May 9, 2010: Tassles & Tomatoes!
May 9, 2010, 1:54 pm
Filed under: Austin
, go green
| Tags: austin gardening
, better boy tomatoes
, bhn-444 tomatoes
, gardening in central texas
, growing corn
, growing tomatoes
, square foot gardening
, vegetable garden pictures
, vegetable gardens
It’s been well over a month since my SXSW post. It would be natural of you to assume that my disappearance was because I was spending my time recovering from that experience – resting, sobering up, reading, running… but alas, that hasn’t been the case.
This weekend was the first in two solid months that hasn’t seen me traveling or hosting out-of-town guests. Two months! But I’m not complaining. It has been an absolutely wonderful two months and I wouldn’t change a second of it if I had the chance. I’ve had family visit, have traveled to Houston & San Antonio & Galveston & Lake Texana. I’ve been putting in some overtime at the office, have seen some awesome shows (White Rabbits!), and have been plotting to train for the Philadelphia Marathon & a duathlon sometime before the marathon. It’s been an amazingly busy, productive & rewarding spring. Life couldn’t be better.
While my busy schedule kept me in constant motion & with a perma-grin on my face, my garden and house became the victims of unintentional neglect. I spent some time caring for both of them, but not nearly enough. This weekend I finally had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with what’s been happening in the garden, as well as get some new things going in it. The biggest accomplishment was setting up drip irrigation in both beds.
Below are some photos of the garden as of today – more photos of this year’s garden progress are on my flickr page if you’d like to check them out!
The Better Boy tomato plant has set the biggest fruit thus far... yum!
The BHN-444's are most productive, but only cherry-tomato sized... not sure what's up with that. Any thoughts from my fellow gardeners?
First major pest problem of 2010: potato beetles destroying my potato foliage.
The tops on most of my onions have already fallen, but several giants are still growing & now flowering! Can't wait to see the bulbs waiting for me under these huge greens!
zuchinnis! I hope these don't turn out to be a disappointment like last year's crop...
Tassles starting to emerge on the corn, woohoo!!
The payoff: fresh onions, potatoes & garlic. Nom nom nom!
My garden is like my mailman.
February 27, 2010, 12:55 pm
Filed under: Austin
, go green
| Tags: broccoli plants
, front yard garden
, growing from seed
, growing lettuce
, growing spinach
, growing vegetables
, spring garden
, square foot gardening
, texas vegetable gardening
, volunteer lettuce
Yup. Just like my him – minus the ponytail, of course. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night keeps my garden from making vegetables. Our Texas winter has been just about as predictable as the stock market for the last two months. One day it’s 75 degrees and sunny, then two days later it’s 32 degrees and snowing. My plants aren’t sure what to do with themselves, but they continue to trudge forward in spite of it all. Seeds have been slow to sprout & transplants have been hesitant to grow. The only thing showing zero regard for the erratic conditions are my strawberries, who seem convinced that now is the perfect time to set fruit.
I keep catching myself thinking that this harsh winter has set me back in the garden but in reality I’m right on track (if not a little ahead). At this time last year I had 2 types of lettuce, 2 types of onions, and edamame planted. I didn’t even have an herb garden yet! This year by the 1st of March the garden will boast 3 varieties of lettuce, 2 varieties of onions, spinach, arugula, 2 varieties of radishes, beets, strawberries, carrot seedlings, potato starts and broccoli. Not to mention the cilantro, mint julep, catnip, camomile, oregano, rosemary and sage in the herb bed. In 2 weeks I’ll start planting the March crops: summer squash, corn and tomatoes. I can’t WAIT to plant the corn. It is going to look absolutely ridiculous in it’s tiny raised planter. I fully intend to relive my rural Lancaster County childhood by running back and forth through the single row, 8 stalks long. It’s going to be great.
lots of goodies growing!
Milo helps keep the weeds down between trips to the catnip.
Though the garden will soon be bursting with productivity, there are a few problem areas still needing to be solved. For one, I’ve got a cat problem. For the sake of being positive, let’s call it a challenge. My challenge has two parts. One: my lovely neighbor kitty Maybe, thinks that I built the raised beds for her to use as a litter box. I had this problem last year too but it wasn’t such a big deal because my direct seeding in the garden was limited to edamame. This year is a different story. So far she’s made ditches through my beets, piled mountains on my radishes, and hollowed out pits in my carrots. I can’t really blame her because she had no idea that seeds had been planted there and were germinating under her paws. And I have to admit that the beds do look like glorious feline restroom facilities. I’m hoping that she’ll find other places to bury her treasure once larger plants prohibit her from breaking & entering (& pooping). But for now I have to keep my eyes out. My second cat challenge is with the catnip. It took several months but the kitties have finally figured out that they can climb into the herb bed and roll/graze/burrow in the catnip whenever they like. I’ve come to expect the catnip to look brush-burnt. Cat hair covers it like a wispy mold-like disease. Kitties roam the neighborhood looking dazed and haunted. I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do about this challenge. I’ve considered moving the catnip to grow light indoors and charging by the leaf. If anyone has any better ideas, let me know.
