Six on Saturday 2019-03-16: Edibles and Poison

While there is more greenery out, I feel bad watching the occasional butterfly flittering around and not finding any flowers to sip nectar from. I may have to find some early-blooming food for the pollinators for next year.

At least the leaf-cutter ants haven’t stopped by again. I found one soldier scoping out the place, but I decapitated it and hope the others got the message.

Anyhow, here are six things that are happening around my yard today.

Flax

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I was looking forward to feeding the butterflies this year. I had many milkweed plants growing from seed scattered around the yard. Or I thought I did. Today I found a couple of small blue flowers on the plants. After some online investigation, it looks like this is actually flax. This shouldn’t be surprising. Last year after I got tired of eating flax seed, I scattered what was left around the yard to see what would happen… but then promptly forgot about it.

Peppers

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Last weekend I planted out over a dozen baby pepper plants. This was in addition to the few I had planted out already. Some have already been dug up by squirrels, but others appear to have settled in nicely. Peppers are supposed to be good companion plants for citrus trees, so I have them planted in each of my tree beds. They’re especially good plants for me because they’re drought tolerant. I don’t tend to get many peppers that way, but maybe this year it’ll rain more.

Kumquat

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The leaves on my young kumquat tree have been gradually getting yellower for a while, but I’ve been putting off any kind of fertilization until Spring. Well, now is the time. The liquid fertilizer I bought last year isn’t sold anymore, but this week I picked up some Citrus-tone at the nursery. Kumquat isn’t actually a citrus plant, but close enough.

Blackberries

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I’m pleased to see the blackberries starting to bud, but those have gotten pretty yellow also! Do they not like the homemade compost I added around them not long ago? Well, we’ll find out if they like citrus food.

Crandall Currant

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The foliage on this young shrub just looks cool. I hope the berries are good too.

Poison Ivy

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Winter was so nice, if for no other reason, then that the poison ivy had died back for the season. But now there are fresh sprouts starting to dot my yard. I have to start being careful again, and prepare for some fun Spring sessions of manually attacking the poison ivy. Last year I used a herbicide to kill much of it. I’m hoping that’ll make it manageable enough for me to handle it on my own this year.

Well, those are my six. Check out the Propagator’s blog to find more goings on in gardens around the world.

Six on Saturday 2019-03-09: Garden delights and fears

Some cold weather came through Austin early this week. Temperatures were in the 20s on Monday morning in my yard, and then both Tuesday and Wednesday mornings also dipped into freezing. Sure, there are some pomegranate and mulberry leaves that are totally frost-burnt, but most plants are fine and it seemed to be a signal to the other plants that winter is now concluded and with warm days again more green appears every day.

Here are six things from my garden this week.

Not Comfrey

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When this plant first appeared in an unexpected spot, I thought it was a comfrey plant and wondered how it got there. But it grew larger than my other comfrey plants and the leaves have a slightly rounder shape. Finally when it got large enough, it struck me that it could be borage. I tore off a piece of leaf, and sure enough it had that distinct cucumbery flavor. Note: This is probably not the smartest method for identifying plants but I had a pretty strong hunch.

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For reference, this is an example of what my comfrey plants look like.

Asparagus

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Although this early asparagus spear first poked out of the ground almost a couple of weeks ago, none of its asparagus buddies have joined in. I measured it this morning at a whopping 25 inches (63 cm), which seems like a lot to grow all alone. Does it prefer the nearby grasses at this edge-of-the-bed location?

Warren Pear

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This Warren Pear was planted bare root at the start of January. As always, I was hugely relieved to see the leaves finally break free from their little brown knobs this week. I’m trying not to baby this plant too much because the information I’ve gleaned from the internet is that it’ll do fine only so long as it doesn’t grow too quickly. It needs a bit of tough love, or it’ll be weak and could ultimately succumb to fireblight in this area.

Pollinator

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I may not know how to identify all my pollinators, but I generally know how to make them happy. Leaving some “weeds” for them to enjoy? Easy enough!

Anole

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Anoles are regular guests in my yard, but they rarely agree to stop and pose for pictures.

