This growing season saw a bumper crop of strawberries. The result was lots of fresh berries for snacking and tons for jam making, lots of jam! The blackberries were starting to look really good toward the end of May. I had high hopes for a good blackberry harvest based on the number of blossoms and the large size of the developing berries – and JAM!.

The blackberry harvest started out strong. When I was home more berries made the freezer bag than we used for fresh eating. During my out of town work assignments the ratio was reversed. I still thought I had a chance to load up the freezer but the local birds discovered my luscious, juicy and organically grown berries. I would see dozens of berries that needed another day to finish ripening only to discover them gone, missing – nowhere to be found the next day. Evidence of birds sitting trellis wire was abundant. I guess next year I will have to invest in some netting.

Friday this past week I needed to clear some freezer space for my wife. I had partial freezer bags of blackberries, strawberries and some wild dewberries. I spent an hour and a half scratching the living daylights out of my arms and legs as I braved the thorny dewberry patches only to be rewarded with less than ½ gallon of berries! They have great taste but they are, oh so small. I decided to make a mixed batch of berry jam! Problem solved, room in the freezer and a 9 +  jars and jam! I say 9+ because I fill a jar of the foam skimmings’ and the bottom of the pot for my wife. She makes an interesting oatmeal frittata with egg whites and tops it with the lower grade jam. Still tastes great but doesn’t look as nice in the jars.

Garden chores out of the way for today consisted of removing 5 tomato plants that gave their all against this brutal summer that Houston has been suffering through. I replaced them with some grafted varieties and hope to get them well established during the tail end of summer. I hope to have tomatoes through Thanksgiving again this year!

My son and his friend kept the garden well watered including all of those pesky weeds. I should have provided some more detailed instructions on weeding while watering – an alliterative activity that aids the garden. That said….I have been pulling weeds like crazy! They have made a nice layer in the compost bin. I added about 6 inches of leaf mulch and 10-12 inches of grass clippings on top of them. The pile should really heat up now!

I pulled the leaf mulch out of my second bin. I am nearing the bottom of that bin and found some nice finished compost. I spread about 8 – 5 gallon bucket loads of the compost into the bed holding most of the tomatoes and cucumbers. Today being a three t-shirt day in Houston I will postpone spreading the remaining compost for another day…..none of the upcoming days look to promising in the next week so I guess I will just have to suck it up through a few more days and shirts until the job is done.

Thorny, scratchy and very tasty wild dewberries.

Thorny, scratchy and very tasty wild dewberries.


Kathy's Frittata - Her first bite was followed by these words, "Ewww seeds, but tasty!"

Kathy’s Frittata – Her first bite was followed by these words, “Ewww seeds, but tasty!”



An August Update

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Compare the garden beds from the “Too Much Sweat” post to now. A lot is going on. On the right hand side I am about 3 weeks into the solarizing effort to eradicate the Bermuda grass….. I hope! The left side is beginning to show signs of life. I have a nice Serrano Pepper Plant with lots of blossoms. A squash plant is emerging, the pole beans are beginning to climb and I have
three fall tomato plants struggling against the heat. In the background my asparagus ferns are cranking a ton of energy back into the roots for storage. I am so looking forward to the bounty of spears for next year;

“From these “ferns”, the mature plant manufactures food and stores it in “storage roots.” This reserve supplies the energy necessary to produce spears the following year.”

Click on the photos to see them in larger size.

I am mulching like crazy. I have been using the grassclippings and a big pile of leaves left over from the fall collection to conserve moisture. We are on mandatory water restriction here in Kingwood now. We are over 20” of rain behind for the year.

I am still sweating though. Between the beds I am poring 2’X2’ squares of rock looking concrete. The mold handles about all of an 80# sack of cement. I am adding a buff color for grins and have to say that it should look nice when done. The pouring and finishing of the squares sucks the water out of the body! I sweat through one T-shirt per square.

I am always amazed at how the beans always twist the same direction when they climb. Yesterday I swear that the two climbing now grew 6 inches overnight. My guess is that I will pick beans before the end of September. That will be the second crop for the year. I love fresh green beans. We sure could use some help for rain……please, dance, chant or pray for rain……even nice thoughts will be appreciated!



A How To Lesson – Compost Bin Basics

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This is my compost bin built primarily from remnants of my blown down fence after Hurricane Ike visited my neighborhood. It is about 75% recycled wood and wire screen, the remainder is store bought. Foot print dimensions are 30 X 36 inches and about 40 inches tall. On the left side you can see some wood slats drilled with holes for air circulation. The slats fit in a groove to allow access to the bin for turning and removal of material. At the base I installed access doors for removal of material – good idea but has not been real practical. I need to trim about an inch or so off the bottom edge to make it easier to swing the door open. I am still looking for a "round to it" to get pushed off center!

Why two bins? Well, originally I thought I would need two during the summer to keep up with the massive amounts of grass clippings we grass we generate in this God awful hot and humid climate. The nice surprise is that the grass heats up and decays so quickly that it never fills up. My son Joe came in the house one day after mowing and said the bin was too full. I suggested he look again in three days and see if it was too full. Three days later, plenty of room for the next week's mowing. I now use the other bin to hold the brown material needed to keep the ratio of green to brown material in a close to correct balance.

Training folks to use the bin – this is the tough part. I go back a few years to our Midland, Texas days. As always I had a bin in our Midland yard. I was coaching my wife to take the kitchen scraps, no meat, fat or bone – just veggies and bread, out to the bin or let me or one of the kids do it. Well we had a lesson learned experience. Kathy was making mashed potatoes and had a sink full of potato peelings. Instead of gettting them out to the bin she attempted to process them through the garbage disposal unit. Potatoes are very starchy and stick together – they plug up the disposal discharge line -SOLID! The repair is just some minor plumbing work easily enough done. I received a promise to never try that again. Well – the promise did not last long and I was under the sink again to remove the starch bound mass of peelings. The lesson has now been learned – that was probably 10 years ago and I have not been under the sink for that repair again.

What goes to the bin – most kitchen scraps over and above what goes to the worm bin, grass clippings (the green stuff), leaves (the brown stuff), mulched up yard waste (chopped up through the mower to increase surface area allowing quicker rotting) and anything that will decay.

A definitive guide is found in the book titled " Let it Rot" can't remember the author's name but it is a great source of composting info. I have misplaced my copy. My beds are healthier and more productive, the soil is easier to work and I have an abundance of large worms to take to the lake – cat fish love my worms!!! PS – not the little guys in my worm bin…… I need them doing their job of making wonderful worm poop.


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