Strawberry Fields – Not Quite Forever

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Last fall I planted about 75 Chandler June bearing plants……they began producing at the beginning with a “beauty” on February 14th, scored a few points by giving the first Berry to my bride…….yeah, almost June bearing LOL. Half of the new plantings were in plastic covered raised beds, about a quarter in version #4 of my strawberry tower and the remainder in a strawberry specific pottery vessel. The link included goes back into the history of my efforts with strawberry towers. The three inch diameter towers have been mothballed for a couple of years. Fall of 2019 I snagged a piece of heavy wall 6 inch pipe…..it was challenging to build the pockets.

Not perfect and the thick pipe wall created challenges making the pockets. I will need to write a separate post with details!


Surprisingly this has been my most successful use of the pottery style planter for strawberries. Previous years were sparse.

My raised bed planting under the plastic sheet have been disappointing. The biggest source of my disappointment is with my poor choice of plastic covering. In fact, it was much more than disappointing, it was a bonehead mistake. Yes, in my haste, I grabbed the wrong material, didn’t read the label, installed it and planted all the berry plants before I realized my mistake. I will remedy the error at the end of picking season.

One of my 4’ X 24’ raised beds has been fallow for two years due to my laziness. Lazy no more! By the coming weekend it will be reframed and planted. Most likely candidates will be cucumbers and pole beans. I am growing potatoes in pots again this year and will place them strategically around the beds. The sugar snap peas went in late but I should be able to harvest before the Houston heat lays them low. Carrots and beets also went in late but …….. life goes on.

Bees will be keeping me busier as the summer approaches. It looks like it could be a very bountiful year. I sure wish I hadn’t wrecked my truck. Turns out it is too expensive to repair so I have to jump through the hoops to get the check and shop for another. I think I said it before……. life goes on.

FYI- gardening is a pretty good social distancing tool or activity. Frame building for the beehives also works well.



Going Bananas in the Garden


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.




Tomato Heaven Has Opened It’s Gates in My Backyard


May 10th 2013 I picked the season’s first red, ripe and redolent of traditional flavor – tomatoes – yes plural form of the word tomato, more than one – Yee Haw cowboy! The Sweet Million variety is the first to deliver the goods. My Celebrity plant will not be too far behind. My mouth will just have to wait a little longer to savor a BLT with one of MY red, ripe and redolent of traditional flavor – real tomatoes. I will have to admit that I am not so optimistic with my Mortgage Lifter tomatoes – at least so far this season. I have had blossoms, I put my bumblebee suit on and buzzed the flowers with the electric toothbrush but the blossoms close up and drop off! Another update – I have my wife to thank for having tomatoes to pick today….she was tempted yesterday…thank goodness they weren’t apples or margaritas!

(see- https://bishopsbackyardfarm.com/2012/10/02/a-vibrating-garden-visitor/ ) I also planted some grafted heirloom varieties purchased from Burpee so maybe I will have some better luck!

The May 10th tomatoes picked in the dark. Dark at 10:30 AM. Yes AM - today's storm is very dark. 4 inches per hour of rain heading our way!

The May 10th tomatoes picked in the dark. Dark at 10:30 AM. Yes AM – today’s storm is very dark. 4 inches per hour of rain heading our way!

The asparagus bed gets better each year…I think it is on year 5 for the oldest root crowns. Sometimes the spears never make the kitchen……they are so good freshly cut! Last night I snacked on a few after my return from McAllen Texas, down in the Rio Grande River valley. I also savored a few Alpine strawberries and a few full sized berries off of my strawberry towers. The white Pineberries seem to be busy sending out runners…..I may have to snip that behavior and try to force it until later this summer.

Finger sized asparagus spear....flash photograph at 10:30 AM!!!!!

Finger sized asparagus spear….flash photograph at 10:30 AM!!!!!