Texas Leafcutter Ants

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Due to the other wildlife like those mentioned above, I normally avoid insecticides in my yard. However, leafcutter ants really freak me out. They build huge underground colonies with tunnels up to several feet deep. Last year when they showed up, I first noticed them because my dwarf buford holly was red and alive. The last of the green leaves were just being removed, and ants were all along the branches making sure they’d gotten everything. Then I started reading about roads that had collapsed due to the vast excavation done by the ants. Last year, I didn’t bother growing vegetables because I didn’t know if they’d survive. Mounds popped up in my yard, and desperate, I tried a few different types of poison. Finally, in November I saw the last of them. Anytime a mound popped up, I’d dig it up and pour some of the poison down their hole. And then one day I stopped seeing them… until this Thursday. I went out into the garden after work, and there was a huge long parade of ants gather leaves to take back to their own fungus garden. I panicked and poured the remnants of last year’s poison onto the parade. They may have just been gathering weeds, but who wants to feed their colonies that grow to the millions? This picture is one of their mounds from last year, presumed dead, but which some of the ants made as their destination on Thursday. I haven’t seen any more yesterday or today but remain on high alert. I need to calm down and find a way to deal with these buggers that doesn’t involve killing anything else….

Well, that last one was an earful, wasn’t it? But those are my Six on Saturday for this week. Check out the Propagator’s blog for more sixes from gardens around the world.

Six on Saturday 2019-02-23: So many plants

Two new plants arrived in the mail this week–a Crandall Currant and a Goumi. I got them into the ground the same day, but they’re very much sticks-in-the-ground at this point. I’ll share more later about how they made their way onto the list of the twelve plants I’m buying this year.

Other than that, I’ve stayed inside for most of the week, thinking about work things. Fortunately, today I spent more time in the garden and was finally able to clear my mind again. Here are a few (well, six) of the little things that I’ve been able to immerse myself in today and free myself of other cares.

Turks Cap

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Turks cap sprouts

Turks cap is a Texas native that easily handles any neglect and has beautifully structured red flowers for many months of the year. I’ve been quite disappointed as my turks cap cuttings have died off one by one (just one left!), but maybe growing from seed will be a better solve for propagating more plants. I planted a few seeds on the 9th, and a couple of weeks in I’ve already potted a couple of them to their own containers. Even better, today I felt something uncomfortable in my shoe, which turned out to be another turks cap seed. Someday I will have many (in my yard, not my shoe).

Arbequina Olive

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new growth on the olive tree

Meanwhile, leaves continue to pop up on more plants outside. One of the latest is on the Arbequina Olive that I just planted out last month. It was a relief that the winter has been pretty mild since planting it out, and it’s even more of a relief now that it appears to be happy in this location.

Goji berry

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Fresh greens on the goji berry

One goji berry has been putting out new growth for a couple of weeks already, and the other has just started. Between the two plants, I only got a few dozen small berries last year, but here’s hoping that this year is more prolific now that they’ve made themselves more at home.

Wild Onion

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Wild onion flowers

When we first move into this house a few years ago, I was intrigued by the onion-smelling foliage in the side yard and then amazed to discover that it’s actually wild onion. Someday I’ll try using some of this in cooking, but for now I just love to observe and marvel at it growing wild.

Cardinal

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Lonely cardinal

I saw a pair of happily coupled cardinals flitting about this morning, but this other guy seemed a bit down. He was hopping around in the neighbor’s yard, sometimes waving his wings a bit but to no effect. I was curious about his injury, but he kept hopping away from me and finally through a hole in a wooden fence to another neighbor’s yard.

Philodendron & Shrimp Plant

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Spotted philodendron

I’ve been keeping an eye on Craigslist lately, and today a gardener from a nearby neighborhood posted about some free extras–red shrimp plants and a bag of spotted philodendron. Shrimp plants aren’t my favorite because, well, they look like they have shrimp on them. But I have plenty of spaces needing plants to fill them, so several shrimp plants made their way home today. I planted out five of them in a row near the area where the creek overflows (we’ll see in a few months whether I planted them too low, if so they’ll drown in the spring floods) and potted up one for the swap at work on Monday. The huge mass of philodendron twine confused me. Will the now-mangled plants in all of these five pots survive? You can see I ran out of pots and resorted to whatever I could find. Eventually I’ll repot these into a hanging planter I also got free.

