Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Heat Record Stands!

Just about a week ago, I posted with a complaint about our dangerously hot weather.

But, we did not break the 1980 record of 42 straight days of 100 degrees or more! Mainly because of a refreshing 1/2" of rain we received last Saturday. That day, the high temperature was about 89.

Small consolation. Today, it is going to be 107 degrees again. I am experiencing extraordinary water loss from my small pond -- meaning I have to put water in it twice daily, at the least. When the temperature does not get below 84 at night, you can see where the problem is.

It's just something to endure. Perhaps we will have to endure this weather beyond Labor day. Maybe by mid-September, we will see some cooling off, hopefully at night.

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Oppressive Heat Continues in Texas

Tomorrow, August 13, if it reaches 100 degrees F or more, we will break a record here in North Texas.

The record, set back in 1980, was 42 consecutive days at or above 100 degrees. Tomorrow it will probably become 43 days.

The awful drought continues. Yesterday afternoon, it clouded up, the wind changed direction, and it cooled off a little, but we did not receive any rain.

Every so often, we just have to endure weather like this.

I don't know many people who are keeping up with gardening in this heat. It's been getting to 105 or more each day. We are going to have to start all over in the autumn.

It would be a joke to try and germinate seeds in this heat. Here's to better times with our weather!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Too Hot for Vegetable Gardening

Here's my harvest of the last couple of days. I am very thankful for ANYTHING. Yesterday, Dallas/Fort Worth reached the 100 degrees F mark for the first time.

We have been having unusually hot weather since before Memorial Day. Normally, the high in early June is around 90 or 91. Also, there is no rain in sight.

Very soon after the heat set in, the lettuce and spinach got bitter. I had to give up on both.

My cucumbers seem to be hanging on nicely, the peppers as well, and I got a few tomatoes. For the tomatoes, though, when the really hot weather hit, they were affected badly. When you have over 95 degree days, tomatoes quit setting fruit.

Also, I planted my tomatoes just a little late in the first place.

I do, however, have good tomatoes, even if they're a little pale. I believe that the Celebrity hybrid turned out the best. I like an acid-y, tangy quality in tomato taste, and mine are great.

I'm encouraged to try again in the Fall. The second go-round of tomatoes begins the last week of July. You put out new plants, which grow rapidly in the hot weather. About the time they are ready to set fruit (September), the nighttime temperatures cool off enough that this is possible. At least in theory! You need everything going your way.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

All New Square Foot Gardening: The Book That Started it All

How did I find out about square foot gardening? In a roundabout way.

I was looking at posts on a survivalist web forum, and one of the posters said she never thought she'd have the room on her small property to be a gardener -- then she found square foot gardening.

At this point, I became curious. I didn't have any experience, but gardening in small spaces appealed to me. Mel Bartholomew had a program on Public Television for many years concerning this subject. I wonder how I missed that?

So I went to the bookstore, and found the newest version of Barthomolew's book, All New Square Foot Gardening. It seems that, originally, Mel created a system of intensive gardening, but he incorporated the soil in the boxes with the existing dirt space.

That changed with his most recent system of square foot gardening.

Currently, boxes on the ground have layers of weed blocker under them. The boxes are filled with "Mel's Mix", Mr. Bartholomew's custom soil that you mix yourself using vermiculite, compost, and peat moss. None of your property's soil gets into the soil mix. That's the difference between old and new.

But virtually everything else is the same.

In this 271 page book, you'll learn everything you need to know about the SFG system. The author is thorough, patient, and though he's an engineer by training, he never assumes that you know how to do the simplest things. For instance, he gives you lots of pictures and detailed instructions on how to build your boxes. The thoroughness of his work is impressive here.

When he starts talking about various vegetables, their suitability for the SFG system, and how many squares you should plant to feed two people, he's on less steady ground. These are areas of knowledge you will build over time, based on your own observations, abilities, and the unique climate where you live.