My friend John and I have cucumber seeds in the ground ready to start up the trellis. He is a bit more limited with space so he is only growing a slicing variety. Me, on the other hand have slicers, Armenian long style and “picklers” planted in my beds. I will promise my family….no more attempts at making dill pickle. I can’t compete with your favorites! So, sweet or bread and butter types will be my focus. Several years ago I made a spicy, mildly hot bread and butter recipe….I liked it! If I remember I will share that recipe later on this summer.

I am pleasantly surprised, my quiet strawberry beds, resting after an early spring burst of activity, are showing lots of blossoms….again, Yee Haw cowboy! I really don’t think a person can have too may strawberries! The arches over the garden entry I built with Crepe Myrtle pruning’s are supporting several varieties of pole beans. The blossoms are heavy on some of the supports indicating a potentially bountiful harvest. Once the vines are filled in a little better I will share a photo. I have a mix of red, purple and white pole bean blossoms showing. Fingers crossed that the vision in my head is reflected in the end result of the planting.

The pole bean arches with some red blossoms.

The pole bean arches with some red blossoms.

Chard, Brussels Sprouts and some tomatoes

Chard, Brussels Sprouts and some tomatoes

My Dwarf Meyer Lemon tree has set a good number of lemons, some are approaching egg size right now. What is interesting though is that there is evidence of many new blossom forming on the tree now. Not sure if this is in the realm of normal behavior but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth….I will certainly take and enjoy any extra efforts by my little lemon tree!

Weather update….nearly 2000 lightning strike per hour in some areas just east of Houston. Flooding, hail and dark, dark skies! we are bracing for some very wet weather.



My Second Mistake of the Year


Well, maybe that is an exaggeration…… I really just lost count and started over. Sometimes a mistake or an error can lead to a learning. I set up the poles in my garden for my pole beans just a few weeks ago. I  planted both a purple variety and what I thought were the Blue Lake pole variety. The purple variety are up to the 8 foot level and setting blossoms. My green pole beans acted like they were stunted. Guess what, those stunted beans are just 12 inches tall and loaded with blossoms…. You probably figured out my error….I planted bush beans!

It will be OK though. The bush beans will be done shortly and the poles are still there waiting to be wrapped up with the vines of the pole beans –  so into the ground went the “real” pole beans.  I should get an extended harvest…may have to remember to do it again in the late summer for a fall harvest. If CRS doesn’t overwhelm me I will plan it for next spring…seems like a good idea! – CRS is “Can’t Remember Shtuff” I run into it on an increasing frequency now… When it gets real bad it won’t bother me because I won’t recall that I have forgot whatever it was….

The example below is one of my pole bean teepees from a couple of seasons ago….prolific is an understatement!

This is an example of pole beans doing what pole beans do best! Obviously much more than a 12 inch bush bean plant!

Garden Shots

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I took the camera into the garden the last few days….I am always impressed by the perfection in nature….



Enjoying it While We Can


Just returned to Houston yesterday from a quick  meeting with a client in lovely Midland, TX. I guess there really is no rest for the old guys wanting to retire. I am not sure what retirement means because I don’t ever picture myself without an “avocation”.


  1. An activity taken up in addition to one’s regular work or profession, usually for enjoyment; a hobby.
  2. One’s regular work or profession.
  3. Archaic A distraction or diversion.

I think my vision of an avocation will be a blend of definition 1 and 3. Oh yes….I have been accused of being a bit archaic by my children……they seem to grow out of that phase but it does take some time. I can be a distraction and a diversion as well as being distracted on occasion. I am constantly diverting my attention between the large number of activities that fit in definition “one” above. Gardening is high on the list as is photography, fishing, bicycling, blogging, canning, sweating in the gym, day dreaming and I’m sure that Kathy would add a couple more to the list.