Well, I think I’ve had enough gardening for one day and am ready for some sleep, but if you’re interested in seeing what other folks are up to in their gardens, check out The Propagator for more Six on Saturday blogs from around the world.

Six on Saturday 2019-02-16: Weeding and Scratching

The world has greened up enough that I had to put some extra effort into weeding today. My Six on Saturday this week is about my adventures weeding, which is a tiny bit about pulling weeds and a lot more about plant identification and figuring out if I want it or if it’s a weed. At least I got to enjoy the flock of birds that was flying high overhead from tree to tree for a while this morning.

Hackberry

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Sugar hackberries and the sprouts they create, surrounding a nasturtium

I’ve prepared for the spring season by finding pictures online of many of the common known weeds in my yard. Daily quizzing led up to an instant identification today when I found these guys. Does it help that there are more hackberries are sitting right next to the seedlings? Oh well, it’s easier to pull the sprouts than pick up the berries (although it’s easier to pick up the berries than deal with the larger seedlings). And I was very careful to not disrupt the nasturtium.

Field madder

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Field madder in bloom

Field madder is a low-growing annual that has popped up in areas of thin grass. This plant is new to me this year (it’s possible I just never noticed it before) and kind of cute, so I didn’t pull it today. The dense mat should prevent less desirable plants from popping up there. I’ll leave it this year to observe as it continues to grow and die back. Worst case scenario, I’ll have to pull more weeds next year. It happens.

Mystery Plant #1

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A hollyhock maybe?

This looked too froufrou to be a common weed. I’m guessing it’s from one of the seed packets I scattered around in the fall so it stays.

Mystery Plant #2

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Mysterious white bud

Yet another unidentified plant. With the fancy white bud, this one also must be from the seed packets, but it doesn’t quite look like anything on the labels. I have to remember to check it regularly so I can get a better identification after it blooms.

Mystery Plant #3

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Awesome companion plant for the pomegranates?

This little guy was coming up in the mulch next to my new pomegranates. It looks kind of familiar, but I’m still scratching my head on what it could be. Could the pomegranate have put out a sucker after just one month? It doesn’t look quite the same.

Mystery Plant #4

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This must be some sort of alien plant. I came across it unexpectedly in a quite shady spot, where birds are more likely to plant things as I am. With the close leaves, could it be a strange sort of zinnia? An image search suggested that this was sorrel, but it sure doesn’t look like any of the “matching” images. Oh well, time will tell.

Well, that’s my six for this week–a lot of head scratching. To see other sixes from gardens around the world, check out the Propagator’s blog.

 

 

Six on Saturday 2019-02-09: It’s getting green out

It’s been a bit chilly the past couple of days. Nothing like folks up North have seen and nothing that’s even exceptional in the area, but it did dip into freezing. And although I didn’t see any snow like some other folks in the area did, there were some small hailstones still sitting on my back porch from yesterday to this morning.

Overall, though, things are already greening up. Here are a few things that are going on in the gardening this morning.

Pomegranates

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Wonderful pomegranate starting to leaf out

Fresh foliage is emerging from both my Al-Sirin-Nar pomegranate, as well as the Salavatski and Wonderful pomegranates that I just planted a month ago. I wonder what year I’ll start getting some edible pomegranate fruits. Mmm!

Daylilies

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New Stella D’Oro daylily foliage

Last year I was surprised when the foliage on my daylilies disappeared seemingly overnight. Is that what they do when it cools off, or did something eat them? I’ll see what happens this year. For now, new foliage has happily emerged. Since I planted them in the fall I haven’t seen the flowers yet, but this should be the standard orange Stella D’Oro variety.

Blackberries

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New Kiowa blackberry plant in the Warren pear bed

A month ago I planted three Kiowa blackberry plants, and they’ve just started to leaf out as well. Native dewberries grow around my yard, so these should do well here.

