Cooking Gardening Uncategorized

Delicious Healthy Salad recipe

I threw together this unusually delicious salad last night.   I am certainly no gourmet chef, but I thought it worth sharing:)

1/2 head of red leaf lettuce, chopped

1 tomato, wedged

1/2 mango, diced

1 appled, chopped

1/4 stick of celery, chopped fine

1 clementine, pulled into wedges

It tastes great without any dressing.  The Mango and Clementine juices seemed to fulfil that role!

Gardening Uncategorized

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!

Gardening Uncategorized

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  ‘**’ 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 ** 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.

Gardening Uncategorized

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

Gardening Uncategorized

Corn and Shallots are in the ground

Today I planted most of Raised Bed #4.

I have dedicated half of this bed to Sweet corn. Whilst I had hoped I would have room for 4 rows, I only managed to squeeze in 3 rows of 10. I spaced the individual seeds roughty four to six inches apart, with ten inches between each row. My reading suggests that 3 rows is a rather marginal number for successful pollination of the corn kernels. I will therefore have to keep a close eye of that when the time comes, I may need to provide some kind of manual assistance with the fertilization.

The other half of Bed #4 now contains my Shallots (a set of 10 ‘sets’, to make a poor pun). There are lined up in one row against the edge of the bed, so I still have a large empty space behind them I can utilize in future (spinach perhaps?)

I am starting to run out of planting space, but thankfully I’m seeing signs some of my earlier plantings are finally germinating.


Gardening Uncategorized

Jersey Supreme and Purple Passion Asparagus

Now that I have completed extending Bed #3, I have space for my remaining asparagus crowns.

My planting today consisted of two rows of 5 of Jersey Supreme Hybrid Asparagus – Giant Grade, and behind them one row of 5 of my remaining Purple Passion Asparagus crowns.

Once I had them planted I gave the entire asparagus bed a dosage of Gurney’s Asparagus Food(17-16-28). This involved measuring a couple of ounces of green powder out into my watering can, filling it up, and then sprinkling it generously over the bed.
I have to say it feels much more effective using the liquid soluble fertilizer, hopefully it really does help!

Gardening Uncategorized

Mary Washington and Purple Passion Asparagus

I have spent a lot of time the last few days working on a new raised bed (Bed #3) for my Asparagus. 

 I originally planned to plant these along the fence line, but given the long life span of Asparagus (10 years or even more) I decided against it.  With any luck the Asparagus will last a lot longer than my fence will! The new bed does not hug the fence, so now my Asparagus should survive the next fence replacement.  Who says I don’t plan long term?:)

I didn’t plan out everything to perfection however…my new Bed did not have enough room for all my Asparagus crowns, I found space for 15 of them (I have 30 ready to go in the ground).
Nearest the house I planted two rows of 5 of Mary Washington Improved Asparagus – Giant Grade, behind these I squeezed in one more row of 5, this time of Purple Passion Asparagus – 2 year.

At the same time I fertilized the new bed with ‘‘Vigoro Timed-Release All Purpose Plant Food 19-6-12′, hopefully this will get the Asparagus off to a good start. I do have some special ‘Asparagus Food’ fertilizer on it’s way, details in an upcoming post.
While I wait for it to arrive, I will work on extending Bed #3 to hold the rest of my Asparagus!

Gardening Uncategorized

Peas and Carrots planted

Today I planted half of bed #2.

I sowed 2 rows of Sweet Peas, 5 in each row, into the back left quarter of the bed. The plan eventually is to provide them some kind of trellis work for support, but I have a little while before I need to worry about that.

In front of the peas I scattered some carrot seeds, I was generous with the seeds, and suspect I will need to thin some seedlings before long.

The right hand half of Bed #2 remains empty for now.

Gardening Uncategorized

Tomatoes, herbs, and lettuce, planting aplenty

Today was my first planting! A whole lot of seeds (as well as a selection of Tomato Seedlings) are ready to go in the ground

I had been unsure which Tomato Variety to go with, so I took advantage of Burpee’s Tomato Hall of Fame.  This package consists of a selection of different tomato cultivars as listed below (excluding those I gave away)…
Fourth of July The earliest tomato -arrives just in time for family picnics – 49 days.
Sweet Tangerine Bright orange, firm, super sweet favorite. Great for salads – 68 days.
Big Mama The ultimate paste tomato. Enormous fruit, few seeds, profound flavor – 80 days.
Sun Gold Tangiest and sweetest cherry tomato you will ever meet – 65 days.
Brandy Boy The greatest tomato we’ve bred in 50 years. Incredibly tasty pink – 75 days.
Burpee’s Burger Early to fruit; firm yet juicy, perfect slices for hamburgers and sandwiches – 72 days.
Health Kick 50% richer in antioxidants; ideal for tasty sauces; abundant yield – 75 days.

I planted 7 of these in a row in the back half of Bed #1, and gave the other two away to a coworker.
They are looking a little straggly right now as you can see. They are planted in order from left to right as listed above.

Tomatos just Planted

I filled the front half of the bed with an assortment of seeds, from left to right as follows:
Chives, Coriander/Cilantro, and three types of Lettuce, (Santa Fe – 55 days, Green Ice Looseleaf – 45 days, and Burpee Bibb Butterhead – 75 days).

Gardening Uncategorized

Fertilized with Vigoro

Now that raised beds #1 and #2 are ready to be planted, I have decided to apply a little fertilizer in the meantime.

A quick trip to Home Depot and I have 2 pounds of ‘Vigoro Timed-Release All Purpose Plant Food 19-6-12’.  Honestly, I didn’t do much research on this.  I have applied it as per the directions, and have to say that in future I may go with fertilizers you apply in liquid form.  There is something rather disturbing about seeing little balls of fertilizer in the garden bed:)

 Not much else to report today.  I have been looking at my available planting space, and I don’t think these 2 raised beds are going to be near enough.  I suspect I will be outside again soon preparing some more!