Tree thirty.

DH has been the driving force behind the trees in our lives. He hopes to have an orchard someday that is a testament to his love of a good medley. Almonds and plums and avocados living in harmony? He’d like to try it anyway.

Being as we don’t plan to stay in this home forever, he limits his tree fixation to landscape trees. Except for when I give him keep-in-a-pot-as-long-as-necessary varieties for his Someday Orchard.

You met the Mexican White Oak and one of the pecan trees already. Let’s check in on Bill the Lime Tree. He’s been outside for about a month now, and after our serious storm last week, I had cause for concern that perhaps all of his little limes had been knocked off.

Never fear, they hung in there. He’s even taken the time to make some more buds and stick out some new leaf shoots.

You’ve also met June before. She did lose some plum blossoms in the storm, but hurried some new ones out in no time!

And what you can’t see here, is that so far one of these little flowers has already made a teeny tiny little plum! I had no idea a potted plum tree, roots to tip only 5 feet tall, would make a plum (or more)!

I also have a new introduction to make – the Mulberry tree. When we moved in, we had no idea what kind of tree it was. Then it started making fruit and my gut told me they were mulberries, but my brain said not to eat them until I had confirmation. So I waited. And waited. And then we had DH’s folks over for dinner – both of whom had known mulberry trees in their childhoods – and they both promptly popped a berry off of a branch and into their mouths. I quickly followed suit. Last year, the berries were a bit small and tart. Not knowing what it was, I hadn’t watered it. Since it didn’t rain more than a half an inch between mid-January and early June, the tree made do as best it could.

Now it’s actually raining, and I’m watering it between, we may have some mulberry jam in our future – fingers crossed!

It’s time for…Mystery Plant Theater!

Who has a guess as to what this guy is?

Not the onions it decided to grow among, or the squash leaf in the background, but the other thing.

Right Bed, say hello to your new inhabitants.

As I’m sure many of you do, I have a particular way I like to do things. Oddly enough, I think that defaults into a particular way things should be done.

Years ago, I encountered someone who had decided in their marriage, that “should” was a dirty word. I rolled this thought around in my brainpan for awhile, and over the years, have done my best to remove “should” from as many aspects of my life as possible.

Enter gardening. Gardening, in our household, is my realm. It’s what I love. It’s what I read about. It’s what I decide. It’s what I do. But the more gardening has grown for me, the more space, and the more work, the more I’ve needed to ask for help. DH is happy to help. DH is not happy to necessarily do things “my way.” Oh, right. Sharing.

I remember just over nine years ago, talking with DH, and worried that with how much we talked about every little thing, that someday we would run out of things to talk about. DH assured me that day wouldn’t come.

So here we are, still finding new conversations to navigate. We made it through, like we always do, by donning our work boots, and wading through the muck together. Amusingly, with gardening, that’s as literal as it is metaphorical.

And look what we accomplished!

All of the henbit, all of the dandelions, all of the thistle, and all of the creeping, crawling, t-bar-rooting grass dug, discovered, and carried to the rubbish bin.

A quick dusting of sulfur, and we called it a day.

Then, on Sunday, I headed out late in the afternoon to finally let my tomatoes loose from their Sonic cups, and into the soil.

And then two days later, we had the biggest thunderstorm I’ve ever witnessed. The sky glowed lavender in the middle of the night. Thunder that lasted for nearly a minute at a time. Water literally pouring from the sky in solid sheets. The flash flood warnings had been up all day. The next day, the creeks raced one another to the sea.  It’s amazing what a terrible drought will do to your perspective. I don’t mind the rainy days this spring. I revel in them. I still don’t do well with two cloudy days in a row, and miss my sunshine when it happens, but will take every drop of water the sky wishes to give us, but look how happy the pond is these days…

So what happens when it dumps buckets on the freshly turned soil?

Beaten down baby tom-toms, and a cracked surface.

Thankfully, the community garden gods that be, delivered a new truckload of mulch sometime in the past three days!

That catches us up to…Wednesday.

Saturday, it was time to prep more of the bed to get ready for peppers. DH was responsibly studying at home, so it was up to me to get as much done as I could. In the three or so hours I was there, I managed to not get sunburned, water the squash, the melons, the beans, and the tomatoes again – and dig another 60 sq ft or so. My hamstrings (go figure) are still sore. But! The weeds are out, the earth is crumbly, and the worms were found. (Not that they were lost.)

That was it for Saturday, so when my borrowed shovel returned to me, I packed up the dog, my dusty self, and headed home.

