Sunday, December 30, 2012

Season Roundup Spring 2012

Yes yes, I realize I 'didn't do a garden' this spring.  Mostly because I was afraid of a continuing drought.  But I have a problem - I can't say no.  To free plants, a good deal, or an experiment.  So, I had the following in my non-garden garden:

Oriental Eggplant:  Free from Renee Studebaker.
Notes:  Only 2 eggplants, 1 was eaten by bugs before I got to it.
Experience:  Meh.  Nothing has come close to that Cloud 9 eggplant from a few years ago.

Unknown Tomato:  Free from the East Austin Garden Faire
Notes:  I think it may be a black krim - the tomatoes look and taste similar.  I grew it in the grow box I made.  I was most surprised that even though the tomatoes had constant access to water, they still split.  a lot.  I don't remember how many tomatoes we got - more than the normal 5 I get from the conventional way of growing a black krim.
Experience:  pretty good - too bad I'm not positive on what type of tomato it is...I would normally save seed, but I'm not happy with how easily the type splits.

Black Pearl Pepper: Free from Renee Studebaker
Notes:  Took a while to really take off.  Now the plant is about 3' tall.  I haven't eaten any of the peppers yet.
Experience:  Pretty good.  I'd definitely think about planting this plant again - though I gotta admit that I'm more taken with the black jalapenos.

Renee's Black Jalapeno (green):  Free from a black jalapeno plant that Renee had - it was apparently a reverted Black Pearl Pepper.
Notes:  I planted 4 seeds, and all four came up.  Two of the plants ended up being a "green" plant (that is, they had all green leaves), while the other two were "purple" (having leaves that look like they've been dipped in purple).  The flowers on the plants are a white with a purple tinge.  Of the green plants, one went crazy producing black jalapenos, while the other really didn't.
Experience:  Awesome.  I've already saved some seed, hopefully it will come back true to form.

Renee's Black Jalapeno (purple):  Free from a black jalapeno plant that Renee had - it was apparently a reverted Black Pearl pepper.
Notes:  I planted 4 seeds, and all four came up.  Two of the plants ended up being "green", while the other two were "purple."  Of the plants, both of the purple ones grew quickly but didn't flower until late summer.  The flowers on this plant, by contrast are purple.  One of them is finally starting to produce peppers.
Experience:  Awesome.  I will be saving seed and hopefully it will come back true to form.  [UPDATE: I saved peppers from the plant, but I don't really remember which ones came from which plant...dammit, I knew I should have labeled them as soon as I pulled them off the plant...I'm pretty sure the red peppers came from the purple plant, but I'm not positive.]

Garlic Chives:  Free from Bonnie.
Notes:  I only planted this in the garden because I didn't know where else to put it, plus the cats tend not to eat plants in the garden, but they'll munch on plants elsewhere in the yard.  The plant really just looks like a giant clump of grass (not unlike liriope) until it blooms when it gets awesome white pom-poms.
Experience this year:  Not bad...not great - I never used them really (not surprising), and they're taking up precious space in the garden.  It's actually the Garlic Chives in combination with the Lemon Balm that have convinced me I need to make an herb specific bed.  Also, it looks like they'll need to be divided in the who wants some garlic chives?

Lemon Balm
Notes:  I originally got these two plants as part of an experiment to see if they repelled the squash vine borer (I didn't notice a difference).  I now use them for mosquito repellent when I'm outside and the mosquitoes are bugging me (ha! bugging!).  My in laws like to use the plant in salads.  We don't do that since Shawn isn't a fan of lemon flavored anything.
Experience this year:  I may have to pull out the plants - they're looking really spent...The salt marsh caterpillars did a number on them this fall - so now they're much more like a mat-type ground cover instead of a bushy herb.

Notes:  A hold over from last year - Yes, I managed to keep it through the winter (not a difficult thing though with the last winter we had).  Of course, it was pretty hilarious when I realized that the plant was the habanero - for some reason I thought it was the Thai pepper plant (we're still working our way through the 149 peppers from that plant, by the way).  Put the plant in the compost bin on 11/4.
Experience this year:  Not bad - I don't remember how many we've gotten from the plant...5 maybe?  I've saved seed, so maybe I'll get more next year.

