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Veggies!

Fall, 2015:
The house is nearly done, or at least we are living in it. Those weeds filling up the garden were so high and so tangled that we put 10 piglets in there to reclaim the garden. It worked! Start slow, I tell myself. Plant what you can take care of. We took some tree logs 4' long and made simple raised garden squares. Filled them with the compost that had been sitting lonely for over two years. And several packages of seed. Some zucchini. Some cucs. Two squares of the giant cabbage turnips (SOO good!). Regular cabbages, beets and maybe some carrots. Yes, they really do make it through the winter, especially if you throw something over them in a hard freeze. Oh, and my beloved wild petunias are sprouting up! Just a little water and a little weeding is all we need in our current drought. The tap water hasn't seemed to kill them yet. You find out quickly what piggies don't like...daylily roots, roses with thorns, daffodil bulbs. Start slow I say, but start SOMEthing!

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Spring/Summer, 2014:
The garden is SO overgrown with weeds and herbs and artichokes that are becoming almost wild. I wish the ones that were happy here were the better eating kind. These don't have very much heart to them, although still very good. The roses are overgrown with parsley and cilantro going to seed. There's an armadillo trapped in the garden. Not sure what tramples the garden worse, the armadillo, or a big dog to get rid of the armadillo. Hmmm. No, the house isn't done yet, making progress, but not done. Will have to dream about a fall garden. Remember, mid September is when to put out the seeds and seedlings for a fall garden around here.

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Winter, 2014:
The garden is a wonderful metaphor of life. Ours has been neglected while we build our new "healthy" home and try to heal after losing our son to a tragic accident. These entries sure make you realize just how fast time passes. Spring will come. The sun will come out after all this rain and tears. Each year we plant a something toward the goal of growing everything we eat. This year our new muscadine grapes may produce something!....

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Spring, 2013:
Vegetable garden is puttering along, but building our new house has taken priority. Hopefully we can put in a watering system soon to make it through the dry summers like the past few years.

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Fall, 2010:
This has been the most wickedly dry summer and early fall we have had in a long time. We have never seen our pond stop trickling at least a little bit over the wash! All hopes for a fall garden were dashed by the lack of rain. We go weeks without any at all, and then maybe get 1/2 inch, barely enough to settle the dust. There's an old well at the bottom of the hill. We are exploring tapping into it and maybe pumping well water into a storage tank high enough to then gravity feed water back into the garden. We ordered some muscadine grape vines. I really hope we can get them in the ground. Tap water is just horrible around here. Everything dies with it. Maybe by spring we can set up this alternate watering system....maybe.

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Almost Spring, 2010:
Planting season is upon us. Even though we still have some cold weather, planning is the key to a wonderful and productive vegetable garden. The veggies just can't take our hot hot summers, so us Texans need to start the garden EARLY. Somebody asked me if I planted with the moon. Heck, I can hardly get enough time in between my "day job" and the weather to get the seeds in the ground. Here's sort of a plan for our area where the average last frost is around March 15th. Seems to me the last frost is always be around Easter, and Easter is early this year, so here's hoping for a nice mild spring! (This list is a reminder for me too!)

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January: All sorts of things in flats for sprouting.
First week in Feb: Broccoli and cabbage in flats, beets, carrots, collards, English peas (protect during frost), radishes, tomatoes in flats, turnips.
Second week in Feb: Same as first except add in lettuce.
Third week in Feb: Lettuce, English peas (protect during heavy frost), radishes, spinach, turnips.
Fourth week in Feb: Broccoli and cabbage outside, lettuce, English peas (protect during heavy frost), garbanzo beans, radishes, spinach, turnips.
First week in March: Garbanzo beans, lettuce and radishes.
Second week in March: Lettuce and radishes.
Third week in March: Beans, cantaloupe, cucumber, lettuce, radishes, watermelon.
Fourth week in March: Beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumber, lettuce, Southern peas, pumpkin, radishes, squash, tomatoes outside, watermelon.
First week in April: Beans, cantaloup, corn, cucumber, okra, Southern peas, pumpkin, radishes, squash, tomatoes outside, watermelon. Move frost-sensitive plants from the greenhouse outside but be ready to protect them if there is a crazy late freeze.
Second week in April: Same.
Third week in April: Beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumber, okra, Southern peas, watermelon.
Fourth week in April: Cantaloupe, corn, cucumber, okra, Southern peas, watermelon.
Fifth week in April: Southern peas, watermelon. First week in May: Southern peas, watermelon. Second week in May; Planting season is pretty much over except for maybe some more Southern peas by until the end of the month. Ah, but the harvest, yum!

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Winter, 2010:
This has been an incredibly cold winter so far! We and the plants are not used to days and days of teen-cold temperatures. The Jiao Gu Lan, may make the winter, but we'll see what springs up as we warm up. Even the Dill wilted from the cold. But the greenhouse is up and we will start planting soon.

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Fall, 2009:
There is still some Lemon Thyme dotted around the garden. Peppermint is getting a second wind with the cool air and the rain. Oregano is growing well, as is the wise Sage. Lemon Grass is filling up the pots that will go into the greenhouse soon. It doesn't like to freeze. Have you ever eaten a Stevia leaf?
The Jiao Gu Lan is taking off, protected by its cage (wild things like that stuff). We hope to have lots and lots of next summer. I would not have believed that Dill would do so well in our hot Texas climate. I guess is does great if it gets started over the winter. I collected a big bucket of the seed this summer and just sprinkled it over the hillside. Maybe being overrun with Dill will be so worth the wonderful aroma.

