Around here everyone (thing) is part of the family!
Around here everyone (thing) is part of the family!
I planted a tiny artichoke plant last fall and now I’m starting to wish I had planted it somewhere else. It’s only mid March and the plant is already huge. Shooting this plant from above led to some fun working with the shadows.
Can you find the tiny cabbage in the shadow of the out of bounds artichoke? This plant might be shading the whole house by the time summer rolls around.
Up close it makes me think of some kind of prehistoric plant.
Much of what I think about water these days has to do with rain. When I grew up in south Louisiana, I took water for granted. It rained a lot, we lived right next to a bayou and there was water nearby in every direction.
Now I appreciate every drop. Gardening viability, tree health, drinking water supplies — these things are on my mind frequently. The first real post on this blog was about rain.
This is a rain gauge that Julie gave me for our anniversary. Who knew that 21 years is frog yard art! So far I’ve been very glad to see this little garden helper get plenty of action. The frog seems okay with it too.
This was a great year for my pepper plants. Of course, here in Texas, I’m not about to claim that statement actually means very much considering how well the darn things grow. But this year brought a crop that I was particularly pleased with.
I grow my peppers in pots and have done so for a number of years. They don’t need to be in the ground and it is a ready way to save the valuable real estate of my raised beds for other plants that appreciate the space more.
This year I chose four varieties (and ended up with five): jalepeños, serranos, banana and cayenne. I planted two serrano plants but one of them was mislabeled and turned out to be something else and very hot.
One thing I did differently this year was leave some banana peppers on the plant for longer and let them turn red. I always like growing these because they are are a good substitute for bell peppers (which I also grow sometimes). They mature faster, require less nutrients and care, and are more productive than bell peppers usually are around here. The taste is similar and they are good raw in salads or cooked in pasta sauce and stir fry.
This year, due to the abundance of banana peppers on the two plants I grew, I let some stay on the bush longer than I normally would. The first thing I noticed was the beautiful series of colors the peppers turned. In addition to the shot below, the first image in this post shows some of the deep yellows, oranges and reds that were part of the ripening process.
The other thing I noticed about these well ripened peppers is the way the flavor evolved. I still enjoy the green ones but the red ones had a fuller, more mellow flavor with a nice hint of peppery bite — somewhat like a red bell pepper.
Today is the first day of November and I shouldn’t be talking about this in the past tense. All my plants are still producing and until we have a hard freeze, they should be able to keep going. It’s not unusual for me to have peppers until just before Christmas. With a little effort I could probably protect them and keep them going even longer, but I just let them go when the weather gets colder.
It seems that every year there is one particular crop that stands out and this year it was these beautiful and delicious peppers, although I never did catch the name of the blazing hot uninvited guest.
I shudder to think how many of these things we have planted this year. The problem is, they will not allow me to ignore them. These plants smugly offer so much that I am unable to resist planting them all over the yard.
Here is the quick rundown:
We planted our first ones about three years ago. Once they were established (one season), they have not required any water. I do water them occasionally, but none of plants appear to suffer much from lack of water.
Turk’s Cap will die back during the winter and trimming them down to the ground has worked because most of the new growth comes from very low on the old stems or from new shoots that spring up. They do spread somewhat, but are easy to control and haven’t been invasive. On the contrary, I usually encourage the spreading in areas where I have planted them and enjoy having the plants fill out and make a nice stand.
Every year we see hummingbirds, bees and wasps on the blooms. We have hummingbird feeders and the Turk’s Cap is one thing that attracts them to our yard. They also enjoy our salvia and Trumpet Vine.
Turk’s Cap is one plant that I recommend heartily for those in my area (Fort Worth, TX) who are looking for something to plant in shaded areas. Sometimes it seems very hard to find natives that both grow in the shade and bloom and these plants are proving to be virtually indestructible.
Strange new creature created by optical illusion.