Definitions one and three in my life right now are pretty broad. I do love tending my garden. I did wait at least 25 minutes after my return home from this trip before wandering out into the garden to check on things. I have been advised that it does not bode well to go to the garden immediately upon return, I need to see and visit with Kathy for a bit and then wander off. I enjoyed my bicycle ride down to the local Starbucks this morning.Today at  5:45 AM it was dark, the air was crisp on the face and I had to smile a little inside at all of those folks rushing off to their definition “2” of the avocation term. I do not miss that morning rush one bit. I also thought of my best friend John, by the way – he was on his rush to work at least 20 minutes before my ride began, I know he is looking forward to the time where he can choose either 1 or 3. He is a bit like me and I am certain that he is capable of blending the two admirably.

Wow, the garden is taking off! The Yukon Gold potato plants in the wire cage are huge. Below is a picture from March 2nd. Yesterday, the 21st, I adding more shredded leaves bringing the level up to the brim. My estimate – the tops of the plants are now 30-36 inches above the planting depth. I am so anxious to see and yes, taste the results.

Back on March 2nd this is the image....yesterday the 21st the plants are over the top. The picture is straight - the cage is listing to the left.

The sugar snap peas are nearly finished….I did get to eat a handful while roaming around yesterday. I harvested a few more asparagus spears and they graced the table last night. Added a few more ugly and misshapen strawberries to the freezer. Hun, I am saving the best ones for you to eat fresh. The cucumber seedlings are all up, oh….not the pickling cukes….I planted them a week behind, so almost all are up! The pole beans, both green and purple, are ready to grab the poles for their upward spiraling dance. I have got to see if I can manage some room in John’s garden for a tepee of beans.

I noticed the absence of of the wonderful scent of the Meyer Lemon tree blossoms. If I could only find a way to capture and bottle that scent I could add another to my list of avocations – and maybe make a pot full of money doing it….I will stick that thought over into the already brimming full “day dreams” list. I have enjoyed the heavenly scent as well as the abundance of honey bees this year. Their hard work has the tree loaded with little green buds soon to become lemons. I will definitely have to do some thinning.

A tandem attack on the lemon blossoms.

The term” enjoying it while we can” started out in my head this morning as a reference to the weather, we are definitely enjoying this window of spring like weather. We have actually had the AC unit on several times in the past weeks but this morning was glorious. My head is also filled with the thoughts of all that I am able and capable of doing now….yes, I do enjoy it all!!!!



Learning Lessons and other Musings

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Planted 3 Inch Strawberry Towers

Sugar Snap Peas climbing skyward

 The lesson from the experiment are many and a bit painful.

Lesson number one – 3 inch drain pipe is too small – I debated and again the cheap side of me went with the lower cost….guess what. Sometimes more is better …. (I chose the politically correct phrase). The 4 inch pipe is probably a good choice but the more I look at it and work with the 3 inch pipe the 6 inch may be the best choice.
Lesson number two – fill with the planting media as you plant.  I filled the 3 inch pipes to the top before the plants arrived and it becomes a challenge to get the plants well seated.
Lesson three – space the holes out in a less dense pattern.  I chose a 90  degree orientation with the back side blank. I read an article a couple of months ago where a young lad experimented with spacing solar cells based on plant world configurations – something like Fibonacci numbers –   and the results were amazing. So I may play around with real plant world arrangements like – 135° (or 3/8) : eight leaves in three gyres. The Fibonacci sequence would predict 137.5 degrees as an optimum spacing. That would be 8 holes in three rows and then repeat.
Lesson 4 – the holes are probably the right size/diameter but the  forstner bit leaves a sharp edge in the hole. Have you heard the joke where the patient says to the doc, “It hurts when I put my finger into the holes in the pipe!” The doc  tells him, “The cure is to stop putting your finger in there!” I should have listened to the doc. I shredded the index finger on both hands – so the pain is evenly distributed. I think that helps?
I think I will experiment with the 6 inch pipe this coming spring – I will be”frugal” and rather than build the towers using PVC Tees and Ells, I will use a post hole digger to set the pipe upright. I figure 12-15 inches deep should be sufficient.
The warm weather is helping and hindering. The help – I am still picking green beans and cucumbers… as well as bell peppers, yellow banana peppers, serrano peppers and radishes. I picked all of my green tomatoesover a week ago thinking that November would bring some cool weather – well I should have waited.  Is it Global Warming or too “dadgum” politicians spewing hot air????? 82 degrees F today, 28 C for the rest of the world.
Now the bad. I am waiting for my asparagus ferns to respond to the cold, ha ha, and turn brown so I can cut them back. They are still green, still growing and sending up new shoots. So, …… ????????
I love puttering around in the garden an snacking on the fresh crunchy stuff. Fresh green beans today and a couple of sugar snap pea pods… not worth bringing into the house – just right for crunchy chewing in the garden.

