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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

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Please Peas!

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I have been trying to get my Sugar Snap Peas up and going for about 6 weeks. I have planted the pea seeds 3 times with no luck. I am usually gifted with a green thumb and most often have great results with my garden. I have been disappointed with my efforts to get the peas going this Fall. Yes, I have soaked them. Yes, the soil has been the right temperature. But……being a cheapskate, I dug through my box of unused pea seed packages from past years, rather than spend $ 1.89 on current year offerings. The date on the packages is usually just a guide and I have had seeds several years old germinate.

Apparently not this year! About 10 days ago I coughed up the $ 1.89 and bought “2017” dated pea seeds. I soaked them over night, actually a little over 24 hours before planting them. I was a bit concerned as the Houston weather was starting to cool off, soil temperatures should be above 40 degrees F for best germination. The weather cooperated and they have sprouted. Lucked out, it dipped 41 degree air temperature today so I dodged the bullet.

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The key piece of information – lower right corner – Packaged for 2017

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Planted 7 days ago….the package info appears to be correct!

Yes dear, I read the instructions! The results are very encouraging. I hope to have some pods in 6 weeks or so….”fingers crossed”. The shoots are working their way up through the fall oak leaves and looking healthy.

I made the same mistake with my beets and Swiss Chard. I finally have some beets up through the soil, but , I am 6 plus weeks behind what I wanted. Yes, I just planted the 2017 beet seeds last week. I am soaking a few more for a second planting……with the cooperation of the weather. Swiss Chard…..2017 seeds in a day or so!

I did have some success with my 2-3 year old carrot seeds…..but I think I may have learned my lesson! Let me write that down so I don’t forget!

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

Going Bananas in the Garden

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The surprise success with plantings this year has been the banana “plant”….. Not really a tree but most folks refer to them as trees. This was the second year after panting the first corms. I was given one that should have produced “Manzano” bananas but has yet to fruit. The other was a mystery….If Marcelino’s father told me I must have not understood or heard. The unknown variety has produced a very nice large bunch and along the way I learned a lot about the growth habits of bananas. An internet search leads me to believe that the bananas  are “Pera”.

Once the plant matures a stem growing inside the pseudostem (trunk for lack of a better term) emerges from the top. As it curls downward it has what looks like a purplish heart looking bulb, an “inflorescence”. Looks like tightly wrapped paired leaves.

Female flowers beginning to expand.

Female flowers beginning to expand.

“A stem develops which grows up inside the pseudostem, carrying the immature inflorescence until eventually it emerges at the top. Each pseudostem normally produces a single inflorescence, also known as the “banana heart”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana#CITEREFStoverSimmonds1987.

It was interesting watching the top two leaves open up and expose the flowers. The first that are exposed are the female flowers that develop into fruit. Each time the purple leaves open it exposes another tier of flower bracts. As the bananas fill in, maybe 8 to as many as 20 tiers the heart now begins to produce male flowers that appear to be useless….once they appear, they dry up and drop off. At first I thought I had a problem but learned that was normal.

My hanging banana storage in the garden.

My hanging banana storage in the garden.

Once the banana has plumped up nicely and doesn’t seem to be enlarging I have been whacking off three or four at a time and allowing them to ripen indoors. They will stay nicely on the plant until the weather turns cold. After that I will cut the entire stalk and hang it in the garage to ripen slowly.

Several ripe ones with the most recently cut.

Several ripe ones with the most recently cut.

.Indoor hanging storage

Indoor hanging storage

Gardening activities have included building up a raised bed by adding more compost and mounding it up for planting strawberries. The cucumbers are done but the dang asparagus keeps sending up new shoots, not many but enough to snack on while weeding. The Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato plant has begun producing again….they are small but tasty….pea sized to a little less than cherry sized. My Poblano pepper plant is churning out tons of dark green peppers.

The beginnings of my fall strawberry planting's. I will ad at least 50 more plants.

The beginnings of my fall strawberry planting’s. I will ad at least 50 more plants.

Teeny tiny Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes.

Teeny tiny Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes.

Hmmm - the beginning of some green beans....they better hurry - the air is cooling.

Hmmm – the beginning of some green beans….they better hurry – the air is cooling.

My bees are now residing elsewhere but I am making more local contacts that are willing to host hives for me. I have a home for the top bar hives about 5 minutes from my house – Yee Haw. The productive Langstroth is too far away but it is in a good home. I am aiming for 10-12 hives next year and possibly 20 the year following. The new Texas regulations allow me to sell at Farmers Markets now….as long as I do not exceed 2500 pounds per year….that is a lot of honey!

This will give you an idea how big the slabs of comb are. This one had an ear on the left hand side broke off.

This will give you an idea how big the slabs of comb are. This one had an ear on the left hand side broke off.

Side note; I bottled the Honey Blonde Ale a   few nights ago…..made with MY honey. It will be awesome! The color was perfect, a hint of honey flavor but not too sweet.

