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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

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My Falling Into Fall Efforts

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I haven’t written much lately about the backyard garden but it has been slowly morphing into a winter garden. I harvested the last cucumbers two weeks ago because I knew that the Houston winter temperatures were coming. On the vines were a few edible and nearly a dozen immature cukes that became worm food.  The sweet potato vines finally showed their dislike for anything below 50 degrees F. They weren’t grown for tubers this year, but they did provide great ground cover. I found a couple of nice sized tubers and a bunch that were restricted by the heavy soil to  elongated sausage looking things. The dying tomatoes were pulled up along with the Poblano pepper plants.

I left the Serrano peppers in as the plant is still setting fruit. I made a batch of Serrano  Pepper jelly last week and may make another batch soon. This week I also made a couple of pints of lemon curd from my Meyer Lemon tree. What an amazingly rich treat – 4 very big lemons, 2 cups of lemon juice, at least 2/3 cup of zest, 12 egg yolks, two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar… I am afraid to calculate the calories per teaspoon! I will send a jar to my granddaughter – she loves it!

Over the past two weeks I pulled about 2 large wheel barrow loads of compost out of my bins to amend the beds. I fed a bunch to the asparagus bed hoping to get it producing better during this next spring. I added a bunch to a section of the beds that I have designated as the carrot patch. That same bed is also home to my sugar snap peas – hopefully this planting of peas will be the one that produces. I tried on two previous efforts to get them to sprout and the cool weather never showed up. They don’t like warm weather! I hope I didn’t miss the weather window!

Some of my strawberry plants are confused. Weeks ago I had a number of them blossom and I plucked the blossoms off. After traveling and working for a few weeks out of town, I ignored them. I now have green strawberries – about 3 plus months too early!  My 100 new strawberry plants planted in early October have settled nicely into their new home and will hopefully bring me a couple of good years of harvesting pleasure.

I have four pineapple plants started from tops nearly two years ago.  They are now beginning to leaf out vigorously and who knows, this may be the year. A little research says it takes 2 years and maybe more if it is cold, in order to flower. The leaves look like they are becoming mature so this could be the lucky year.  I put another top in the ground a week ago to add to my collection. According to the research the buggers will start spreading on their own. May wind up with 30 or 40 before long.

My little buddy Caleb and his now walking little brother Levi, stopped by for a visit a few days ago. Caleb is ALL boy….gotta keep an eye on him. Levi loves to munch on cucumbers off the vine and the cherry tomatoes, not so much for Caleb. They both enjoy the strawberries when they are in season. I hope to have them back this week to help plant my beets and turnips. I was in the process of harvesting the worm poop and adding another bin to the top of my worm composting bins during their visit. Being boys….they both loved touching and playing with the little wrigglers! Mom wasn’t as enthused or amused as the boys were! I sent them home with a couple of long stemmed roses for their mother……she left smiling!

The new carrot patch....waiting for the emerging tops.

The new carrot patch….waiting for the emerging tops.

The old sweet potato bed - cleaned out and what next ????

The old sweet potato bed – cleaned out and what next ????

Pineapples - or hopefully this year they will fruit.

Pineapples – hopefully this year they will fruit.

Those danged, confused strawberries.

Those danged, confused strawberries.

Strawberry towers planted with about 85 of the 100 new plants.

Strawberry towers planted with about 75 of the 100 new plants.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

Strawberry Quickie

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Maybe not what you were thinking but I went out with the camera this morning after the storm front had passed to check on the garden and in particular, the strawberries. I was greeted by clear blue skies, much nicer temperatures … a nice break from the mid to high humid 70’s we have been experiencing and a seemingly happy garden. The sun felt nice, the shade was cool and the breeze was stirring up the leaves not yet sequestered in my compost bins. While out in the garden I attacked some of the never ending supply of weeds, checked on the carrots, yes-the strawberries too, made notes to pull out the remaining pepper plants and checked on the internal compost bin temperatures…..getting pretty darned warm.