I Thought I Was Being Frugal


Lettuce not be Cheap

I have been a little disappointed in that most of my lettuce seeds have failed to germinate. I know that the weather has been a little too warm so I have reseeded several times and have seen very few show up in the rows. I am a frugal gardener so I spread the seeds so that I don’t have to do a lot of thinning. Because of that I rarely plant all of the seeds in the packets. Over the course of the past few years I have many packets of leftovers and try to use them ……

I just found this bit of advice while searching the internet today.  “Lettuce also fails to germinate if the seed is old, so use fresh seed each season.” Should I take this advice???? I think I should!

I looked at some of my leftovers and the dates on the packets go as far back as 2008! Looks like I am not frugal but the word cheap might be a better descriptor.
I broke down today and spent $ 6.00 or so for some new, current season lettuce seeds. Weather is still on the cusp of being too warm…we will see 80 degrees this week again. I planted lettuce today for the fourth time this “fall” – Hope I haven’t wasted my money….what if it is more likely the warm weather and not old seed? I guess I won’t ever know.
Peas are coming up

I seem to use up almost all of the pea seeds every year and bought 2011/12 season sugar snap peas for this fall. I love this sequential depiction of peas sprouting. Most of my peas are further along than the right hand image. I noticed today that I have some up into the 15 – 18″ tall range and some flowers are beginning to develop. I am looking forward to the sweetness of fresh picked sugar snaps. The pole beans have just about stopped flowering so it looks like I will have a gap in the harvest. I didn’t have many beans today so most found their way into my mouth before they made the kitchen. They are actually pretty sweet but not like the peas.

Still gathering cucumbers from my volunteer plants. These cukes are so good. Sometimes the Houston heat causes them to grow so fast they become huge and they can be a little bitter. The weather is perfect right now, the size of the cukes just perfect and they taste great.. I grilled some of the fresh red bell peppers from the garden tonight. I have a bunch of Serrano peppers to pick this week and will probably make some more Serrano Pepper jelly. So good over cream cheese as a dip. I also found some red onion sets at the store where I picked up the lettuce seeds and added them to the white onions I planted a few weeks ago. The white onions and the garlic are up and stretching toward the sky. Looking forward to late spring 2012 for the onions to be ready.
I will be in the garden getting my hands dirty again tomorrow…..

Returning Home From Midland

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The Right Side is the Sunnier Side
Left side gets winter shade.

I returned Friday morning from a week in Midland Texas. Kathy kept the thirsty guys and gals in the beds well watered. We finally got some rain Thursday – not nearly enough to put a dent into the drought but it was a good soaking rain. I used my iPhone to shoot the two pictures shown. Not bad for an early generation iPhone…. I havent upgraded yet.

