Sunday, June 27, 2010

The melon fairy

This morning, I was bemoaning the fact that my cantaloupe plants had lots of vines and flowers, but no fruit. This afternoon, I was thrilled to see that the melon fairy had stopped by to leave me a present.
I swear this cantaloupe wasn't here yesterday! It seems to have appeared while I was at a garden bloggers' get together. Seems like hanging out with Austin garden bloggers brings good luck! Now I just have to keep the possums from nabbing it.

What magical surprises have you found in your garden?

Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wordless Wednesday, How High The Moon Edition


Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Crazy Central Texas harvests

It's 97 degrees outside, just past the summer solstice, and we're harvesting root vegetables here in Austin. Jenny at Rock Rose is harvesting beets, and I pulled up more than a pound of carrots this past weekend.

The cucumbers are producing like crazy, outstripping our tossed salad needs. I've pulled out my copy of Marion Morash's Victory Garden Cookbook looking for cucumber recipes. Julia Child's cream of cucumber soup is there, along with a dozen cucumber salads, cucumber mousse, cooked cucumbers four ways, and a braised salmon with cucumber sauce.

The tomatoes are rockin' and rollin' in the Live Music Capital of the World. This tomato was pea green the night before, but had turned a lovely blush color by the next afternoon.

Unfortunately the birds got to it before me, followed by the ants.

The bird netting is now up. No more tomatoes for you, birdies!

I harvested my first ever homegrown okra pod this weekend. This 3 inch pod is practically as big as the plant it came from. Not much you can do with a single okra pod, but I suspect it won't be long now before its friends stop by.

What's exploding with abundance in your garden?

Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Foliage Follow-Up: June 2010

Here's the most fab foliage in my early summer garden.

Fuzzy lamb's ear, a passalong plant from my mother-in-law.
Lamb's ear

Spiky agave thorns. Purchased from Barton Springs Nursery as a Whale's Tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), it's growing quite quickly and has set one pup, so I have my doubts.

Gulf muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). I didn't cut it back this year. I rather like the mix of the older brown and newer green leaves.
Gulf muhly grass

Boxwood hedges. Not sure of the variety. Extremely drought tolerant, with no disease or pest issues. An underrated shrub in Central Texas.

Enonymus shrub, on the corner next to our bedroom. Again, not sure of the variety. Scale defoliated this shrub out a couple of years ago, but it recovered after a good spraying with neem oil. Every morning we're awakened by dozens of chirping sparrows who just adore this shrub. Personally, I'd rather take it out and replace it with an understory tree or native shrub, but there's no rush.

Baby bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa). This one's going to be HUGE, like Baby Huey. It's doubled in size since we purchased it from Howard's Nursery just before they closed.
Bur oak

One reason the bur oak's doing so well is Jack's consistent attention to its needs. I jokingly call Jack the Tree Whisperer. He knows just when the bur oak needs water, or when it's sprouted new leaves, or when the first acorns appear.
The Tree Whisperer

Whatever he's doing, it's working. The leaves on this little 16-foot tree are gigantic and rather prehistoric looking.
Baby bur oak

No Foliage Follow-up would be complete without a shot of the 'Red Carpet' sedum (S. spurium),

or the Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima).
Mexican feather grass

The American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is putting out little flowers, which means we'll have berries this year. I just planted it last fall.
American beautyberry

Here's a photo a few of you may be able to relate to: foliage plants, patiently waiting their installation into the garden.
Potted plants awaiting installation

Culinary sage (Salvia officinalis). This variety is 'Berggarten'. It's surprisingly drought tolerant. Our favorite sage recipe is this stuffed pork chop from the cookbook, Texas Home Cooking.
Culinary sage

Variegated lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus).
Varigated thyme

Thanks to Pam Penick at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-Up, and apologies for my consistent tardiness!

Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - June 2010

Here are my June 15th bloomers.

The Cosmos sulphureus 'Bright Lights' is just getting started. There's only a few 2-foot-high blooms now, but it'll be seven feet tall and covered in butterflies by September.

Pincushion flower, or Scabiosa columbaria, hails from the Mediterranean and tolerates heat and drought. This is the common 'Butterfly Blue' cultivar.

Most of the roses have petered out with the heat. I did find two lush red roses hiding in the brambles of the 'Dame du Coeur' bush, though.

Turk's cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. Drummondii) is a Texas native, a favorite of hummingbirds, and a good bloomer for shady spots.

Another hummingbird favorite is rock penstemon (P. baccharifolius), which returned from the dead of last year's drought.

The Mexican milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) has reseeded itself all through the front garden.

This little yellow Dahlberg daisy (Thymophylla tenuiloba) popped up 15 feet from its original spot.

Salvias love the heat. Here's a mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea) in front of a white autumn sage (S. greggii).

Here's Indigo Spires salvia.

This Violet Velvet salvia is a new addition. I don't recall the species, but if I can locate the container, I'll post it. (Addendum: it's a S. greggii)

I have a few blackfoot daisies (Melampodium leucanthum) in front of a box-store-variety trailing purple lantana.

