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Post Freeze Update

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December 22-24 my garden experienced a danged good freeze…..well, the freeze is not really good for the garden, so a better term would be…….an extended period of freezing weather of hard freezing temperatures. What is considered a hard freeze in this area, Kingwood, TX just north of Houston? A hard freeze warning is issued when temperatures drop below 28° for 2 hours or longer. Well, we had about 36 hours and it required some effort to help our cold intolerant plants from dying……….some didn’t make it!!!!!

My wife had a good number of ornamental plants that we covered in an attempt to minimize the damage with some success. My biggest worry was my Meyer Lemon tree that was nearly destroyed in the 2021 major deep freeze……yes Texas made national news on that one. I managed to get some recovery of the tree after the 2021 freeze and was optimistic that I would finally get some fruit as it was beginning to blossom…….I was able to protect, marginally, about 1/3 of the tree. More on that later.

I had been attempting to get some succession plantings of beets, carrots and sugar snap peas started. We had run out of coverings for my veggies so it was plan L time. Plan L stands for leaves, lots of leaves and deeply piled leaves. I did have some success. One failure were the sugar snap peas that had climbed over 20 inches up the trellised string ladders. I will tell you that some of the peas had not yet started climbing and and they were lucky enough to be buried under a thick cover of leaves.

Carrots upon uncovering looked very, very healthy.
After uncovering the beets, lo and behold, one of two snap pea vines were discovered. I hope to get them trained up the trellis this week. I also added 15-20 snap pea seeds that had been soaked over night.
Soaked for 24 hours in order to imbibe and be ready for the garden. A tip, if the seeds float in the water rather than sink to the bottom of the cup they will not be viable.
Next round of carrots emerging and they will extend my harvest a bit longer.
Another discovery…..young beet sprout that lay dormant until I removed the insulating cover of the leaves….they should also help extend the beet harvest.
Sadly I will just have a handful of surviving blossoms this year on the Meyer Lemon tree. Although I did not shoot a photo of it, but some of the damaged and dormant branches are beginning to leaf out…..gives me reason for optimism.
Oh…..some radishes…..don’t even know why I toss out the radish seeds, they are rarely eaten, except by garden pests but, they do stroke my ego a little because they will sprout quickly and visitors will compliment me on my green thumb…….as my chest puffs out. If they only knew…….

Looking forward I will add in some more beets, most likely another round of carrots, trellis up the peas, no more radishes and begin composting an enormous supply of fallen leaves. Just an FYI, I no longer till my garden plots. For the last 4 or 5 years I have just piled on leaves and grass clipping to suppress the weeds and add to organic material to the soil. In my humble opinion…..the fertility of my beds has markedly improved and the weeds struggle, they don’t disappear but the become more manageable.

In March tomatoes and peppers will go in. Maybe a week or too before that a couple of mounds of Irish potatoes will be added. Then a couple of teepees of beans of several sorts. I will grow Blue Lake and Kentucky Wonder pole beans…..last year’s crimson variety grew huge……and only produce a few handfuls…..going back to the trusted varieties.

TTFN

Bishop

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

Homegrown Celery and Lessons Learned

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I have seen many suggestions that celery can be grown from the base of a store bought celery stalks. Being of curious mind for most things, I decided to give it a try. Beginning last Fall/202,1 I began to plug the cut off stalk bases into the soil. Nothing fancy, just shove the base down until the top cut is flush with the soil and keep it moist.

Two recent additions to the garden waiting to sprout.
After about a week or two or three, the cut off stalk will begin to sprout.
This is one after about 45+ days of optimal growing weather. Adjacent is a Golden Beet competing for space.

I was surprised at the growth habit in my garden and being a novice to celery growing I was expecting a tightly bunched stalk. Here is where some of my lessons to be learned began to be realized 1. increase spacing especially if sharing space with other veggies. 2. As you will see in a photo later, commercially grown celery is blanched either by trench planting or by wrapping in paper and cardboard and mounding the soil up around the stalk.

Here is a method incorporating wrapping in newspaper and mounding up the base of the stalks. Source; https://gardenerspath.com/plants/vegetables/blanch-celery/

Another lesson learned…..celery takes 120-130 days to mature. Record keeping is not one of my strengths whether it be for, gardening, beekeeping, beer brewing( a little better here for repeatability) or vehicle maintenance. So for the next go around of stalks to harvest I will just be guessing based on size and shape. My usual process…..LOL

Unmounded, unblanched and poorly harvested. I had to do a taste test and just cut a handful of stalks.
Obviously unblanched yet surprisingly tasty. Also nice and crunchy so I will give it a thumbs up

Based on my dead reckoning I have 4 or 5 stalks needing attention for blanching. I am not confident that the most recently planted cut offs will not degrade into something to bitterness due to the Houston, Texas heat. I will update all y’all my progress as the heat finally sets in.

So, those articles you have seen or read about planting the cut off bases of celery stalk do have merit. In the Fall of 2022 I will begin again. As for record keeping, technology may help……so as I put a cut off base in the ground I could use use my smart phone to establish a harvest date 130 days out minus the 3 week window for blanching! Ok…….I’m sure it could work but…….

