One kind word can warm three winter months.
Apparently many kind words have been spoken this fall session!
Snapdragons planted at the end of each plot were ready for morning salutations:
Snapdragons are also called toad’s mouth, lion’s mouth and dog’s mouth.
The abundance of produce never ceases to delight and challenge even the most veteran vegetable gardeners and adventurous eaters. Tucked under the large leaves and close to the soil the Gold Star yellow summer squash were safe from last weekend’s cold overnight temperatures:
Squash, corn and beans are often grown together according to a Native American planting technique known as Three Sisters.
Yellow squash along with corn and beans are often prepared as classic stew called succotash. Since the weather was warm on Saturday I was inspired to try a new dish:
Grilled squash with capers, garlic, parsley and lemon juice……delicious hot, cold or at ambient temperature 😋
The upcoming fall vegetable contest, picnic and recognition ceremony on Saturday, November 16th had gardeners eyeing potential contest entries. Contest vegetables are selected for uniformity:
Unfortunately this prize specimen needed to be harvested immediately.
The contest also features a “silly vegetable” contest which encourages atypical vegetables:
Hmmmm 🤔 a possible entry………
Young gardeners also hunted down damaging cabbage loopers on the cole crops:
Looper eggs were nipped in the bud. Adult cabbage loopers turn into brown moths with sucking mouths.
Controlling looper eggs amounts to squishing the eggs gently on the back of the leaves. More squeamish gardeners gloved up prior to smashing:
Emerging larvae can also be controlled with BT sprays.
Baby lettuces were carefully weeded and if necessary reseeded:
By next week these tender leaves will form a delicious composed salad…..
The salads of tomorrow are the seeds of today…………
Anne Marie S.
You have to get up and plant the seed and see if it grows, but you can’t just wait around, you have to water it and take care of it.
Therein lies the rub. The vigilant scarecrows took care of the chore of waiting around. But tending seedlings and young plants struggling in the erratic fall weather is challenging work for even the most determined young gardener:
Scarecrows are a fixture in the Texas fall garden. Our Master Gardener friends in Cherokee county even hold an annual Scarecrow Trail every October.
The emerging carrots were gingerly weeded to avoid pulling up the tiny roots:
Did you know the carrot tops are edible as well? A favorite way to eat them is emulsified with olive oil, salt and a small amount of cheese to make a delicious pesto.
Larger leaves of Chinese cabbage were harvested from the outsides of the plants for a trip to the soup pot. These spectacular cold-loving plants are a boon to any kitchen garden. Tiny cilantro planted in week five was just poking up in the foreground:
Varieties of Chinese cabbage include Brisk Green, Jade Pagoda, Michihili and Monument. More information on cultivating these cole crops can be found on the Texas Agrilife website.
Although the temperatures were cooler, the cold dry air really dried out the plots. Thorough watering remained a priority:
The science of irrigation is so important to successful agriculture it ranks an entire school at Texas A&M !
Under the big tent the JMG class was briefed on the benefits of vermicomposting:
Worm composting is an excellent method to turn a languishing compost pile into rich dark humus, improving the soil structure and assisting in root growth which prevents erosion.
What other beneficial bugs have you seen in your compost pile at home?
Enjoy the creature comforts,
Anne Marie S.
“The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.”
– Abraham Lincoln
The second session took off with a bang as the (now seasoned) gardeners got an early jump on the heat. Vital to gardening success in the high temperatures was cultivating the soil in each plot to alleviate the compacted earth. This served to loosen up the soil as well as help with weed control, water, nutrition and better oxygen uptake by the roots of the plants:
Valley Cat and BHN968 tomato plants stood waiting to serve as replacements where needed.
Cucumber plantings for week two were quite delicate but careful handling and attention promoted excellent chances of success. This tender cucumber plant had a head start in the example plot on week 1:
Sweet slice cucumbers have proven themselves a gardening favorite in South Texas.
Green Magic Broccoli is always a garden star. Young plants were positioned 18 inches apart and firmed in well:
As the fall season progresses the broccoli stems will be “dirted up” with additional soil.
Higher math was required for planting ‘Gold Star’ Yellow Summer Squash! Gardeners carefully measured the seed spacing and used bamboo stakes to mark the placement of each seed prior to planting. The first seed was spaced 18” from the inside middle of the plot toward the cucumber trellis. Then two seeds were designated for planting 12” apart high and low from the first seed. The fourth seed was to be planted 18” away from the first seed:
Each squash seed was gently planted just below the surface with its point facing up. Soil was firmed on the top and seeds were lightly watered in.
Yellow squash are a versatile mainstay of the South Texas kitchen. This simple salad recipe is perfect as a side dish or a main course in the heat of the summer.
Elsewhere in the garden our valiant veterans of the compost pile carried on unperturbed:
Kitchen scraps, grass clippings, dry leaves, manure and saw dust are all excellent additions to a compost pile.