At the entrance on the left side my “volunteer” cucumber plants have been rewarding me nicely. I picked two very nice cukes for my salads and another 6 or so are maturing nicely. The green beans are doing well and I gathered about 3 handfuls. As you can see on the front right… the sugar snap peas are just reaching up to grab the twine. The bush cucumbers, back right, are beginning to produce little cukes but the weather may not let them become full-sized. Also in the right side beds are some radishes – I picked a few yesterday to go with the salads.
The butter crunch lettuce doesn’t seem to want to germinate so I reseeded two rows Friday AM…. hopefully the cool temperatures will help out. The kale has really taken off and the white onion sets put out a week ago are reaching skyward. I need to share a few  sets with my buddy John this week along with some of the extra garlic.  I also transplanted some broccoli today. The plants looked really healthy and they should do well.
I should be getting my strawberry plants week after next. I have 150 coming. 48 of them will be used to fill my vertical PVC towers, 24 per tower.  I am anxious to see how well they do in the towers. I will feature the strawberry plantings in a future rambling.
I am still waiting to see if the tomatoes will break color before the temperatures put a halt to their ripening.  It will be sunny and slightly warmer for the next 7 days and beyond!!!! So, fingers crossed, I will get some home-grown fall tomatoes.

A Hint of Fall in the Air

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It is so nice to be back in the garden again. My daughters and wife do a very nice job in maintaining the garden in my absence. I like to get some dirt under the nails, pull some weeds – a never-ending task here , stagger plant a few more so everything doesn’t ripen all at once and thin out some of the new seedlings. I always tell myself that I will thin the rows so they are spaced appropriately but I seem to fall down on that task with great regularity.

As I worked through the  beds today I did my thinning, pulled my weeds, pinched off the terminal ends of a few blackberry vines and snacked on some very fresh veggies. The asparagus ferns are huge, heavy and falling forward. The lean exposed some new shoots that begged to be picked and sampled. Asparagus snapped off and enjoyed in its ultimate fresh state is incredible. It is sweet and very tender. I found some blossoms ready to pick on my squash….not my favorite to snack on but not enough to add to a salad. I picked a few handfuls of the pole beans and enjoyed a few alfresco as well. I will steam some to go with the BBQ chicken tonight. (Kathy already had asparagus planned – not as fresh as mine but still good)

The Carmelo tomato plant looks like it will ripen up a dozen or so tomatoes before it gets too cold. In the past week the grape tomato has sent forth many dozen blossoms but I am afraid time is running short for them to mature. They may behave like me, flirt with maturity and stay in the vicinity for appearance sake. I may have to age but I can choose whether to behave or misbehave – it is my choice. PS – The right answer is always – “Yes Dear!”

The Meyer Lemons are turning yellow… I will have to quiz my urban farming friends, Jane and John, on how to determine the time to pick them. I saw them down at Starbucks this morning. We chatted about all things growing except for the lemon talk….

The Kale has really taken off and so many articles I’ve read say that it is so good to eat and a healthy choice. I sampled some way back in the days when I worked the docks for Anglen Produce in Bakersfield. My memory says that the flavor was quite unremarkable. But then again that was commercially grown kale and not the homegrown, naturally raised plants – mine must be better……. we’ll see. Did I ever tell you the story about packing up bags of Serrano and Jalepeno peppersat  the produce warehouse and absent mindedly going off to the men’s room – Kathy says I can’t tell that story….sorry.

Pulled some radishes for tonight’s salad and added another two dozen seeds to the row. Staggered in two more rows of beets for spring harvest. The volunteer cucumbers look to be doing well and I should have some to pick soon. I am also feeling like a neglectful farmer…. I have not checked in on my worms nor fed them for nearly two weeks…. Not good! They have consumed everything in the bin and needed some attention. I prepped the new bin and placed it over the well worked mass of worm poop. They should now start the upward migration into the new clean home…..Sorry little guys!

Less gardening on my list for this Tuesday – On my list to do is boiling the wort for a new batch of beer. I am trying a clone recipe for a Northwest US brew called Dick’s Danger Ale. http://www.dicksbeer.com/brews/brew_1.php?key=1 Dark but not nearly a heavy as a Porter of a Stout. Should be yummy – is yummy a robust enough word for a beer? Hmmmm. Maybe- “hearty and satisfying!” – yes that sounds better.



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