Catmint

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Ladybug on catmint

While looking around my garden and making a note of what needs to be done, I noticed new foliage at the base of the Walker’s Low catmint, and briefly considered pruning some of the old foliage a bit. But then I looked closer and saw this ladybug just hanging out. I think I’ll leave it be for now. 🙂

Garlic Chives

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Garlic chives two-thirds from the left

I’ve never heard of anyone having trouble keeping chives alive, but I’ve tried planting regular chives in my persimmon guild twice, and they quickly succumbed both times. It hasn’t been a full year yet, but I’m happy to see the garlic chives replacement are still growing strong so far.

Fennel

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Many new fennel plants

I collected Fennel seed last year, and it’s sprouting up all around my yard. What I thought were poppies in a previous Six on Saturday post? Yup, those now appear to be fennel. Also, I just recently learned that after a fennel plant “dies”, new fennel plants sprout from its base. I’ve read that it sprouts one new plant from each side, but this plant gave way to five new ones! Can some of them possibly be new plants from seed that had been carefully nested underneath? I have no idea. I’ll probably harvest a few of the fennel bulbs before they’re fully mature to make space for the other two.

That’s my Six on Saturday. If you’re interested in more sixes from gardens all over, check out the Propagator’s blog.

Six on Saturday 2019/02/02

With the no-sweater-needed weather this weekend, I’m getting anxious for spring. I’ve already enjoyed the bare stems and branches quite enough for one season. It’s a good thing I live in Texas where the main planting season starts in March. Just one month of patience and prep. Here’s a bit of what’s going on right now though.

Mulberry

Our Central Texas winter started out nice and chilly with a freeze in mid-November, but since then it seems warmer than usual with no risk of getting into the 20s (F) here in my Austin garden. And sure enough, my black mulberry has already started leafing out ready for Spring. I hope other plants don’t follow suit just yet.

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Just a few of many, many leaves on the mulberry

Peppers

One of my coworkers gave me some sweet pepper seeds last month, and I’ve been reusing a “disposable” food container to germinate the seeds before potting them up. But where will I put so many pepper plants? They were originally chosen as companion plants for the citrus, but some may need a dedicated home at this rate.

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A few of the potted young peppers and my germination station

Mexican Bush Sage

When the Mexican Bush Sage puckered out after our first freeze and I pruned it back, I decided to stick the prunings in the ground and see if any of them rooted. Months later, a couple of them are still alive. Here’s hoping they grow strong enough to survive the summer heat, in which case I can transplant them later in the year.

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New growth on the Mexican bush sage (2/3 down)

Dwarf Barbados Cherry

On January 10, I took a few cuttings of Barbados Cherry. I stuck two in water and potted up the other. This week I was pleasantly surprised that the root had grown almost two inches from one cutting. There was also another root sprouting above the water and trying to make its way down, as well as a bit of extra top growth. So today I potted up that cutting and am hoping for the best. There is some root growth on the other cutting in water but not quite as much yet. I’m not sure about the one that was originally potted up but at least it still appears to be alive.

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Two Barbados Cherry cuttings – one already rooted and potted up, the other still sitting in water

Mexican Honeysuckle

The Mexican Honeysuckle in my front yard has been blooming pretty much all winter, but I’m less interested in that right now than in the fact that it’s extremely easy to propagate. I just take a 4 inch cutting, strip it of all but two leaves and stick it in water until I see roots forming. Sometimes they bloom again when they’re still in the water! but I usually snip the blooms off. I’m thinking of using some of these plants to line the south side of my house, but surely I’ll also give a couple away at the swap in a few weeks.

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Mexican Honeysuckle cutting that’s been rooting in water but isn’t quite ready to pot up yet

Agarita

All my previous attempts at propagating Agarita have ended with the leaves turning black. Due to my recent success with rooting cuttings in water, though, I decided to try that instead of potting up the cutting directly. I also tried a new trick of dabbing the end of the cutting in honey as a root stimulator. I don’t know if that really helps or if I’m just getting better at this in ways I can’t tell, but the cutting is definitely doing okay. Although the old leaves are a bit brittle and have been falling off one by one, there is new growth both up top and down below. The waiting is the hardest part.

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Tiny bits of green are growing out of each junction
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Not the best picture and debris has collected in the water, but there’s definitely growth

Well, those are my Six on Saturday. If you’re interested in seeing what’s going on in other folks’ gardens, check out The Propagator’s blog for more Six on Saturday posts.