Take a gander at my strawberry shots below….I suspect that I will break the old record…I should have my first ripe berry in just a few days. My guess is February 3rd +/-. I may be able to thank global warming for the bounty. I am continuing my reading and knowledge building with the issues around global warming….an opinion piece will be coming in the near future.

Now for the feature presentation; Strawberries.

January 30th - Should be ripe soon!

January 30th – Should be ripe soon!

One of the Strawberry tower pockets headed toward a bountiful harvest.

One of the Strawberry tower pockets headed toward a bountiful harvest.

A look at one of the ground based plants. I will have to watch for competitors...There are some bugs that also enjoy juicy red berries!

A look at one of the ground based plants. I will have to watch for competitors…There are some bugs that also enjoy juicy red berries!

Another ground based plant setting lots of potentially sweet berries!

Another ground based plant setting lots of potentially sweet berries!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

 

Rain, Rain – It’s Here to Stay

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Wow, – we may get 6 or more inches out of this storm and we have another day to go! I have tried to get a little more compost spread today but it will have to wait. The ground is very soggy and the river is rising….now, we needed some of that, the lake has been about 3 feet low the last 4 or 5 weeks now. Hopefully with the saturated ground it doesn’t get up to flood stage!

With the little break in weather yesterday my little curious gardening buddy, Caleb, his new 4 month old brother Levi and mom Lizzie came down for a visit. I didn’t grab my camera and missed the opportunity to capture some of the fun. I had put together a little picking bucket for Caleb, already loaded with two jars of home-made jam. The big Meyer Lemons caught his eye first so we grabbed a few for the bucket. He wants to make some lemonade!!!

Then on to the main garden. He wanted to pick some of the turnips so I said “why not”. Lizzie wasn’t sure what to do with them…I offered a few suggestions. I had some short stubby purple carrots for him to pick as well as some Danvers orange carrots, also short and stubby. The peppers caught his eye next… most the Poblanos have turned a bright shade of red and they were like a magnet for him. The bucket was getting full now. Lastly we added some red Romaine and red leaf lettuce to the bucket.

I am always fascinated how there is so much wonder in the world of a curious three-year old.  On the way back to his house he sat the bucket down, something in the gutter and water running through it had caught his eye. I stooped to see what he saw…..same old stuff to me but new, different and fascinating for him. My lesson….slow down and see what we take for granted. As I looked a little closer I saw some little plants in the cracks were waving and wiggling in the water as it moved past. It was pretty cool! He poked his finger in amongst the plants, stirred them around for a bit and then spun away to see something else! Don’t you just love it.

A couple of years ago we had a similar steady heavy rain and the river really came up ! See photos below. Fingers crossed!

The creek by the soccer field during a flood event a couple of years ago. Normally you stand by tree in the foreground on the bank.

The creek by the soccer field during a flood event a couple of years ago. Normally you stand by tree in the foreground on the bank.

The walkway along the river where the kids can fish. Usually 3 feet above the water.

The walkway along the river where the kids can fish. Usually 3 feet above the water.

Hopefully the creek don’t rise much higher than that!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

 

Tomatoes – Goodbye, Farewell, Adieu – At Least Until Spring

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I finally called it quits with my tomatoes yesterday, December 25th. You’d think I lived in Australia with how the tomato plants have done this year. I actually have some volunteer seedlings that are about 4-5 inches tall that have not succumbed to the little dab of cooler Houston temperatures.

My Juliett variety was loaded with green tomatoes, a few beginning to show signs of changing color as well as some that had ripened naturally. I brought them all in to the house and will attempt to ripen the green ones. I used to work at a produce warehouse in my student days. The trucks would come in and deliver boxes of tomatoes called breakers – the tint of pink color was just beginning to break. We would stack the boxes 5 or 6 high with room for air to circulate around them and them shut the room up tight and introduce ethylene gas to speed the ripening! A few days later the tomatoes are red but I wouldn’t call them ripe! That is why the store-bought tomatoes are so firm…..they haven’t been allowed to really ripen!

