Sunday, November 16, 2008

What's Blooming on November 16

I'm a day late for Carol's blog, but today's roster of blooms will, perhaps, be more interesting, because we had the first frost of the season last night.
I harvested 3/4 of a five gallon bucket of tomatoes yesterday, and half a bucket of lima beans. There were many green beans too small to harvest, so I covered the row of plants with burlap, after giving them a good soak with the hose.

I will wrap the tomatoes individually in newspaper, to keep them from drying out while they ripen. We'll have fresh tomatoes for many weeks to come.

The temperature stayed below freezing for only an hour or so. There was frost damage to the sweet potato vines I have not yet gotten around to harvesting, to the tomato plants, the Cuban oregano, and to one of the datura plants. Far as I can see, nothing was actually killed. I have scores of little volunteer basil plants that came up under a rose bush. When I need basil for cooking, I pull up a whole plant. Maybe I'll transplant a few of these into containers, so I'll have fresh basil over the winter. Since winter here in central Texas last only a couple of months, and we can grow cool season crops through most of it, there is no great need to can or otherwise preserve food. The greater need for this comes in high summer, when everything either dies or goes dormant, save the heat-lovers such as sweet potato vines and okra. But potting up a few basil plants is probably worth the effort.

OK, here's what's still blooming:



Mutabilis (only a few blooms)

Clothide Soupert

miniature (five bushes still going strong, covered with blooms)

Knockout (this one bloomed profusely all thru the summer but is finally slowing down, has only a few blooms now)

Zinnias (still going strong)

Orange flowers from Great Outdoors in Austin (the flower look a bit like those of the golden shrimp plant, Pachystachys lutea, but the flowers and plants are different enough that I doubt they're closely related. I've pasted in a pic above.)
Salvia Victoria
Datura (in protected area, no frost damage - flowers delicate shade of yellowish pink - I really need to learn more names!)
Echinacea (flowering very nicely now that the weather has cooled a bit)
Mums (just a few still blooming)
Snapdragons (seedlings purchased from Fanick's nursery in San Antonio)
Petunia (old fashioned purple, very fragrant)
Canna lily (the ones in exposed locations suffered some frost damage, but the ones in protected areas are still fine)
Plumbago (planted along south side of wood fence -- survived the frost with no damage)
Bouganvillia (south side of fence)
Oleander (south side of fence)
Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida)
Vinca minor
Orange cigar plant (Cuphea micropetala)
Green beans (I include these even tho I grow them for food rather than flowers -- the kind I'm growing at the moment [a French variety] make the loveliest lavender blooms.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What's Blooming in My Garden Today

Maggie rose
Clotilde Soupert rose
Knockout rose
red salvia (volunteer, do not know species)
Indigo spires salvia
snapdragon (transplants from nursery)
fanick's perennial phlox
plumbago - blue & white
coral vine
vinca minor
orange flowers from Great Outdoors (don't know name)
white & pink flowers from Great Outdoors
cigar plant
Tecoma stans (Yellow Bells)
vitex (doesn't usually bloom this time of year, but shrub was stressed over the summer)
yellow & pink 4 o'clocks
garden mums

sweet potatoes
butter beans
southern peas (Mandy, blackeyed, purple hull)
turnip greens
Barbados cherry
dandelion (wild)
chicory (volunteer)

Annual Food Plants Growing but not yet harvestable:
green beans (fall crop)
squash (fall crop)

Perennial Food Plants Growing:
Pear (unknown varieties)
Peach (unknown varieites)
Peach (donut)
Cherry (Royal Lee)
Apple (Pink Lady, Anna)
Fig (has many green figs, may or may not ripen before first frost)
dew berries
pecan (natives & unknown varities)

Fruit / Nut trees I would like to add this year:

Asian pear
low chill peaches
Ein Shemer apple
paw paw (maybe, tho I don't think it will do well in our alkaline soil)
persimmon (non astringent)
Doreset Golden apple
Himrod grape

Friday, September 26, 2008

Treatment for Rose Black Spot

This treatment will not harm critters such as earthworms and ladybugs.

