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Second Start on my Fall Plantings

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About 5 weeks ago I began to ready my garden for fall and put some cool weather veggies in. I planted seeds for beets and Sugar Snap peas. We had been in a long period of drought here in the Houston area and the prospects for rain were slim. My poor luck was made worse by an extended period of time spent out of town to help out with grandkids thus, the seeds failed to germinate. I should have drafted some help to water in my absence but did not. So, today I added carrot seeds and beet seeds. I know that beet seeds are not the typical looking seed that you would recognize.

Beet and chard seeds are multigerm seeds. (Quick botany lesson: The germ is the reproductive part of a seed — the embryo — that grows into a new plant.)

Multigerm seeds occur when flowers grow in clusters, fused together by the petals (such as the flowers on a beet plant), which then produce multigerm seed balls.

When the seed balls germinate, they may have two to five seedlings sprout all at once. https://www.gardenbetty.com/why-do-multiple-seedlings-sprout-from-a-beet-seed/

I intend to do my beets in a long row and do succession planting every few weeks. This phase 1a ….. as Phase 1 failed.
In this area I am doing carrots that I have broadcast in 4 wide bands and will thin once they begin to sprout. Two varieties, Red Rocket and Danvers. They both seem to do well in our dense soil here in the Houston area.

I have challenged myself to do a better job keeping the seeds wetted this go around. Our weather is chilly for the next few days or two but next week we are back up into mid 80’s and mid 60’s at night. Perfect temperatures for the seeds and “multigerm seeds” to germinate. Insert smiley face here…..

Sugar Snap Peas are soaking tonight and will go into the ground tomorrow. I always let them soak over night and imbibe enough water to fill out the wrinkles…….Hmmmm maybe I need to imbibe a little more and see if my wrinkles will fill out! I wonder if beer would have the same affect on me. Maybe a winter time experiment.

Shifting gears. I have two large 4X4X4 compost bins and I am pretty consistent hauling kitchen scraps, egg shells and coffee grounds out to the bins. All of my grass clippings and leaves wind up either in the bins or as mulch helping to smother the weeds. (a never ending challenge). I am a bit proud of the fact that I have not sent any grass clippings nor any of my Fall leaves to the landfill in over 10 years. About 5 years ago I gave up on turning and tilling my beds and they seem to be as productive as ever. I have hired several thousand earth worms to till for me and because of their anatomy I have not paid one back injury claim, even though I employ thousands. (tongue in cheek)

I know that my egg shells take forever to break down so I have started drying them and pulverizing them in my coffee grinder. I do grind coffee every couple of days and I decided to tolerate and residual calcium dust in my grinder as a bit of dietary calcium. so far no ill effects …….. fingers crossed. The article I read suggested using a mixer, coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle to reduce them. My mixer wouldn’t be very efficient, mortar and pestle sounds like work and my arthritic hands would protest, so…….the coffee grinder is my choice.

Dried and ready grind up into some dust.
I probably could have spun these in the grinder a little longer. I am bagging them now and in the spring I will add them into the planting holes for tomatoes, reduces blossom end rot and for my peppers.

Plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in particular will benefit from shell fertilizer. The extra calcium will help prevent blossom-end rot. Broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard, spinach and amaranth are also calcium-packed and could use extra from eggshells. So there you go…..waste not want not. Just in case you were curious about he origin……and I was….I assumed it was from Benjamin Franklin but was proved wrong

Waste not, want not – Grey Bears

https://greybears.org › waste-not-want-not

“We’ve all heard the proverb, “Waste not, want not.” This old saw has its origins from 1576 in, The Paradise of Dainty Devices by Richard Edwardes, a distinguished lyricist and playwright who was rumored to be an illegitimate son of Henry VIII. On page 88 the proverb was written as: “For want is nexte to waste, and shame doeth synne ensue.”

In 1721 the saying was recorded in an easier to understand version: “Willful waste makes woeful want.” Then, on August 10, 1772 in a letter to Alexander Clark, John Wesley wrote the saying in the more familiar: “He will waste nothing; but he must want nothing.”

