Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kitchen Garden Herbs

Where would a gardener be without a kitchen herb garden?  I would be lost without mine as I use fresh herbs in my cooking every single day.

Even during the dead of winter, I have herbs on my back patio.  These are usually the hardiest herbs:  thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and maybe a few chives.  But come the spring, it's time to rejuvenate the herbs and plant fresh seasonal ones.  Usually all I do to revive my herbs is add fresh compost to the pot; mix it into the existing dirt and water well.  That's pretty much all it takes to revive the herbs.  That mixed with warm spring sunshine and before you know it, the herbs are growing strong and standing tall.  Here's what I have on my back patio right now:

Lemon thyme

Lemon thyme

Old thyme plant that comes back every year.  I bet this plant is 6 or 7 years old.  It looks kind of trashy now, but it comes back full and lush in just a couple of months.

An old sage plant that I thought was dead till I looked closely and saw this brand new growth. I love it when that happens!

New sage plant

New rosemary plant, although my old one is still alive and producing well.  

An old bay leaf plant that got some frost damage, but a little pruning does wonders in bringing it back to life.

Another old plant~~my chives.  Again, I bet this plant is at least 5 or 6 years old.  And it comes back every year without fail.  

My old peppermint plant.  You just can't kill this baby!

And these are two old parsley plants and they, too, come back every year.  My problem with parsley is that the plant can't keep up with how much I use it.  I use *a lot* of parsley! 

Additionally, I planted a full pot of sweet Genovese basil and a full pot of purple ruffled basil...I mean, where or where would an herb garden be without sweet basil?!  :) This is also one of my favorite times of the season...when I can pick fresh basil again!  It's like going all winter without fresh tomatoes and NO basil.  It's torture, but oh so sweet when the spring and summer finally produce these two quintessential summer staples.

It really doesn't take a lot of effort or time to grow a kitchen herb garden.  And the rules (if you want to call them that) are simple:  grow what you like to eat! 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Star Hibiscus Awakens

This is a beautiful Texas Star Hibiscus plant that I blogged about last summer.  Again, this past fall, I cut it back, set it in the greenhouse, watered it regularly and waited for spring.  And again, it didn't disappoint me.  It seemed like overnight, this beautiful plant burst from its winter sleep and grew seemingly four inches!  It's one of the prettiest plants that live on my back patio during the summer and I'm so happy to see it wake up!  And I can't wait to see those gorgeous red flowers.  The hummingbirds love them too :)


Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Garden Clogs

Check.These.Out.  Aren't they cute?!

I have been looking for a pair of new garden clogs for quite some time.  This is what I have been wearing in the garden.  Pretty sad, huh?

But all the garden clogs I've seen are super ugly and industrial looking.  I saw these on the cover of some obscure catalog, Solutions, that appeared in my mailbox.  They caught my eye and I just had to have them!  So I went to their website, and ordered them.  I just love 'em.  They are comfortable, sturdy and very easy to clean...just hose them off.  And they are made in the USA.

Anyway, just thought you might like to know :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Seedling Transplant

This is one of my favorite gardening tasks...potting up little plants that I grew from seeds :)  The tomatoes and eggplant I seeded back in February are big enough for me to plant each in its own little pot for some additional time under the grow lamp. Look at these little beauties!

But there is one part of this task that I hate!  Thinning the seedlings :/  It pains me to have to pull and discard a perfectly healthy seedling just because I planted 2 seeds and only need one plant.

But there is no other way to do this.  I don't have room for that many seedlings.  As it is now, I'll likely give away a few tomato and pepper plants.  But that's OK.  To me, that's simply part of gardening :)

Anyway, when transplanting the seedlings, it's important that the soil be nice and loose and full of good organic matter.  So I make a mixture in my wheel barrel of the following:  good potting soil, organic compost, sphagnum peat moss and organic fertilizer.

As an aside, yes, I know the potting soil is upside down.  My lovely pup, Laci, so graciously chewed a hole in the bottom of the bag that I had to stand it upside down to open it!

