Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP) Week 5, March 30, 2019

April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.                                                                                                                          

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Well!  We haven’t quite made it to April but I thoroughly understand the sentiment….. Typically in South Texas April is a ‘safe’ month for gardening but I withheld bean planting in my own garden due to predicted temperatures for the coming week (less than 50 degrees overnight).  My empty bean trellis was lonely but expectantly awaiting the arrival of Chinese Long Bean seeds:

bean trellis The beauty of the inverted trellis is that the beans grow on the outside……causing less damage to the plant structure.  Garlic chives are awaiting an omlette in the foreground. 

The Children’s Vegetable Garden participants pressed on with planting ‘Provider’ bush beans.  These sturdy plants do not require a trellis but occasionally are corralled with bamboo stakes and twine to contain their abundant growth.

In spite of the melancholy weather the stupendous Grant’s Garnet poppies noted in the last blog entry were bursting into bloom in the experimental beds.

poppies week 5More information on these spectacular poppies is available in the January Scion Grant’s Garnet .

Further South in the children’s garden volunteers planted an empty bed with “Whopper” Begonias:

whopper begoniasThe Collins English dictionary defines ‘Whopper’ as anything extraordinarily large.  The stunning heads on these Superstar plants will certainly live up to their name Whopper Begonias

Back down to earth with vegetables……….. Green Magic broccoli planted in week 3 was prepared for a drenching with Spinosad.  The ‘HM8849’ and ‘Ruby Crush’ tomatoes were also treated to a gentle dose.

green magic broccoli Broccoli (crowns  and stems) are delicious when roasted and simply dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper.  A squirt of lemon juice and a dab of tahini elevate the flavor without much additional effort.  

‘Tempest” yellow squash and ‘Tigress’ zucchini squash seeds were just poking up in a few plots:

zuke seedlings Tempest crookneck squash is reported to have a nutty flavor and a firm texture.  Tigress zuchini is high yielding and particularly virus resistant.

The dedicated weekly watering team was careful to ensure the petunias were planted correctly to produce dramatic blooms like the perimeter bed.  On Saturday the plants were carefully watered by hand and fertilized with Hasta-Gro:

watering petunias petunias‘Carpet Mix’ petunias planted between the end of the bed and the irrigation line need extra attention for proper watering.  Petunias in the perimeter bed were a shocking pink display interspersed with bluebonnets.

‘Sweet Slice’ cucumbers were planted two inches away from each trellis after fertilizing with Espoma fertilizer:

cuke plant prep sweet slice cukesCucumbers are particularly good sliced thin with onion and a plain dressing of oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. 

An abundant swath of Indian blanket flowers waved the gardeners goodbye at the end of the day:

Indian blankets Gaillardia pulchella aka Indian Blanket, Firewheel, Girasol Rojo.

Until next week……….


Best wishes,

Anne Marie S.

Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP) Week 3, March 16, 2019

Gardens are not made by singing “Oh, How beautiful,” and sitting in the shade.                                                                                                                               

Rudyard Kipling

There was no shade in sight except a gorgeous steel gray cloud embankment the morning of March 16th:

clouds week 3 Blanketed tomatoes stood sentry under the watchful eyes of the purple martin house.

Ruby crush tomatoes were ready and waiting in the Sunday House:

2nd tomatoA rose by any other name is a Ruby Crush.

A few errant gardeners discovered that the mysterious “winter greens” in one of the example plots were actually poppies ready to burst into bloom!  The maroon “Aggie” poppy was isolated by Greg Grant and is known as “Grant’s Garnet”.

poppy Don’t be lulled to sleep like Dorothy……. Grant’s Garnet 

Two tender “Green Magic” broccoli plants were also ready for each plot.  This variety was first marketed in 2004 as a replacement for “Green Comet” broccoli.  Hopefully the new plants will remain harlequin beetle-free unlike the plants from the fall session:

broccoli copy Harlequin beetles are public enemy number 1 for broccoli Harlequin bugs

Unlike poppy leaves, broccoli leaves (and cabbage leaves) are imminently edible.  Use as you would any leafy winter vegetable green (i.e. kale, cabbage leaves, brussel sprout leaves).  The winter vegetables are also particularly delicious in almost any St. Patrick’s Day guise.  I enjoyed a steamed head of cabbage interspersed with chile pequin and a fabulous sunset on Cash Mountain Road:

st pat's sky

Happy Spring 2019!