My second garden problem is the soil loss out of bed 2. I followed the bed-building method we were taught in the Citizen Gardener class last fall, but I did not follow it as closely as I ought to have. Because I didn’t put mulch down around the planter, soil is slipping through the cracks. Each week I inspect the bed the soil level seems to have sunk another 1/8″ inch. The whole thing looks a bit messy. The messy part doesn’t bother me much, but it would be nice to keep the weeds down around the bed. This is an easily solve-able problem and the next time I head out to the Natural Gardener I’m going to pick up some of their hardwood mulch.
Beyond those small challenges I’m really pleased with how the garden is coming along in 2010. I’ll be even more pleased once I can begin harvesting. The lettuce is getting close, and I’ve been enjoying the herbs all winter long. I’m tickled pink by the volunteer plants I discover each week. The volunteer lettuce is absolutely out of control. This week I saw that my mint julep has fully escaped the herb bed and is coming up randomly throughout the front yard. I imagine it won’t be long before my entire front lawn is edible landscape!
Garden Update #12 – Year End Recap (amongst other things)
January 2, 2010, 3:54 pm
Filed under: food
, go green
| Tags: colorado vacation
, hummingbird cabin
, new years resolutions
, square foot gardening
, vegetable garden
Garden Update #12 will conclude my series of first-year garden stories. At this point it seems fitting to ceremoniously say goodbye to my freshman experience with the garden and graduate into a new series of second-year adventures.
As I recollect over a year of growth, harvest, dormancy, death and reemergence, I realize that the garden has very suspiciously reflected my own life patterns this year. The spring was full of innocent hope. The days and weeks were balanced with equal parts work and play, and then spiced with dashes of charitable volunteering and lots of reading and learning. Health was abundant, life was full. The summer brought drought and challenge. The garden fell fallow under the grips of 100+ temps, and my life grew a bit unbalanced as well. Fall brought sweet, refreshing rains and the garden flourished once again. As the rains nourished, I turned 30 and renewed my goal of finding inner balance. At long last, winter’s first frost killed the last of the seeds I’d sprouted in January and also encouraged the growth of new plants – a fresh start for a new year.
one swift kick.
In less metaphorical terms, the last few months have brought a lot of change around here. A week before Christmas Eve, someone kicked in our front door and made off with a lot of small electronics. No doubt they will be back in a few months to collect those things that they weren’t able to hoist on the first visit. Next time we hope to greet them with a siren so loud that their eardrums will explode (but hopefully not all over my beige carpet).
Cory & I check out the ice fishing scene in the greater Estes Park area.
The other change is that I’ve been traveling, a lot. And I will probably continue to travel, a lot. My new beau is a captain in the Air Force and lives in Colorado Springs. As you can imagine, this makes scheduling regular date nights a bit complicated. In fact, our “first date” was a weekend trip to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Forest. We stayed in an adorable cabin we found on www.vrbo.com, somewhere between Lyons and Estes Park. It was a splendid weekend. Cory was down in December to accompany me to our work Christmas party, and I will head to Colorado Springs in less than a week for a skiing adventure. Two weeks later, we’ll meet in Chicago for a wedding. Twenty-ten promises to bring many frequent flier miles.
Though I don’t necessarily believe in New Years Resolutions, I do believe that the end of a year is a great time review the year past with an objective lens and learn from all the experiences contained therein. The lessons are allowed to come into the new year with me, but nothing else can carry over. With those lessons in mind, it’s a good time to formulate a plan and some goals for the year ahead. So with that, I leave you with my garden plan for 2010, and hope you’ll join me in saying, “Sayonara, 2009!!!!”
garden plan, 2010
Garden Update #11: First Frost.
December 6, 2009, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Austin
, go green
| Tags: first frost
, gardening in texas
, square foot gardening
, vegetable gardening
, what vegetables freeze
Two months ago I dropped my camera face-first into the soupy mix of treated sewage at this year’s wet and wild Austin City Limits music festival. While I was without the graphic support of images, I took a short break from the blogosphere and rejoined the land of the living. I spent a couple of weeks working in our Dallas office. I spent time with my friends. I ran the Race for the Cure. I saw some great bands. I discovered new artists on the East Austin Studio Tour. I spent a few Saturdays at Johnson’s Backyard Garden and celebrated Citizen Gardener graduation at the Barr Mansion. I reunited with a friend who returned from Afghanistan in August, and discovered an exciting new relationship. And all the while, my garden kept on growing.
first carrot. suspicious.