All of the various forms of this proverb get at the idea of how we can always have just what we need. The less we waste (or acquire), the more resources we save and the less we’ll want for anything later. Waste not, want not reduces the risk of poverty and need. Put another way, many of us are saving money for something we’ll need or can afford in the future (savings). We will opt to not have what we may want/desire now in order to preserve what we need/want in the future.”

Maybe it will come up one day in trivial pursuit or on Jeopardy and you will be well armed.

TTFN

Bishop

Backyard Farm Resurrection

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June of 2021 was my last update, don’t get the wrong idea…….I haven’t given up on the garden……but nearly given up on my blogging. Oh, I have good intentions, taken photos, jotted down notes in my brain……an unwise and not secure place to store thoughts…LOL. A friend began shaming be about the hiatus and I agreed to be more diligent!

One of the aspects of gardening that bothers me, but I also realize that thinning when planting by seed is a necessary evil…..the taking of a life….pulling out a crowded seedling and seeing it suffer, wilt but yet, create the circle of life becoming organic material for the soil. oh well, necessary for those that grow to harvesting size.

Thinning activities are happening with the carrots and the beets. Need to be sure to wear my reading glasses because, too often, the emerging seedlings are almost twins!

Some emerging beets previously thinned.
Carrots poking up through the leaf mulch. So delicate at this stage so I really need the reading glasses for my 70 year old eyes.
Some beets with a head start. My first plantings were from a packet dated for 2017 so germination wasn’t too good! latest beet seeds are 2021 season packets, both red and golden.

Sugar snap peas aren’t cooperating at all so I may have to try again in the spring. I have added some bases off of celery stalks and, lo and behold…..they are taking hold. Hopefully they take off and enjoy the cool Houston fall and winter.

It should be pretty obvious which one went in first and which one was last. I may continue and eventually make an edible border in the garden! They also share space with some beets….they seem to get along pretty well.

Bees seem happy and I will do my best to help them through the winter….I will share more about them soon…..really I will!

TTFN

Bishop

Armenian Cucumber

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“The Armenian cucumber has a bit of an identity crisis.

Botanically, it’s considered a melon, with seeds and a mushy center that resembles a cantaloupe and a raw aftertaste akin to watermelon rind. Gardening enthusiasts like to compare it to zucchini. But if it’s picked at the proper time, it has the crispiness and flavor profile of a garden fresh conventional cucumber, so that won out in the naming convention.” https://www.mysanantonio.com/food/recipes-cooking/article/Armenian-cucumbers-stand-out-for-size-and-11949986.php

This one is a midsized fruit, 14 inches long by 3 1/2 inches wide.
Ready to be seasoned after coating in olive oil.

I thought that I had allowed the fruit to zoom past right size for picking but apparently that is not true. Up to about 18 inches long they mimic an English cuke in flavor. The really big ones apparently become sweeter and more melon like in flavor. I suspect the larger and sweeter ones may caramelize while grilling adding even more flavors. I will have to report back with results in the near future.

Unfortunately I composted this one before educating myself!

Grilled Armenian cucumber…….I am happy to report that it turned out well. Next time I will season it a little spicier but one thing I really liked is that it retained it’s crunch after grilling. I like grilled zucchini but it zooms past retaining it’s crunch far too fast while grilling…..mush! “While the grill is heating up, slice the cucumber into 1½ to 2-inch chunks and lightly coat both sides with olive oil and sprinkle each side with Spice Rub to taste. Place the chunks on the side of the grill opposite of the coals, and cook for 15 minutes with the lid on the grill closed, flipping once midway through. Move the chunks over to the area directly above the coals. Sear for 2 minutes per side and transfer to a plate and enjoy.”

Turned out very well. It is a keeper and I will do some experimenting to find a spicier rub mix. All in all, we enjoyed the Armenian Cucumber. My “Goo Friend”, chef last night also grilled the zucchini nicely.

TTFN

Bishop

Goo Friend….. there is story there somewhere in my archives. https://bishopsbackyardfarm.com/2016/04/

Tomatoes, Sourdough and a Mexican Pilsner

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I may have mentioned it in an earlier post, but my new favorite tomato, just a notch above #2 Brandywine, is Cherokee Purple.. I quizzed my wife today and she agrees with my assessment. It is not truly purple but has been described as “beautiful, deep, dusky purple-pink color, superb sweet flavor, and very-large-sized fruit. … From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Both the color and flavor descriptions are dead on!

