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.

IMG_20190202_161550
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.

IMG_20190202_130149
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.

IMG_20190202_161056-1
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.

IMG_20190202_130354
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.

IMG_20190202_130508-1
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.

IMG_20190202_130718
Tiny bits of green are growing out of each junction
IMG_20190202_130737
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

red-yucca
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

milkweed
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

california-poppy
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

runnerbean
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

artichoke
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?

possible-shrimp
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.

IMG_20170406_181925
Cherry tomato starting to stretch out
IMG_20170406_181943
Roma tomato with a long ways to grow

The jalape√Īo pepper plants were eaten when transplanted outside. One my coworkers says that rats love them. I’ll bet the squirrels love them too. ūüė¶

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

IMG_20170406_181938
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.

IMG_20170329_175547-1

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

IMG_20170405_175855
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.

IMG_20170329_175059
Butternut squash seedling
IMG_20170406_181753
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.

IMG_20170312_140708
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.

IMG_20170406_181737
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.

IMG_20170406_182239
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.

IMG_20170406_181633
My new kumquat tree!
IMG_20170406_181419
Texas Everbearing fig still going strong
IMG_20170406_182305
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.

IMG_20170329_175934
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.

IMG_20170326_145500
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.

IMG_20170329_181553
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!

IMG_20170402_203640
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.

IMG_20170403_185334
Leaf and fruit sample from my tree. So the internet could tell me what it was.
IMG_20170407_172745
Ripe mulberries discovered in front of a house in the next neighborhood