Sunday was much less labor intensive, but I must say the heat is already pushing me to restructure my day to avoid the late afternoon. Sunday was transplanting my pepper starts from their Sonic cups (happy hour at Sonic, if you don’t have a Sonic near you, is dangerous) into most of the rest of the Right Bed.

DH and I had stopped by Green and Growing for some diatomaceous earth and mycorrhiza. The mycorrhiza made an appearance in each hole before laying the pepper roots in the ground. I just learned about mycorrhiza on an episode of Central Texas Gardener – apparently it is a beneficial fungus that creates a happy relationship with the roots of most plants. It enjoys the carbs the plant roots offer, and in exchange delivers minerals and other nutrients to the roots of the plant. It also is purported to help with water absorption which is always appreciated in this area.

The diatomaceous earth was purchased for a few reasons:

  1. Fire ants have invaded the crack between the sidewalk and the lawn, and also like to travel on the Right Bed’s border board. I’m allergic and have yet to boil enough water to kill them off or make them relocate.
  2. Supposedly it can help with other pests (caterpillars, I’m eyeing my chard since I can’t find you myself) so I thought I’d give it a try for that.
  3. And since I did remember to get some, and forgot to pick up more rock salt or bring a beer to the gardens, my nearly-demolished Soleil beans (and their neighbors) got a border sprinkle.

And so, the bugs were battled and the peppers were planted.

In planting the peppers and accounting for how many of each variety had survived my neglectful sowing process this year, I realized that in twelve pepper plants, I had zero bell peppers. Did I mention that I don’t eat tomatoes? Or hot peppers? So so far, the Right Bed is all for DH. I’m ok with that. It’s just kind of funny that I didn’t realize it until now.

Pepper Plants Planted

  • Anaheim (two)
  • Cayenne (two)
  • Chinese Five
  • Czechoslovakian Black (sadly, only one)
  • Fish
  • Jalapeno (three)
  • Poblano (two)

With twelve in the ground, I have room for at least three more in that area, and have yet to decide what’s going in to the bean spots when they’re finished, so perhaps that means I do get to go plant shopping after all!

And while I’m on the topic of seedlings I’ve killed so far this year, I’m fairly certain all of my ground cherry sprouts kicked the bucket in their secondary pots. If the tomatoes were happy, and the peppers were mostly happy, I’m not sure what went wrong, but shall try and try again.

Stringing string beans with string.

There are a lot of ways to grow green beans. Bush beans are the compact varieties that purport to not need supports. Pole beans need a decently tall support system.

I’ve seen people use beautiful trellises. I’ve seen 1″x1″ sticks whipped into a teepee. I’ve seen wire cages and a myriad of other contraptions. When I first started growing beans in 2007, they were in a pot on a balcony.

That pot wasn’t going to hold a trellis. I didn’t have the budget for a wire cage either. I thought about using the balcony railing itself, but with afternoon sun hitting this balcony straight on, I wanted it mobile in case my learning curve required movement. I looked around my small space, and found a bamboo stick. I had some string left from a tied quilt. A longtime fan of building forts with what’s on hand, I thought to build a climbing “fort” for my beans.

Things I learned from this project:

  • Bamboo stakes, in a pot, will lean.
  • Bamboo stakes, in the earth, will rot, break down, and snap off.
  • Beans want to grow UP, not around. In this arrangement, I ended up with multiple stalks climbing up the bamboo stakes themselves, not around the string as I’d hoped.

And so adjustments were made. For the last four years, and again this year, I’ve used the same simple system. I ditched the bamboo stakes all together. I kept using the same string, and from last year to this one – I’m actually using the exact same pieces of string.

See? I did mow and edge! But really, last year DH helped edge this bed in planks, and also helped dig in six posts and screw in cross beams to create a top structure that mimicked the rectangular shape of the bed. From there, he screwed in anchor screws every 3″ for me where the beans would be, and strung wire across the width of the bed. From those wires, I tied off falls of string, which met with the beans on the earth.

At the end of the season, I carefully saved the strings so as to not let them knot, and here they are again! In my crop rotation, the beans are under sections that lack the cross-wires. Because I wanted to get this done in the snatch of evening light I had available, I didn’t ask DH to add more wires. Instead, I ran a cross-string from one wire to another, and tied my drop lines from it.

Now the beans are set. When each one buds its climbing vine, the string is ready. I learned (and finally remembered!) to string the beans before the climbing vine appears. Once it does, it will grab onto whatever it can…other beans, tomatoes, onions, weeds… and getting it to gracefully retreat to take to the string as you want can damage it, or whatever it’s attached to.