The photographer found a little respite from the heat in the shade with these spectacular petunias:
Bachelor buttons at the far end of the plot were still relishing the sunshine.
A comfortable living from a small piece of land does not come without some sweat equity……. no false advertising about the labors of gardening but they are infinitely rewarding.
Scrub under your nails,
Anne Marie S.
The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow.
Many thanks to all the long shadows of the Bexar County Master Gardeners who maintained the garden over the hottest part of the summer! Upon arrival at 7:00 am Saturday morning for a final inspection prior to commencement of the fall session, the volunteers found the garden beds were weed-free, topped off with soil and tidy as a pin.
Irrigation lines were running free and clear.
Garden plots on the south side still flourished with an abundance of peppers and eggplant.
Texas AgriLife has numerous links to information on pepper horticulture.
Besides peppers and eggplant, one of the few vegetables that thrives in the South Texas summer heat is okra. A spectacular stand of Oscar okra was growing in the research plot.
Okra is especially delicious in gumbo.
After a thorough cleaning of the Sunday house the volunteers regrouped for Orientation for the Fall 2019 session of the CVG. County Extension Agent David Rodriguez was on hand to welcome the volunteers. One of the oldest youth gardening programs in the nation, the Children’s Vegetable Garden Program is proudly hosted by the San Antonio Botanical Garden (SABOT). As of Saturday morning, registration was still open for a few remaining plots. More information regarding the details the program can be found on the SABOT website. The program will run Saturdays from September 7, 2019 through December 14th, 2019.
That only leaves a few more weeks for my garden at home to be revived after a rough summer.
Anne Marie S.
If a garden require it, now trench it ye may,
one trench not a yard, from another go lay;
Which being well filled with muck by and by,
to cover with mould, for a season to lie.
-Thomas Tusser, 1557
The task for the last two sessions of the garden season required some demanding but essential work. Although there is a certain amount of regret when it’s time to “put the garden to sleep” for the summer, knowing that the next season will reap the rewards of these efforts is a silver lining on the last days of the session.
Even our ancestors understood COMPOST HAPPENS but properly managed compost demands some physical exertion:
Volunteers and parents trundled loads of plant material to perpetuate the compost pile.
Composting reduces the amount of waste in the city landfills but even more benefits are derived from a well tended compost pile. When used as a soil amendment, finished compost (or humus) enhances soil structure and improves the soil’s capacity to hold water.
An abundance of produce was still to be found before relinquishing the last of the vegetable plants:
Grande Jalapenos were thoroughly harvested. A few of the plants were left for the SABOT summer camps as well as banana peppers, eggplant and tomatillos. Sweet and hot pepper varieties thrive equally well over the hot south Texas summers.
As usual, the purple martins were on hand to keep a vigilant eye on the young gardeners:
Mid-January through early February is the typical arrival time for purple martins in south Texas.
One weary gardener took a well-deserved break on the sidelines:
Clearing the paths of weeds, particularly palm seedlings was a top priority. This link is useful for identification of other pernicious garden weeds.
Evidence of a promising fall session was already in place with the appearance of newly constructed gardening beds and containers:
This handsome vegetable trug is a perfect container for tender lettuces.
New raised beds with an undisclosed purpose sprouted in front of the Sunday House.
The day finally wrapped up without a hitch. Many eager families were ready to re-enroll for the upcoming fall session. Anyone interested can register via SABOT (San Antonio Botanical Garden).
Many more adventures await us in the garden…….
Until the fall,
Anne Marie S.
“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”
– Doug Larson
Well, hmmmm, I guess so. However the vegetable line up for the Children’s Vegetable Garden Program Contest and Picnic was ample and appealing without the fat:
Never eat anything bigger than your head………
Prior to contest submission vegetable entries were gently washed to remove any soil:
Basic tips on the importance of washing fresh produce can be found on Dinner Tonight.
Gardeners carefully evaluated each entry for uniformity in size, shape and color:
Ichiban eggplant passed inspection for contest entry and later destinations in the culinary arena.
Judging criteria required yellow squash and zucchini to be crisp, firm and free of damage, 1.5-2 inches in diameter and 5-6 inches long.
After critically selecting the prime specimens for submission, vegetables were neatly displayed in trays for review by the Quality Control Team:
An entry card was completed for each category of vegetable submitted.
Seasoned Bexar County Master Gardeners were on hand to serve as Quality Control for approval of each entry:
Entries were submitted no later than 10:20 am at the QC table in front of the Sunday House.
After judging all entries, County Extension Agent David Rodriguez was on hand to award ribbons to the winners:
A fulfilling day was rewarded with the excellent culinary efforts of the hot dog team on the South End:
Many thanks to the efforts of all the volunteers, parents and patient, lavishly tended vegetables……
Eat healthy, stay tuned,
Anne Marie S.
The kitchen garden satisfies both requirements, a thing of beauty and a joy for dinner.”
