Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Vegetable and Fruit Planting Guide for April, Austin, Zone 8 March 30, 2011

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There is so much to be planted in the garden in April!  The Nurseries are overflowing with all varieties of peppers and tomatoes, eggplants, squash, cucumbers.  Beans, peas, melons, cucumbers, and squash are all easy from seed, but sometimes I get impatient and buy transplants.  Peppers are really slow to germinate, so I always buy transplants.

Snap and Lima Beans

Cantaloupe and other melons

Cauliflower (transplants)



Eggplant (transplants)

Warm season greens

Herbs (all)



Pepper transplants

Sweet Potato Slips


Summer Squash

Tomatoes and Tomatillos (Tomatillos need a mate, so plant at least 2)



Yay, Spring Garden Underway March 14, 2010

This is the time of year I spend so much time getting gardens in for customers, I barely have time for my own.  This morning I took the time to get some stuff done.  First on the list, making way for the peppers.  I had to harvest a boatload of lettuce.

Boatload of Lettuce

I had already worked on and amended part of the garden, but now had to amend the space taken up by lettuce all fall and winter.  I turned the soil, dumped in some worm castings, Actinoiron, Hill County Soil, Ladybug general fertilizer, and Sylvan compost and mixed it all together as if I was making a mudcake.  Next I planted the peppers, a bell, 2 serrano del sols, and a jalapeno.


Next in were the tomatoes.  A Mortgage Lifter, a Celebrity or two, two Chocolate Cherries, a Black Krim, a Yellow Brandywine, a Cherokee Purple, and a a Striped German.  The Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, and Striped German are new varieties to me.

Tomatoes in the big raised bed

I weeded the Watermelon Radishes, which still need a couple more weeks.

Watermelon radishes, almost done

Tossed some Ladybug fertilizer on the strawberries, which are looking good, putting on new leaves and starting to set fruit.

Strawberry patch

strawberry flower

Weeded the smaller bed, half filled with lettuce and radishes, and ready to receive more plants.

Smaller garden

Next I watered the whole lot with rainwater.

Then went around to the side gardens, and said howdy to the onions, garlic, and shallots.

onions, garlic, shallots

Next, I poked around at the taters growing in their bags.

potatoes sprouting in grow bags

Planted some basil and thyme in a pot.  There is never enough thyme!

Sweet basil

Not enough thyme!!

Then I watered and pondered my next garden moves.  I think this will suffice for this lovely Sunday.


Edible Landscape at Austin Wine Merchant February 9, 2010

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I have been a patronizing The Austin Wine Merchant, 512 West 6th Street, for years.  (I must admit to being temporarily seduced by the big box liquor stores when they arrived in town, but that didn’t last long.)   The Merchant has a wonderful, thoughtfully chosen selection of wines, and the staff is very helpful and knowledgeable about them all.  I find their prices to be the best in town, as well.  (They sell liquors and beer also, but I only have personal knowledge about the wine).  They also have a variety of stemware and other items that make great gifts for wine lovers.  John Roenigk, one of the owners, is always on hand to assist customers and make suggestions for new wines to try.    I have never left with a bottle of wine that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.  They also do complimentary wine tastings every Wednesday evening from 5:00 – 6:30, and Saturdays from 12:00 – 3:00.  Details about the wines to be tasted are available on their website, and they also maintain an email list for notifications about tastings, sales, wine dinners, etc.

They maintain a list of wines purchased by each customer, so if you don’t remember the name of something you had before, they can look it up.  They also offer an amazing gift service.  Last year, I needed a nice gift for an attorney who had graciously done some legal work for my family, and refused to bill us, so I emailed John and asked him to select some wines the attorney had enjoyed before and gave him a price range.  The following day, I was in the attorney’s office when the beautifully wrapped case of wine was delivered to him.  He was blown away, and very excited to see in his case, wines that he knew and loved.

A while back, I started to notice that the landscape around the parking lot at the Austin Wine Merchant was changing.  There was lettuce growing along the East side of the building, where grape vines once grew.  Then on a subsequent visit, to buy wine, and harass John about opening a Twitter account, I noticed that half of green space along the back of the parking lot was planted with a variety of herbs and vegetables.  Lots of cilantro and broccoli, especially.   It was about that time that John asked if our company would plant the remainder of that space with a winter garden.  Nothing organized, he stressed, and I had to suppress my desire to seed in the shape of a giant wine bottle.  We tilled the soil, amended it with 3 yards of compost and planted lettuces, arugula, kale, chard, cauliflower, bok choy, radishes and lots of herbs.  I went by this morning and took a few pictures.   I think the idea of an entirely edible landscape is fabulous, and hopefully the wave of the future.  Go on by the Merchant, pick up some wine, and snip some lettuce or cilantro to take home with you.  That’s what its there for.   And if you eat at Bess Bistro,  you might just find some of the Austin Wine Merchant’s produce on  your plate as well.

The Austin Wine Merchant

Lettuce growing next to the building

Garden at the back of the parking lot

Front garden by the the street


10 Great Reasons to Plant a Vegetable Garden in 2010 December 31, 2009

I think there are probably 2010 great reasons to Plant a Vegetable, Herb, Fruit garden in 2010, but I have dinner plans here in a short while, so I’m going to give you just 10 good ones.