TTFN

Bishop

January Post Recovered

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Some of the good days prior to our freeze.

Surprise, surprise…..looks like Mother Nature will give us another shot of near freezing weather this coming weekend. A fitting chill as I celebrate my 71st birthday on Saturday.

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

Snow? It Snowed In Houston

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Crazy as it sounds, a big blast of Canadian icy air made it as far south as Houston. For Houstonians it was brutally cold this morning, 16 degrees according to my backyard thermometer. It looks like it won’t warm much for a few days. Obviously my vegetable garden will nor fare well. I covered a new bed of carrots with fingers crossed that they will make it. I covered my strawberries with a couple of inches of leaves and I suspect they will survive. The Romaine lettuce had already started to bolt, so no loss there. My biggest concern was for my Meyer Lemon tree. I have it tented and a small light bulb included under the tent to keep it, hopefully, warm enough.

Lettuce is biting the dust. Upper left is a section of carrots that are covered and fingers crossed they survive. Top right is my topbar bee hive and I believe the colony is strong enough to survive.
I have put a bar in front of the opening to the hive and completely closed off the similar opening on the back side of the box.
There were a couple of bees slowly moving around near the entrance so I do have faith that most are clustered up tightly and keeping the central portion warm.
Swiss Chard standing defiantly against the freezing weather…..at least for today.

Roads are icy and I don’t have any place to go so, sit tight and hope the power stays on! A couple of my pineapple plants are in the garage and hopefully warm enough. If we do lose power at least my home brewed beer will stay cold…..always a silver lining. I was proactive enough to pull a good portion of my beets yesterday and ready to be roasted today!

TTFN

Bishop

Catching Up…..Spring is on the Way

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The quiet time of winter is over here in my backyard just north of Houston. I have been eating beets from the garden as well as some carrots. In fact, last night I grilled a spatchcock chicken along with a handful of freshly pulled carrots…….FYI, I should have pulled up a few more carrots!

I love this water color app called Waterlogue…..orange and a couple of yellow carrots freshly pulled.
Obviously not enough carrots. Olive oil, a little sea salt and rosemary. 8-10 minutes over direct heat and about 15 minutes over indirect heat with the foil sealed shut. FYI, this is a good size of carrot to cook through and not be crunchy in the center.

I have both red and gold variety beets growing along with Romaine lettuce, about 50 new Chandler strawberries. The radishes are done and I could probably plant more but I’m the only one that eats them! Sugar snap peas have been planted, along with some turnips and another round of beets.

Bees are doing well and the early spring bodes well if the weather stays wet enough for the early spring nectar flowers. For you folks in Texas here is a very good list, link attached. Late winter does include my Meyer Lemon tree as a good nectar source….. looks like it will bloom very soon. https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/travis/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/EAGF-2017-Central-Texas-Bee-Friendly-plants.pdf

My backyard topbar hive. Bees are storing honey…..this comb is a little wonky so I will pull it and maybe two other misshapen bars to crush and squeeze in a few weeks once I see more nectar flowers blooming.
Suited up but not for the backyard bees….my backyard bees are pretty sweet, no gloves or suit needed but I do always wear my veil. I was suited up here because I was cutting weeds and brush around some of my friskier bees!
Bonus image from our recent trip up to North Dakota. These two whitetail boys were sparring a bit, not real energetically but grunting a little.

More spring stuff in the works.

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/

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

Central California Coast – Farmer’s Market

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We are out of Houston and loving the weather, the scenery and the people on the Central California Coast. We, my bride and I have been sampling all kinds of beer over the past day and a half, and probably could have written a good post on my beer blog, https://bishopsbeerblog.com/ , but we had such a good experience at the Los Osos/Baywood Park Farmers Market, I just had to capture the visit.

The morning was spent wandering up the coast to the Sea Elephant rookery before heading back south. Lunch in Cayucos and then south to the Los Osos area. We drove through the area where my my mother lived For 20+ years before she passed away three years ago. It is a bit bittersweet as so many great memories came flooding back. By happenstance, we stumbled onto the Monday Farmer’s Market in Los Osos/Baywood Park…..I think I already mentioned that. It is a small but colorful market.

JBD_7684

My lovely bride striding off into the small but very colorful market.

The variety and freshness of the offerings are pretty amazing.

JBD_7685

I could have bought every loaf and with a lot of butter it would have been a meal. Kathy had a better, at least from a health perspective, choice for our evening meal. I did steer her to to a small brewery in Cambria Pines before arriving back to the motel. Dinner cost…$ 13.50!!!!!

JBD_7688

Number one… We should have bought more strawberries. We only bought one small basket of very sweet and wonderful strawberries…..Main course was a quart of Jack Fruit soup. Oh my, very flavorful and very satisfying. Appetizers were had at the 927 brewery in Cambria, I had a flight of their beers, Toyon Amber Ale – Slab Town Pale Ale – Summerdale IPA – Beer Inoculus IPA and for Kathy an Ollalberry beer with a nice tart finish.

TTFN

Bishop

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