Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Starting Fresh for the Fall Garden September 6, 2013

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In August my garden was full of peppers and melons.  Then, the first week of August my dad had a heart attack, and then open heart surgery.  I tried to keep my garden watered during that time, but it was too much, so I eventually just let it go.   Now things are better, Dad is recovering, and I’m able to think about gardening again, just in time for planting the Fall Garden.  Last weekend, I got busy,  cleared every thing out of the side beds and amended the soil.

Then,  I had drip irrigation installed in the side beds, which is tied to my sprinkler system.  This will be much more water efficient, not to mention time saving.

IMG_1638

I’ve been collecting and babying cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli transplants, as well as a couple of tomatoes, but its too hot yet to plant them, so they remain on the patio in their pots under the shade of a big pecan tree.

I’ve got seeds ready to go this weekend, carrots, radishes, lots of lettuces and more broccoli.  I stagger broccoli transplants and seeds to ensure a steady stream of broccoli.    I may even plant some potatoes.  Homegrown potatoes are amazing for Thanksgiving.  Fall is absolutely my favorite time to garden, even more than Spring.

 

Preparing the Raised Bed Gardens for Fall August 8, 2011

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I know that this horrible heat/drought will end someday, although we don’t know when.  Surely Fall will arrive and bring us relief, right?  This past weekend, I pulled everything up.  The watermelons were requiring too much water, and the peppers were producing tiny little peppers that were not good for much.   Nothing justified the amount of water I was dumping into the garden.  And, I was not enjoying any aspect of gardening.  However, I do hope to again as soon as there is a break in the heatwave.

I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, with a plan to amend and turn the soil in my raised beds while it was still relatively cool.  The beds in the back had been empty for a while, and the soil had hardened and compacted worse than I’ve ever seen.  I dumped some of my own compost (it never seems ready), a couple of bags of turkey compost and a big bag of cotton burr compost on the back beds and turned the compost into the soil, loosening everything up.    It felt good to be doing something in the garden again, although the state of the soil made me sad.  Those beds are usually filled with worms, and I saw none whilst turning the soil.   I’m going to procure a huge bag of worm castings and work that in, as well as some more Hill Country Garden Soil from The Natural Gardener.  I am fortunate to have about 1/4 cubic yard on my trailer from jobs past.

Backyard beds

The three beds on the side of the house, newly empty, still need to be weeded, amended and turned.  The soil looks much better in these beds, so they will require less aggressive amendment, especially the newest one which hasn’t been home to many plants.

Side beds

The 10 tomato plants still reside in the gallon pots in the bed under my window.  My goal with these plants is to help them get really strong root systems established, so once they go into the ground, they can just take off.  They struggle in the afternoon heat, so I move them in and out of the sun, water every day, amend with worm castings, and compost tea.  I hope they reward me with some good Fall tomatoes.

Tomatoes Still in Pots

I keep feeling like I need to get some seed potatoes into the ground since it is August, but I think the soil is too hot for them to germinate, so I’m not rushing, despite the urge.  I can’t wait to get back to gardening, and the Fall is my favorite time, coolish mornings outside with my coffee, coolish evenings outside with a glass of wine.  I’m counting the days before I can be a gardener again.  There are 45 1/2 days until the first day of Fall, surely by then it will be more pleasant out.

 

Fall Tomato Project – I’m a Glutton for Punishment July 18, 2011

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I know, I’ve already grown enough tomatoes this year to last quite some time. Fortunately, I was able to give lots and lots to friends as well.  I’ve never had great success with Fall tomatoes, but something is going right in 2011, so I thought I’d give a Fall tomato crop a go.  I pulled up all of my Spring plants but 2 that still looked relatively healthy.

It feels too brutal to set tomatoes in the raised beds in this heat, and despite the Texas pot method in place, the garden is draining really fast.  So, I purchased 10 tomato plants, 5 for me and 5 for a friend, and planted them in gallon pots, in Ladybug soil with lots of worm castings.  I have placed them on top of a bed that gets sun all day, but the back foot of the bed sits under an overhang.  The plants will get good morning and afternoon sun, and with minimal effort, I can move them under the overhang and out of direct sunlight in the later afternoon when it gets over 100.  I figure this will be easier than dealing with shade cloth, and I’ll have more control of light and water.  They will get a little compost tea and some foliar seaweed as well.  We’ll see how it goes.

Fall Tomato Plants

The varieties I got are Beefsteak, Celebrity, Jubilee, Patio, and Homestead.  I shied away from my favorite Cherokee Purple, because I think they will have a harder time in the extreme heat.  It’s all guesswork, trial and error and luck in the end anyway!  I’ll watch these babies like a hawk for 2-3 weeks, then if all goes well, I’ll transplant them into the raised bed.  Maybe we’ll have a break in the weather by then, and gardening will be fun again.

