do change color – the influences on the color change are temperature, background color and mood….I wonder about this mood thing, how do you tell what the mood of a lizard is at the moment? Who studies this sort of stuff? I do have an answer…..my first wife’s uncle was a professor of herpetology at the University of California, Berkley. Dr. Robert C. Stebbins –

Robert C. Stebbins is Emeritus Professor of Zoology and Emeritus Curator
in Herpetology, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California,
Berkeley. He is the author of numerous books, including

A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians and A Natural History of Amphibians. Dr. Stebbins is both author and illustrator. The reason he may know is that he is extremely close to the subject…..to the degree that the illustrations are accurate down to the exact number of scales on the critter! An anecdote that was passed on to me….I can’t actually verify that it is totally true, it was said that Dr. Stebbins was interested in the details of the copulation activities of certain amphibian that he brought the pair to his home and somehow had a alarm of some sort rigged up so when the event occurred he could hop out of bed and make his scientific observation. Yes, I think he might know.

Another one of the bug eating crew hanging around the back of my compost bin.

A Green Anole? Yes, with altered mood or shivering due to a temperature change.

Check these folks out – Kathryn

kiwsparks.wordpress.com

For good macro garden and nature photos and blogging see Bonnie at –

theirisandthelily.wordpress.com/about

Bishop

Tomatoes – The Season Notes

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This has been my best tomato season in the eight years I have lived in Houston. My eight years in Midland Texas were a complete bust with gardening save for the peach tree I planted in the spring of 2002, the spring after my father passed away. So, for tomato comparison I would have to go back to 1996, Bakersfield, California for a season that compares. In Bakersfield I could not grow anything poorly. My neighborhood had spent the prior 100 years as some of the best farmland in the San Joaquin Valley prior to being converted to a neighborhood of homes, schools and shops. Put a green stick in the ground, add water and it would have grown.

What made this season so good for my tomatoes? A number of things….an early start – mid-February my tomato plant were planted deep and the weather cooperated. The soil has benefitted from several years of composting – the clay is a lot less sticky and worm friendly now. I added worm castings and rock phosphate into each planting hole this year… I selected a few different varieties this year as well as some known producers for the Houston conditions. I put my yellow and black hoop striped shirt on and buzzed lots of blossoms with my electric toothbrush…..I repeat my toothbrush not my lovely wife”s. I tried to water evenly but did experience some cracking – taste was not impacted. As a design of experiment criteria I added too many variables to know what worked…I think they all worked together…. I will read, learn, listen to others and add some new variables next season….

The varieties this year, several Celebrity plants – produced heavily and well into the heat – as designed. The Oxheart – wonderful heirloom variety, oblong and pink in color with great flavor. Mortgage Lifter, big. lobed and very meaty heirloom variety – over a pound in weight and great on sandwiches. Early Girl, an F1 hybrid….prolific and very pretty dark red tomatoes. I was surprised that it held up as long as it did in the heat. For those in cooler climes – try this –

Dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes are popular in farmers markets in the San
Francisco Bay Area. The variety is also popular with home gardeners in
that region, where it thrives despite the area’s cool and often overcast
summers – the technique: not watering tomatoes after transplanting, forcing the
roots to grow deeper to seek out moisture, producing more “concentrated
flavor,” and saving water.

The Beef Master Plant was a surprise…it started off slow….nearly wound up going through the chipper/shredder!  Produced lots of very large meaty tomatoes, lobed style F1 hybrid plant. Lastly – my volunteer cherry tomato – awesome producer, sweet tasting and one that I would like to grow again…..I have attempted top save some seeds thanks to advice from “Jimmy Cracked Corn” and his blog…chck him out – he is a quick fun read!

I added a Juliet variety yesterday – I love this tomato but did not find any for the spring so July 8th I added it for a fall harvest – very prolific producer in this hot and humid climate.

I am including a handful of old tomato photos from mt archives. No captions so you don’t have to try and read anytthing before the picture scrolls.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

TTFN

Bishop

Worm Castings Harvested & More Yard Chores

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If you have read my past posts you know that I measure summer yard work by how many T-shirts I soak through! Yesterday was a 4 T-shirt day and the work is still not complete. It will be at least a two T-shirt day today….need to finish that last chore so Ben and I can take the kayaks down to Galveston and harvest a few Redfish, Speckled Trout or Flounder!!!

The worms had being toiling away in my Rubbermaid bin eating up the kitchen scraps and providing lots of good food for the garden. As I was harvesting I noticed something that the worms wouldn’t eat…..the skins off of my tomatoes. Six or eight weeks ago I made salsa, tomato sauce and gazpacho. I peeled the skin off of the tomatoes after dipping them in boiling water for 30 seconds or so and then dipping them in cold water. The skins just slide off. That old phrase, “waste not want not” is always part of my “green” credo so the skins, cores and bad spots cut out of the tomatoes went into the bin…..Everything was eaten save the skins. I learned something. I went with the fast harvest practice and a pretty good number passed through the 1/4 inch screen but they will do fine in the garden. Compost worms work near the surface and they should be happy living in the compost I recently spread. The process is outlined in the pictures below.

Soaking strips of newspaper to be added as bedding as I transfer those that toil in the dark into their new home.

The new home waiting for the transfer. Newspaper strips are wrung out so they are not too wet!

That great garden supplement – worm castings….screen box in the background

I pulled weeds, cut back the canes on the rest of the blackberries, cut some flowers for Kathy…..yes I do grow a few flowers. My son Joe had cut John’s lawn and brought back a couple of sacks of grass clippings for my compost pile that I dumped on top of the watermelon rinds and remnants of the fresh pineapple we cored the night before. I sweated some more….made up some organic fertilizer to help the veggies along and then we, Ben, Sierra and I jumped into the next project.

Station 5 on my sprinkler system has needed repair for a long time….I had some young blood to help with the digging so in we dove. First we had to find the valve boxes. I knew approximate locations so it was soon done. Then to decide which valve wa number 5…… Now that was done. We uncovered it and found that it was an inexpensive valve, the diaphragm was horribly mangled so off to Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware I went…. no luck on parts so off to the internet…. part located but with shipping I can replace the valve with a new one….with parts that are readily available.

I order to replace the valve we need to enlarge the hole in order to cut the pipe……no screwed fittings – all glued! Problem two. As the hole was enlarge the signal wires got in the way of the axe…..oh yes an axe – lots of roots and the shovel…… now we have to do some splicing…..got that done.

I installed the sprinkler system in our yard back in Bakersfield California. I worked in the oil patch and was a fan of having the valves arranged in a manifold, with union couplings so if one needed to be removed for replacement I didn’t have to cut pipe. The other benefit is that all if the wiring was run to one spot, location known and protected…. I ran it in a pvc sleeve. The drawback is more PVC to run but that is dirt cheap. My current yard – no map for the valve locations…they are scattered and the wires run willy-nilly!!!!

Ok – glue one side in and move the piping just a little and the pvc behind the valve breaks off – I am on shirt # 4 and I am not changing again. We probe a little and discover that where the next cuts will need to be made there is another PVC line snuggled up against it……Let’s drink a good pale ale Ben and plan to finish in the morning…..Good choice a thunderstorm rolls in, fills the hole with water knocks the power ou as my wife was doing ravioli on the electric stove…….No problem, I am an ex-camper. I brought out my single burner stove and finished the meal off outside…..Hope the power comes back on soon as I am beginning to soak another T-shirt  – need my AC!

This hole keeps getting bigger and more complicated! Ben, Sierra and me…the old sweaty guy.

Ben and his rescue dog, Sierra checking on the progess.

Today will be a better day!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

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