Since the last update in September I’ve added radishes, cilantro and sage to my garden. My baby carrots exploded into tall ferny greens, and my heirloom tomatoes had finally started to push out golf-ball sized babies. My green peppers were still producing wildly, and my fresh basil continued to be the backbone of the tomato/feta/basil salads I’ve grown to love so much. Things were looking pretty darn good. I was really excited about my heirloom tomatoes. Mother Nature, however, had other plans.
On Friday afternoon little tiny snowflakes ran panicked in the air, clearly confused as to why they’d been sent to this part of the world. Friday night brought temperatures in the 20′s. Standing water froze solid. But water in other areas froze solid too – water in plant leaves and vegetables, particularly. In spite of my pathetic attempt at blanketing my plants with an old shower curtain, my tomatoes, peppers & basil plants didn’t survive our first hard freeze. The good news is that my carrots & radishes are going to flourish now that they’re out of the shadows of these larger plants. I’m also excited to begin clearing out these less hardy plants so that I can begin implementing my plans for the garden next year. With the experience gleaned from this first year, plus the expanded space from the new raised bed that I built last week, 2010 should be a year with a little better productivity, a few less mistakes, and perhaps a few more experiments!
Here are more pictures of the destruction. Next year I will harvest before this happens – so much food wasted!
droopy peppers & tomatoes.
more compost fodder.
all cleaned up & almost ready for 2010.
The birthday benefit wrap-up
September 29, 2009, 1:22 pm
Filed under: 30th Birthday Party Benefit for SFC
, go green
| Tags: 30th birthday party
, boggy creek farm
, break it down austin
, farmhouse delivery
, independence brewery
, miscellaneous rentals
, non-profit benefit party
, paula's texas spirits
, sustainable food center
, sustainable food center benefit party
, the cake lab
, tito's vodka
, u-clique studio
, waterstone aesthetics
, wheatsville co-op
Let me tell you all – it has been one crazy month. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve turned thirty and the world is suddenly flying by me at a rapid pace. I’m saying that because just one month ago I made the decision to put together a benefit for Sustainable Food Center and I only gave myself three weeks to do it. While it was admittedly a stressful & challenging three weeks, I don’t regret the decision for one minute. I had the help of some fantastic friends (Sara P., Andy, Melissa, Hollie, Sarah Cash – you are awesome). And I had the support of an entire community of people who are genuinely interested in our food future. I want to use this post to look back and appreciate all that came together in such a short time and provide some insight into some of the phenomenal things that came from it.
First of all, we raised $374 for Sustainable Food Center - a fantastic little chunk of change for a non-profit! Susan Leibrock, Community Relations Director from SFC, shared with me that just 5% of SFC’s annual budget comes from private donations. Events like this soiree are critical to helping SFC generate funds through private donations.
The second amazing and unexpected thing I experienced while organizing this event was the involvement of people & the community. I have never seen such a tremendous outpouring of support - it was downright overwhelming. I sent cold-call emails to folks I’d never met before and they were happy, if not eager to support the cause. Paula from Paula’s Texas Spirits was the perfect example. I emailed her to see if they would be willing to donate a small item to give away as a raffle prize. Paula responded with this:
”Absolutely. We have a gift pack with half-bottles of both products
that we can give you. What about drinks during the party? As you
know, we can mix a mean drink.”
How do you respond to that? Words could not express my delight over receiving this email. Of COURSE I wanted Paula to come mix some drinks! And that’s exactly what she did – showed up on Sunday with a cooler in hand & mixes of some of the best cocktails our guests had ever tasted.
Through similar cold-call emails I received gift certifcates from Greenling.com, Wheatsville Co-op, Farmhouse Delivery, Boggy Creek Farm & Waterstone Aesthetics. Tito’s vodka & Paula’s Texas Spirits chipped in gift baskets to raffle off. Trey from U-Clique Studio agreed to come out and set up his hilariously fun photo-booth for the day (and was kind enough to put the “NSFW” photos in a secret, seperate account for us) and Jeff from Break it Down Austin brought out a compost bin. Throughout the day we loaded it up with corn-starch plates, compostable tableware & kitchen scraps. Amy from Independence Brewery chipped in a keg of delicious Austin Amber, and even Miscellaneous Rentals got in the action by giving us a sweet discount on rental tables & chairs for the day. One of the crowd favorites was by Diana of The Cake Lab, who brought by her famous carrot cake cupcakes that gave us visions of sweets all through the next week.
That all of these folks contributed at all was such a gift – but that they agreed to contribute on such short notice was a blessing.
And then, of course, there were my friends & co-workers who came out to show their support. Whether you were there to party, to support SFC, or just to say happy birthday & support my cause: thank you for coming out and contributing to this event with your time, $ and cooking skills. This event could not and would not have happened without you – I am so grateful!
For more pictures from the event, check out Melissa Robledo’s photographs: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cooperella/sets/72157622437122066/
And our photobooth pictures: