Archive for November, 2011

Keep Gardening Houston: Joys of Winter Vegetables

The drought brought an end to many Houston gardeners, but with freezing and near freezing temperatures arriving, what little gardening activity we had seems to have come to a stop.

Each morning I pass my antique roses on the way to the car. Katya wants some cut flowers to give to her teachers. Sakura wants to stop to enjoy the fragrance. I am reminded that there are many plants which give us a bounty of colors in late fall through winter. I planted geraniums yesterday. Violets were planted the day before yesterday. A few chrysanthemums still are putting on their show. I have bought pansies as well. I have been sitting in the garden, watching the children play. However, I noticed tat a few neighbors who began to improve their gardens with the cooler weather have now stopped, due to the freezes. This is a great time to garden in Houston, and we have a chance for winter vegetables.
Houston Winter vegetables Read the rest of this entry »

Dead Trees and the Threat to Our Homes

The drought is not done, but we may be dealing with the effects sooner that you realize. Large dead trees threaten our homes.

He looks across to his neighbors yard, and asks me if that tree is dead. This was a smaller tree about twenty feet tall. Leaves were a tan/brown. All the leaves were that color, and they were all on the tree. Yes, it was dead. That guy does not take care of his yard, was the response. True, but I have noticed this with more homes. I was at a short sale home doing an inspection, noticing that many bushes were dead. A dead bush or a smaller dead tree may not be a threat to the home, but they are a cost. New owners will have to replant or at least take these dead specimens from the yard. Where I begin to worry is the much larger trees.
dead pine tree
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Does Having Flowers in the Garden Help Your Vegetables?

Maybe we should be thinking about which flowers, but attracting bees may help your vegetable production.

I have been confronted with the argument that if I am serious about vegetable production in my yard, then I should not grow anything that is not edible. I have been told to focus only on natives; imitate nature; improve on nature; and mix everything up when it comes to plantings. Reality sets in though when you are a gardener in an urban environment. Your neighbors may tolerate vegetables, but they may not tolerate your home looking like a farm. Someone noticed me planting chrysanthemums in my yard, and asked if they were edible? Not to my knowledge. They do have a nice light fragrance though. So why was I planting them? I like them, and my daughters enjoy flowers. What attracts me to garden mums is the display that they will put on each year. The plant is a perennial, so I leave them in the ground, instead of ripping them out like annuals after their prime. I like annuals, but I like the fact of not having to buy new plants each year as well.
    Can I justify valuable garden space to a non-vegetable? I like how my garden is evolving. The one, long bed on the other side of the driveway holds many vegetables, but to me it is almost looking like one of those English perennial hedges. I enjoy wandering into the bed to find something for dinner, but I am happy to be able to relish in the view of this bed. I may not make some urban farmers happy, but I think the permaculturist would be. Mixing the plant environment between edibles and non-edibles does fit in with a more natural plan, and one that I hope will reap some benefits: less pest damage. However, I began to consider are there other benefits to adding seasonal flowers into the garden? During the heat of summer, when many of my flowering plants were wilting, I did have a few vegetable plants attempt to produce. I did not harvest much. This may be in part due to the lack of bees. My youngest daughter and I were having lunch in a little garden seating area, watching the bees humming around the basil. We had been doing this for days, so we had observed how this frenzy of bees began with one bee. After a couple of days, we thought that we picked up on three distinct bees. On the fifth day, I am not sure how many bees were watching. The bees were not just focusing on the basil at this point. They were perturbed that we were sitting near the squash blossoms. They also hovered around the cucumber vine. 
    Vegetables near a mint that was in full bloom also saw more bee activity. The squash near my rose, which only seems to produce one flower a week, did not see much activity from the bees. I have to study this idea more, but I think the type of flower does play a role. My older garden mums are in their full prime of flowering, and I have not seen them attract to many bees. I have seen bees, but they prefer the flowers of herbs in my garden. Oh, I will find them en masse around the azaleas in spring, so I know herbs are not their only interest.  My field of pansies do not hold the interest of the bees. The thought gives me a reason to sit quietly in the garden for hours on end. I can start taking notes which plants will bring in the bees to help the vegetables produce. In the mean time, my daughters can pick the mums to scatter around the house as they always see fit.

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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