For each gallon of distilled or rain water, mix in:
1 aspirin
1/4 cup vinegar (5% sn)
1 Tbsp liquid fertilizer
1tbsp horticultual soap or dishwashing soap

Spray leaves of rose bush and the surface of the soil under the bush.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Water - The New Oil


T. Boone Pickens thinks water is the new oil—and he's betting $100 million that he's right. Roberts County is a neat square in a remote corner of the Texas Panhandle, a land of rolling hills, tall grass, oak trees, mesquite, and cattle. It has a desolate beauty, a striking sparseness. The county encompasses 924 square miles and is home to fewer than 900 people. One of them is T. Boone Pickens, the oilman and corporate raider, who first bought some property here in 1971 to hunt quail. He's now the largest landowner in the county: His Mesa Vista ranch sprawls across some 68,000 acres. Pickens has also bought up the rights to a considerable amount of water that lies below this part of the High Plains in a vast aquifer that came into existence millions of years ago.
If water is the new oil, T. Boone Pickens is a modern-day John D. Rockefeller. Pickens owns more water than any other individual in the U.S. and is looking to control even more. He hopes to sell the water he already has, some 65 billion gallons a year, to Dallas, transporting it over 250 miles, 11 counties, and about 650 tracts of private property. The electricity generated by an enormous wind farm he is setting up in the Panhandle would also flow along that corridor. As far as Pickens is concerned, he could be selling wind, water, natural gas, or uranium; it's all a matter of supply and demand. "There are people who will buy the water when they need it. And the people who have the water want to sell it. That's the blood, guts, and feathers of the thing," he says.
In the coming decades, as growing numbers of people live in urban areas and climate change makes some regions much more prone to drought, water—or what many are calling "blue gold"—will become an increasingly scarce resource. By 2030 nearly half of the world's population will inhabit areas with severe water stress, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development. Pickens understands that. And while Texas is unusually lax in its laws about pumping groundwater, the rush to control water resources is gathering speed around the planet. In Australia, now in the sixth year of a drought, brokers in urban areas are buying up water rights from farmers. Rural residents around the U.S. are trying to sell their land (and water) to multi- national water bottlers like NestlĂ© (BW—Apr. 14). Companies that use large quantities of the precious resource to run their businesses are seeking to lock up water supplies. One is Royal Dutch Shell, which is buying groundwater rights in Colorado as it prepares to drill for oil in the shale deposits there.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What I'm Harvesting




Blackeyed Peas

Mandy beans



Corn (the ears are all dried up and the kernels have to be saoked before cooking)

What's Blooming Today

Cypress Vine (Ipomoea quamoclit)

Coral Vine (Antiginon leptopus)




Oregano (all kinds)

Dittany of Crete (Origanum dictamnus)

Morning glory

Mutabilis Rose (China rose)

Madame Alfred Carriere (noisette rose)

Knockout Rose (hybrid tea)

A few other hybrid teas, just barely (the blooms get crispy and ugly within a day of fully opening, but they can be cut as buds and brought into the house, where they will open and last for a while)

miniature roses - all varieties

Zinnias - all varieities


Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)

Blush Noisette rose - I'd highly recommend this "antique rose" (developed in 1817) for gardeners with hot summers. It keeps blooming throughout the summer. Mid-fall is the heaviest blooming time in my garden. It's pretty much pest-resistant, though it does get light infestations of black spot in the spring and fall if there is a long rainy period.