Best wishes,

Anne Marie S.




Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP) Week 2, March 9, 2019

Gardening is a matter of  your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it.                                                                                                                               


Week Two was actually the groundbreaking (back breaking) day with plant material.  Every plot was provided with one of this year’s Rodeo Tomatoes “Harris-Moran 8849”.

rodeo tomatoHarris-Moran-8849 Rodeo Tomato.

Prior to planting each plot was fertilized with 8 cups of Espoma Garden-Tone fertilizer plus one cup inside each tomato cage.  The plots were also thoroughly trolled for invasive/destructive insects:

grubbingGrubbing was unfortunately productive for this novice gardener. TX Spring Grubs

Planting demonstrations took place throughout the garden to insure the tomatoes were deep enough, level and well-watered:

tomato demoAfter planting the tomatoes were watered in with Hasta-Gro fertilizer Hasta-Gro video.

Finally the plants were caged and blanketed with N-Sulate wrap to protect them from early spring winds and cold temperatures.  The Children’s Vegetable Garden Program at Phil Hardberger Park took similar protective measures the following Tuesday:

Hardberger tomatoesGardeners at the Hardberger Park CVG consult over recently planted tomatoes. 

Elsewhere in the garden an abundance of Tango Celery was harvested from the example plots:

celery Celery leaves make an especially good salad when tossed with black olives, lemon juice, olive oil and salt….. Tango Celery

As always, some of the youngest gardeners found amusement with action on the sidelines:

cvg sidelineClosed toed shoes are a must!

Best wishes,

Anne Marie S.



Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP) Week 1, March 2, 2019

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.                                                                                                                               

Doug Larson

The first morning of the 2019 Session of the Children’s Vegetable Garden Program opened with an Orientation meeting led by Master Gardeners Mary Fernandez and John Mayer:

Mary and JohnThe only stupid question is the one that goes unasked.

Following the meeting Master Gardener Sandra Woodall led the way to the dormant but expectant garden plots:

SandraHope springs eternal. Alexander Pope

Eager gardeners were standing at attention and ready for action!southside

The early bird gets the worm……

Some lucky new gardeners on the South end of the Children’s Vegetable Garden were greeted with an abundance of “weeds” in their plots in the form of lettuce and cilantro.

lettuce weedA beautiful mixed lettuce spray and Cruiser Cilantro in Section 1.

I was fortunate enough to rescue a large bunch of  Crawford lettuce  which found it’s way into a delicious salad that evening.

The weekly work party crew had maintained an impressive variety of plant material in the perimeter plots.  This included  several spectacular beds of Louisiana Bunching Shallots.  Saturday morning two volunteers were busy pinching blooms from the sprouting shallots.

Louisianna shallotsThe blooms are especially tasty when quickly sautéed in a little olive oil and used as a garnish in place of onions or garlic in your favorite dish.  Some growing tips from our neighbors in Louisiana:  Alliums

Junior Volunteers harvested an abundance of Ashley Spinach.

Ashley Spinach -2 Best of all in a quiche….. Ashley growing tips.

Despite the cold and the (mostly) barren plots the spring session started with joy and enthusiasm!

Best wishes,

Anne Marie S.




Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP) Week 14, December 8, 2018

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.

