Monday, November 30, 2009

Something's Eating My Butternut Squash. . .

. . . and it's not me! :-/  I'm really upset.  I went out to the garden just before we left for a 4-day Thanksgiving holiday and I was crushed.  My butternut squash looks awful.  I had noticed the leaves were beginning to turn brittle and some of the vines were dying. 

Well my survey this morning confirmed my fears...I believe the squash vine borers got to it.  This has never happened to me before.  Last year the Southern Corn Rootworm really hurt my Brussels sprouts but I was able to eradicate them and although I lost one plant, the rest of the sprouts did fine.  No such luck with the B/N squash. 

And I'm pretty sure I know the problem.  It's the soil.  It always comes back to the soil.  I planted the B/N squash in one of my new beds and violating one of my own rules, I didn't add compost, mulch or augment the soil in any way.  Fatal error.  I assumed (mistake #1) that since the soil was new and according to my landscape guy, "the best garden soil there is" (mistake #2 in believing him), that I didn't need to add any compost.  I was wrong.  Here is a sampling of the two different soils...what do you think? 

Can you see the difference?  The soil on the left is hard, clayey and way too tight; the soil on the right (from one of my other beds) is soft, loose, nice & dark and full of organic matter.  There it's all in the soil. 

So I'm disappointed and very annoyed at myself for not following my instinct and adding compost to the new beds.  I was very anxious to use the new bed and planted without doing the necessary initial work.  I just hope I can salvage a few of the squash that are on the vines now.  A few of them are pretty big and I hope they ripen completely before I pull those plants. 

Sigh...Lesson learned.  Unfortunately, I see a huge garden maintenance problem ahead of me in the spring.  I'll have to remove most of the soil in that bed (and the other new bed) and add a lot of compost in order to make it a viable garden bed.  But that can wait till early spring.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Garden Maintenance Project. . .Done!

I can't believe I'm finally finished!  What an enormous amount of work this project has been.  But I must say, it's been worth garden looks great!  All nice and soft to walk on and the best part---no...more...sticker...burrs!

The garden enclosure is about 450 square feet so it's a pretty big area.  Now granted, there are six beds that cover a good bit of the surface area; but still, I bet I hauled 75 wheelbarrels full of kidding.  Here is what the cedar bark mulch piles looked like before...

...and after

Truthfully, I really didn't mind the work.  I love being outside and the weather cooperated with me while I worked on this project.  For the most part, it was sunny but relatively cool.  The mulch piles are under the canopy of two beautiful live oak trees so I had shade while I worked.  Many of the songbirds that populate this area don't migrate and they kept me company with their constant chatter throughout the morning.  I heard the hawks down by the river and I was even lucky enough to be visited by a Black Phoebe, a member of the Tyrannidae family (a flycatcher).   I've seen her before and she is lovely.  Unfortunately, my camera is not very powerful with zoom and I didn't get a very good photo, but hopefully you can see her. 

I'm glad this project is done and I feel very good about the work I did.  But let's just say I'm OK with waiting another two years before I have to do this again!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Look at these beauties I picked tonight!   

I have had this Meyer lemon tree in a big pot on my back patio for about three years and it produces lemons like crazy.  It takes a long time from blossom to ripe fruit, but when the lemons are ready to pick, the fruit is juicy, seedless and delicious.  Each lemon gives me about three to four tablespoons of juice, usually enough to make a wonderful lemon vinaigrette.  I feed my lemon tree every three months with Miracle Gro Shake & Feed Citrus, Avacado & Mango Plant Food. 

Tonight I used the juice from the biggest lemon and some frozen, roasted red peppers I had in the freezer. . .

. . .to make this fabulous Chickpea Barley Salad with Spiced Cumin Dressing.  This recipe is courtesy of my daughter-in-law, Katie, who writes the fabulous blog:

Thanks Katie...the salad is wonderful!

1/2 cup barley, rinsed, cooked and cooled
2 large red peppers, roasted and skinned
3 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained (2 cans)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoons of capers, rinsed
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cut the peppers into 1/2 inch wide strips and put them in a large bowl with the barley, chickpeas, parsley and capers.

In a smaller bowl or small glass jar, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, cumin, cayenne pepper and oil.  Pour over the chickpea mixture and stir to combine. 

Season wtih S&P to taste.

Buon appetito!

Another Chilly Night

Brrr...the temperature in my garden got down to 29 degress overnight!  That's the coldest it's been this fall.  I left all the vegetables covered from the previous night and upon inspection this morning, they all came through fairly well.  Although I did loose some tomato blossoms.  The blossoms at the top of the plants, the ones touching the frost blankets, did not fair so well.  I lost some of those. 

But there are still plenty of tomatoes and blooms on the vines...hopefully, I'll get to harvest some of these before the inevitable frost takes them out completely.

