Archive for June, 2010

Will My Children Eat Okra?


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An abundance of okra leads to a meal with mixed results.

In between the storms and the heat, my garden is taking on the appearance of a jungle. I did manage to tame the chaos to a degree for my daughter’s birthday. However, pants are beginning to grow on top of each other, so I transplanted a few to open spaces, while clearing away the damage. In a quiet moment, I spotted Katya pulling out a seed packet. She calmly walked outdoors to several spots, placing watermelon seeds carefully into the ground. When I came upon her, she proudly explained how she made sure that the birds would not eat the seeds by having the dirt cover them. I hugged and kissed her for her efforts.
    My New Zealand Spinach is popping up all over. This vine crowded a few of pepper plants out of the sun light, so I had to move them. Peeking their heads out through the spinach, I am finding my okra is doing well. Okra and jalepeno plants have set many flowers leading to a bumper crop. On top of my own okra, my mother came for a visit bringing okra from another gardener. This was not a bad thing in my wife’s view. I do not know how she came to love this vegetable. She was introduced to it when she was in her late teens.  I have never met a person who is indifferent to okra. There seems to be those who love it or hate it. Maybe those who have never eaten it do not have an opinion.
    I love frying okra. Simply coating them with flour to be stir fried is the most common method of preparation in my house. I do like coating them in batter to be deep fried. In both ways, I do use quite a bit of oil, and I wanted to reduce my oil usage. I used to make gumbo often, and this goes over well. Since I was preparing Whiting fillets, I decided upon a steaming/braising dish. I added vinegar to water. Once the water came to a simmer, I slipped in the fillets. They cooked fairly quickly. I placed them on a covered pate while seasoning them with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and a little melted butter. The cut okra went into the water along with a diced onion. After five minutes, I scooped the okra out. I added chopped cilantro, red wine vinegar, and feta. A quick dinner was completed with already prepared rice.
    The baby and my son ate the okra. My daughter had her reservations. The gooey quality of okra does not always go over well. In the end, she determined that this vegetable was not for her. She has eaten okra when I fried them, so I guess that I have to stick with that cooking style for the children. My son, who is older, ate without complaint. I consider that a success. He is in the not fond of okra camp. My wife was quite happy. I have seen pickled okra, but I have never tasted it. I wonder if the texture is more acceptable to children. I think that I should try that preparation next.

The Pleasures of Manure


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Composted cow manure can be a good fertilizer to give your garden help.



I know gardeners who fertilize regularly to great results. They spray on these fertilizers with gusto every two weeks. I have not been. I have the thought that if my soil is healthy, then the plants will flourish. Adding the lava sand was one step taken; adding compost that I had made was another. Taking a cue from walking through the aboreteum, I felt that creating a forest floor can produce a wonderful environment for plant growth.
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Summer is Here, so I Should Be Watering, Right?


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How much water do my plants need? Maybe not as much as you might think.

I have been working to clean up my garden. Organize the chaos. Staking vines, such as one particularly unruly tomato plant, has been a routine job. The one task that I have not been focused on is watering my garden. That is a shame because I hand water the garden, which gives me the time to relax and view the different nooks and crannies around my home. I did finally set up a soaker hose for one side of the house. This is a narrow strip between wall and fence. I have calla lilies, taro, and ginger along with a compost covering in this area. I do not water there on a normal basis, but I do need to take care of the foundation.
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Vegetable Gardens in Pots


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Gardens in small spaces do well with pots, and vegetables can be added to the mix.



It feels too humid to work outside in Houston, and my summer cold does not help matters. My spring garden was not as vibrant as my winter garden, which I imagine is due to my lack of focus on flowering plants this year. I had flowers, just not as much as desired. Since redoing my patio, I have been adding more pots to the spaceto have this space feel alive. My girls have enjoyed working with the plantngs here. I guess that these are gardens which suit their size; although they do miss digging. Some work this past week was dedicated to cleaning up after the storm. My yard was not hit so bad, but I saw some serious damage to trees around the neighborhood..With the weather and work, having fun with pots seemed a good way to work in the garden. I wanted to add vegetables into the mix, then I heard that there are vegetable gardens in pots by city hall, so I jumped in.
    Summer is not a time when most people consider plantings for the vegetable garden, yet we do have a longer growing season in Houston, so there are plants that can be started now. As for vegetable gardens in pots, I think your choices may be limited. I have not been around all of the nurseries. Based on what I found at one, your choice for a pot will be herbs, tomato and pepper plants. This is if you want the instant garden. You can plant seeds, but who wants to wait when you have the pot on the porch. There is one plant that will add interest in your vegetable pot that you may not consider: purslane. Sometimes sold as portalucca or moss rose. This beauty is not considered a vegetable in the US (in fact, we consider it a weed growing from the cracks of our sidewalks), but it is eaten as a vegetable in Europe and the Middle East. I find purslane for sale at Phoenecia. This plant is often called salad herb. It does have a strong flavor, so go lightly on its use if you are not familiar with it.
    I have pickled the leaves, and this was well liked by the family. You can eat the plant raw in a salad, but it can be steamed. I added purslane to a pot containing a habenero  plant, and to a pot containing an eggplant. Eggplants grow well in pots, but I did not see them available at the store. Parsely is nice in pots, but I think chard with its yellow and red stems can be dramatic. The more that I look at vegetable gardens in pots, the more that I like the idea. They are great for those who do not want a new garden bed. Children like working with them. Vegetables can be quite beatiful. Finally you can have some produce to harvest just outside your door.

    Check out your local nursery. You may find some plants to make up a nice vegetable garden of your own for pots. I have never heard of anyone putting beans in a hanging basket, but I wonder how that would work. A tomato would flow down nicely from a hanging basket, so maybe I will try out some hanging baskets next.

Greetings

This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at yourhoustonhomeinspector.com). For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank

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