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Texas Pure Soil Blend – Get the Dirt!

I plan to talk about the construction of my raised beds in a future post, but today I will address the soil mix I utilized. 

The City of Plano, under a contract for the North Texas Municipal Water District, puts out a line of garden mixes under the brand name ‘Texas Pure’.  These products are largely created from recyclable materials that have been diverted from local landfills (a good thing!), and are produced locally.

The soil mix I have utilized in my raised beds is the ‘Texas Pure Soil Blend’, a great ‘pre-mixed’ 50/50 combination of quality (locally produced) compost, and a local soil mix.  At $4.50 for a cubic foot bag, the pricing is reasonable, if not cheap.  However, if you have a means of picking it up in bulk – which unfortunately I did not – then it is truly a great value at just $30.00 for a cubic yard.  The City also provides an option of delivery if you order 3 cubic yards or more (perhaps you can share it with a neighbor?)

I learned later, once I was finished with my initial round of landscaping, that the product is available at some of our local stores (such as Walmart and Elliotts Hardware).  I actually drove to the Composting facility and filled the trunk of my car several times before realizing this.  If you are in the North Texas area, and considering this product, do check your local Walmart before driving half way across the Metroplex to purchase it!

The product itself has a great look and feel to it.  I did try a couple of alternative soil mixes from Home Depot, and my gut feeling is that the Texas pure blend was superior.  I cannot claim to be a soil expert, but if I was a plant, this is the soil blend I would choose to sink my roots into:) 

If you would prefer a more scientific opinion on their compost, please view this US Composting Council report.

In summary, I would recommend this product for anyone in the North Texas region looking to build them a planting area from scratch.  It’s fairly priced, good quality, and locally made.  Not a bad combination.

The Texas Pure label also offers several other products (Mulch, Top Dressing, pure Compost…) for people with slightly different needs.  If you have tried these out please let me know what you thought of them!

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Texas A&M – Home Gardening Resource

In the process of planning my plantings for the year I have done a lot of research on the Internet –  I tend to suffer from Analysis Paralysis!  I would have to say that one of the most useful resources I have come across in my reading is the information provide by Texas A&M.

There is a vast range of agricultural information available under various  ‘**.tamu.edu’ websites.  A lot of it relates to large scale agriculture, but there is also plenty of use for the small scale backyard gardener.

The information is of most use for those of us located in Texas (or in places with similar growing conditions), but some of it is relatively general in nature.  Texas, after all, is a big place.  The USDA hardiness zone ranges from 6 up in the Panhandle, all the way to 11 in the far South; combine that with the differing soils and rainfall patterns across the state, and Texas covers a very wide range of growing conditions!

One problem with searching for information on a particular gardening issue, is that a lot of the search results will be commercial in nature. ie: They will be trying to sell you the plant, not telling you if it is a good choice for you.  By utilizing the resouces of A&M you are obtaining independent advice, from people who should know (hopefully!) something about the topic.  For those of you don’t know, A&M(or ‘The Aggies’) have a long history of involvement in Agriculture, dating back to 1876.

The method I utilize is to search my area of interest utilizing the Site: restrictor provide by Google.  In this example, I search for information on Blueberries, but only that found on **.tamu.edu type domains.

I encourage you to try this out for yourself. I have found it to be a great source of high quality gardening information.

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Growth Update

Today I am performing some record keeping, logging some information on the growth in some of my beds so far.  It will be interesting to look back at this over the year and monitor my progress.

First of all the tomatoes.  Today I finally put some twine up to help guide the growth of these plants, they have grown a lot, and were getting to the point they might of started shading my green crops (Chives, Cilantro, Lettuce) I have planteed in front of them.
Tomato Plants on May 10th, 2007

With luck they will grab hold of the twine, I may have to revisit again if not. Note I also took the opportunity to trim a lot of the low to the ground branches from the Tomatos. I read somewhere this was a good idea, although I forget the reasoning!  On the far left you can see the Chives and Cilantro showing some decent growth, the Lettuce varieties (largely out of frame) are not doing quite so well.

The next bed, with the Pea and Carrot plantings, is making slow progress. I am seeing the Peas grow, but they aren’t exactly shooting up.
I still have some unused ground in the back right corner of this bed. I will keep it open for a couple more weeks, and then use it for a second crop of Peas (or perhaps Corn?)
Peas and Carrots on May 10th, 2007

Over in the third bed, the Corn is thriving.  It isn’t obvious in this picture, but a few of the plants have a tinge of yellow on some of the leaves.  I’m not sure if this indicates some kind of deficiency.  I gave this crop a little of the Asparagus fertilizer a few days ago, just in case.
Corn on May 10th, 2007

The final entry in today updates is my Shallots.  These have been rather problematic.  A few of the Sets washed completely out of the ground in one of the big storms (and I discovered they were upside down too boot).  It would not at all surprise me if some of the missing Sets are actually growing downwards right now, the ones that are actually visibly growing are doing so rather vigorously.
Shallots on May 10th, 2007