Naga Jolokia:
Notes:  A hold over from last year - yes I managed to keep it through the winter.  I have cut it back to try to keep it through the winter again.
Experience this year:  Managed to get 3 peppers from the plant.  I've saved seed, so I may try growing from seed if the plant looks iffy during the winter.

Thai Basil:
Notes:  I don't remember spreading seed this year...
Experience this year:  Remember how I mentioned before that this stuff reseeds aggressively?  Yeah...since the drought killed off the grass, the basil started growing in the yard... Nice when Shawn mowed because it smelled like basil.  in mid-October, Shawn insisted the plants needed to be removed so I pulled them all out and turned them into basil cubes. I've gotten to the point where I think normal basil tastes funny that's probably not good.

Sweet Basil:  $1 at East Side Succulents
Notes:  I got this because it was on sale.
Experience this year:  I used it a few times, but most importantly, when I pulled out the plant on November 4th, I used the leaves to get some herb infused vinegar going.  Also...I really need to get back into using regular basil instead of Thai basil.

Aurora Pepper: $1 at East Side Succulents
Notes:  I got this because it was on sale and the pepper goes through 4 different colors before being fully ripe.
Experience:  Tis but a tiny plant.  I've dug it up to try to keep it through the winter.

Aji Pepper:  $1 at East Side Succulents
Notes:  I got this hoping it was close to the yellow hot pepper from a few years ago.  Unfortunately, it ripens to a red color.  It is supposed to be spicy.
Experience:  The poor plant was covered for most of the summer by the gomphrena, but it's still keeping on keeping on.  I pulled 2 peppers off of it on 11/4.  I've dug it up to try to keep it through the winter.

Tequila Sunrise Pepper:  $1 at East Side Succulents
Notes:  I got it because it looked like a carrot on a pepper plant.  After planting, I pulled the pepper off and ate it.  It is a sweet pepper variety.
Experience:  The plant never really grew any.  It had a new pepper on it, but a bug got to it on 11/1.  I've dug it up to try to keep it through the winter.

So...Uh...yeah...this is quite the list of plants considering I 'didn't have a garden' this year...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Why Hellew, Toadry!

Not sure what type of toad this is, he was living under one of my flower pots, though.  I think it may be a juvenile gulf coast toad?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Not quite a poinsettia, but it kinda looks like one, no?

Lion's Tail (Leonotis leonurus)

Sunday, December 23, 2012


I found the pictures that my husband took at the Wildflower Center's Annual Luminations display.  This year it was actually relatively cold since we had a cold front making its way through Austin at the time.

The large oak tree bedecked in fairy lights - all sorts of sparkly green.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Another fun fuzzy picture of the leaves turning.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fall Clean Up (round 2)

I've already posted one entry about fall clean up (which you can see here).  But, the problem with being soft hearted, is that it means I have to do multiple fall clean ups, and multiple spring clean ups, and multiple prunings, and all sorts of other multiple things.  It's a pain in the ass, but you do what you gotta do when you are incapable of being a ruthless bitch about removing plants.

I can't prune things properly - I'll snip a branch here or there, but I can never remove a third of the plant like I'm supposed to (rosemary), and so I end up having to prune the plant monthly instead of just a few times during the year.  I can't pinch back things properly either - I feel bad for the plant every time I remove some leaves for cooking and so the plants end up being spindly and tall rather than bushy and short (basil I'm especially bad about)

I can't pull out a tomato plant while it's got tomatoes on it.  Thankfully I can manage to remove flowers so it won't start any new tomatoes.  And my husband is just as bad - I seriously was going to yank my tomato plant, but my husband managed to get it a reprieve because he wanted the 2 tomatoes that were on it.  Those two tomatoes were eaten by the raccoon/possum/squirrels, but it ended up with 4 more tomatoes before I started pulling blossoms off so now we've got 4 green tomatoes that should be ripening, but they're not going to make it through the freeze this coming week, so do I pull the green tomatoes, wrap them in newspaper and hope they eventually ripen, or do I just toss the whole plant?