1.  You control what you eat.  For years, I just assumed that everything I ate was safe and fresh.  It never occurred to me to ponder where it came from, who grew it, who picked it, what it was planted in, or what it was sprayed with.  Not to mention, whether the seeds had been genetically modified to make the plant more pest resistant, to have fewer seeds, to grow bigger and faster, or what any of that meant.  Many of these things, I’m still learning.  I know exactly what I am planting, that no chemicals are sprayed on any of it, and that no non-organic fertilizer has touched my vegetables.  I know what I’m eating and importantly, what I’m not eating.

2.  Home grown food is as fresh as it gets.    Vegetables start to lose valuable  nutrients the moment they are picked.  Fruits ripen very quickly after being picked, and can be stored for long before they go bad.  Fresh food lasts a lot longer, and is more nutritious.  You are able to harvest only what you need at mealtime, as well.  Much of what is available at the grocery store has been sitting in a truck for days making its way from Mexico, Brazil, California, wherever.

3.  Fresh produce tastes better, because it is fresher and picked when ready, not ripened in a box in the back of a truck.  Fresh herbs make everything taste better, and there is nothing like having all of the herbs you use, available for snipping right from the yard or patio.

4.  Eating home grown foods is good for the environment.  The fewer trucks on the roads transporting fruits and vegetables to the grocery store helps save energy and fossil fuels, which is good for the Earth.

5.  Growing fruits and vegetables, especially from seed, is economical.  A 1 gram packet of lettuce seeds will provide a continuous supply of lettuce for several weeks, for the cost of $1.99 or less.  A bundle of onion starts, about 50 onions, is $1.50.  When properly stored, onions can last up to a year.  Heirloom tomatoes were $5.99 a pound at my local store this Spring and Fall.  One heirloom tomato plant cost around $2.00 at a local plant sale.  Seeds are even less, and plants produce fruit for at least one season.  There is an initial cost to get a garden set up and fill it with good soil, and the soil should be amended from time to time.  Amending with compost is recommended, and if you start a compost pile or bin, compost is free, (leaves, yard clippings, vegetable scraps)

6.  Gardening doesn’t take a lot of time, unless you want to spend lots of time gardening.  Plant, water, harvest, eat.  It is pretty simple if you provide good soil and have adequate sun.  Nature does most of the work.

7.  Gardening is relaxing in a stressful world.  I find that I get my most creative ideas, when I’m digging in the soil, whether dropping in seeds, or digging  hole for transplants.

8.  Gardening provides a bit of free exercise, and the opportunity to get outside and breath in the air and feel the sunshine.

9.  Children will eat what they have participated in growing.  Kids love to garden and are more willing to eat vegetables they had a hand in bringing to the table.  Watching the progression of seeds in the soil, as they grow into something edible, is fascinating and fun!

10.  Austin and the surrounding area has a year round growing season.  Every month is a month to plant and a month to harvest.  You can eat well all year long with a garden.

If growing your own foods sounds like something you might like to do, but don’t know how to get started, or don’t own a wheelbarrow and shovel, we can come get you set up with a raised bed filled with good organic soil, and seeds or plants that are season, and get you started.  In 2010, we plan to offer some continued support options should you find you need help along the way.  For the do-it-yourselfers, we have kits available for pick up, and can offer advice on good soil, plant and seed resources, if  you wish.

2009 was a great gardening year for me.  Here are 10 reasons I’m glad I became a gardener, plus 1 reason I wish I’d picked the broccoli sooner.    With all the lessons I learned this year, I’m truly excited about the possibilities of 2010.


Garden basil for pesto

Green Bean plant sprouting



So many peppers I learned to pickle!

Sugar Snap Pea

Woops, didn't pick the broccoli early enough. Lessons learned.

Strawberry Patch


Planting Onions, Garlic, Shallots December 24, 2009

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Per my previous post, I got lots of 1015’s,  White Bermuda and purple onions planted.  I had ordered a short day sampler from Dixondale Farms.  After several folks asked where to get onion sets, I started looking around for them.  I found 1015s and White Bermuda onions at Buck Moore Feeds on North Lamar in Austin.  (around 60th)  I purchased some for friends who are out of town and planted more 1015s in my garden.  I then found shallots and pink garlic at Gardens on 35th Street.  That is such a beautiful store, I go in there weekly.  They have Renee’s Seeds and some interesting Japanese vegetable seeds as well.  They have chard, brocolli, cauliflower, lettuces, fennel, mustard greens available now as transplants as well as a wide variety of herbs.


Fall Garden Taking Shape August 5, 2009

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The tomatoes I sprouted from seed and planted for Fall, are holding their own. I just need to keep them alive and happy, so they will set fruit when it gets cooler. The green beans are doing well, the peppers are happy in this heat and the broccoli I started from seed just sprouted. It will be ready to set out in the raised garden in 2-3 weeks, along with more tomatoes. The Arugula experiment sort of failed as I predicted, but I had to try. Squash looks healthy but isn’t setting squash. Looking forward to the cooler weather so I can plant lettuce, my favorite thing to grow. And I’m going to get my onion and strawberry orders placed for November/December because they sell out early. Fall gardening is exciting!


Time to Plant Lots of Vegetables and Herbs for Spring Garden February 8, 2009

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Spring is here! Well not quite, but the stores are overflowing with transplants of many things. I went to the Natural Gardener today, and they have lots of different lettuces, chard, strawberries, onion sets, most of the herbs, including at least 5 different kinds of rosemary, arugula, broccoli, cauliflower and so much more. Time to get your garden started and eat from the yard! Very exciting time of the year. Almost Spring.