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Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

I mentioned in my last post (about the chard stalks) that I have worked to shade parts of the vegetable garden this summer.  Creating shade for the garden has been on that endless list of mine for the past 2-3 years.

Not only are our South Texas summers hot, but I have full open exposure to the garden to the west, so everything is in the garden roasting until the sun goes down and that is really hard on the plants. There is a magnolia tree that is growing on the west side of the garden. It was planted before we moved in, and it is growing well, but it will be many, many years before it is tall enough to provide any afternoon shade for the garden.

Over the past few years I have cooked up a lot of idea for creating shade in the garden. A few years ago, I had lambsquarter growing on the west side of each raised bed to provide shade. While that helped, it just wasn’t enough.  We had a friend that lived with us a few years ago, and I was thinking that he could weld up a frame for over the top of the garden and then I could put shade cloth over the frame. I think that one would have worked, but he doesn’t live here anymore….

Shade Cloth with rebar

Shade Cloth with rebar

This year I though of two ideas. One was to create a “wall” of shade cloth on the west side of each raised bed. That would create shade from the west sun, and also some of the morning sun, limiting the amount of direct, hot sun the plants would get throughout the day. The other idea I had was to purchase a 10′ x 20′ car canopy and put it up inside the garden fence. I really thought both ideas would work. Both of my gardening neighbors sort of laughed and chuckled when I told them about the shade cloth “wall.” They didn’t seem to have a lot of faith in them. I did, so I went out and bought the supplies and moved forward.

Car Canopy shade

Car Canopy shade

The shade cloth “walls” I could mostly do on my own, but the car canopy I needed help to put up. One neighbor helped me by cutting the rebar to the length that I wanted, and my husband helped me put of the car canopy.

Shade cloth walls Pros:

  • With the shade cloth wall, the plants are exposed to some direct sun throughout the day.
  • When it rains, the plants benefit from the rain.
  • I can leave the rebar in place and just take the shade cloth off for the winter.
  • I could set it all up on my own (other then the neighbor that helped me cut the rebar – We did have the tools for that, so technically I could have done that too)

Shade cloth walls Cons:

  • I was able to tie one of the rebar posts to the garden fence on one side – without that, the structure would be more wobbly, and I would have had to add one more vertical rebar support post in the center (not a big deal, just another post for each box)
  • Having the wall of shade cloth on one full side of the raised bed, you are limited to harvesting from the other side. My beds are 3′ wide, so this hasn’t really been a con for me.

Car Canopy Pros:

  • No obstacles for picking and harvesting – completely open under the canopy

Car Canopy Cons:

  • Prevents the rain from getting to the plants
  • The canopy will disintegrate over time (maybe one summer season here) and the cost of a new canopy is around $100 (I think I could find one for less that might not fit exactly, but would work) My plan it to replace it with some other shade cloth that would allow the rain to come through but still provide shade.

There are definite pros and cons to both of these ideas. They both work and that is the good thing. With both systems, over time, I will need to replace the cloth/cover. I think ultimately the best thing would be a frame build over the top of the garden where I could over the entire area with a shade cloth of some sort that would provide great shade in the summer, yet still allow the rain to come through, and then remove the cloth in the winter for more full sun.

The garden fence is not high enough to just add a flat cover  over it – I could never stand up.

So for this year, I am thrilled to have some shade in the garden that is working.

If you need to, how do you shade your vegetable garden from the harsh sun?

Sincerely, Emily

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My chard (also known as swiss chard and silverbeet) is growing great right now. I planted it last fall, and it did ok throughout the winter months, but it seems to really have taken off in the past months. I have known that I need some shade for my garden in the spring and summer months. That South Texas sun is just too darn hot for most things all day long. While I have a nice line of juniper trees on the east side of the garden I have nothing shading things from the West side and as the hours go by the plants really take a beating. I have tried to come up with some ideas (in my head!) to help shade things, but my limitations over the past few years I haven’t been able to physically get things done like that. This year I had some ideas that I thought would work and I have more stamina to get them done.

Chard stalks

Chard stalks

I’m getting off track here. This post started out about chard and the stems and I have gotten sidetracked with my new shade system….. so I will break this up into two posts and post about the shade that I created in my next post here.

I think my chard is really benefiting from the shade and when I arrived back home after being gone for 3 weeks I was amazed at how tall and full the chard plants where. It is really almost impossible to grow most greens here in the spring and summer months. For two years I did keep a few chard plants going. It wasn’t pretty throughout the summer months, nor were they huge producers, but it was interesting to see them stay alive and keep growing.  I am excited at the prospect of these fall planted chard plants along with the new shade to see what happens throughout the rest of the summer. We are already hot, and it will just get more hot and I hope the plants will do better.

chopping chard stalks

chopping chard stalks

So, I am happily picking chard and adding into most of our meals in one way or another. Last night as I was chopping the chard and I wondered if others out there also ate the stalks/stems.

Adding chopped chard stalks to pasta water

Adding chopped chard stalks to pasta water

I grew up eating the stalks. Mom or Gram would chop them separately and get them sauteing or steaming for a few minutes. The stalks can be a bit bitter and that bitterness will disappear if you give them extra time to cook. they also need additional cooking time because they are a lot thicker and firmer than the leaf and need that extra time to soften up more.

When I am going to add the chard to pasta, I just throw the chopped stalks in along with the pasta for the last 3 minutes of its cooking time. Once the pasta is drained I add the chopped leaves and let the heat of the pasta soften and cook the delicate chard leaves (the smaller you chop them up, the easier it is to incorporate them into the hot pasta.)