The garden this past spring was the most wonderful we have ever had! Ah, the true vine-ripened fruit instead of the marketing lies.

This winter we are starting on a garden circled by blackberries later plan for surrounding it by a chicken moat! What an interesting concept. I read about it in a magazine somewhere. A double fence around the garden keeps them from eating up the lucious sprouts yet lets them catch the grasshoppers that happen too close to the borders. Sadly, there won't be many blackberries this year because they are just too new. NEXT year....YUM!

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4/7/2010--Once winter ended, spring didn't just sprung, it LEAPED! You can tell by the seven puppies and five kittens, each with mama in a special home on the front porch. We just got the melon and cantalope and okra seeds in the ground and hurray, the Good Lord rained them in! The tomatoes went outside a couple of weeks ago, a little early, but it really looked like spring was here to stay, and, fortunately, my gamble paid off. The tomatoes are now nearly a foot tall. I'm taking off the flowers to give the plants a little longer to settle in and get stronger. I'm still so enthralled with the fact that these plants grew up from itty bitty seeds, in spite of not being able to eat nightshades.

We have baby greens everywhere. Truly fresh salads are so nice. And radishes for color (but I never learned to like radishes). With the unseasonably warm weather, some of the brassicas have bolted. Oh, well, I guess those really need to be grown in fall and winter. We do have some brassica baby greens yet in the green house for snipping. And there's baby bok choy that doesn't seem to mind the heat a couple inches tall, coming along. So there will be plenty of cancer-fighting veggies available in spite of the weather.

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2/25/2010--Most of the tomatoes made it! We WILL have tomatoes after all. I thinned out the 2" sprouts to one plant per pot. The roots still have some growing to do, and it's too cold outside for them yet.

Oh, the artichoke plants were so pretty in their pots in the greenhouse. Several nice strong leaves. Roots just getting to the bottom of the pot. Perfect for planting. Artichokes have very long roots, so if you wait too long they will get root-bound and won't grow well. Timing is everything in Texas. They went out into the garden yesterday amongst the cabbage and broccoli sprouts. Two full rows of them. Very tedious to pull out a 2" sprout by the leaves and carefully set it in a long thin hole punched into the raised garden bed full of compost. Brassicas and artichokes are supposed to go together. Once the brassicas are done, the artichokes become these large, spiny thistles and overtake the whole spot, or so we hope! They both can handle a little bit of frost in our Zone 8. I'm ready for home-grown artichokes this fall, although they say you only truly get edible flowers in the second year or later.

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2/19/2010--The sun is out! And it's WARM! OK, so at least it's not freezing any more (for the time being). The time has come to do some real planting. Tomorrow is the day for planting the first major planting of the season. Especially since it looks like we will get some rain on Sunday. What we need to get into the ground are things that like it cooler, yet can tolerate a little bit of frost. On the list are spinaches, lettuces, beets, radishes, broccoli, bok choy, English peas, carrots. Any help would be much appreciated. The beds need to be "fluffed up" with compost and weeded once more before sticking the seeds in the ground.

We have a few things in the ground already, some lettuces and beets and radishes and onion starts that we have been covering and uncovering with plastic over the hoops. And there are a few things in the greenhouse sprouting up, but about half of the plants look frozen on the tips, so didn't do as well as I had hoped. I want to plant up one more bed of seedlings in the greenhouse. The tomatoes in particular were just too cold and we have to plant up some more.

Once we get these seeds in the ground, we will wait another month, about mid March, for the next big planting. We have some really neat heirloom seeds to work with. I have resisted getting hybrid anythings. You can get those easy enough elsewhere. It's the rare (and flavorful!) stuff that interests me. I hope to even save some of the seeds for next year.

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2/3/2010--We started! Saturday will be our garden work day. Every Saturday (unless I'm out of town). The next two weekends need to be real serious planting days, especially for stuff that doesn't like our hot Texas summers.

I had so much fun ordering a whole box-full of heirloom seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds, Seed Exchange, Seeds of Change and Johnnie's Selected Seeds. A retired nurserywoman told me about Dixon Farms onions. She said the very best were called Candy. What the heck! Five bundles were only 25 bucks. We'll NEVER eat that many onions!

What's done so far? The greenhouse is up with four 8' x 3' raised tables chok full of pots and potting soil. I just used a 1/2 and 1/2 mix of compost and peat moss. Yes, yes, the tomatoes are seeded for the nightshade-lovers. Eight different varieties, mostly cherry tomatoes because they are the easiest to grow and they keep producing until it just gets too hot for them. Some of the herbs are seeded too, such as parsley, sorrel, chamomile, feverfew, lovage, several types of basil, russian tarragon and summer savory. There's some really flavorful celery called Krul Celery. I use just the leaves as a spice. Especially nice in home-made chicken soup. There's a whole bed of broccoli and cabbages. It seems the trick with them is to make sure to transplant them. They just don't like to grow in the spot they start out at for some reason. More work, but so tasty. We seeded some wild strawberries. I sure would like to see them grow. We're trying out some Papaya and Banana too.

We have two 25' by 6' beds already seeded in the garden. Carrots, beets, spinach, and several lettuces are in those beds. As are the onion starts. The beets and spinach in particulary don't like our acid soil so we have to add quite a bit of lime. Beets also need a very tiny bit of Borax (yes, the soap) for the boron trace mineral. I have some arches over them so we can cover them with plastic if it gets really cold. Somehow it feels like spring will be early this year...I wish. Gotta remember to go get the liquid trace mineral supplement before the veggies get going too far.

"The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart, and not to be mentioned with commoner things. It is chief of this world's luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took; we know it because she repented." -- Mark Twain

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