William Blake

What other choice do we really have?  The exception of course is South Texas where we are most fortunate to be able to have an abundant winter garden.  Is there no rest for the weary?  Putting the garden to sleep for the winter truly amounts to just a short cat nap.  catnap

Rather than hitting the snooze button, take the opportunity to tend to maintenance of compost, tools, irrigation and the like in preparation for the challenges of spring.

compost en routeCabbage leaves en route to the compost pile. 

Saturday morning the gardeners spent time carefully weeding the plots and walkways.

weeding PVC irrigation lines are a particularly favored place for unwelcome weeds such as purslane.  The following link is useful for identifying the multiple varieties of purslane in Texas.  Purslane is considered a weed but it is edible.

There were some beauteous broccoli crowns ready for harvest:

broccoli.jpgThe abundant cilantro can be used to garnish a lovely green vegan soup prepared from broccoli, spinach, onion, garlic and broth.  A simple version can be found on the Bon Appetit website.

The perimeter plots were thriving thanks to the mid-week work parties.  Special projects included tending the hops on the exterior fence:


So back to the original point of this entry……… winter is an excellent time to fantasize/imagine/plan for the spring.  This could include planning and designing a garden at your home/redesigning your ‘big picture’ life in ways that make sense to no one but you……. or just taking a break.  With that all said – a garden is absolutely positively unequivocally an awesome part of the plan. You might want to plant a ‘decision tree’……however please be forewarned….they need to be weeded on a daily basis.

Best wishes,

Anne Marie S.





Cruiser Cilantro

Cilantro tastes like death. 

Julia Child

I must say I beg to differ.  However given the divisive nature of this herb it seemed apropos to honor the opinion of America’s most celebrated chef.  For more information on why cilantro is so unpleasant to part of the population read here:

But!  For the (better) half of us who love cilantro…….. we are fortunate that the Cruiser Cilantro planted last year at the Children’s Vegetable Garden graciously reseeded itself to produce this vigorous bunch of plants with a foothold under the Balsamic Basil:

cruiser cilantro

Abundant advice on growing this variety is available at the following link:

One of my favorite ways to enjoy this herb is in a raw salsa.  I typically combine tomatillos, white onion, garlic, serrano chiles, advocado and lime juice with a large bunch of cilantro.  The amounts of each ingredient may vary depending on personal taste and what you have on hand.  The ingredients can either be hand chopped or chopped in a blender or a food processor.  The salsa is great on chips but is also delicious on grilled meats or stirred into rice.

Happy Gardening and Happy Eating!

Anne Marie S.




Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP) Week 12, November 24, 2018

Gardening is not a rational act.

Margaret Atwood

I’m sure the Extension office would beg to differ with Ms. Atwood, however this has been a frustrating yet fun fall session.  In any event, pressing on against all odds is what separates the bona fide gardeners from the dilettantes (I think).

The snow peas were scampering up the trellises which had formerly supported the cucumbers:

snowpeasAny gardeners who were (un)fortunate enough to lose their cucumbers can relish enjoying snow peas in a quick stir fry later in the session.

The “Snow Crown” cauliflower was holding it’s own but one of the plants in Section 8 appeared to have been invaded by an unidentified alien creature:


Despite the casualties from the early freeze the Cheers cabbage were faring well.  Inspection of the heads indicated very little insect infestation.

cabbageMore information on growing “Cheers” cabbage can be found on the AgriLife website:

Besides the obvious choice of consuming cabbage raw (cole slaw) it is also delicious in a number of cooked dishes.  Although most folks associate cabbage with German cookery it is also a favorite in Italian cuisine – particularly in the home cooking of Northern Italy.  A favorite of mine is this rice and cabbage soup from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking:   I always begin by sautéing a large amount of green cabbage:

smothered cabbage

While your cabbage is braising there is ample time to stroll through your home garden and weed the paths.  It is also a perfect opportunity to gently wash all the beautiful lettuce harvested on Saturday morning:


Dress simply with oil and vinegar for a salad and dinner is complete!

Happy Gardening and Eating!

Anne Marie S.