Sunday, May 29, 2016

A couple more weeks to fresh sweet corn

Looks like my corn patch may produce a few edible ears after all.

In Central Texas, early April is the best time to plant sweet corn; our summers get too hot too quickly for that "knee high by the Fourth of July" business. I had to break down half my raised beds before the new fence was installed, and the raised beds I had left were already full of tomatoes and bush beans, so I decided to till up a patch of weedy soil and plant right away rather than wait and try to build a raised bed. That's OK; I wanted a bigger corn patch this year anyway.
'Luscious' corn patch

I'm not sure if this variety, 'Luscious', is a great one for this area, but I've had luck with it before. My seed source says it's best grown above the 40th parallel, and Austin is on the 30th. The plants of this particular variety tend to be shorter - six feet - and the corn cobs form in the bottom two feet of the plant.
'Luscious' corn patch

I had the soil tested at the Soil Kitchen tent at the East Austin Garden Fair, and all the nutrients came back at moderate levels or above, except for sodium, which is not a desirable thing to have in a high quantity in soil. Because corn is a heavy feeder and the soil nitrogen level didn't test at excessively high levels, I did fertilize with cottonseed meal (high in nitrogen, low in everything else) when the plants were about a foot tall, back in April, and when the silks appeared last week.
soil test results

The plants look a little more spindly than last year's crop, but we've had good rain - I've only had to irrigate the patch a couple of times in the past two months - and all the plants have ears. I've been "hoeing my rows" to keep the weeds down. It hasn't been as warm or sunny in the past month, due to all the rain, though we're getting a little sun today, on and off. This last couple of weeks is when the kernels put on all their "weight", so I'm hoping those ears keep getting bigger (and the critters stay away).
'Luscious' corn patch

Even if the critters get a few, I'll be happy if we get enough corn to make fritters, yum!
mmm, corn fritters

I got a good fritter recipe out of The Victory Garden Cookbook. It's a good way to use those less-than-fully-filled ears, and the ears that the worms eat halfway down. There's a corn chowder recipe in there that's pretty good, too; I'll make it again if we get a really good harvest.
making corn fritters

Maybe we'll even get a few fully-filled ears like we did last year. I'm not too picky, Mother Nature; just let us have some!
'Luscious' corn

Words and photos © 2009-2016 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A bloom-filled and productive spring

Months of moderate temperatures and El Niño's rains have brought forth an explosion of spring color in the garden. Bulbs, reseeding annuals and perennials burst into bloom in late February and early March, several weeks ahead of schedule.
front garden

daisies, poppies and lantana


broccoli and Texas mountain laurel

A Yellow Rose in Texas - 'Julia Child'

'Buff Beauty' rose

blue-eyed grass

Despite all the rain, we got a couple of long-needed projects finished. We installed a 550-gallon rainwater harvesting tank ourselves, and received a $225 rebate from the city (50 cents per gallon capacity). I plan to paint the PVC pipe green.
550 gallon rainwater harvesting tank

We alao hired a company to install a cedar fence along one side of our property. Here’s the before:
before the fence went up

And here’s the after. A little less morning sun, but lots more privacy, which was greatly needed on both sides of the fence.
after the fence

I had to break down all the garden beds along the property line, so garden space for the second round of cool-weather veggies I planted in January was very limited.
cedar fence

I only planted our favorites: snap peas, garlic, broccoli, spinach and strawberries in the remaining raised beds, and lettuce and carrots in containers. These veggies all do fine in our warm Central Texas winters without pampering. I got the potatoes planted on President's Day weekend, after the fence was installed. And once the fall-planted broccoli went to seed in March, I pulled it up and planted tomatoes.
veggie garden

It was a great year for broccoli! With all the rain, I hardly had to irrigate at all.
fresh broccoli from the garden

We enjoyed broccoli at least once a week for over four months -
Asian-inspired beef stir fry with garden broccoli

- until the snails moved in and wiped out the last few heads, boo.
snail eating broccoli

Snap peas did great too - enough to give away - and the snails don’t care for those.
bags o peas

Greens went gangbusters and we got a few asparagus spears, too.
spring veggies

Plenty of good eating around here - fresh garden produce never gets old.
homegrown strawberries

steamed veggie medley

And we've already picked our first limes from the lime tree, thanks to the DIY greenhouse and a warm winter.
Margaritas with homegrown limes

All in all, it's been a productive spring, but summer will be here soon enough. The forecasters say El Niño is coming to an end and La Niña will bring above-average temperatures to most of the US - except for Central Texas, South Texas and the Gulf Coast. What do y'all think about that forecast? I'm thinking I better pack my skimpiest summer wear for the Garden Bloggers Fling in Minnesota!
Words and photos © 2009-2016 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.