Six On Saturday 2019/01/05 – Small Things

I bought too many plants last year and have a stack of little black pots waiting to be reused. So this year, I’ve resolved to limit my purchases to twelve plants for the whole year. If I want more than that, I’ll have to start them from seed, from cuttings, or swap with other gardeners.

I’ve been following The Propagator‘s blog for a while to learn more techniques and decided to participate in the Six on Saturday blogging theme, which is a way to share six things that are happening in my garden. For this week, there’s an obvious focus on plants I’ve started myself.

Red Yucca

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Red yucca youngsters in the side yard

I’ve had this red yucca for a while. I started this red yucca from seed indoors and planted it out last spring. The tallest plant is now a whopping 8 inches tall. Maybe I should have called this post “Slow Things” instead.

Butterfly Milkweed

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One of several milkweed sprouts

Several sprouts are starting to come up from seeds of a few different wildflower packets that I scattered in the side yard in fall. I’m looking forward to a lot more seed for future swaps in addition to having more butterflies show up for pollination duties this year.

California Poppy

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California poppy in the kumquat bed

I also sowed some California poppy seeds in the fall after having seen a couple of yards in the neighborhood with various beautiful poppies and then reading online that the flowers of this variety are edible. This looks like other seedlings online so maybe in a few months I’ll have some beautiful and delicious orange flowers blooming.

Scarlet Runner Bean

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Young runner bean plant by the mulberry

Cowpeas grow really well in my yard, but it requires planting them out every season. I’m hoping that these runner beans really are perennial and I can harvest beans for years to come. Unfortunately, only two plants have survived from a dozen or so that I planted in the fall, but maybe they just weren’t mature enough yet to handle a little bit of predation. Still hoping, and I have some seeds left to start more in the spring.

Artichoke

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Artichoke sprouts

These aren’t in the garden yet, but I’d like to put out at least a few artichoke plants this spring. Amazingly, these seeds took only a week to germinate (I kept the soil pretty damp because I had heard recommendations to soak the seeds before planting them but promptly forgot until they were already in pots). If all goes well, I’ll start some extra artichoke plants for swapping also. But the hardest part for me is generally keeping seedlings alive until they’re strong enough to go outside.

The seed packet contained two varieties–Green Globe Improved and Purple of Romagna. I don’t know which is which, so I’ll have to do some more research online to learn how to tell the two apart.

Shrimp?

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A crustacean in my yard!

This most definitely isn’t a plant, but it was in my yard. I live near a creek, and on one side of my property is a low area that floods whenever there’s a good rain. This morning there were still a few puddles still out there from rains earlier in the week. And there was something moving! At first I thought it was some sort of beetle or roach, but upon closer inspection it was a crustacean. I’m not sure if that really is a shrimp or not, and I never would have guessed that shrimp live in the creek, but I can tell you that I won’t be eating shrimp anytime soon. Whatever that was didn’t look at all appetizing.

Those are my six for this week. Even without accruing many more plastic pots, I think this is going to be a great year for enjoying the garden!

My Austin Garden In April

After an unseasonably warm winter, we’ve lucked out lately with some beautiful (not sweaty) weather lately. I’m doing my best to enjoy it while I can, and many of the plants are enjoying it as well. Even the fireflies are finally out again. Here’s a sampling of what’s been going on in my central Texas garden.

Cultivated Edibles

Only a few of my tomato seedlings and none of the eggplants survived. One thing I’ve learned this year is that cleaning the pots and using fresh potting soil really does result in healthier starts. Right now there’s one cherry tomato plant and one Roma tomato plant out in the yard, with one last seedling (started from a random tomato) still in the house.

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Cherry tomato starting to stretch out
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Roma tomato with a long ways to grow

The jalapeño pepper plants were eaten when transplanted outside. One my coworkers says that rats love them. I’ll bet the squirrels love them too. 😦

At least one of the bell pepper plants is untouched, plus one more still inside.

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Bell pepper plant

The cucumbers and nasturtiums were planted in partial shade this year. Last year they looked really heat-stressed in full, full sun. Now that the trees have leafed out, though, I’m worried they may be in too much shade. Only time will tell.

