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 »

What Can You Harvest in a Houston Spring Garden


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As the days are growing hotter, some vegetables are beginning to fade. The drought has placed a strain on other plants. So I make my way through the garden looking for dinner ideas.

At the store this morning, I felt a bit of sticker shock. The can of coffee that was selling for $6.99 not too long ago was priced on sale at $8.99, and are those cans becoming smaller? Most of my surprises have been with staples other than vegetables, because I have not bought many. I am obtaining about 95% of my fruit and vegetable consumption from the garden. Yet, this has not been a great year so far. The drought seems to have played havoc with my loquat tree. This fruit is usually available to me by March, but I do not think that I will have any this year. The plums are coming, but the birds have gone after the unripe green plums. Still these setbacks have not been so detrimental.
    The cucumber vines that were planted when the weather warmed have produced. My favorite cucumber preparation is to peel the skin; slice them; and marinate them in a rice vinegar/sugar mixture. This makes for a light salad. I also like making a more German style cucumber salad. The cucumber slices are salted. Later the water is drained off and the slices rinsed. The cucumber is mixed with onions, parsley, and a vinegar and oil dressing.
    The lettuce is beginning to bolt. Once the shafts arise from the plant to produce the flowers, the taste becomes more bitter. Lettuce does not like the warm weather. The red lettuce is holding out longer. Salads are becoming common place for meals right now at my house. I made a salad with blackberries and chopped peanuts last night. The blackberries were macerated with sugar. The lettuce was dressed quite popular. I wonder how long before the red lettuce goes to seed.
    The last of the peas were harvested. Peas are water hogs which prefer the cooler weather, so I was surprised that they lasted this long. Katya really took to the peas. The beans are starting to produce. Fresh young beans from the vine did not seem to need any cooking. A squeeze from an orange with a dash of sesame seed oil was great. A lightly boiled one collection of beans which were tossed with butter.
    I had moved my kale to a section of garden which is mainly shade. This has left the plants vibrant with a good flavor to the leaves. This will probably end soon, as kale looses its flavor with the heat. Then it is attacked by the bugs.  A few of my onions are large enough for harvesting, so I have done quick stir fries with the kale and onions.
    The tomato plants have only green fruit, and the pepper plants have had smaller specimens, but the eggplants are producing. I think some gardeners avoid eggplant, because they feel that it is too much work. The plant has to be staked like a tomato plant, and then there is the concern over bitterness. Fresh eggplant is not bitter (at least, I have never experienced bitterness from this vegetable when I pick it out of my garden). I broil slices; fry cubes, or throw shreds of eggplant into a stew. No salting and draining required.
    The squash has abundant blooms now. Maybe in a week this plant will give me my first zucchini or yellow squash. I planted the seeds when the weather warmed, so I have a good sized bush for many of my squash plants.  Otherwise, I have been using a good many herbs in my meals. I mix handfuls of parsley into my rice, cous cous, or bulghur. I like had this herb is treated like a vegetable or salad item in the Mediterranean diet.
    The best aspect for me is eating seasonally. The meals are changing over the course of the months. Yes, I would have liked a red tomato with my lettuce, but in Houston, these two plants will overlap in the fall. As a new vegetable grows, the smaller children have something new to excite them. What I did expect was for the family to become tired of winter vegetables. The two young girls became more fond of winter greens as the season for these vegetables progressed. Now, Katya asks if she will still be able to have her favorite kale for a meal. I wonder if she will feel this way about onions (if she can see the onion in the meal, she will not eat it).  I hope to add more plants in for the summer, but if this drought persists, then I will have to reevaluate my plans.

The Drought and My Houston Garden


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Waiting for rain that never seems to come, I am looking for ways to reduce my watering. What strategies may we use.

There have been days with a mist of water on the ground on a few mornings. Is that why, they say that Houston is not in the extreme drought that the surrounding areas are already in? My latest project is creating spots to hold  water from the rain. Swales to catch water that is running off the property, but which are far from creating pools by the foundation. I had a large plastic pot from a tree that I overturned and placed into a hole to deal with one spot that has a water pool when it rains. I am thinking of adding more of these water basins. Finally I have more trenches to catch the water flow before it leaves my property. (I wonder if I can convince the city that this should reduce my drainage fee- wild hopes continue).
Read the rest of this entry »

Photos of a Winter Vegetable Garden in Houston


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Houston almost has a year around growing season, so there are vegetables that we can grow throughout the winter season.

Hey, what is that plant?” “Do you have collards?” For some reason this past week, I had a few visitors stop by asking me what plants did I have in my front garden. Most people recognized the plants as vegetables, but they thought that some chrysanthemums and asters were vegetables as well. When a man standing next to my collards asked if I grew any collards, I had the revelation that people simply do not know how these plants look. They probably do not buy them as vegetables in their local grocery store.  Although other vegetables were asked about, I picked on collards, because it is one of those vegetables that many people seem to avoid.  My mother focused on more German dishes when I was growing up, since that was her comfort zone. Having moved to the South, we were exposed to collards, but we were told that you had to cook this leaf for a long time, and with a ham hock. My mother did not have time for such a vegetable, so it did not appear on her dinner plate.In reality, collards like kale can be prepared quite quickly by pan frying. Here are some photographs from my garden to help you identify these winter vegetables that do quite well in Houston.

broccoli

Broccoli

cabbage

Young cabbage before the head forms

collards and lettuce

Collards with a red lettuce about to go to seed

fava beans

Fava Beans seem to do alright during our colder months

garlic

Garlic has a wider leaf than leeks

Horse raddish

Horse raddish leaves are edible as well as the root

kale

Curly leaf kale, edible variety (ornamentals can be eaten, but do not taste great)

kohlrabi and arugula

Kohlrabi has leaves similar to broccoli, while arugula is light green

leeks

Leeks, smaller than garlic leaves at first

mustard

Curly and flat leaf mustards

nappa cabbage

Nappa or Chinese Cabage, lighter in texture and color than cabbage

parsely

Curly parsely

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard, red and yellow stems help add color to winter meals

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 »

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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