Archive for August, 2011

With Drought and Water Restrictions, My Corn is Thriving


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Some plants do not seem to mind the imposed lack of water, and I was surprised to see some doing quite well. Here is what I have learned from the drought and water restrictions.

I have a lawn, yet I do not wish to be a grass farmer. I have seen a few neighbors let their grass die, and they have no other visual interest in their yard. Watching my yard carefully, I thought that established plants would be doing alright, and my plantings for an early fall crop would suffer. The gardener’s shadow proved me wrong. A gardener’s shadow? Well, it is the best tool that you have in taking care of your garden: your walking around the garden to observe the plants causes a shadow to fall. My shadow held surprises for me that will change what I plant next year.
corn growing in the heat Read the rest of this entry »

Planning the Structure of the Fall and Winter Gardens at the End of Summer


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We are dealing with a drought and heat in Houston. The large number of water main breaks has caused water restrictions, yet I am working on my plantings for a harvest later in the year. Part of this work is focusing on the structure of the garden.

Katya and I sit on the edge of the new garden bed, where we discuss my three sisters planting. We compare the leaves of the green onions that are behind me and the corn shooting up beside her. Then we move onto the flowers. I began this bed before the water restrictions were put into place, but I am still hoping for a harvest in October. I am looking more towards the structure of the garden though as I prepare for the fall and winter. Most of my projects have involved using recycled materials, then painting them to hide the mixture of items. The projects have been a cold frame, a solar oven, a few raised beds, an outdoor storage/workspace,a seating area, a stage, and compost bins. These are not all complete, but I thought that I would share what has been done so far.
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In Praise of the Crepe Myrtle


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I have ad an uneasy relationship with the my crepe myrtles. This tree had fallen out of favor with me, but recently I think that this tree deserves another look.

Crepe myrtles are a reliable plant for summer color in Houston. They do not seem to need much water once established. They are fairly fast growing, but they do not need to overpower the landscape. They are one tree which does not seem to effect the home (foundation, drainage pipes, and walls) as much as some others (but be careful, because they can still do harm). So why did I not want more crepe myrtles for such a long time? They became common place in my thoughts. We see them so often in southern gardens. I also came to see pruning them as a chore. I was not so upset with the debris that these trees produce; my neighbors on the other hand have hurled profanity my way to inform me of their displeasure. They have banged on my door ordering that these trees be severely pruned back. Should I mention the bag of garbage that I collect each week from the junk spilling out of their car onto my garden. I did remove some trees and pruned to appease them.
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My Cluttered Backyard: Moving Plants Away from the House


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Often during my home inspections, I have to report problems with the structure to a home due to plantings that are next to the home. Why do we stick to the edges of the yard for our gardens? Especially when this causes damage.

Why do we put so much effort into growing grass? Do your children play on it? Do you go outside to picnic in your backyard? And why, if we are so in love with the idea of a lawn, do we then let the grass die by not watering it during a drought?  I have experienced mixed reactions to my garden. Most people who come with their children to play enjoy the backyard.  Others who want to relax in a garden space have been happy to wander through that space. I have a belief  that I should be living in that space. Other neighbors have not been so enamored with my efforts leading to violent reactions or harassment. In the past, I tried to shrug those actions off, but lately I have been bothered by those efforts. I am reflecting on how we use our landscape around our homes. As a home inspector, I see too many problems with how we do treat our plantings, which is to have the garden beds hug the home.
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A Look at Winter Vegetables in the Summer Garden


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Winter vegetables do grow during our summer heat, but common knowledge states that they will not have a great taste during the summer months. This may not be the case.

I would love to travel to a drought free zone to find the lush jungle of a summer garden. Many of my plants are under stress, which means that they are not producing. The hot peppers keep providing me with spice for my meals. The basil abundantly fills its space. The grape vines run along their trellis, so stuffed grape leaves are on the table. However, being cautious with my watering means that the garden is not lush. I was so grateful for the rain last week, and the ground still holds that moisture, which makes me wonder why neighbors were watering their gardens for hours on end. I could be like the neighbor behind my house; let the garden die of thirst. I did notice that a few winter vegetables were doing well in this heat and lower water, but this is not the time to eat them, or is it?
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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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