From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds website.
From my garden next to a very large Brandywine…..the photo can’t quite capture the colors.

This tomato has become my favorite BLT tomato, especially when paired with my sourdough bread. Ok, just to pat myself on the back, no yeast used and allowed to ferment about 20 hours before baking. Of course, I also like to pair the sandwich with a beer, today it was a Pacifico, Mexican Pilsner!

I may try my hand at brewing one…….a bit more time consuming as it needs to be fermented at 50 degrees F and after a rest at room temperature, lagered at 34 degrees F for 6 weeks or so….
Yum!
Last night’s sourdough loaf. Damn I am pretty talented with a few things…..LOL!

Garden news, surprising success with summer squash this year, cucumbers are kicking in, pumpkin vines are going wild and the late summer tomato plants are in the ground. Cleaning out and spreading completed compost out of one bin in the next week or so. Honey harvest is dying down….maybe 300 pounds or so.

TTFN

Bishop

Facebook Memes…..Do They Work? Or – Doing it “My Way”

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If you follow Facebook there are multiple memes showing how to grow vegetables from your kitchen scraps. I don’t know about you, but they seem a bit too good to be true. Ok, raise your hand if you have tried…….hmmm, how many hands are up?

Well, I am going to raise my hand now. If you have followed me for a long time you have seen some of my experiments. At the top of that list are my strawberry towers, with reasonably good results, but only for the initial growing season. I do have an update coming, but will hold off for a few more weeks.

Let me start with celery. I didn’t follow the instructions in the meme, surprise, surprise! I did it my way as Frank would have sung. As a side note, I heard that Frank hated singing that song.

From a Wall Street Journal article, June 2nd, 2009.”Frank Sinatra may not have always been the easiest guy in the world to get along with, but he was nothing if not consistent. One attitude that rarely varied was his opinion of “My Way,” a song whose 40th anniversary is being heralded with the reissue of the 1969 album. “My Way” was quite possibly the single most popular number from the final act of Sinatra’s career. And in concert after concert over a 25-year period, he never hesitated to tell audiences exactly what he thought of it:

— “I hate this song — you sing it for eight years, you would hate it too!” (Caesars Palace, 1978)

— “And of course, the time comes now for the torturous moment — not for you, but for me.” (L.A. Amphitheater, 1979)

– “I hate this song. I HATE THIS SONG! I got it up to here [with] this God damned song!” (Atlantic City, 1979)”……………..

Ok, back to the celery, did it my way and just poked the stub into the ground in the garden and walked away. A week later it was showing life. Now, at three weeks, it looks like a young celery plant. See photo below.

I hope it survives the coming warm weather so I can finish the experiment by eating some!

Well that worked pretty well. I next took a couple of cut off ends from some Romaine lettuce, and yes, I did it my way. They too were just poked into the dirt and allowed to fend for themselves.

One of the twin plantings
I poked this one in the ground a couple of days ago and the center is sprouting!

One more little tidbit, I have been a no till gardener for about three years now and it seems to be working. I use layers of leaves, grass clippings and buckets full of compost out of my bins. This has made a very dark and rich looking soil.

Stay tuned for more gardening done “My Way” ……. sorry Frank I just had to do it!

TTFN

Bishop

Winter Composting

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I am visiting my daughter in Denver this week, totally different weather than my Houston clime! Her neighbor loves gardening but laments the fact that she doesn’t seem to be able to compost in the winter. I decided to to investigate cold weather composting tips….and yes, I can learn a little in the process.

I found a nice article from the Empress of Dirt. Granted, she is a little further north but the method should work as well. I think I would consider adding a microbe addition, similar to the type in the included link from Safer Brand. I have used some of their products in the past and really like them.

The winter composting also contains a link to composting basics, 101, that I thought would beneficial to folks new to composting! Because of my warmer climate I don’t utilize closed type bins, I utilize home built open enclosures. The 20 gallon galvanized can recommended in the article appears to be handy for holding scraps, especially in the grips of brrrrr type of cold, before adding to your pile.

Bottom line, COMPOST YOUR WASTES……. adapt to your climate, keep compostables out of the landfills! Landfills create methane….methane is 30 times stronger than CO2 as a green house!