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The fava bean plants which survived the winter have finally started producing pods.

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Fava pods at the base of one plant

I’ve planted random seeds all over the backyard. The bad thing about this is I always have to be more careful where I step or I could squash a cherished seedling. It’s also difficult to cut down the weeds while avoiding seedlings. That might explain the weedy situation of my backyard currently. But yesterday, I saw a dark sprout that I marvelled at recognizing it as a squash. Several sunflowers have sprung up, the beans are obvious, and many are a mystery.

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Butternut squash seedling
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Royal Burgundy beans

Sadly, I haven’t yet seen anything that looks like a melon vine yet. It’s only the start of April, though, and I still have extra seeds to put out. I will have delicious melons this summer!

I finally pulled up some carrots in March. They were delicious even though there weren’t too many of them. A couple of dozen carrots from three packs of seeds is very unimpressive. I may have to be a more attentive carrot gardener next year, because I really do love carrots.

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Paris Market and Scarlet Nantes carrots

I only got four corn plants from the whole pack of corn seeds. Maybe if I had watered more… nah. I’m probably not going to try corn again anytime soon.

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Corn, mulch, and a few not-corns

The cilantro is already flowering. I didn’t pick any because to me cilantro tastes like soap, but I’m hoping to harvest some coriander seeds before my current supply is exhausted. It’s one of my go-to herbs. Strange how that works.

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Cilantro en route to becoming coriander seed

Is the Fuyu persimmon tree dead? It still looks like just a stick in the ground. The trouble with transplanting a dormant tree is that I have no way to gauge how healthy it is and if it there’s anything I can do to pamper it a little more. I did give it the scratch test, and there is a bit of green beneath the bark. I’ve also read in multiple places online that it can take months for a persimmon tree to come back after being transplanted. But I really really hope I don’t have to wait much longer.

Fortunately, the fig, kumquat, and citrus trees (meyer lemon and satsuma mandarin) are more visibly alive. The citrus leaves have some yellowing, but I’ve applied a little bit of nitrogen fertilizer and have been careful to water them only as needed. Most of the other trees nearby have leafed out happily and the sea of green is mesmerizing. Even the pecan trees at long last have bits of green starting to extend from their branches.

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My new kumquat tree!
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Texas Everbearing fig still going strong
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Meyer lemon, surviving bug attacks

Landscape Plants

After months of patient waiting, the Bluebonnets are finally showing a bit of their namesake color. Unfortunately, grass and weeds are encroaching all around so they don’t get the full attention they deserve. Next year if I can get some started from seed, I’ll plant them out in the front yard bed.

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Bluebonnet plant finally in bloom

During my last stop at the nursery, I was looking at all the seed packets and finally decided to try some lemon grass. The envelope said “Germinates in 3-5 weeks” and I was prepared to practice some patience, but after just four days the first sprout appeared! Now must be the perfect time for it to germinate here, so I just started another couple of small containers today.

On the way home from the nursery last time, I came across this stalked bulbine, sadly abandoned on the sidewalk. This is a spreading perennial, so I’m delighted to add it to my garden.

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Stalked bulbine

It’s the perfect time for taking cuttings here in central Texas. …or so I’ve heard. I’ve never successfully rooted a cutting before. Anyhow, I took a few cuttings of my rosemary and salvias. Once I learn how to propagate these properly I’ll be able to grow a full yard of delightful plants. At the same time, the layering method is also being used to try to root branches of these plants that I can transplant next year.

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Rosemary cutting time!

Sadly, the Esperanza also never came up. I’m going to take this as a sign that perhaps I shouldn’t try to plant things in January. The weather fluctuations between the 30s and 80s are probably too much for any reasonable plant to bear unless they already have a good foothold. Or maybe it’s just for advanced gardeners.

Wild Edibles Discovery

When I first saw the wild onions in side yard, I thought they were the garlic chives sprouted from seed I scattered. Well, nope, the chives never showed. I’ve since seen the wild onions in other places around the neighborhood and even saw them mentioned on tv so I’m sure of the identification. I can’t seem to get a good picture of these, though.

Also, I knew wild blackberries live in some places around town but I’ve never seen them firsthand. That explains why when I first snapped this picture I didn’t even consider it as an option until further explanation. Time to start cultivating the weeds!