The pepper, watermelon and cucumber beds continue to rock along, although the peppers are small now and getting sunburned.  The empty beds will be turned, composted and allowed to rest for most of August.

 

 

Planting Guide for November – Zone 8 October 30, 2010

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In Zone 8, which includes Austin and surrounding areas, we are still planting vegetables and herbs.

From seed:

Lettuces

Mustard

Radish

Spinach

Transplants:

Mustard Greens

Lettuce

Spinach

Peas

Herb transplants:

Cilantro

Dill

Fennel

Parsley

Chives

Oregano

Onions!  My onions from Dixondale Farms will be arriving the first week of November and will go into the ground as soon as they get here.  You can still order onions and they can be planted through late January.  The earlier you plant them, the bigger they will get.

Strawberries! You can plant strawberries for several more months.  Mine are already in the ground.   Give them good soil, and hefty cover of mulch, and pick off the blooms to allow the root structure to form well.

Sometime in November or December, Asparagus and bare root Blackberry plants will start arriving at the nurseries.  I’ll keep an eye out for these as I’m going to plant both.  Asparagus takes 2 years to produce, and I am the least patient gardener ever, so we’ll see if I make good on that promise.

 

 

Preparing the Strawberry Patch October 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 8:19 am
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I’m anxious to get my strawberries into the ground, but I want to do it right and give them the best environment possible for good growth and production.  The plot I normally plant my strawberries in, is part of the 24 foot bed.  This spot had already been amended and turned several months ago, so it is in fairly good shape.  I purchased 2 bags of Revitalizer Compost, and 40 pounds of granite sand to promote good drainage.  I also go a bag of worm castings.

 

Compost and Granite Sand

 

I turned the soil, pulled out some of the root remnants of the garden’s former tenants, and started adding in the mixture of castings, granite sand and compost, turning with each addition.

 

Amending the Soil

 

The colors look a bit dramatic in this picture, because the flash on the camera went off, as it was still dark this morning when I started this project.  As I was adding to and turning the soil, I thought how much gardening seems like cooking at times, adding ingredients and stirring them up.  Both activities end with something tasty to eat.  Perhaps that’s why I like both so much!

I only had time for one other garden chore this morning – picking peppers.

 

Peppers!

 

 

 

Late September in an Austin Urban Garden September 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 10:42 am
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Finally Fall is here, and we are actually having Fall-like weather!    Gardening is enjoyable again, and I’ve been doing as much as I can.  So, the 4x8x12 bed in the back yard is full.

Small raised bed in back

This is the raised bed in which I planted potatoes in August.  Nothing ever came up, so I assumed they had composted and planted over them.  Now, some of them are coming up.  Go figure.  I’ll deal with that later.  In this bed, broccoli seeds, broccoli transplants, bok choi, a volunteer tomato, broccoli raab, and lettuce in the back.  And maybe potatoes.

The big bed is now heavily seeded for lettuce, and spinach and still has some peppers, cabbage, some not thriving Fall tomatoes, and the lemon cucumber which is flowering but not setting fruit as of yet.  There is another either lemon cucumber or butternut squash that had failed to thrive, but is starting to perk up.  It didn’t like the heat, but the cool weather is making it happy.

Large bed in back

Lemon Cucumber Flowers

The raised garden under my bedroom window is full of Royal Burgundy Beans, which appear to be starting to flower.  I can’t wait to see these purple beans!

Royal Burgundy Beans

The wood beds on the side are looking pretty good too.  This will house loads of onions all winter, so any production in the Fall is a bonus.  In this bed, the latest planting of corn, all of which did not come up, and some Blue Lake Green Beans.

Corn and Green Beans

Beans put nitrogen into the soil and are a perfect companion plant to corn, which in turn needs nitrogen to thrive.

The tomatoes in both the raised bed and my Earthbox are not thriving.  I’m not sure why.   So, I’m not optimistic for Fall tomatoes.  Hopefully, some of the local farms are having better luck.  At least I was able to make lots of sauces and freeze them for winter.

The heat loving Serrano Pepper plant, is enjoying the cooler weather, and is continuing to set peppers.

Serrano Peppers

The basil on the patio is still going gangbusters, and will do for one more round of pesto making.

Basil

 

Fall Garden – Royal Burgundy Beans September 14, 2010

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Nine days ago, I planted these Royal Burgundy Bush Beans.  I’m a sucker for purple.