But there is plenty here to inspire the most clueless, dumbfounded, purple-thumbed novice gardener. Some of the things that would frustrate the dickens out of a new gardener don't exist in the square foot gardening system. How beautiful.

After more than a year's experience, I still consult this book frequently. It is a wonderful buy for its price.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

When You Can't Be Organic

This has been a terrible, dreadful year for stuff sprouting up where I don't want it.

When Spring arrived, I started seeing a certain sprout many places -- even in my pond! Eventually, I searched on the web and discovered that these were maple tree seedlings. They're easy to pull up when they're only 5" tall.

The bad part was, I had a few growing among my shrubs and didn't know it. They were already at least 3 feet tall. I could tell that it would be very difficult to dig them up, because they were in some difficult to reach places, or in beds with decorative rocks.

You don't want maple tree seedlings taking hold in your yard. Believe me. You don't want an unplanned tree in a spot where it is likely to spread its roots and do damage.

Nothing against maple trees, of course. The silver maple is very popular here, and I suppose that there might be a Japanese red maple around my area, throwing its seeds into the air.

I determined that the only reasonable thing to do would be to buy some strong Roundup. I haven't used any in years, but Monsanto does have a version that is strong enough to kill poison ivy or shrubs.

I got some, and sprayed it on carefully, taking care not to get it on the other shrubs. I've now got some dead maple trees, although it took about a week to see that they were truly dead.

I'm also having more difficulty with vines that grow in my yard. I've had to dig some of them up in the front yard. They tend to send out horizontal runners, but not too deep. My front yard has a huge live oak, so the grass does not take hold well at all. This gives invasive plants a good foothold.

Once in a while, you have to do something you don't want to. I'm going to tolerate the dichondra which has invaded parts of my lawn, because it's not too objectionable. However, I can't have maple trees coming up on my property.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

At last! Kentucky Wonder Green Beans Begin to Produce

Yes, they are getting it done. Exactly 60 days after sowing the seeds, the first Kentucky Wonder green beans are showing up on my trellis.

They may be small yet, but they are present. I will post pictures when they grow big enough to eat.

Yesterday was Memorial Day, and I had company for lunch.

Here was my menu:

Baked chicken, with mushroom and sour cream gravy
Green Beans (my home-grown ones, the Roma II bush type bean)
Squash Casserole
Boiled Yukon Gold potatoes
Iced Tea

For dessert:

Blackberry crisp, warm with a scoop of ice cream. Instead of using sugar, I used agave nectar. Instead of straight brown sugar, I used the 50% brown sugar/50% Splenda mix sold in my grocery store. No one knew the difference. It was delicious.

The company was pleasant, and my green beans got rave reviews.

I love gardening. More pictures of the beans later.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Cucumbers and Yogurt: They Go Together

I just pulled my first cucumber from the garden yesterday.

As I experienced last year, my cucumbers are excellent. Last year, I sliced up the cucumbers and dipped them in homemade Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. Yum.

However, if you can get used to plain old yogurt, and you find a brand you like, the cut-up cukes are excellent mixed with yogurt, salt, and pepper. This makes an awesome dip that does not have any of the mayonnaise (or fat) of Hidden Valley dressing.

The plain yogurt I'm currently enjoying is Brown Cow yogurt. They actually produce Cream Top Brown Cow Yogurt (where the first 1/2" is a layer of cream!), but I have a feeling that's just a little too indulgent and fattening to eat every week.

The Brown Cow brand advertises that its creamy taste is superior because of the four active live cultures in its yogurt. In addition, the company never uses artificial growth hormones in the cows' feed.

Greek yogurt is also very good, and usually a lot thicker than regular yogurt.

Here is a recipe to try, using cucumbers and yogurt!

Greek Yogurt with Cucumber

1 grated cucumber
6 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1 t. prepared mustard
1 T. grated onion
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and grate the cucumber and let the excess water drain from it, or press it out. Add cucumber to the other ingredients and chill everything for at least an hour.

Makes a great pita pocket sandwich. Makes a great dip for crackers or veggies.