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A wild blackberry perhaps?

… but I can sadly no longer recall where exactly I took this picture and can’t find it anywhere. At least now I know better.

But the best discovery of all was the identification of one backyard tree as a Mulberry. I don’t remember seeing any fruits last year, but maybe I wasn’t looking. Or maybe the squirrels got them as soon as they were ripe. This year my eyes will be open. This weekend I also made the fortuitous discovery of a tree with already-ripe mulberries not far away and they were amazing! I can hardly wait for the fruits on my own tree to ripen.

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Leaf and fruit sample from my tree. So the internet could tell me what it was.
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Ripe mulberries discovered in front of a house in the next neighborhood

 

The Garden in March

There have already been several days in the 80s this year, so you know it’ll be just moments before the unbearable heat of summer hits us here in central Texas. March may be the best time to be out in the garden, so here’s a quick pictorial of what’s in my Austin backyard garden right now. Apologies for an exceptional amount of blur on some of the photos. The mosquitoes are already out, and I had to keep moving to keep them away.

Veggies

Some of the swiss chard that I planted a month ago in unamended soil has finally sprouted. We’ll see how well that grows.

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Swiss chard has finally sprouted

One of my coworkers shared some extra beans. I soaked them overnight before planting and they started sprouting within a few days. Beans seem to grow so well here in Austin, and I’m looking forward to getting my cowpeas in the ground soon.

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Purple garden beans

A couple more spinach plants are starting to come up. These have grown way more slowly than I expected, though, and I’ve only had a few leaves most weeks. Next year I’ll try planting more.

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Spinach

The garlic looks pretty healthy. I have about 20 of these scattered around the garden.

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Garlic

Radishes haven’t turned out that great for me previously, so I’ve gotten lazy recently and just scattered seed on top of the soil. Still, there are some nice little plants forming which I can either use for radish greens or let them go to seed. I read you need quite a few radish plants for them to be pollinated correctly, so I may just let the radish bunches all go to seed.

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Radishes coming in

The one broccoli plant that grew has already bolted without producing any florets. Next season I’ll try collard greens instead since I’ve seen those grow well in other gardens in the area.

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Broccoli in bloom

You can just make the edges of carrot fronds in these pics. The number is really disappointing considering I scattered three packets of carrot seeds this year. Next season will require some strategy because I love carrots.

I only have a handful of onion plants that grew from seed (planted in October), but I have confidence that these are the toughest ones and they’ll grow into delicious onions.

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An onion grown from seed

Most of the onion transplants that I bought last month are doing alright. This picture is from a few days ago. I actually did weed and mulch a bit around them today. I just hope the rain stops knocking them over before they can put out some better roots.

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Onion transplants

The fava beans have grown tall and have sweet white flowers on them. They’ve been covered with unidentified tiny dark insects much of the time, but then ladybugs came and enjoyed chowing down so I left them as is.

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Fava bean plant

The cilantro is doing well. If I actually liked cilantro (it tastes like soap!) I’d be using it already, unlike almost everything else in the garden. I will pick a bit for my husband to enjoy, but really I’m growing it for the (coriander) seeds which is great seasoning for soups, pasta sauce, and many other things.

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Cilantro

Also of note is the garlic chives, which didn’t grow anywhere I planted them in my garden but did grow from the few seeds I scattered in the side yard by the creek. If they survive until the fall, I’ll transplant a few for convenience.

Also not pictured is the cherry tomato plant–the one tomato plant I grew that hasn’t died on me while still a seedling. The plant is still fairly small though, and the tomato I took the seeds from was possibly a hybrid so there’s no telling how it will produce.

Indoors the only plants alive at the moment are a couple of eggplant sprouts, a couple of bell pepper sprouts, and a few tomato sprouts that just this afternoon poked up from the dirt.

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Eggplant

I’m tired of seeing seedlings die but may get some more Roma tomato seeds anyway as I really want to make and freeze some more tomato paste this year.

Perennials

The Mexican Mint Marigold is coming back to life after its winter slumber. This area also got the weeding and mulching treatment today so it looks a bit better than this now.