Royal Burgundy Bush Beans

Beans generally are fast to sprout and grow, making them great for kiddos.  I thought these would especially be great for kids, because they claim to be a glorious purple color, then turn emerald green when you cook them.

In just nine days, they are well established.

Beans!

This isn’t a great picture, but the stems are purple, and the leaves are emerald green.

Purple stem

I just think these are really cool.  I can’t wait to try the beans!

 

Almost Fall in an Austin Urban Garden September 5, 2010

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The garden is a little boring right now.  The only thing that I’m eating from the garden is serrano and jalapeno peppers.  The lettuce I sowed last week, didn’t survive the heat – it came up, but the sun baked it and it disappeared.  The broccoli is up and looking good.

Baby Broccoli

For comparison sake, I planted more corn a few days ago.  I’m trying to compare growing seasons and different varieties, since I have enough space to do it.  One of my friends makes fun of me for my corn garden, and says I need a Golf Cart combine to harvest my little 5’x5′ patch of corn.  I won’t be sharing.  But, the newly sowed corn is peeking out.

Yes, more corn

The tomatoes look great, especially those in the Earthbox.  Most are flowering but none have set fruit yet.  The peppers are going great guns.  The cucumber/butternut squash looks great.  Can’t wait to see which it is.  A few days ago I planted Royal Burgundy Bush beans.  They aren’t up yet.

Royal Burgundy Bush Beans

Something is coming up where I planted the potatoes.  I’m not sure it is potatoes yet. I’m fairly confident that many of the potatoes composted because the soil was so warm.  I’m on a wait and see still for the potatoes.  I’ll plant more lettuce and perhaps some chard today, and hope for the best!

 

September 1, Austin Urban Garden – Stress and Success September 2, 2010

With this lingering heat, parts of the garden are struggling to get through each day.  The Corn in the Three Sisters Garden, has been looking pale and tired, although most of the stalks are making corn.  Setting cobs?  Since the other two sisters flew the coop, the beans and pumpkins, the garden isn’t getting nitrogen from the beans.  And corn needs nitrogen.  So I picked up some fish emulsion and hand watered the corn with a diluted mixture.  I also threw some worm castings on top of the soil, because I have an irrational belief that worm poo fixes everything.  We’ll see.  But for now:

Heat stressed corn

corn cobs growing

The peppers are doing fine, but do look a bit stressed in the heat of the day.

Peppers hanging in

The tomatoes in the garden are waiting for less heat to fully thrive.

Garden Tomatoes look puny

Butternut Squash or Cucumber?

This is either butternut squash or lemon cucumber.  I planted both and can’t tell the difference.  Whatever it is, it is happy.  Hoping for the butternut, but if life hands me lemon cucumbers, I’ll make lemon cucumber pickles again.

The broccoli seeds are up.  I need to thin them a bit every day.  I never know how they all show up in one end of the garden.  Watering, maybe.

Broccoli seedlings

The Black Seeded Simpson lettuce has sprouted as well.  I really hope it cools off, or it will be too hot for this lettuce.

Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce

There are some strange things sprouting in the potato bed, although I’m not sure any of them are potatoes.  Still waiting.   They might be compost.

On the Herb Patio, the Bay Laurel, which sat as a barron stick for a year, has sprouted a friend!  This will be fabulous for winter soups and stews.  I love Bay.

Bay for Winter

The garden winners of the day, strangely, are the tomatoes in the Earthbox.  They are the healthiest and heartiest of the whole lot.

Tomatoes in an Earthbox Surviving the Heat

So, it’s still hot, but I’m ever hopeful for Fall weather, and a more and more productive Fall and Winter garden.  The Fall and Winter garden are my favorites.  So abundant and with such good food.

 

Late August Harvest, Austin Urban Garden August 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 9:53 pm
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It is actually like Hades out in the gardens, and I’m glad anything is still alive.  I’m harvesting and eating very few foods from the gardens now, and per my previous post, not planning to keep some of the less productive plants going.  This makes me sad, but I also hate my water bill and am a little scared about the next one.  So, today’s harvest:

Late August Harvest, limes, serranos and a watermelon

How random, I know!    I was afraid the watermelon wasn’t ready to be picked, but my instinct was good.  The bottom was softening and it was perfect!

Perfect Watermelon!

I have now successfully grown two watermelons.  Who would have thunk it?  I’m a bit of a watermelon farmer.

The rest of the garden is just hanging in.  I’ll pull up the low yield crops, per my earlier post, tomorrow.  Thank goodness for farmer’s markets or I’d be struggling for the next month, since my garden isn’t providing much food.

 

 
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