Perennial Phlox Texas Superstar 'John Fanick' - beautiful, fragrant, loves hot weather (Phlox paniculata)

Vinca minor

sunflowers of all kinds

canna lily

crinum - genus Amaryllidaceae, don't know the variety. I got the original bulbs around 12 years ago from an elderly neighbor who'd been growing them for many years in her garden here in Lockhart. They seem to thrive in any kind of soil. I've grown them in Lockhart, San Antonio, and also in my garden in the sand hills, where they've naturalized. The ones that are blooming now are dusky pink. There's also one with spiderly white bloom. I think it may be Crinum purpurascens.

day lily - I can't keep up with all the different varieties, so I don't know which ones are blooming now.

Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)

four o'clocks

althea hibiscus (Rose of Sharon)

Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata)

Cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens) - It rained a bit over the past week, and the Cenizos are covered with lavender blooms. Very pretty, especially with the silver-leaved variety.

Did I mentioned cedar sage? (Salvia roemeriana) The hardest part of listing What's Blooming is that every time I go out in the garden I notice something I forgot to include.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Invertebrates increase the sensitivity of non-labile soil carbon to climate change

The fate of global soil carbon stores in response to predicted climate change is a ‘hotly’ debated topic. Considerable uncertainties remain as to the temperature sensitivity of non-labile soil organic matter (SOM) to decomposition. Currently, models assume that organic matter decomposition is solely controlled by the interaction between climatic conditions and soil mineral characteristics. Consequently, little attention has been paid to adaptive responses of soil decomposer organisms to climate change and their impacts on the turnover of long-standing terrestrial carbon reservoirs. Using a radiocarbon approach we found that warming increased soil invertebrate populations (Enchytraeid worms) leading to a greater turnover of older soil carbon pools. The implication of this finding is that until soil physiology and biology are meaningfully represented in ecosystem carbon models, predictions will underestimate soil carbon turnover.

Global Warming - Two Book Reviews

This is one of the best pieces I've read on global warming, because it contains a very elegant solution that does not involve the impoverishment of countries such as China now in order to acheive a reduction of carbon in the future. For anyone who happens to see this blog entry and doesn't want to read the entire article, the most interesting item to me was the observation that every carbon atom in the world ends up as part of a plant within 12 years.

From the article:
There is a famous graph showing the fraction of carbon dioxide inthe atmosphere as it varies month by month and year by year [the graph is reproduced in the review]. It gives us our firmest and most accurate evidence ofeffects of human activities on our global environment. The graph isgenerally known as the Keeling graph because it summarizes thelifework of Charles David Keeling, a professor at the ScrippsInstitution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. Keeling measured the carbon dioxide abundance in the atmosphere forforty-seven years, from 1958 until his death in 2005.


At this point I return to the Keeling graph, which demonstrates thestrong coupling between atmosphere and plants. The wiggles in thegraph show us that every carbon dioxide molecule in the atmosphereis incorporated in a plant within a time of the order of twelve years. Therefore, if we can control what the plants do with thecarbon, the fate of the carbon in the atmosphere is in our hands.That is what Nordhaus meant when he mentioned "genetically engineered carbon-eating trees" as a low-cost backstop to globalwarming. The science and technology of genetic engineering are not yet ripe for large-scale use. We do not understand the language of the genome well enough to read and write it fluently. But the science is advancing rapidly, and the technology of reading and writing genomes is advancing even more rapidly. I consider it likely that we shall have "genetically engineered carbon-eating trees"within twenty years, and almost certainly within fifty years. Carbon-eating trees could convert most of the carbon that they absorb from the atmosphere into some chemically stable form and bury it underground. Or they could convert the carbon into liquid fuel sand other useful chemicals. Biotechnology is enormously powerful,capable of burying or transforming any molecule of carbon dioxidethat comes into its grasp. Keeling's wiggles prove that a big fraction of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes within thegrasp of biotechnology every decade. If one quarter of the world's forests were replanted with carbon-eating varieties of the same species, the forests would be preserved as ecological resources and as habitats for wildlife, and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be reduced by half in about fifty years.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Good article on cover crops


Cover crops could be considered the backbone of any annual cropping system that seeks to be sustainable. In this publication we summarize the principal uses and benefits of cover crops and green manures. Brief descriptions and examples are provided for winter cover crops, summer green manures, living mulches, catch crops, and some forage crops. To impart a sense of the importance of these practices in sustainable farming, we summarize the effect of cover crops and green manures on: organic matter and soil structure, nitrogen production, soil microbial activity, nutrient enhancement, rooting action, weed suppression, and soil and water conservation. Management issues addressed include vegetation management, limitations of cover crops, use in crop rotations, use in pest management, and economics of cover crops. A selection of print and Web resources are provided for further reading.