The tomatoes rescued and brought in on Christmas Day. Hope to ripen the green ones

The tomatoes rescued and brought in on Christmas Day. Hope to ripen the green ones

I decided to try to ripen the green ones here at home. I don’t have an ethylene gas ripening room so it is off to plan B! Two good natural sources of ethylene gas are ripe bananas and apples. No bananas on hand but I had some apples. An internet search shows using a container, a banana and a few green tomatoes to ripen. I used brown paper sacks, apples and the green tomatoes…..I will publish an update on the process in a week or so.

The plants are all pulled up and disposed of….I try to keep the tomato plants out of the compost heap but may try running them through my shredder and just live with any of the volunteer plants….My best cherry tomato plant this past year was one of those volunteers that did very well.

Let’s see, today is the 26th of December and I hope to have my 2013 tomato transplants in the ground before March 1st!

My daughter wanted my famous fried potatoes this morning so I included Poblano peppers that I stepped out and picked while the potatoes were cooking…..Yum!

TTFN

Bishop

Dancing Flames

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It is almost cold enough to enjoy a fire but it is December and I just had to fire up the outdoor Chiminea. It might have been in the high 50’s so I was still in shorts, sandals and a t-shirt.  I had some chicken on the grill and my son’s dog Sierra working her nose into my hand begging for a scratch and a pat on the head. There is something so relaxing and mesmerizing in the flames dancing across the coals in a fire. I just love the patterns, the swirls and the pleasant smell of wood smoke. Building and maintaining a fire is my specialty. I know just how to stack the wood to maximize airflow and keep the fire burning without billowing smoke out of the chimney stack. The only thing that would make it better is for the air to crisp up and beg for a jacket, long pants and some gloves. My boys went duck hunting a few days ago and had to shed the sleeves while putting out the decoys. We need some cold weather!!!!

The Chiminea in the backyard.

The Chiminea in the backyard.

Looking into the middle of the fire.

Looking into the middle of the fire.

The longer you sit the more the fire draws you into the swirling and dancing flames, Photos can never quite capture the glow of the embers.....I love the warmth radiating out of the mouth.

The longer you sit the more the fire draws you into the swirling and dancing flames, Photos can never quite capture the glow of the embers…..I love the warmth radiating out of the mouth.

Somewhere on the horizon is some winter chill! I will admit that my tomatoes bit the dust with the freeze just before my return from California late last week. Even the Poblano pepper plant is showing some leaf burn. The strawberries have set a ton of blossoms that I need to snap off so they can have a better spring. Christmas Eve is tomorrow and I will putter a bit in my garden, do a little clean-up in John’s and enjoy some homemade Christmas tamales!

Merry Christmas to all y’all.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

Tomatoes – Hasta Luego en Espanol und Bis Spater auf Deustch

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The freeze or near freeze last night put the hurt on two of the 4 remaining tomato plants.  The Juliett plants showed significant freeze burn on the extremities and my potted patio plants have begun to droop. Some of the droop is due to the large number of tomatoes ripening and trying to ripen.  I picked quite a few today and will get the remaining in tomorrow. I saved some so my little buddy Caleb two doors down can pick some. During his last visit to the garden I had to do some coaching concerning what was ready and what needed to wait….poor little guy, there wasn’t much that he could pull! Tomorrow he can pick large and small tomatoes, Poblano peppers, Meyer lemons, turnips, carrots, radishes and some leaf lettuce. If his mother approves I hope to capture his joy and smile in some pictures to include in the near future.

A large mixing bowl with at least double that remaining. They may have to sit in the widow sill to finish ripening.

A large mixing bowl with at least double that remaining. They may have to sit in the widow sill to finish ripening.

A closer look at the tomatoes and a few radishes.

A closer look at the tomatoes and a few radishes.

December 11th, 2012……I will have to wait about 90 days before I can put my transplants out for 2013. With a little bit of shelter I might be able to get these tomato plants to over-winter, hmmmmmm, another potential experiment !

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

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