We've got some blooms in the veggie garden, too, like these Cisneros tomatillos from the Sunshine Gardens spring plant sale.

'Early Girl' tomatoes are blooming nearby. This is a passalong plant from Jen at Rebar and Roses.

The passalong bush cucumbers from Bonnie at Kiss of Sun are blooming as well. They give us a nice sized slicer every 2-3 days.

The Ambrosia cantaloupes are vining like crazy and starting to set fruit. Bob at Gardening at Draco recommends this variety.
As always, thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of the month. Head over to her blog to see what's blooming all over the world!

Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Joy of Tomatoes

One of the simple joys of our blistering hot Texas summers is a sweet, warm tomato, eaten right off the vine, with the juice running down your chin. Yum!

My first tomato this year was a tiny Sun Gold. It's my first year to plant these. You can pop these little babies right in your mouth. No dribbling.
Sun Gold tomato

My second tomato was an ever-so-slightly-larger Juliet. She did so well last year, I planted her again this year. Most tomatoes peter out when the temperatures get above 90; the fruit fails to set. Not Juliet; she produces straight through the dog days of summer.
Juliet and Sun Gold tomatoes

The cherry tomatoes always produce first. In the full-sized category, the Cherokee Purples are beating Early Girl out of the gate, 3 tomatoes to 1. Here's 2. The third is in my tummy. Slurp!
Cherokee Purple tomatoes

Cherokee Purple tomatoes are known for their propensity to become scarred or malformed on the blossom end, called "catfacing" for some odd reason. Personally, I like a tomato with character. And flavor. Just so long as the tomato is firm and bugs aren't crawling in and out of the holes.
Cherokee Purple tomato

Here's the Early Girl. I suspect she may catch up and overtake Cherokee Purple later in the tomato race. She's from a passalong seedling from Jen at Rebar and Roses, who said she got something like 75 tomatoes off ONE Early Girl plant last year. WOW!
Early Girl tomato

Eva Purple Ball is just starting to flower, but the plant looks nice and healthy. She's a passalong from Jen as well.
'Eva Purple Ball' tomato plant

My first cucumber at the top of this photo is from a passalong plant from Bonnie at Kiss of Sun.
Home grown tomatoes and cucumber

To keep the birds from pecking at the fruit, I try to pick tomatoes as soon as they begin to turn color, and let them ripen them on the windowsill. It's easier and more effective than draping the plants with bird netting or hanging red plastic Christmas balls on the plants. If I had more than the seven tomato plants I have, I probably couldn't keep up.
Homegrown tomatoes

This year, I wanted to keep track of the total weight of my tomato crop, but I completely forgot. I'd guess we've eaten at least a pound already, and more are on the way. Can't you just imagine these beauties sliced up with some Buffalo mozzarella and dressed with basil and olive oil? I can!

Do you grow tomatoes? How's your crop doing?

Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Potato harvest

In February, I made my first attempt at growing potatoes. I planted a small crop of Kennebec potatoes in a potato Grow Bag from Gardener's Supply. I can't recall if I planted them on Valentine's Day or President's Day weekend--probably President's Day weekend, because I remember reading Carla's potato-planting post at Austin Urban Gardens on Valentine's Day, and that probably reminded me to go buy seed potatoes--but I did plant them. I even managed to cut them up, dust them with sulfur and let them cure before planting. I also put sulfur in the soil around the seed potatoes. Two months later, the potato plants looked like this.

On Friday night, I read Carla's post about her potato harvest. I was going to wait a full four months to harvest my potatoes, but after reading her post, I couldn't wait a second longer --I had to know if I had potatoes RIGHT NOW!

So I ran out to the shed, got the wheelbarrow out, tripped over a cinder block, got up and wheeled over to the grow bag, tried to lift it and couldn't pick it up, and went inside to ask Jack for a hand. He dumped the contents into the wheelbarrow and announced, "I see potatoes!" Well, what do you know. Sure enough, there they were.
Potato harvest

I'm such a garden nerd, I had to arrange the potatoes in all sorts of little vignettes and take pictures of them. Here are the tubers dangling from their stalks on top of the soil in the wheelbarrow.
Potato harvest

And here's a closeup of the original hunk of seed potato at the end of one of the stalks.
Where potatoes come from

Here's the biggest potato and the littlest potato, with a badminton shuttlecock for reference.
Biggest & littlest potato

Not all the seed potatoes sprouted. Not sure why; they all had eyes. And about 5 potatoes had soft mushy spots. Maybe I should have harvested them at the 90 day point.
Seed potatoes that didn't sprout

Here they are, all cleaned up and laid out on a placemat with a quarter for reference.
Homegrown Kennebec potatoes

All in all, not bad for a first attempt. I certainly didn't get the 13-pound harvest the Gardener's Supply folks did, but I definitely have enough potatoes for at least a couple of side dishes for the two of us. And according to the Aggies, I can make a second attempt this August.
Homegrown Kennebec potatoes

What's your favorite potato recipe? If you have one, please share! I feel like these fellows deserve special treatment.

Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.