The Excitement of Spring


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Tomato plants are in at the stores, and you will find basil too. Are you ready to start planting Houston?

Last week turned out to be much busier than I thought it would be. Besides work, I ended going to a few gatherings/ meetings. One was to set up a plant exchange event in my neighborhood; we will be calling it “Plant Yourself in the Community”. I have been asked to speak at this event about how landscapes can effect the home.At the Houston Green Scene Mixer, I found myself talking about gardening quite a bit. Particularly we ended discussing fruit trees and vegetables. Even on my inspections, the landscape became a topic. In my own garden, I thought that I would have a quiet week. I was doing some final pruning to clear tree branches growing near my electrical lines and others that came down to hit me when walking by (these being from the neighbor’s trees growing over the fences. I found myself placing quite a few plants in the ground.
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Planting for Fragrance


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Do you like sitting in your garden? Colors create visually pleasing scenes, but planting for fragrance, scents , can enhance your experience.



I may not have been writing, but that is due to being busy around the home and garden. My daughters are wild about planting seeds right now, so the moment they see seeds for sale they have to have them. Besides the seeds, we have been watching the progression of fruits. The first few raspberries were ripe, and the girls descended upon them. My neighbor commented that this will be a haven for snakes. I think that snakes may not like that location though. The girls have figured out that they can pull the branches of the plum tree down, so they have gone after the green (unripe) plums. I am glad that their older brother has not been in their employ. Then I would have a problem.  My other neighbor commented that they have not seen me out front. Well, the backyard has been more fun for the children, so I have focused on that space. I do miss sitting on my front bench with the fragrance of the roses.
    Antique roses have such a wonderful fragrance which is not overpowering. Most hybrid roses have no scent. I think that is why I try to buy older rose varieties. The rose bush has put on a fantastic show this season. I think the secret has been deadheading the flowers. Heavy pruning seems agreeable to my bush. I use slight fertilizer on them. I do not care for overwhelming perfumes, and I think the scent of roses could be associated with that memory, but my roses produce no such fragrance. It is refreshing to walk by these bushes.
    I am waiting for the jasmine to bloom. I have these by the back porch, so this will make the backyard fill with fragrance soon. The little white jasmine flowers display nicely, but I do enjoy sitting on the porch with this scent. I think that I should begin planning more fragrances near sitting areas. I have marigolds in the vegetable garden. I like that they discourage some pests. That is something to watch. Caterpillars were feasting on my fennel, and I thought fennel discouraged these predators of my plants. Parsley is also supposed to deter insects from attacking other plants. I only notice the scents of these plants after a rain. The scents in the air after a rain make walking through the garden an experience.
    Most herbs have such strong scents, but they do not release these fragrances until crushed. I took the grey leaves of a curry plant and rubbed them in my hand for my older daughter. Katya thought this was great, so she is doing this with many of her finds in the vegetable garden. The herb curry plant is not what is used for curries, but this herb does have a flavor similar to some curries. I think this may be a great scent for a man’s cologne. (Oh yeah, I could start making some colognes or perfumes with these extra herbs). I do like letting my herbs spill over into the lawn. Cut grass is a good scent, but walking on the lawn with herbs is more fun. Having the scent of mint or thyme waft up under the pressure of my step is a pleasure.
    I will be on a search for more scented flowers for the garden. Color has been taken care of, and I think that I am overly packing the vegetables into available spots. (I have to convince the girls that we cannot keep buying seeds). I am going to avoid gardenias. I cannot take that fragrance.

Home-made Pizza with a Garden Twist


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The kids want pizza, and you are trying to make bread. You may as well through in some herbs from the garden to make it more interesting.

Picture if you will two little girls going after the carrots. The fronds become brooms as they work their way down the driveway. At the end of the drive, they decide to have a sword fight, using the carrots as their foils. Maybe they need to stop watching their brother when he has his foils out. They are hungry, and hoping for pizza, but you do not want the standard fare. Luckily, you are in the process of making another loaf of bread. Pizzas for all.
    I guess fencing works up your appetite. I have been getting back into bread making. I really need to start making cakes again. I use to make them every Sunday. Saturdays were my grandmother’s baking days. Her house was filled with treats, which I consumed on Sundays. I guess that is why I like baking on Sundays. I was working on a basic bread dough to which I added flax seeds for fiber. I did not think that I had the ingredients, but I wanted the kids to have their pizza, since they had been working around the house. My measuring cups have been disappearing on me, so I have been creative with amounts. I begin with 1 1/2 cups of warm water (milk is also good), a tablespoon of dried yeast, two tablespoons of sugar, and a cup of flour. I mix these together, and let them sit for 1/2 hour. This proofs the yeast. If I see bubbles, then I am good to go. I add another three cups of flour, a little salt, a little oil, and the flax seeds. Since I was given a mixer, I have been doing my kneading in that wonderful machine. I add more flour to the dough till everything is combined into a ball. Usually about two more cups of flour does the trick. I use a dough hook in the mixer for about four minutes. I do the final kneading on a floured board. The dough should be tacky, but not overly so. This will rest in a warm spot for an hour or two in an oiled bowl.
    It was at this point that the pizza request was made. I have some tomatoes on the vines, but they are not ready, so I broke into a can that I have for emergencies. I went out into the garden for rosemary, garlic leaves, and oregano. I chopped the herbs and added them to the crushed tomatoes. I spread this over dough that I had rolled out after the rising. I grated the only cheese that I had, Muenster. For a topping, I sliced up bratwurst from a butcher in the Hill Country. This went into a pre-heated oven (420F) for twenty minutes.
    I thought a salad would go well with my pizza. Since the girls had given up their carrot foils, and they wanted to eat those with dinner, I added these into a bowl. I sliced them thinly. Back out in the garden, I went after, swiss chard, the tops of pea vines, mint, and parsley.The ingredients were torn by hand into the bowl.  I added a little bit of oil, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar over the salad, then I tossed it all.
    Maybe I can say that this was a healthy pizza. Rustic may be a better term. This pizza was not like those purchased from pizzerias, but the meal was a success, considering how the kids ate. The crust was thick. I think that I should invest in a pizza stone to really have a better crust. Maybe I should make some tomato sauce to keep on hand. However, the “sauce” that I made worked fine. The dough took time, but there was not too much work involved. I would do this again.

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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