Creating a Tea House for the Children


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Why have a simple house for the children to play in? Let your imagination roam to create something special, like a tea house.



I found myself in a situation where I had to cut down large limbs from a few trees. I did not want to throw them away, but I was not sure what to do with them. We had inherited this plastic house for the children, which was placed in one garden corner. I did not care for it much, but my wife was attached to it for a reason unknown to me. One day, I spotted my older daughter in this house. She had become too big for it. I hatched my plan to create a new structure for her, and the lumber from the tree would be my frame. I did not have enough for a log cabin. I thought of creating something more in the realm of fantasy, so I hit upon the idea of a tea house.
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The Habenero Thief


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The problem with children being involved in your garden is that they can become a little too preoccupied with harvesting.

I did not realize that my wife had caught this moment. I had been working on my project; the girls were outside playing; my wife was on the phone; and my son was inside studying. I then heard my wife call out to me: “do you know what your youngest has been doing?” I had been too focused on my job, which is never a good thing (I have come to realize). I ask, and I am told that my youngest has been harvesting peppers. The little girl knew that I would not be happy, so she was making her escape inside.
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How to Create Your Own Japanese Garden in the Backyard


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Do you consider gardening styles when planning your garden? Most of us probably do not, but I think that adapting a style, like a Japanese garden, could add flair to your backyard.

I have slowly been working on a project that I am calling a tea house. I took down these too small plastic playhouses that had been set up for my daughters to create this new space. Why a tea house? I still remember the tea house in the gardens of Sans Soucci when I visited there as a child. The building was a fantasy set in the garden. I wanted to recapture that feeling. I am building this house with materials from the garden; I have only purchased pine fence planks for the walls. As I am near completion, I have been considering the plantings which will be near this house. Visiting the Japanese Garden in Hermann Park gave me the idea of creating a space that reflected that style.  In my case, I am not thinking of creating such a garden in the entire backyard, but I thought that such a space could be quite nice.
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How to Make a Simple Soda Bread


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Yeast bread is common. I make it a good deal. Soda bread is quick to make, and can be great to have.



I have been baking a lot of yeast bread lately.  With work and family, I do not always have the ability to devote to making a yeast bread. The process is not hard, but I do have to pay attention to the steps, such as the rising.  Having a mixer with a dough hook allows me to skip the lengthy step of kneading the dough by hand. If I plan out the steps, I can have the bread made over night (using the cold rising method in a refrigerator). My work days begin around four in the morning. About six in the morning, I begin to work on lunches while waking others up. Last Friday, I realized that my wife and daughters had snacked on the last of the bread the night before, so I had to either bake bread, or find another school lunch. I decided upon soda bread, where I simplified the recipe.
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Autumn Vegetable Plantings And An October Harvest


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Houston’s winter is not so harsh, so we do have time for new vegetable plantings, while harvesting from our summer crop.

The cold front has moved in, and everyone is expressing relief from the heat. The weather has inspired the casual gardeners to work in their yards. For me the best part has been to sit out on the porch with the family each evening. I read my books, while others play. The insects do not seem to be too bad. I have much of the tea house done. The girls should enjoy that space, but currently the tree house is seeing activity. Dinners have been filled with the harvest from the garden. I used a bit too much curry plant leaves in one dish, and I will not make that mistake again. (Curry plant has a curry like aroma, but the flavor is not the subtle blend of spices that you find in curry). The eggplant, peppers, and tomato plants have come alive again. I am waiting for the cucumbers that were planted in late summer. Then there are the beans. October is a fruitful month.
    I heard a report where a scientist predicted that our summers will commonly see temperatures in the triple digits in the coming years. The prediction goes on to indicate that our winters will be quite mild. The harsh heat and humidity at the end of summer causes many of my plants to go into a stand-by mode. They are growing, but not producing. However, our winters are not so bad for quite a few vegetables. I planted lettuce and collards in a new bed in the front yard. I have my cabbage in place, as well as my broccoli and brussel sprouts. I am hoping for a swiss chard planting soon. I am not sure what my older daughter planted, but I seem to be either finding cilantro or parsley growing in one bed. I have been thinking of growing mustard greens again, but I am not sure if the children will eat them.
    As I have been watering my garden, my neighbor’s tree has spread its limbs over my vegetables. What used to be a sunny space is now shade. I have been spurred on to create more garden beds in the front yard, which my wife is starting to have reservations over. Along the one side was great. Along the front sidewalk was fine. Yet connecting the front beds to the beds near the home along the other side may not fly. I have started to create such a bed by moving the gifted grape pant to this area. The grape was being overtaken by some beans, and I wanted it to have full sun.  There were not many options in existing beds, so I made my move. I am hoping to have the swiss chard go in a bed below  the support frame for the grape. It will take the grape vine time to fill in that space.
    I may have started a bit early, but I moved a crepe myrtle to a new bed. When we moved into our home, the left front bed was framed by several crepe myrtles. They looked nice, but they did not let my Italian cypress fill out. I decided that since I was already rearranging plants and crating new beds that I would move one tree that was in a position that I wanted clear. I dug out this twenty-five foot tree, and dragged it to a new spot along the easement on the other side of my yard. I am watering it every other day. My experience in the past with moving these myrtles has been that the leaves fall off sooner. The tree appears to go dormant or die, but then it comes back in the spring. It takes a year for it to be as active as it once was. I probably should have waited for the tree to go dormant, but if I do loose the tree, I do not mind. I have enough crepe myrtles, and I can always make a cutting to propagate a new specimen.
    I have not worked with many flowering plants for the autumn. I have only planted a few asters. The blue flowers are being picked by the girls to give as gifts to the neighbors. Note to self: I need a lot of flowering plants to keep up with their habit. I should be planting pansies soon. Those flowers make a nice addition to salads. Color more so than flavor.Well, I am going to spend more time in the yard. Just relaxing.

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.

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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