 

TTFN

Bishop

Frost on the Pumpkin

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This morning was one of those mornings…..just a little of the frosty white crystals on the edges of the leaves on the ground and the blades of grass.  I wonder how many people actually slowed down enough in their hurry to even notice. I was a little slow getting out of bed this morning, the sun still had not popped over the horizon but the early morning glow was starting to wipe away the darkness of night.

Rather than ride my bicycle down for coffee this morning I chose to fire up the car and drive. The energy flowing out of my neighborhood was crazy! huge batches of cars seemingly bound together all rushing down the road. I wonder how many of the drivers even noticed how nice this morning really was? The frost, the golden glow in the sky, the leaves that have finally turned color and the crisp bite of the air as you inhale. There are times when I think most of my community has lost touch with the quiet, with the beautiful gift that lies all around us every day.  It is far too easy to get caught up in the race that seems to have no end if I am not careful. The shiny new BMW driven by someone in a much bigger hurry than I am is anxiously trying to find a gap around me. The car whips around me only to catch the red light and there we sit side by side. The light changes and the exhaust sends out a huge billowing cloud of steam and off to the races again….but not for me. I ease on down the road seeing a little more than those poor souls. The bridge across the river near my house is an incredible vantage for sunrises, water, clouds and trees all lend themselves to making my morning so much nicer!

The December sun coming up over the water.

The December sun coming up over the water.

The trees along the lake back-lit by a wonderful early morning sun.

The trees along the lake back-lit by a wonderful early morning sun.

One of the winter pelicans in the early morning  that grace our lake. Wish I had caught it with crisper focus!

One of the winter pelicans in the early morning that grace our lake. Wish I had caught it with crisper focus!

Thanks for slowing down, stopping by and sharing the morning with me.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Shhhhh – Go to Sleep Asparagus

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It is October 29th and my asparagus just won’t lay down and go into their winter slumber. This morning we finally had a low 40 degree temperature so maybe they will get the message and stay in bed! As a parent I remember those days when the little ones did not want to stay in their beds. It was a tiring and a bit painful series of nights but the kids finally figured out that mom and dad were not going to give in. They finally stayed in their beds!

The asparagus, now that is a different dilemma. They do not listen….their cue’s are taken entirely from the environment and they ignore my planned schedule for their winter sleep. I trimmed them back several weeks ago but the stubborn root crowns are still sending up shoots. It is a mixed blessing, the nicer, thicker shoots have found their way into the kitchen and the skinny ones that reach on up are sending a little more energy back into the buried crowns. I would like to get the bed deeply covered in mulch and fertilized for the next spring but…..as with the kids, I need to be a little more stubborn than they are and a little more patient. Yes, easier said than done.

I harvested a few spears today and plan on incorporating them into a meal tomorrow night. I inspected the new strawberry plants that my wife has so nicely cared for in my recent absence – nicely done Hun, they look healthy! I planted another round of beets, Danvers carrots, Cozmic Purple carrots, Watermelon Radish seeds and pulled a bunch of never ending weeds. I have a lot of tomatoes that are needing to turn red or at least break that direction real soon. The lemons are mostly yellow now, my little buddy Caleb down the street wants to pick them now! A couple of cucumbers are nearly ready and I have some turnips that are maturing. I have a bin with some potatoes that seem to be doing well…..an extension of the spring’s experimentation. Oh, the Ancho pepper plants(2) are overloaded and will be donated at the farmers market on Thursday. Wish I knew how to do chili rellenos ….. these are perfect size and flavor…..

I feel blessed to have this weather, high of 70 today and mid 80’s by Thursday. I can’t help but pray for and wish the best for the folks on the East Coast in the path of Sandy. At least the 13 days I spent without power after Hurricane Ike was accompanied by decent weather. I hope all y’all are well prepared and will work to help your neighbors in need.

One for the kitchen, one for the root crowns and couple just starting to break the surface.

A squad destined for the kitchen. Thank you lads for being so persistent.

Strawberry Towers with Sweet Charlie plugs looking healthy and snug in their new home.

TTFN

Bishop

John Doubles Down

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The New and the Old......side by side.

Christmas Eve santa wandered into John’s backyard and doubled his garden space…..Cold and rainy evening but Santa wandered off to his appointed rounds a little damper but also feeling pretty smug about the clandestine delivery. The seeds and bulbs would have to wait….too many stockings to fill, cookies to eat and glasses of milk to drink!

On Christmas Day Santa showed back up at John’s house in his everyday Bishop Decker, friend and neighbor, disguise to plant a few seeds and tuck away some left over onion and garlic bulbs….. not too sure about the timing for the bulbs but it is better than letting them wither away. I suspect that the mild “winter” we are in the midst of may work in our favor. I planted some lettuce and carrots in a surprise pattern. So what is a surprise pattern????? I mix about 4 – 5 varieties in my little seed spreader, shake them up and scatter across the designated area. I recently used the technique in my beds and I see lots of seedlings popping up…..too early to see which varieties. I plan to thin them after they are well established and should have a smorgasbord of lettuce and carrots to pick. I added some radish seeds, beets & turnips to his winter bed. It should be fun to see what he does with the harvest!