The lantana by the pool on top of the hill got completely frozen.  But they'll come back; if not this winter, then in the spring for sure.  Lantana is pretty hardy.

Even my cosmos did not escape the frost :-(  This patch on the top of the hill froze completely. 

But Texas wildflowers are pretty tough.  It will reseed itself and come back in full glory next spring.

All in all, my Texas hill country garden came through the first frost pretty much unscathed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

First Frost - Progress Report damage done...but it sure got cold last night!  The thermometer in my garden registered 30 degrees overnight.  That's cold, but not unusual for us here in the hills.  So when the local weather guys (gals) predict a light freeze, with temperatures hovering around the mid thirties, I always take that to mean a freeze is possible (and likely) for us.  I'm so thankful I covered everything last night.  I think I'll cover my tender babies again tonight.  Another "light freeze" is predicted.

I was up and out to the garden very early this morning...the sun hadn't even come up yet.  And what I saw was absolutely beautiful.  There was a light frost on the grass and the hillside.  But my cosmos were standing tall! 

Even the firepit on the back patio had frost.  And the 2 inches of water in the pit was frozen solid!

Monday, November 16, 2009

First Frost

I knew it was was only a matter of time.  The local meteorologists have issued the first light freeze warning for the Hill Country tonight.  I'm a bit concerned but not in panic mode.  The forecast is only for a light freeze.  A few years ago I invested in some very good frost blankets*.  Tonight, I used them all.  I tucked in all my vegetables and will hope for the best.  I think they'll be fine.  Progress report tomorrow.

*I use DeWitt N-Sulate medium weight , 1.5 oz permeable frost protection fabric.  Each blanket is 10'x12', the perfect size to cover my 9' x 5' beds.  You can buy these many places online.  Just Google it and you'll get tons of sources.  Fortunately, one of my local nurseries carries these so I save shipping costs.  They are durable and last for many seasons. 

First Beets!

My husband and I love beets!  It's funny, though, because I certainly did not grow up eating them.  When I was a kid, I thought beets came out of a can..yuck!  But a number of years ago when I had my very first garden, I planted a few red beets.  By this time, my taste buds and knowledge of food had evolved and beets were no longer to be pushed aside.  I had acquired a taste for them.  So I thought...ok...let's try growing some.

When I roasted and tasted those very first beets I harvested from my garden, I thought I was eating foods of the Gods!  They tasted just like the earth and I have loved beets ever since.  Thankfully I  married a man who likes them as much as I do :-)  That's why I was so excited when I surveyed the garden this morning and found that a few beets were ready to be least enough for hubby and me for dinner.  Today is a good day.

Roses at Sunrise

I took this photo this morning just as the sun was coming up...

and this one a short time later after the sun had risen

My favorite rose is the yellow rose.  If I were ever to get a tattoo (which is not likely), but if, it would be the yellow rose of Texas (but honey, I really won't...honest ;-)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cosmos and Wildflowers

A few weeks ago, my good friend, Cheryl, dug up some "Cosmos" from her garden and gave them to me to plant in my wild hill country landscape, part of which created Mo's Garden.  Mo was one of my best dogs that I had to put to sleep in late August 09...broke my heart.  I miss him terribly.  In Mo's honor, I planted a wildflower garden, direct sowing a handful of wildflower seeds and a few of Cheryl's Cosmos.  The wildflowers have not yet germinated, but the Cosmos are growing beautifully.  The rest of that hillside is pretty bare (or at least I thought so).

Cheryl gave me more Cosmos translants, so today I added some color to the hillside.

I think I've mentioned that I live on a hill of rock.  That was made very clear to me today.  As I was digging holes to transplant the Cosmos, I actually broke my small garden pitchfork.  Can you believe this?

The hillside was also covered in stickerburrs.  It was awful.  This is what my shoes looked like when I finished transplanting.  I had to pick off every single one of these burrs before I could step foot in my garden.  Not a fun task. 

To be honest, I'm not sure what "Cosmos" are...I mean what type of wildflower are they.  Well, I unearthed my Wildflowers of Texas handbook to find out.  It looks to me (not being a horticulturist) that they could be either a kind of Thelesperma (Theleserma filifolium), a member of the Aster family,  or a Coreopsis (Coreopsis basalis), also a member of the Aster family.  I've come to the conclusion that whatever type of wildflower they are, I think they are beautiful and I'm very happy to have them as part of my wild landscape.

It was very interesting what else I discovered today.  Although it is late fall/early winter and at first glance there doesn't appear to be anything blooming, when I got down on the ground and really looked, I was amazed at what I found:

This is a Powderpuff (Mimosa strigillosa)

I actually found some basil growing out really is basil!

The rest of these wildflowers I could not find in my book so therefore, I can't tell you what they are...sorry!  But if anyone knows and cares to enlighten me, please do so.  I'm all ears!

These are everywhere...they look almost like some type of orchid

I guess you never know what you're going to see until you really look.