But what about bush beans? Don’t those stay compact and not need a structure?

Yes, and no.

Bush beans definitely won’t grow 10 feet tall, it’s not in them to do so. They will on occasion, depending on variety and environment, grow tall enough to fall over. When that happens, the beans you were hoping to nurse onto your plate, or into your saved-seeds, will be devoured by the hungry critters on the ground. Or mold. Or mildew. Or otherwise allow diseases to enter into the plant more easily, creating an issue.

So, I give them a hand. They don’t necessarily get strung on strings (unless I have extra strings) but they may get some good mulching, or string, or a random trellis I acquired. Anything to give them just that little boost to stay off the soil can help.

Last year, I gave the Tiger beans a little string, and left the Yin Yang and Soleil beans alone. The Yin Yang beans didn’t mind, but the Soleil were a little iffy. So this year, the Tiger will get their structure – perhaps a trellis akin to a vineyard? We’ll see. The Soleil, unfortunately, are being demolished by a mystery pest.

The near ones are the Yin Yang, the middle are the Tiger, and the back ones, that are small when they’re not eaten, are the Soleil.

Any ideas on the pests? All I’ve seen are rolly-pollies. The damage looks like caterpillars to me, but I haven’t seen a single one.

Trees turning itchy green.

Growing up in Oregon and Washington, spring comes as a full season. Winter leaves, and the world begins to both thaw and dry out. There’s a season up there where all of the new growth has yet to reach its expected greenness. At that stage, everything is a bright, glowing green – or as I like to call it “itchy green.” It’s so green, you think it will make you itch just to look at it. It’s so green, you can tell the plants were just itching to pop from their dormancy.

Occasionally things here turn itchy green, but usually not all at once, and not for very long.

But there are things coming forth from their hibernation. Like our new Mexican White Oak tree, which surprisingly to me (although it shouldn’t have been), puts out new growth in the form of frosted leaves.

We put in two trees last year as well, well, DH did. Two pecans. One is a Choctaw, and the other…I’ll have to check the tag. Here’s one budding out with fuzzy little tassles.

This is a bush that was in place when we moved in. I’ve never liked it. It’s pokey. I think it’s a Holly Bush. I have a hard time enjoying things that need hedging. It also makes the entrance to the garage feel a little boxed in.

So why not take it out? Put something else in? Because I have a soft spot for the bees. What you can’t see in this photo, is that this bush is currently putting out very fragrant, tiny little blossoms and is covered in dozens of bees.

And so the bush remains.


Boing! – goes the springy Spring.

Look at what’s waking up!

Last winter, my mother and I planted some nasturtium seeds in my front flower/herb bed. I’ve recently read about how nasturtiums don’t like close quarters, and go figure that they haven’t poked their heads up yet in this lovely, reseeded-on-its-own mess:

But never fear! The nasturtium seeds that didn’t appear last spring in the back bed found their roots and put forth this cheerful face:

But I’m not sure how much they really mind a crowd, because look at where this little smiling face is hanging out:

And did you happen to spot that blue spot down to the right of the Blanket Flowers? At the end of the spring last year, I swiped some roadside seeds. I tossed them in the back of this bed, and imagine one of my “oops! forgot the sprinkler was on!” moments floated the seeds to the forefront. I’m glad. Doesn’t she look happy?

It has honestly taken me years  to remember to call these Blue Bonnets. I would always initially say Blue Bells, and then quickly correct myself. They’re currently blanketing the roadsides here in Central Texas. Not in the breath-taking numbers they have in the past, but with such a mild winter I’m not surprised.

Let me fine a nice photo showing what they can do…

Other smiling faces are showing up around the house as well. These ones are from a seed packet from DH’s mother, and they remind me so much of Alice In Wonderland! Don’t they just put that song in your head? “You can learn a lot of things from the flowers…”

We’ve all been busy.

I’ve been busy lately, busier than usual, with work and also with training with DH’s mother for a mini-triathlon. Work takes most daylight hours, and then the training often took the rest. Now that Daylight Savings Time has come (or gone, as it were) the evening hours stay lit until nearly 8pm. Who else has been busy? The plants! Look how they’ve grown!

I’ve had a lot of catching up to do, can you tell?

This is my overgrown backyard garden, surrounded by an overgrown lawn full of overgrown weeds, two weekends ago. Last weekend, the lawn got a buzz cut, the weeds did, too, and everything got cleaned up with the edger/weed-whacker.

More to come!