I should have pulled out all the pepper plants during the first round of clean up but didn't because I want to collect seeds...the problem is that we're now expecting our first major frost and the peppers aren't at the optimal time for seed collection.  I really don't want to dig up the tall plants, but I'll go ahead and dig up the small plants, plus prep my Ghost Pepper for the winter by pruning it back and bringing in the pot.

I am getting better about not accepting plants just because they need a home.  It's to some extent the same mentality I had to have while volunteering at the humane society - constantly telling myself I can't have something just to keep me from saving everything.  [Of course, the problem now is that whenever I walk a dog at the humane society, I'm having to really convince myself I can't take the dog home.  At least in college it was easier because our rental house didn't allow animals; now I own my house and I can have whatever animals I want, now the problem is that my cats don't want me to have whatever animals I want.]

On the plus side, Mother Nature always does what I can't, and so, by next weekend I should be able to pull out all the remaining 'summer' crops and will finally be able to plant my [non-existent] fall garden.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pictures from the weekend

Spotted cucumber beetle - a sucking mouthparts pests - usually associated with curcurbit plants (cucumbers, squash, melon, etc)

Salt Marsh Caterpillar - a voracious eater.  Here they're on some pineapple rinds - I was hoping to get them to leave my plants alone, it seems to have worked for the most part.

Damselfly - when a nymph in a pond, these guys are quite good at eating all those pesky mosquito larva.

Snout nosed butterfly - host plants include hackberry, and favorite nectar sources are Tall Verbena, goldenrod and Joe Pye weed.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


I love fall - especially when the leaves turn a color other than brown.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall Clean Up

Ivy surveys the mess that is the garden.

Post clean up - the pile of greenery on the left is everything pulled from the garden.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A difference in Peppers

The "Green" black jalapeno plant - the leaves are green, the flowers are white with purple fringe and the peppers start green, fade to black and ripen to red.

The "purple" black jalapeno plant - the leaves are purple mottled, the flowers are purple, and the pepper start black and ripen to red.

I love doing first generation plants - both of these came from seed from one black jalapeno.  SO AWESOME!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A day late, a dollar short

As per usual, I'm running behind.  Very behind.  Like even further behind than last year...or the year before.  And 2010 is when I took the PE exam and didn't have time to garden until early November.

And here we are.  Early November.  I haven't sown carrots.  I haven't sown spinach.  I haven't sown garlic.  I did get onion seeds sown in a container, so there's that. 

At the Inside Austin Garden tour, I bought mustard greens (I don't really know why - it's not like we eat them), Swiss chard, Mexican Mint Marigold (again, it's not like we ever use tarragon), and some strawberries.  I just planted all of these things yesterday.  I also planted a bunch of other plants I've had sitting around for a while (standing cypress, salvia, dwarf lion's tail, lavender - another plant that I've never used for anything, and a purple chile pequin I found at HEB during the summer).

Last weekend I finally weeded the garden - that was quite the undertaking since I have let the frogfruit get out of control.  Then, naturally, the problem is "where do I put all this frogfruit? It's not like I can just throw it in the compost bin." So around the yard I went planting frogfruit.

Yesterday I finally pulled the habanero (FINALLY! I have successfully grown a habanero plant), the ginger in the grow box, and a giant Thai basil plant.  Today I pulled out the regular sweet basil plant.  I'm torn on what to do about my smaller pepper plants (Aji, Aurora, and some other sweet pepper variety) - they're small enough that I think I can dig them up and overwinter them, but I'm postponing it until after pepper harvest...which is hopefully before the freeze date.