Research from JPL NASA comes this piece of data;

“Emissions data like this can help facility operators identify and correct problems – and in turn, bring California closer to its emissions goals. For example, of the 270 surveyed landfills, only 30 were observed to emit large plumes of methane. However, those 30 were responsible for 40% of the total point-source emissions detected during the survey. This type of data could help these facilities to identify possible leaks or malfunctions in their gas-capture systems.

https://empressofdirt.net/easy-winter-composting/

https://www.saferbrand.com/resources/ringer-compost-plus-compost-starter-3050-6/images/4

I ran across a nice compost image that could be used in most climes and can help deter common pests. My old bins are becoming pretty ragged. I built them with fencing materials that were blown down during Hurricane Ike in 2008.

From ; https://www.backyardboss.net/

Besides being good looking it looks hell for stout!

TTFN

Bishop

The Acorn Drops Close to the Big Ole Oak!

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Just a quickie. I went over to my son’s house to let his dog out while Ben is at work. I knew he was embarking on his own backyard farming adventure, starting with compost bins. He had even began talking in terms of the ratios of browns to greens in the mix. That makes my heart sing!

He brought some,very well made, pallets home from work and- lo and behold – ready to go compost bins! Hey Ben – I found a cold Sculpin IPA out there- thanks!

FYI, Sierra did her duty.

So, next up- raised beds and a fence to keep the dogs from rolling up the produce!

TTFN

Bishop

Compost Pile Moving Day

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Well, it just turned out to be one half of the move. Several soaked T-shirts later, I decided to spread the move out into the next day or two or three. It is 93 degrees F and feels like 106 degrees with the lovely Houston humidity…..keeps my skin from ever drying out and fills in the wrinkles….LOL. (34 C feels like 41 C) Lovely temperatures regardless of the scale!(July 25, 2017)

First part of the move was to finish emptying the left bin and spreading the compost/mulch where needed. I love to smother the weeds in layer upon layer of mulching materials and then let the worms takeover working it into the soil. I am essentially a “no till” guy now.  Besides, the thick layers make any successful weed long and leggy and very easy to pull.

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The left side was full at the end of the Fall leaf season and was slowly pulled out, layered between grass clippings on the right and spread throughout the spring and early summer as mulch. The right side has been gathering all my grass clippings, banana stems & stalks, coffee grounds and whatever else my composting worms don’t get.

I spread several trash “barrelfuls” of the good stuff around my sad looking lime tree, I thought it succumbed to hard freeze in January, and the recovering dwarf Meyer Lemon. The lime tree sent several new limbs up from above the graft post freeze so, I selected a stout one to someday become the trunk of the little tree.

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In my last post I talked about planting more beans, pole beans to add some detail. The previously planted beans were not pole beans…..I guess I should have read the package a little more closely. I try to minimize bending over to pick stuff….strawberries are an exception, oh, and carrots and beets get a pass too. I grow mostly stuff that I can pick in a mostly upright position.

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Bees, bananas and some clutter in the background. I smothered most of the existing bush beans, watered in the compost readying the ground for the pole beans. I grow them tepee style.

I also do a “minimal labor” style of managing my composting. The bin of the right will be “moved”, probably over the course of several hot, humid, yucky, disgustingly sticky days. No hurry, I just need it emptied before the fall. The last 18 inches or so will be some well aged compost begging to be spread, hopefully around the mounds of potato plants soon to emerge. The title is just a bit misleading….

Update, as of July 27th, 2/3 of the right been has been moved to the left bin. The bottom third is looking a lot like finished compost….Yee Haw!

TTFN

Bishop

The Garden Is Still There

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For whatever reason, I can come up with too many to list, I just haven’t written much about the garden in the past year or so. It does not mean that I am not active in the garden, in fact, up until a week ago I was buried with cucumbers! Then, the heat and white flies took their toll! The banana plants are growing like crazy but no hint of fruit……yet. They need 14-15 frost free months…..oops….fingers crossed for a mild winter. Looking at March of 2018……..

Tomatoes have finally bit the dust but a couple are hanging around……Yanked most of the vines out last week. Spread mulch and soon…..finished compost from my bins. I just planted some fall Irish Potatoes……only need 110 days or so….should be no trouble.