Benefits of Cover Crops and Green Manures
Organic Matter and Soil Structure
A major benefit obtained from green manures is the addition of organic matter to the soil. During the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, compounds are formed that are resistant to decomposition—such as gums, waxes, and resins. These compounds—and the mycelia, mucus, and slime produced by the microorganisms—help bind together soil particles as granules, or aggregates. A well-aggregated soil tills easily, is well aerated, and has a high water infiltration rate. Increased levels of organic matter also influence soil humus. Humus—the substance that results as the end product of the decay of plant and animal materials in the soil—provides a wide range of benefits to crop production.
Sod-forming grass or grass-legume mixtures are important in crop rotations because they help replenish organic matter lost during annual cultivation. However, several years of sod production are sometimes required before measurable changes in humus levels occur. In comparison, annual green manures have a negligible effect on humus levels, because tillage and cultivation are conducted each year. They do replenish the supply of active, rapidly decomposing organic matter. (1)
The contribution of organic matter to the soil from a green manure crop is comparable to the addition of 9 to 13 tons per acre of farmyard manure or 1.8 to 2.2 tons dry matter per acre.

Trumpet Vine

This is a volunteer plant growing on a fence behind the peach orchard. It loves the hot weather and blooms all summer, even during a drought.

A Few Drops of Rain

The San Antonio garden has been getting a half inch or more of rain every day since Wednesday. The Lockhart garden had gotten less than half an inch total when I got here Thursday evening. No rain at all yesterday, and only a few spatters late this afternoon.

But the little bit we've gotten, together with the 75% cloud cover has made a significant difference. I actually enjoyed being in the garden today and spent some time just sitting and relaxing this afternoon, breathing in the fragrance of 4 0'clocks, listening to the neighborhood sounds -- grackles, bluejays, cicadas, a neighbor's rock music (faintly), dogs barking. Every evening this summer until this one, a flock of wood geese has flown over toward the end of the day. I wonder where they are today ...

The Irish potatoes still survive, but I fear the heat stress has been too much for them. I don't expect a good crop. I dug up a marginal one last week. There were 8 tiny spuds attached to the roots. If the weather stays relatively cool like this, I may yet get a potato crop, but I'm not counting on it. I didn't plant the potatoes until February. It's always a crap shoot for me -- plant them too early, and they're likely to be killed by frost. Plant them too late, and they're likely to burn up before they have a chance to produce a crop. Don't know if it's something I'm doing wrong, or if this just isn't a good place to grow Irish potatoes.

There are baby melons on the cantaloupe vines.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Making Shade

I made the mistake of ordering an althea hibiscus shrub from Wayside Gardens without ascertaining the delivery date. I'd actually forgotten about placing the order when the plant finally arrived, way past the proper planting date for the climate here.

I made a second mistake. I should have kept the poor tiny thing in a container until fall, when the odds of its survival would have been greater. But no, I decided to plant it out, at my weekend home.

Since the baby plant has to go several days between watering, I mulched it heavily, but even that wasn't enough. Every weekend when I get here, I find it a little more stressed and crispy.

Clearly, its days were numbered unless I could think of some way to give it some shade. So I made a wire frame on which I draped branches newly cut from a pecan tree. Time will tell for sure, but the little althea looks a bit better already.