We lived there for nine years. I don’t see the house. I barely see the yard. My mind always goes straight to the tree lined ditch that separated our yard from the garden and field behind us. Over time the very look of the ditch evolved. It began as an intimidating scary place filled with mysterious plants and creatures. It ended up as a place that held no fear or mystery — it became my domain.
Writing this makes me think of those times and places in new and symbolic ways that I have never considered. Safety and comfort in the line that separates the house and the yard from the garden. Hiding out someplace where no one but me cared to spend any time.
My mind goes back to that ditch and the big open place where it met the drainage from the yard and the garden. On one side of the intersection was a “cliff”, all of two feet high. Diagonally across was a smooth narrow rise tightly squeezed between two trees. I rode my bike flying off the cliff and turning up the rise just in time to avoid hitting the trees. I looped around and crossed the ditch using the sturdy mock suspension bridge that my dad and I had built and flew and rose again. I would just serpentine my way through this circuit all afternoon, jumping and climbing and riding. Looking back now it feels like the only freedom I knew and I never grew tired of it.
I hated working in the garden as a kid. It was torture to me. Whenever I worked in the garden, I felt like I was being punished. And sometimes I was. Unfortunately my dad had a great knack for taking the fun out of situations that could have easily been enjoyable. It was a philosophy of threaten first — enjoy and thank…never.
After my parents split up, it was a long time before I turned the soil again. The one funny thing was that I always kept a compost pile — no garden but a compost pile and I had this really nice hoe that somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew would come in handy some day.
Then one day I just realized that I knew all this stuff about gardening. I didn’t even know or think about the fact that I knew this. I just started planting more and more things — flowers, shrubs, trees, vegetables. What once had seemed like torture was now something I couldn’t stop doing. And I knew just what to do. Things don’t always turn out just like I want but there is always a lot of learning from mistakes involved in gardening — just like any other worthwhile task.
I used to hate working in the garden because of the way my father made me work there. Now that he is gone, I work in the garden to be with my father. The garden is where I can always find him. Standing beside me, guiding me as I plant and pull weeds and check the plants to make sure they are doing okay.
So now I have my own house, which does not represent pain to me. I have my own garden which is not a place of imprisonment and punishment. The old house and garden fade away, the image in my mind dims and blurs and is not missed or longed for. The new versions are clear and beautiful and fresh to me every day. Instead my mind now goes back to the one place that was mine back then. It was the place that no one else gave a second thought to. When I was very young it scared me but as I grew older I tamed it on my own terms and it became a place to rest and hide and feel safe and above all, have fun and be free.
I started my second round of spring planting this weekend. It began on what was a beautiful afternoon at the nursery and the place was hopping with what I’m sure were many like minded gardeners. We all hovered back and forth around the large selection of available tomato and pepper plants (many other plants also) looking for our favorite varieties. I ended up coming home with nine tomato plants and seven pepper plants, along with a couple of new items for my herb bed. That’s a slightly larger number than I usually plant but I have a good feeling about this spring. I managed to get seven of the tomatoes planted that afternoon – six in one of my 4×4 foot raised beds and one in a large pot. I’m still not sure where to put the other two. I added fresh compost and a little bit of guano and dried molasses to the soil and fed then all with some seaweed and liquid molasses afterwards. That night we got a little rain and I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve managed to get rain right after planting.
In our community garden at work we have twice as many plots in use as we did this last year. Although we have some way to go before we reach full capacity, for now I think I’ll manage to live with one hundred percent growth. We are waiting to hear about a matching funds grant that we applied for which will enable us to set up 17 more plots to have available for anyone who wants to join. Up until now, we gardeners have all been building our own raised beds at our expense. Last year I had one bed and this year I have two. I’m using one of them just for corn. After my success last year with just a few plants (and planted on a whim, at that), I’ve decided to give it a more serious try this time around to see if I can raise enough to give away to those in need.
at least around here anyway.
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