Archive for September, 2010

Sharing Plants with Family


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One way to expand your plant collection is to be sharing plants with family and friends. This is a great method to save money, while obtaining the look that you want.



I have been quite happy with how my seed plantings have been coming along, but I realized a new look in my garden by moving plants to new spaces. This was further enhanced by finding new plants in the gardens of my brother and parents. I have always participated in plant sharing. I have been happy to give seeds away too. I never thought about this habit much, until this week. I went out of town to see my parents when I saw their agave. I find these to be structurally fascinating plants, but I have not placed them in my garden, because they can be quite expensive, so I asked my parents if I could have a plant. It turns out that they had been wanting to get rid of some plants, because they had too many. I ended up with four nice agaves, for which I created a new garden bed.
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Images From the Texas Hill Country


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Images to inspire a gardener from a walk in the Texas Hill Country, along Canyon Lake and Tom Creek.

agaveburn stationcreekdead barkdead treeprickly pearsriver banksharp leavesshorelinewhite flowersyellow flowers

Are you starting a garden, then there is a blog list for you


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As I was working on my home inspection site, I received an email that this blog has ended up on a list of sixty gardening blogs to help beginning gardeners. To be recognized is always nice. The list has really good blogs to check out if you are interested in gardening. http://www.lawncareservice.net/blog/2010/60-online-gardening-blogs-for-beginners/

Changeable Wall Sculpture


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As fall approaches, we use seasonal wreaths to decorate our homes. Here is an idea using wreaths to create a wall sculpture.



I have been cleaning the garden beds in preparation for the fall plantings, and this has led to considering my hardscape. There is a north facing wall on my home, which is framed by crepe myrtles and azaleas. This wall has always felt bare to me. I have attempted to add plants that could rise above the azalea bushes for interest, but this did not work. My wife and I have been walking the garden to make various plans. She wants me to build a large planter of cement as an accent piece. To show me her idea, she had cut out images from magazines of gardens that she found to be inspiring. That is when I was reminded of the holiday wreaths that would soon be adorning the doors and walls.
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Having a Problem Keeping a Stretch of Yard Look Neat? Mulch It.


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The fall planting season will be fast upon us, so I am preparing my garden. One step is getting rid of future work by mulching a path.

My daughters love buying seeds, and I obliged by taking them on a quest. The quest has involved going to several stores. I have been buying a few older plants that are now on sale. I found that caring for these plants carefully, I can have it for the next year. I noticed that the nurseries had new vegetables in stock. Mainly tomato or pepper plants, which I already have. There are cabbages and various brassicas on hand. This reminded me that fall is not too far away. I have a tendency to let my garden evolve into a wonderful chaos, then I clear sections for the new plants. One job that is constant is the weeding. I do not mind this task too much, but I do want to decrease the amount of work needed. This is where mulching helps.
    I have a side yard dedicated to vegetables.  The path has been grass with paving stones. Different types of grasses invaded with other plants, and I had a harder time making this path look clean. I may enjoy the chaos in the bed, not on the path. The invaders on the path began to find their way into my garden beds. I do not mind working, but a pointless task becomes tiresome. With trouble  on this path, I thought about my options. Mulching over the area, and then placing the pavers even with the mulch will help keep the area clean and reduce my weeding.
   I decided upon a cedar mulch. The scent of the cedar deters insects from the garden. Have you ever put cedar pieces to keep moths out of your closets? Those moths are laying their eggs on my vegetables for their young to have food. On other garden paths, rocks were used as a mulch. This gives a crunching sound underfoot. The advantage to rocks is that they do not float away. I know that there is no float mulch, which do work, but these mulches do need to be renewed each year. Rocks do not have this problem.

   Considering Houston’s long growing season, I am trying out broccoli rapini. This should be planted in spring. My pepper plants are healthy, so I am waiting for a good harvest in October. The okra is producing more as well. I also planted tomatillos. Once established, these plants can be carefree. My dog mowed down my last tomatillo stand, so the new plants are out of his reach. I cannot wait for the bok choy.

Baked Fruits for Desserts


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Do you offer ice cream as a dessert in your house? I think that my wife and son alone could go through a gallon container in two days. I am a baked goods fan myself, so I wanted to have a quick dessert that I could make to have ready after dinner, which was baked with fruits.

Do not get me wrong, store bought baked goods and ice cream will be eaten quickly in my home. I wish that were not the case. My grandmother made Saturday her baking day. She had so many baked treats that neighbors looked forward to coming over for a kaffeklatsch. She was so prolific that she ended up in the newspaper. German baked goods are easier to find. In fact the pan mexicana is quite similar to many treats that I knew growing up. I do not have the time to bake as extensively as my grandmother did, but I do want to move away from the bakery.
    Have you tried preparing dinner with three children on the prowl? After school snacks are sought. Dinner should be ready now.  Do you have any treats, Papa? Then the two little ones want to help, so I have to find a way to include them in the meal preparation. This has left little time for preparing a dessert. I do not mind a cut piece of fruit, yet the children want more excitement. Whether my family is going to be eating ice cream again, or something from home is down to me, so I needed to find the time. That is when I hit upon a simple cake (if you will).
    I slice whichever firm fruit is in season, so apples, peaches, nectarines would be my fruit of choice. I saute these slices with a little sugar and butter. I mix up a batter for pancakes (one egg, one cup of flour, and enough milk to moisten). I add cinnamon or vanilla to the fruit, then pour in the batter. This goes into an oven (350F for fifteen minutes). I flip this out onto a plate. If it is cool by the end of dinner, I sprinkle powdered sugar on this cake. Usually, everyone has begun to eat it when it is warm. I use a small cast iron skillet for this cake.
    This cake has been good, and with changing fruits and flavors, the cake has surprises. There are more baked goods which I could prepare. I was thinking about quick items to make. I loved baked apples when I was younger. You core the apple to rid it of seeds. In the place of the core you can add raisins, butter, sugar, and spices. The apple was covered with a basic dough (2cups of flour, 1 stick of  softened butter, 1 egg, and some cold water).  Since an entire apple may be big of a portion, I have sliced the apple and folded the dough over it like an empanada. Baking this at 350F for 15 to 20 minutes works well. I imagine with other fruits this can be an interesting change to the apple.
    On the quick baked goods side, I have also baked fruits by themselves. I like the taste. There is a comfort in eating warm fruit which has been lightly sugared. The family may want more, so I do make a crumble to top this mixture. Sugar, flour, and butter mixed to a sandy consistency, and then crumble this over the fruit to bake. Again, this bakes for the same amount of time as the others. What is nice for me, is that these fruits can bake while we are eating. We talk at the dinner table, so meals last for a bit. Then after the dishes have been cleared, we can have the dessert a bit later. I think that this is a nice way to eat.
    Maybe I should plan on baking cakes again. I used to be known for it. Like my grandmother, I would pick one day to make a treats for those around me. I think that it made me more popular at work. The task is not so hard; I have to decide upon the time.

How to Inspect Your Lawn Sprinkler System


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Every so often, it is not a bad idea, to see if your lawn sprinklers are working as intended. A quick inspection can save you money, and help your plants.



I think that most lawn sprinkler systems that I have inspected where originally installed by the builder. I find few homes where the homeowner may have installed a sprinkler system. Installation is a fairly simple task, and a well maintained, thought out system may be better at watering than you can with a hose. I prefer watering with a hose though. My wife did not understand how relaxing it can be until she decided to water the plants once. However,  I feel that most homeowners do not want that form of meditation, and a sprinkler system may help them maintain their gardens.
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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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