My last-minute gardening efforts before heading off to Orlando for my son Joe’s soccer tournament included adding a spring to my gate to aid in “self” closing and a support cable to the gate doesn’t sag so much. Looks good and closes so smooooothly! While out in the garden this morning I was able to snack on the so very sweet sugar snap peas…..yum! My asparagus ferns are nearly ready to cut back so they will be very high on my to-do list when I/we return from Orlando. I will need to spend an hour or so with garden gnome tasks over at John’s yard…pulling weeds and laying down a layer of leaf mulch to suppress or at least slow the growth of the weeds. I gave him a book titled, “The Organic Kitchen Garden” book to stimulate his creative side…he really is an excellent cook –   the grin on his face as he was flipping through the pages warmed” ole” Santa’s heart!

The newly planted strawberries are “leafing” out – yee-haw!!!!!

Now off to pack my bags….

TTFN

Bishop

“Strawberry Towers Forever”

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Did I get the Beatles song wrong….. Strawberry Fields Forever? It just sounded like a good title and “towers” has such a nice ring to it.

I have been wanting to provide “all y’all” with an update on my strawberry towers experiment. It seems to be working pretty well…… even though I still think the 3 inch pipe is too small. The plants weathered the first freeze with no apparent injury. They are looking very healthy and I can’t wait until early spring when they begin to blossom.  The strawberry shown above was picked on February 14th, Valentines Day in 2010. It wasn’t until later, in fact someone sent me a note about the nearly perfect heart shape of the berry, that I noticed the shape. Too bad that I didn’t notice it when I took the picture because I could have said that I had planned it all along. I think it does pay to tell the truth…… that way you don’t have to remember what the lie was!!!!! Click photos fo a bigger image.

The towers seem to be supporting the growth of the transplants pretty well.  The receptacles at the top seem to work well for watering. Gravity takes over and down it flows. I had my good friend John swing by this past weekend and I showed him the experiment. I think he agrees with the idea of testing the 6″ set-up. I will use 6″ PVC drain pipe for phase two of the experiment. Over the Christmas break I will gather up the materials and put it into action. Photos to come.

John has a 4X4 bed that I put in his backyard 2 years ago that needs some attention. I told him that I would be over this next week and clean up the 2011 season remnants and install another 4×4 adjacent to the original. I know he wants one because he installed the irrigation piping to accommodate the expansion…..isn’t that right John? Seems like a good “how to” posting for a future blog. We have one significant challenge. John has his Golden Retriever “Pismo” hooked on vegetables, so much that she harvests ripe tomatoes for him. The next step in her training is to bring them up to the patio and leave them for the family. Unfortunately she loves homegrown tomatoes a bit too much!

My wife is out in California helping to manage some family issues. She saw the post on the turnips and wanted to know if I really ate them….Absolutely! I placed a nice pork loin in the crock pot with turnips, onion, garlic, potatoes and cabbage….wish my carrots were ready….that would have topped it off nicely……. So, yes hun, I ate them and they were excellent!

Plans for this week –

The fall leaves are falling….go figure! – I have to thank my mother for her help with my leaves and the leaves around the neighborhood. She “surprised” me with a nice machine to suck up and shred the leaves as well as chip branches up to about 1.5 inches in diameter.  Wow, mom I have to tell you, it works great. I have been able to deeply mulch one bed with shredded leaves and I have designs on several more. Any excess will find their way into my compost bins.

I fed the worms yesterday and I see  it is time to harvest their rich castings….now some people might refer to it as worm poop – castings sounds so much cleaner and more proper. I am continually amazed how well they do their work even when I don’t give them to attention that I should. Diligent critters they are!!!!

Seeds need to be planted……..More lettuce to replace what my son’s dog zeroed in on…..just doing what dogs do but she could have dug her holes somewhere else. More beets, more carrots, some spinach & chard, sugar snap peas, maybe some bok choy, turnips and a another row of radishes.

Six inch strawberry towers and find a source of winter strawberry plants to finish up the project.

Non-gardening……with my wife gone I have laundry, dishes to do, floors to mop, Christmas decorations to organize …… I am not sure how she finds time to do all that stuff. It kind of gets in the way of my gardening, wood-turning, fishing, bicycling, beer brewing/drinking and  coffee with my buddies down at Starbucks…….. in fact she contacted me at Starbucks this morning and cut my visit short……but hun, I am not complaining, wink,wink!

A note to Jane…..I loved the lemon curd you gave me a year ago and I have a bunch of Meyer Lemons ready to provide their juice for my curd making this week. I will see if I can work that in between some of my lingering tasks. Maybe I will wait until after the curd is done before mopping! John….I still think I can handle the expansion …….. what else can I defer???????

TTFN

Bishop

 

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