My Scarlet beans are still climbing skyward, soon to be replaced with Blue Lake….my favorite. Half of my strawberry plants are kicking butt, but, the half that was heavily shaded by the voraciously growing cucumbers look a little pathetic. Gotta give them some love!

I potted up 5 pineapple plants so I can shield them from potential freezes…..I didn’t do so well with those left in the ground last year. I really, really, really want to eat a homegrown pineapple! At the same time I potted up 3 Manazano banana plants…..it is a chore to stay ahead of the new growth that pulls nutrients away from the main stalks. The trimmed banana leave do make excellent mulch…….and they cover a lot of surface area….weed killer deluxe.

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Five pineapple plants, two are over a year old the other three are from early summer.

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One fat stalk and two smaller Manzano banana plants.

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Ok, not easy to see, but I have 6 potholes dug with cut pieces of potato buried……just waiting for some shoots to emerge.

Bees, yes I still have them – down to 12 hives……one became weak and I combined it with a stronger hive and wow, it is booming. I have work to do this week, three hives are overflowing with bees and I need to put a plan together……splits?, NUC’s?, or? The summer dearth is here so I am feeding the bees until the Fall flow…..Goldenrod is the mainstay but will have to see what else adds to the Fall nectar flow.

File Jul 24, 9 03 50 PM

This is the swarm I trapped in my backyard over the May weekend when my son Ben was married. I replaced the queen a several weeks ago and added a second brood box today… the new queen is really doing well.

Ok, enough for now…..more garden clean-up, sweat soaked shirts and bee business for the remainder of the week.

TTFN

Bishop

End of the Week

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It has been a busy week. The bees have occupied some of my time, weeds too much of my time, lovely carrots so sweet when roasted, removing the fading sugar snap peas…..replaced with English Cukes & Straight 8 cucumbers, two loaves of sourdough bread just pulled from the oven moments ago…….fortunately we are  not web-camming as the drool drips from the corners of my mouth, trimming back banana plants to maximize production, making strawberry jam, yard cleaning/kitchen table office cleaning……sister-in-law arriving this evening…..I am already tired and ready for my nap.

The bees, the queen and brood going back into the original top-bar hive over the weekend seems to have gone very well. The companion Langstroth hive is filling with honey!!!!!! Yee Haw! I am also helping the property owner get his garden up and going, feeding his chickens, harvesting eggs and mowing his grass. The things a beekeeper will do to for the host!

The split in Splendora on the “Cowboy” hive failed…..I feel guilty, as it was my mismanagement that lead to the failure. The only saving grace is another lesson learned to add to my prior mistakes. The remaining hive out there is doing well but may have earned a re-queening this coming fall. They are a bit defensive…..yes another one popped me in the face….on the nose.

Strawberry Jam. My “Goo” friend John’s daughter gives me the ultimate compliment for my strawberry jam – when she runs out of mine she falls back to “Smuckers”, she says mine is sooooo much better than store bought…..According to Brittany. I am a fan of the low sugar recipe from Sure-Jell light. Seems to let the taste of the berries shine through. I use Sure- Jell light for all my berry jams!

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The jam, cooked, ready to skim the foam prior to canning. The foam does not go to waste, my wife uses it on her egg-white/oatmeal frittatas.

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Six half pint jars and 3 – 45 ml jars for fun and gifts.

I have to share more about my carrots. As I have mentioned before, my soil has lots of clay but the adding of compost for four years has improved the soil, somewhat. I plant varieties that are shorter, stockier and tolerate the heavy soil better. Well, either a seed mix up or a rogue carrot in my patch. This guy was pretty hefty!

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Frame of reference – I have to order XXL beekeeper gloves and would love to find some XXXL gloves.

Just had to add a bee picture.

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There she is….tucking some pollen away. The symmetry is almost mind-blowing! I just marvel at what nature can accomplish.

Now, butter, knife, warm bread and some strawberry jam. Next slice, butter, knife, warm bread and honey.  Next slice, butter, knife and warm bread! Why can’t I lose any weight??????

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Proofed for 28 hours…..the sourdough flavor is outstanding!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

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