-Peter Mayle: Encore Provence:
New Adventures in the South of France
Although not a thing of beauty or a joy for dinner, insect control was still high on the list the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend:
Volunteer on insect patrol with a pan of soapy water….
Prevailing east winds did not deter the harvest:
In spite of tomato pinworms:
The pinworm problem was previously addressed in a post from Fall 2018……..
Tomatoes in the research beds promised any number of delicious dinners for those lucky enough to sample the fruits of the weekday work party’s labor:
Roasted tomatoes, frozen in olive oil, are a mighty asset when the wolf is at the door…..
The small fry found reprieve from labor in the southside asparagus patch:
Truck not included……
And west side zinnas:
Last but not least, the yellow crookneck squash had reached a size that could not longer be ignored:
Blossoms of the errant fruit are amazing stuffed with goat cheese, battered and fried…..
Research ways to utilize different parts of plants in your home kitchen ………………
Anne Marie S.
I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.
-Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Afternoon on a Hill”
Carpet Mix Petunias are not the ideal flower for a bouquet but they did benefit from deadheading on Saturday:
For information on other (purple – my favorite color) varieties of petunias please visit this AgriLife website Petunias.
Vegetables ready for harvest were in abundance. Tomatoes, zucchini, squash, Provider green beans and cucumbers were all eager for a visit to the kitchen:
In a casserole, blanched, roasted, sautéed or pickled, green beans can’t be beat for their nutritional power punch.
Tomatillos looked promising for a future batch of salsa verde:
Native to Mexico and Guatemala, tomatillos are also known as Cape Gooseberries.
Natchez blackberries were just beginning to ripen from green to red to deep purple:
Besides their natural place in a cobbler, blackberries are also a welcome addition to savory dishes such as a sauce for grilled meats or alongside a platter of cheese.
Gardeners were careful to supplement the PVC plot irrigation with thorough hand watering:
Whopper bronze leaf begonias planted in week 5 were vivid in the foregroud.
Find joy in small things 🙂
Anne Marie S.
Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?
– Garth Nix, Sabriel
Regardless of thoughts on paths and walkers the paths still required attentive weeding:
The insides of plots and surrounding walkways were cleared of weeds, rocks and debris by pulling and grubbing.
Yellow leaves were removed from Green Magic broccoli and the backsides of the leaves were carefully inspected for caterpillars and harlequin bugs:
Signs of the harlequin bug are white blotches (stippling) on plants where the bug has been feeding.
Peppers, eggplant and tomatillos were standing straight and tall inside their cages:
After thoroughly watering the plots the plants were misted with Bug-Out II (not to be confused with the firearm of the same name). More information on DIY pest control can be found on this Agrilife link.
The Harris-Moran 8849 Rodeo Tomatoes and Ruby Crush tomatoes planted in weeks 2 and 3 were growing into the second tier of the tomato cages:
Although somewhat icky, immature stinkbugs and caterpillars were destroyed manually.
Cucumber beetles were removed and destroyed from squash, zucchini and cucumber plants. This included tapping the insects out from the flowers and smashing them:
All squash and zucchini fruit that were ready were harvested. Overgrown fruit will put unneeded stress on plants and slow them down on future fruit production.
Squash and zucchini plants on the South side of the garden got a “thumbs up” from these brothers:
A self-awarded Fiesta medal for “best-in show” always assists in productivity.
Squash blossoms inspected in section one were populated with bees. The bees were left unhindered for pollination of other fruiting plants:
Please see this bee keeping link for more information on bee keeping in Texas.
Happy Insect and Veggie Hunting…………..
Anne Marie S.
A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
Although shade would have been most welcome the cowpen daisies in the perimeter beds were happy to have plenty of sunshine and a long drink of water from the volunteers on Saturday, April 27th:
Fiesta streamers from last week added a another bright note of color among the verdant vegetables:
Errant tomato branches were gently tucked back into their cages.
While Master Gardener Jennifer Sierra taught the Junior Master Gardener class a recipe for Cheesy Broccoli and Ranch Smashed Potatoes, gardeners in the plots proactively patrolled the broccoli plants to destroy cucumber beetles and cabbage loopers:
Insects infesting the Green Magic Broccoli were destroyed by smashing them or throwing them in soapy water.
Pepper, eggplant and tomatillo plants were all fertilized with 1/2 c each of organic granulated fertilzer:
Fertilizer was carefully applied 4 inches from the base of each plant.
The research plot with U-157 asparagus was thriving on the south end of the garden along with the the Louisiana bunching shallots:
Woody ends of asparagus are an excellent base for soup.
Other daily chores included treating fire ant mounds and reseeding beans, squash and zucchini. Tree saplings which were not destined for maturity were dug out from the blackberries. Most important and never at the end of the list was weeding, watering and more fertilizing:
A happy garden is a well-tended garden!
Anne Marie S.