Hardscrabble Days in the Central Texas Garden

For a couple of years I've used this blog for purely selfish purposes, but this afternoon I was browsing through gardening blogs and came across a request for What's Blooming in My Garden Now blog entries. What a great idea!

It's hard times for gardening here in Central Texas. August weather came early this year, in the latter half of May, and the heat has continued with relentless ferocity into June. A few plants can be considered to be "blooming" only in the broadest sense of the term. I have a Reve d'Or rose, for example, that's producing flowers that are beautiful for about ten minutes, before they shrivel up and turn brown.

OK, here's the list of blooms I found in the garden this afternoon:

Ruellia (a couple of cultivars plus numerous wild volunteers)
Perennial Phlox (variety developed by Fanick's in San Antonio)
Vinca minor
Reve d'Or rose (sort of)
Older varieties of Hybrid Tea rose (sort of)
Knockout rose and miniatures
Star Jasmine (Rhynchospermum jasminoides)
Althea Hibiscus (sort of -- flowers shrivel up and dry out soon after opening)
Petunias (old fashioned purple ones)
Coral Vine (Antiginon leptopus)
4 o'clocks
Crape Myrtle
canna lily
penta athena
Mealy Blue sage (Salvia farinacea) and various cultivars

Here's what I'm harvesting for the table:

Tomatoes (tons of tomatoes)
New potatoes
Green beans
Black eyed peas and Mandy beans will be ready to begin harvesting in a few days
Speckled butterbeans
Chiles (lots of different kinds)
Last of the sweet corn (plants all dried up from the hot weather)
Edible amaranth (red Chinese variety)
Herbs (oregano, basil, last of the dill and cilantro (marginal), chives, garlic greens, parsley,chicory, stevia, sage)
Last of the beets
Last of the strawberries
Last of the mulberries

The peach crop has failed, due to not enough chilling hours for some varieties and late frost for others. Same with the pears. The blackberries have dried up on the vines. (I'm glad my garden is not my sole source of food -- I'd be in big trouble).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Viability of Stored Buckwheat Seed

Follow-up April, 2011.

I bought some buckwheat seed in 2008. Got close to 100% germination that year. In 2009 still had good germination. Didn't plant any in 2010. This year (2011), had zero germination.

The effect of buckwheat seed storage duration on major indices of the quality was analysed. Seed collected in 1996 and stored for 30 days (analysed in 1996), seed stored for one year (analysed in 1997), seed stored for two years (analysed in 1998), seed stored for three years (analysed in 1999), seed stored for four years (analysed in 2000), seed stored for five years (analysed in 2001) and seed stored for six years (analysed in 2002) were investigated. The results of investigation have shown that seed stored up to two years had preserved its good production traits. Seed stored longer than two years have shown poor quality traits, and seed stored over three years could not be used - its production traits (germination energy and total germination) confirmed that such seed could not be used for planting. Seed stored over five years, regardless of storage conditions, had no qualitative traits, and therefore no value. It was also observed that longer storage duration induced decrease of seed mass. In regard to fr actions, it was observed that smaller fractions lost their quality more quickly than medium fractions.

Journal-of-Agricultural-Sciences (Serbia and Montenegro). (2003). v. 48(2) p. 135-141.
Jevdjovic,-R.; Maletic,-R.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

March Planting

Tendergreen Improved (bush)
Golden Cross Bantam Sweet Corn

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Roses 2/10/08

Hybrid Teas:

Royal Highness
Opening Night
Queen Elizabeth (San Antonio)
Just Joey (San Antonio)

Shrub Roses:

Mutabilis (San Antonio & Lockhart)


Clotilde Soupert
Cecile Brunner

China Rose:

Louis Philippe


Fortune's Double Yellow
Rosa Banksia - white & yellow (San Antonio)


Shrub rose from Emilia's house on Bois D'arc St - very fragrant deep red flowers
Rambler with single pink flowers, not fragrant - house on Cibilo St in Lockhart
Shrub with deep burgandy flowers, blooms profusely in spring