Thursday, July 15, 2021

The queen is dead


When we moved to this house in 2005, there were two Arizona Ash trees in the back yard.  The first one died a few years after we moved in when carpenter ants created quite the visible crack in the trunk which I only noticed because our cats stopped climbing the tree and I was trying to figure out why.  The thing about Arizona ashes is that they grow quickly and die off in a weird clumping pattern. Carpenter ants also don't actually kill the tree since they only remove dead wood. Our neighbors down the street had carpenter ants a few years ago on their tree, but the part they were going after was about 10' from the ground so they cut off the tree at about 8' tall and damned if that thing didn't completely regrow and form a beautiful shade tree. Naturally it got severely knocked back by the monster freeze of 2021 (winter storm Uri), which is when ours also got knocked back.  About a month ago, I noticed a bunch of saw dust on the deck and the plants around the tree and, sure enough, there were carpenter ants.  Rather than hope that the tree would pull through, especially since the most sawdust was right at the base, and because of the way the tree grew, it meant that the ants were pretty close to the bottom of the tree, we opted to go ahead and have it removed.  So we called in our Tree Guy (Ulises from Donkey Tree), and his crew came by yesterday to cut down the tree.  So now our yard looks like this:

It is quite the change.  Additionally, they removed a 10-yr-old oak tree that was too close to the cedar elm and too close to the house. Removing these trees makes the yard SO MUCH sunnier, and I'm not sure the beautyberry will like the amount of sun, but the Agarita and Mountain Laurel will probably love it.  Removing the trees, however, got me looking at all the other trees I have around. I mean there's a rough leaf dogwood, which I actually hate and keep saying I'll remove, there was a Carolina Buckthorn which Shawn always complained about being too close to the house (I actually decided to remove it last night while I was talking on the phone with my sister and I was ASTOUNDED at how easy I pulled it out of the ground...which also kinda explains why it's generally not done well), the cedar elm is growing into the possumhaws, there's a live oak in the back corner which is too close to the fence and a live oak in the front yard which is probably too close to the water line to the house, and the desert willow (which is only like 3' tall) is entirely too close to the cedar elm (though may be okay if the cedar elm keeps growing and we can get it limbed up).  That's not even getting into the 2 red tip photinia that are in the yards that really need to be removed as well.

It's only funny because I've always loved how many trees we have and now I'm basically trying to figure out how to remove about half of them. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

I'm a farmer now

Utrecht Blue Wheat from Botanical Interests.  My garden is too good for them, that's why the plants all fell over, but they've still produced some baller seed heads which I plan to cut, dry, and then give to my friend, Jameson, since he uses wheat seed heads in his decor.
I'm a farmer now. My Great Grandfather would be so proud.  And probably rolling his eyes.

Thursday, July 8, 2021


The Sunflowers have been outstanding this year.  I read an article on the 5th that this is probably because sunflowers like having wet weather at the beginning, nice long, sunny days, and freshly turned dirt that doesn't have other stuff growing in it (hence why they're so popular right along roadways or other areas which are under construction).  This one is likely black oil sunflower as I do put out see for the birds which the squirrels tend to get to first - and boy do they make a mess.

How fitting, then, that there are several Van Gogh immersive art shows going on in Texas right now (one in Austin, one in Houston, and I think there may also be one in San Antonio)?

Monday, July 5, 2021

Grow This: Cossack Pineapple Ground Cherry

One of my favorite garden finds is Ground Cherry "Cossack Pineapple."  I don't remember how I got the seeds (it's possible I got them from a school garden that I visited and they were giving away seed packs that had gotten wet and/or were expired), and I've only grown them a handful of times, but my goodness these are good.  

Ground Cherries are related to Tomatillos and look very similar in so much that they grow in little paper lantern-type coverings.  The plants I've grown have topped out at 8" or so and about the same width.  The first year I grew them (YEARS ago), I had like 2 plants, but that definitely wasn't enough to use for like jams or anything - you'd probably need more like 6 plants for that to work. This year, I started 2 plants, but only one survived - it's only created a handful of fruits, but every time i see one that's ready, I just eat it in the garden - like the snow peas we grow - they're garden foods, and they just never make it into the house.  

These ones are like nature's sweet tarts because they are sweet as candy, but with a tart flavor - like my mom would probably insist that they needed copious amounts of sugar to be edible, but I've always been a fan of tart fruits - my favorite apple is Granny Smith, I only eat green bananas, I like the blackberries and strawberries when they're under-ripe, so yeah, these things are perfect for me.  I'll have to find more seeds and add them to my normal rotation.  Maybe I'll even try them in the little AeroGarden (which Roberta gifted me since she became too obsessed with cleaning it EVERY DAY like a weirdo, so she gave it to me to grow lettuce since it's apparently the ONLY way I can get lettuce to grow).

This one is even a little underripe - they're supposed to be a very yellow color instead of a yellow/green color.  BUT damn is it delicious.


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Tomatoes II

Tomatoes and dates of first harvest (they were all planted the same day around early/mid March)


The tomatoes I grew this year - my favorites are the Chocolate Sprinkles and the Pink Berkeley. The Inca Jewels always ran mealy for me (though were great for Roberta), and the others just weren't agressively flavored enough for me (I really like the robust complex tomato flavors).  The Berkeley is great as a sliced tomato on sandwiches.  All were grown from seed by yours truly, except for the Chocolate Sprinkles which I bought from Home Depot on like 3/3 with Roberta because we HAD to go get tomatoes since the Sunshine Community Garden Sale was canceled on account of COVID.  I've been keeping track of the number of tomatoes harvested which will be announced at the end of the season in the season roundup post.  Since I grew most of these from seed, it's a little surprising to me just how many of them are bicolored (all of them except the Inca Jewels).  I did not think I had a thing for 1) buying tomato seeds since I NEVER grow tomatoes from seed and 2) stripey tomatoes; and yet, these were the oldest tomato seeds I had - I still have some Black Krim and Japanese Trifele tomato seeds that I didn't even plant (at least I *think* I have Black Krim seeds - I *know* I have trifele seeds because they were gifted to me the same year I said that I was not impressed with the Trifele tomatoes - which is, oddly, another tomato that Roberta loved that I didn't - Apparently, we're like Jack Sprat and his wife.)