Do you eat the chard stalks? How do you incorporate them into your meals?

Sincerely, Emily

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Yesterday was the first day I harvested something from our garden this season.image

Zucchini!!!

Peppers!! Serranos, anaheims, and banana. Sorry, I forgot to get a photo of those.

I also picked three peaches in hopes that they will ripen off the tree. The squirrels are already competing for those. Grrrrr.

What is growing in you garden??

Sincerely, Emily

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Bunching onions, sauerkraut, local lamb roast, and working in the garden….

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

What do all those things have in common? …. Just more “not dabbling in normal” normal.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Cleaning and clearing out the winter garden. the onions are starting to flower. I let a few turnips and some of the kale flower so I can collect seeds. The monster spinach is just starting to bolt, so will leave a few plants in the ground for seed saving also.

I was over at the neighbors yesterday to help clear out winter plants and get some spring things in the ground. He uses a hoe (made in the USA) that belonged to his grandmother. (my neighbor is 81 years old, so that is one old hoe that he is using.) we planted some cucumber and zucchini seeds and got a few bell pepper plants in the ground. My body is still playing catch up from being sick a year ago…. so that was all we got done. We will work out there again on Saturday. I plan to work in my garden today and hopefully get some plants in the ground. I still get out of breath, but it feels good to work out there and I need to keep pushing myself a bit to keep getting better. I have certainly come a long way, especially when i think back to march 2013 when I couldn’t even walk across the room!

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

I have picked my cabbages and they are in the crock turning into fermented sauerkraut. I picked up some more local cabbage at the local swap that I go to and those are also fermenting in another second crock. A Roasted lamp shoulder

Dinner the other night was a roasted local lamb shoulder (picked it up at the swap/barter.) I had a second pan in the oven roasting sweet potatoes and onions that I also traded for.

Making a cough syrup

Making a cough syrup

I am also taking an herbal medics class. Learning a lot, and So much more to learn. It is a lot of fun. I am harvesting some wild herbs and edibles as they are popping up this spring. The lambsquarter is popping up so I am potting some up to take to plant swaps and also the month swap/barter.

So, like I said…. Life. There is a lot going on. Spring is in the air (It was 87F yesterday – I think we skipped Spring!)

What are you up to this time of year?

Sincerely, Emily

 

 

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I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but the warmer days have me thinking about the Spring/Summer garden planting.

We have already hit 90F here in South Texas. That is just too hot, WAY too soon for me. Last week we had another cooler down that was right up my alley and it had me opening the bedroom windows at night to cool the me down!

Tabouli

Tabouli

I try hard to purchase veggies in season, but I had an itch (and an event to bring a dish to) to make Tabouli (click on the word “Tabouli” to link to the recipe that I posted back in July of 2013). I picked and used as much as I could from the gardens; parsley, mint, cilantro, onion. But I did have to purchase things like cucumber and tomato (oh I can’t wait to pick that first fresh tomato!)

I am behind in my seed starting, but my tomato seedlings are up and a few of the pepper seeds are starting to sprout. I did pick up some heirloom and non-GMO seedlings at The Natural Gardener a few weeks ago. They are already potted up into gallon containers. The Natural Gardener didn’t have their pepper plants in yet, so I will check back in with them, as well as check a few other local nurseries to find some organic ones.

Reality check: last wee our temps are back in the “Texas Winter” range. We have been 25F at night with a few days that didn’t get about 45F (I know that is a heat wave for some of you out there.) so my seedlings are living in the garage and in the house for while.

What type of seeds will you be starting to prepare for the upcoming gardening season?

Sincerely, Emily

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A few months ago on the Not Dabbling in Normal facebook page I mentioned that my neighbor/friend had seen a newspaper article on Monster Spinach (Monstreaux de Viroflay) and wanted to plant some. Off we went in search of some transplants. We found it and go it planted in December (a bit late for us.)Monster Spinach 1

The weather was already on the cool side and we have had our share of freezes over the past few months. Our Monster Spinach didn’t seem to be doing much bu surviving.

When I got back from Prague I took a walk through the garden and WOW had it taken off. I have been picking it for a few weeks now and it just keeps growing and growing.

Today it is going in a quiche, some empanadas and a pasta dish. I know I will even have enough to freeze to add to things this summer when all the leafy greens have disappeared out there.055

I haven’t done any research on this “Monster” spinach, other than a newspaper article I read that told me it was an heirloom. I do know that when it bolts I will be patient and hold out for seeds this spring.

Do you have a variety of spinach that grows well for you? And how do you to prepare it?

Sincerely, Emily

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Lammas, or August 1, is the first of the harvest festivals. You’re probably picking more than you can eat all at once starting now.

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For me (Alexandra), Lammas marks the moment when the gardener is forcibly reminded that she is not actually in control. Plants go wild, as if they know (and I suppose they do), that summer is coming to an end, and they better get all their growing done!

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9386737201_257f77497f_b

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When ever I (Sincerely, Emily) visit my parents up in Minnesota this time of year, I am always amazed at the lush, full, green garden. In our area we are starting to plan our fall planting. I cut back my tomato plants a few weeks ago and they are growing, but I don’t seem to be harvesting much or anything. The Armenian cucumbers are still growing well and the okra is starting to produce. Just patiently waiting for some cooler temps so the pepper plants will start flowering again.

Star of David okra

Star of David okra

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What are you harvesting?

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