I planned on pulling the tomato plant, but my husband managed to get a stay of execution.  He wants the 2 tomatoes that are on the plant.  The plant is very sad.  If it weren't already dark out, I'd get a picture for you.  It looks really sad.  Here, I drew a picture:

Yes, I know the tomato plant apparently changes type (opposite/alternate).  Also, the plant is not a potato leaved variety. This is meant to show what the plant looks like, health-wise, not how the plant looks actual-wise.

I also need to pull out the black jalapeno plants - actually I need to do another post on the end result of the plants since the darker one finally started producing peppers.  Though tonight will be the first time we've tried any of them.  And the eggplant is languishing...actually I really should pull it before it goes and starts producing something again...

Now - off to write a season roundup type post... odd.  A season roundup post on a season where "i didn't have a garden."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Planting a bush in 5 Steps

Step 1: Call 811 and have your lines marked

Step 2:  Dig your hole being careful around lines.  your hole should be at least 2x wider than your plant pot

Step 3:  Measure the depth of the hole - this can be accomplished by laying a tool handle across the hole and then using a different tool to ascertain the depth (either another tool handle or a measuring tape)

Step 4:  Measure the depth of your plant root ball.  You want your hole depth to be the same depth - never deeper, but you can go a smidge shallower.  If you look at the embiggened picture above and below - you'll see there's a 2" difference... I left the two inch difference because I tend to be hard on plants when I'm planting them and remove a bunch of the wood chips that bushes/trees are inevitably packed in.

Step 5:  Remove the plant from the pot, make sure to cut any roots that are starting to go around the root ball.  Place the plant in the hole and start to fill in some dirt.  When about halfway filled, fill the hole with water.  Finish filling in the rest of the dirt and make sure to water well.  I usually will also fill the hole with water and let it drain before placing the plant. Trees and bushes will need additional water for at least one year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


When digging a hole in your yard, you really should call 1-800-Dig-Tess (aka 811 or via their online form) in order to find out where the buried lines are on your property.  If you'll be digging deeper than 12", you are required, by law, to call before you dig. I'm always super anal and put in a request whenever I'm digging deeper than a 4" (especially in areas where I know the lines should be located).

Within a few days, the markers will come out to your property and mark gas, cable/phone lines and electric.  ('Red and Yellow, kill a fellow!' also works here)

Anyway, since I had the yard marked when I planted the tree last year, and I decided to have the yard marked for my knowledge when planting some possumhaw this year, I now have pictures showing the markings in the backyard.  The thing that concerns me, however, is the difference in the markings -

Marking from my request this year

Marking from my request last year

Does anyone else see my reason for concern?  Somehow the orange line (cable) has moved by about 3.5 feet over the year.  Yep.  And this is the reason why, even when things are marked, you should still dig carefully.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Best of Inside Austin Garden Tour (2 of 2)

Photo highlights from the 2012 Inside Austin Garden Tour which was held on October 20. For my birthday present - I asked my mother-in-law to go with me (since I knew my husband would make his birthday request 'not go on the garden tour' - his birthday is 2 days before mine).

Travis County Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden
Ally taking a photo of me taking a photo of her.

My mother in law, Elsie, standing next to a chile pequin plant

Compost bins

Daphne and Augie Doggie

Elsie learning about the wicking bed - which is essentially a grow box on a large scale.

Eat my sidewalk - Renee Studebaker

Golf Course Home - Mary Kastl and Bruce Jones

Elsie trying some stevia leaves that Mary let us try.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Best of Inside Austin Garden Tour (1 of 2)

Photo highlights from the 2012 Inside Austin Garden Tour which was held on October 20. For my birthday present - I asked my mother-in-law to go with me (since I knew my husband would make his birthday request 'not go on the garden tour' - his birthday is 2 days before mine).

Hill Country Heritage Garden - Carolyn and Michael Williams

Vicki Blachman giving a presentation on making your own herbal vinegars

Hill Country Rural Home - Dave and Jennifer Phillips

Neighboring Gardens of Donnis Doyle / Ann & Robin Matthews

Squirrel-proof bird feeder made of PVC pipe and an old satellite dish