I mix equal parts, potting soil and compost but add a third more peat moss to make sure the mixture is not too heavy or compact.  I then add a scoop of organic fertilizer and mix it all together and this is what it looks like:

  Good soil is such a beautiful thing!

It's a pretty straightforward process from here.  I use small pots that I've collected over the years;

Put a seedling in each pot, fill it with the potting mixture, and set it under the grow lamp. 

I ended up planting 18 tomato plants, 3 cherry tomato plants and 3 Italian white eggplant seedlings.  So yes, I will definitely be giving some plants away!  But I just love it!  Look at my little rows of tiny seedlings :)  They look like little soldiers all lined up. 

Now it's just a matter of more grow time.  I lowered the grow lamp to where it is just above the top of the tallest plants.  I'll have to keep moving it up as the plants grow, but placing it close to the seedlings prevents them from getting too leggy. I also keep the heater on in the greenhouse overnight to make sure the temperature stays pretty warm and consistent.  

What a wonderfully productive, FUN day in the greenhouse!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Here Come the Peppers

Finally the peppers I planted have begun to germinate!  I know they take a bit longer to sprout than other seeds (like 15 days as opposed to 7-10 for the tomatoes and eggplant) but I was getting very impatient!  I saw signs of sprouting a couple of days ago from 6 of the 12 seeds I planted.  Yay!

I'm super excited about my peppers this year.  They are two varieties I've not planted before:  Red Ruffled Pimento and Corno DiToro Sweet Peppers.  I will baby these plants to give them their best chance to grow and produce beautiful fruit! 

They will stay in their little plugs under the heat lamp for several more weeks.  This will give them the opportunity to get a little bigger and stronger before I pot them up in small containers in preparation for transplanting into the garden.  Hopefully, I'll get 3 transplants of each kind to put in the garden.  The other 6 I'll likely give away to my gardening friends.  Peppers Linda?? :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

GBBD - Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus that is living in my greenhouse is in full glorious bloom.  This one is also a descendant of my grandfather's plant.  It warms my heart when it blooms like this.  I hope it does yours too :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Garden Seedlings

Yes...geeky me again with an update on the seeds I planted directly in my garden.  With the exception of the carrots, which typically take a little longer, all have begun to germinate too!  The weather has been very cooperative with sunny, very warm days which is perfect for seed growth.  We had one cold night where the temperatures here in the hills dipped to around freezing.  But I covered each bed with a frost blanket and that provided just the protection the little seedlings needed.  All came through the cold night just fine.

Now I know it's really hard to see these little buggers, but they are there and get a little bigger every day.

Romaine and golden chard



 Gold beets

 Red beets

Red leaf lettuce

I have to say my spring garden of 2011 is off to a very good start and I'm very much looking forward to cultivating and nurturing this garden along as spring turns into summer.  That's when the real challenge of gardening in South Texas begins...dealing with the extreme heat that plagues us every summer.  But I prefer to live one day at a time and deal with challenges as they present themselves.  And I'm happy to say, today was a good day :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Germination in the Greenhouse!

I'm so excited!  The tiny seeds I planted in the hothouse setup in my greenhouse have begun to germinate.

Like the garden geek that I am, I go out to the greenhouse every day to see if anything has begun to sprout and sure enough...all the tomatoes and the Italian white eggplant have germinated.  Nothing yet on the peppers, but I do know they typically take a little longer to germinate.  But I looked at them yesterday (deep inside their little grow plug burrows) and I did indeed see signs of germination.  Take a look.  These photos were taken over the course of a few days. 

To me, this is one of the most exciting things about gardening.  Taking this teeny tiny seed, placing in a simple growing medium, giving it light, warmth and water and before too long, here you have it...a plant in the making.  It's just too cool!

I'll let them grow a little more and then thin each plug to one plant.  The plants will continue to live in the makeshift hothouse, under the grow lamp for a while yet.  They need to get much stronger before I transplant them to their own little pots.  That's much later...but it looks like I'm off to a pretty good start!  :)