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Mexican Mint Marigold

The Mexican Honeysuckle looks almost exactly like it looked when I planted it a month ago. I was hoping it would grow into a small shrub. Maybe as the weather continues to get warmer.

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Mexican honeysuckle

 

Not pictured are the spearmint, a couple of rosemary plants, oregano, a couple of salvias, and a lavender. My trials of santolini, dichondra, and sedum also aren’t pictured because they still look exactly like they did when planted recently. Grow, plants, grow, come on!

In sad news, the lemon balm didn’t survive my attempt to keep it as a houseplant. The chile pequin and lemon verbena which I planted late last year also appear not to have survived the winter, but I’ll keep checking.

The esperanza that I recently bought and planted is also not yet showing signs of life, while other estabilished esperanza plants in the neighborhood have. Hoping mine is just still putting down roots and will give some green soon.

Trees

This year has been a big one for fruit trees. I’ve acquired a persimmon tree, which is still dormant and still looks like just a stick in the ground, but persimmons are known to require some patience.

I transplanted my two-year-old Meyer lemon also. Some of the leaves are starting to yellow, but that’s either due to too much rain or not enough of specific nutrients that I can’t feed it with well while it’s getting so much rain. It had better hang in there until the dry season starts so I can give it more targeted attention.

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Meyer lemon tree

If that fails, I have another baby Meyer lemon tree inside that just needs a bit more time to grow big and strong .

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Baby Meyer lemon tree

The satsuma mandarin has the same yellowing leaves as the Meyer lemon. But it’s a survivor, I can feel it.

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Satsuma mandarin tree

Finally, there’s the fig tree which is the most promising so far.

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Fig tree, already leafing out since I brought it home a few weeks ago

In less fruity news, there are also four baby Texas Mountain Laurel trees growing strongly in the front yard. Although just a couple of inches high now, they’ll keep growing slowly and in a couple of years become beautiful little shrubs. And someday, graceful small trees.

Bonus

As a final bonus, we just discovered these growing in the side yard by the creek. From showing this pic around to coworkers, it sounds like they may be daffodils! They’re doing so well on their own that I’ll just let them be for a while longer.

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Daffodils?

Bonus #2

But what’s this growing in a neglected part of the yard? Ugh, I don’t know how I can ever get rid of all this stuff.

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Poison ivy and Virginia creeper

Plant a Tree

After a week full of negative thoughts flooding my head, I wanted to do something positive. So I selected a location with plenty of sun, not too close to the house, not too far from the faucet, and with decent soil (almost no rocks found during exploratory digging). And soon my baby (2 year old) Meyer lemon tree had a new home, free from the plastic pot that had contained it for this past year. I made a ring of random bricks from around the yard, and then filled it slightly with a mulch of crumpled leaves and pine needles.

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Molly at 2 years 2 months

This plant is a survivor. After living the first year of its life cooped up inside, I had finally gotten the idea that it might like hanging out outside. Sure enough, being indoors must have been torture and this baby tree was finally able to stretch her wings and let her spirit soar after experiencing the warm sun directly and feeling the breeze rustling through her leaves. After a year outside, it was time to give her a permanent home in the garden where she is guaranteed plenty of room for future growth, both above and below ground.

And for her spiritual growth, I needed to find some companions. Today I had the day off work to go visit The Natural Gardener and do just that. I picked up a “Golden Bells” Esperanza shrub (after previous failed attempts to grow it from seed) and a Fuyu persimmon tree. A kumquat would have made a great companion but it’s apparently not kumquat planting time.

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Persimmon tree… or stick in the ground?

Yes, it doesn’t look like much right now (as a bus rider I chose the smallest one available), but it will grow. Fuyu persimmon trees grow up to 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It has a long taproot and is now situated in what looks like some fairly decent soil. All it needs is a few bricks or something around it to keep it cozy and maybe a bit of fertilizer once I’m sure there won’t be any more hard frosts. Lou here will grow up to be a behemoth and someday will provide us with lots of delicious fruits to boot.

It may seem like a small thing, but planting these two trees in the yard has made me feel a lot better. I’m looking forward to the future now, as these young plants continue to grow and as more trees and shrubs join them in the future. I know the future will be a beautiful place.