How to Make and Install a Bamboo Fence


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A custom bamboo fence is not out of reach of a home owner, if you grow your own bamboo.



I have a little stand of bamboo in my yard. I harvest the bamboo stalks for garden projects, such as tomato cages, art projects, and bamboo fencing. A garden fence can add a focal point as well as privacy, and since bamboo is such a fast grower, the plant can provide an abundance of material. Currently, my daughter and I are working on rebuilding an old birdhouse, so we are using our bamboo for that project.
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The Garlic is Coming


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The Garlic is Coming

Winter is a great time for garlic in Houston gardens



My daughter is connecting the idea that vegetables are plants, and my experiment from a few weeks back has proven to her that you can buy something at the grocery store to grow. One item that is doing well in my garden is the garlic. I planted the garlic heads just as they were to show her that all of them will grow shoots similar to the green onions that she knows. Being busy with work, and with uncooperative weather, has not allowed me to spend as much time in the garden as I would like, but I am glad that the plants are growing without me.
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Kohlrabi


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This wonderful plant seems to be ignored by gardeners and home cooks, but it can be a big hit at the evening meal.

Kohlrabi does well in the Houston garden during our winter. After the freezes this past weekend, I found my kohlrabi standing tall, enjoying the cold. (My wife says that this is my season, because I love the cold so much). I did not plant too many of  these plants this year. In fact, I have not planted them for some time.
    I harvested half of my kohlrabi plants this week. I like having this vegetable on my winter table. I have experienced a problem lately with the children though. I can remember some mothers who came up to me at Whole Foods, amazed that my son was eating vegetables instead of junk food. How did I do it? Simple, I did not buy junk food. Now my life has changed. My son is a teenager, and my little daughters spend time with their cousins; their peers have been influencing them. On the positive side, they still eat a larger variety of foods than many others. They all enjoy going to the various farmer’s markets (in the freezing cold morning, I went to the market at Rice University on Saturday. The vendors were glad to see me, but all of them asked where are the girls, instead of greeting me- they are loved).
    I love root vegetables, so I have been serving them since they are in season. Turnips did not go down well. When the kids saw the kohlrabi, they had a flashback, and they refused to touch them. Once my son tasted one, he was pleasantly surprised, and they have asked for more. I am going to see if I can find them- well, I know that Canino’s has them on hand.  It appears that kohlrabi will be on the table again soon.
    Preparation: you can eat the leaves of kohlrabi. They are tough, so you do need  to cook them for some time to soften them up- think of using them like cabbage, with maybe a little bit longer cooking time. As for the base, you will have to peel it. As a note, kohlrabi is not a root vegetable. This bulge occurs in the stem above the ground. Because of this bulge, kohlrabi is frequently referred to as the space ship plant. I find that the skin can be hard to peel, similar to broccoli stems. Peelers can work, but I take my chef’s knife to cut off the skin. The softer center can be prepared like any root vegetable. Since I was roasting a chicken, I sliced the kohlrabi into quarter inch wedges. Lightly slated and oiled them on a baking sheet. Once they had browned (about a half hour at 350F), I took them out. I sprinkled some flavored vinegar on them for serving. I have boiled them, and used them in stir fry dishes. What surprises my kids is the fact that kohlrabi can have a sweet flavor, particularly when roasted.
   Herbs which go with kohlrabi: I have had luck with basil (if my basil lasts into this season); caraway; chives; rosemary; marjoram; oregano; parsley; and thyme. I think that dill or fennel go well too. 

Orange Rice


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Adding flavors to rice can change the meal. With oranges in season, why not experiment.



Rice became my main starch once I married. Growing up in a German household, I was used to potatoes. I was comfortable with a potato. I knew a variety of ways to prepare them. The easiest ways was just to add some chopped parsley and butter, or maybe some paprika. Rice was a blank slate to me. You had a fully flavored sauce that would seep into its edges, and then you could use the rice to mop up the remainder of the sauce. My perception of rice can from reading a book. Anne Rice mentioned adding garlic and butter to cooked rice, and I was liberated. I began to experiment.
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What Can I Grow in a Houston Winter?


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We have had freezes, but Houston’s climate does lend itself to year around gardening.

The weather has not been the best for our gardens. The freezes have not been to bad. Overcast days not providing enough sun. Rain has not been too consistent either. However, we do not experience harsh Winters in our city. This does mean that there are plants that do well during this time of year, but would you plant something this time of year? Probably not. I, on the other hand, decided to press forward to keep my little girl’s interest in the garden from waning.
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Rocks for a low maintenance yard


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Remove your grass and replace it with rocks. No more lawn care. Is this the lawn of the future?


I
wrote a post about using rocks as a mulch
. A friend saw it, and asked if I thought he could get away with taking out all of his grass to be replaced with rocks. Sure you can, I replied. He countered that he bets that their is a law against it. None that I know of, and I have seen homes here in Houston with rock mulches instead of lawns. I think that your biggest concern would be your HOA (home owner’s association). Would you do it, he queried. No, I replied. Read the rest of this entry »

The Leaves are Falling; Time to Start a New Compost Pile


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I always have a compost pile going, but this year I would like to try something different.

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Should I Protect My Plants from a Freeze?


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We had our first freeze and snow in Houston, which means going out to protect our plants with row covers may be in order.

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Do You Use Rocks as a Mulch?


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Rocks and pebbles can make an attractive garden mulch in Houston, when you put as little thought into it.



Houston floods. It is a fact of life that is not always pleasant for my garden. I have placed mulches in various spots around my garden, only to see them washed away. I did not enjoy the idea of buying new mulch each year for all of my garden beds, particularly when I was trying to cut down on expenses. Using rocks and pebbles became my goal. Fortunately, there are many types to choose, which makes for some garden design a little more interesting. Read the rest of this entry »

How Many Fruit Trees Can You Put in the Front Yard


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I took a walk with my daughters through the neighborhood, and I noticed two homes that had around twenty fruit trees in their front yards. Is this practical?



I wonder if I am seeing a growing trend with more fruit trees in my neighbors yards. There have always been fruit trees in the area. I have three in my front yard, and five in the backyard. These trees are fairly well spaced away from each other; however, seeing two yards packed with fruit trees, I felt that I might be encountering a trend.

    I have noticed that more homeowners have added vegetable gardens, and I have spotted a fruit tree here and there being added to a home garden. I thought that some people are responding to the recession and higher food costs. I think that growing your own vegetables is great for the children, and it may involve homeowners with their gardens more, which is alright with me. I think that people who are new to vegetable gardens may not realize that it is a bit more work than what they may have expected. This leads to these beds being discarded., which I would rather not see. Getting back to these two yards decked out with trees, is this wise? I think not. Most of our front yards contain limited space, which means that the spacing of these trees is about five feet. When the trees mature,  the shade will cause the grass to recede, and the branches will intertwine allowing no air flow for health. The roots will cause problems for the foundation if the trees are too close to the house, and they will cause problems for piping or underground services.

   I like the idea of having fruit trees in our yards, but we should balance them with other aspects of the garden. If you are going to add fruit trees to your yard, check on the height and width of a mature tree to place it properly in the landscape. This should be done for any tree. To really get fruit production going, you will need to wait till the tree matures some. Fruit trees are for the future, while vegetables are for the present.

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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