Archive for September, 2010

Fall Garden Planning in Austin

Monday, September 20th, 2010

It’s past time for planting my fall garden in Austin, and yet in my limited garden space the overgrown but still producing summer crops take up most of the four beds. Between nine foot tall okra, supposed bush beans that turned out to be super-spreading pole beans and a tomato patch that continues to tantalize me with the prospect of just a few more tomatoes, I don’t have much space left to put in greens, broccoli, collards, garlic, and other Fall delights. Crop rotation plans seem to go out the window.

Beans take over fence

Bolita Beans from outer space

So I developed a plan of action.  First I remove the crops that are definitely finished as well as the summer weeds that got out of hand. This gives me a little space to drop in some greens here and there. Then I take a hard look at what summer crops just really didn’t work, meaning that I have to recognize that the stunted corn has got to go. Third, I prune back the still producing crops sufficiently so that I may actually enter the garden. And finally, I use the Austin Organic Gardeners planting calendar as a rough guide to determine what absolutely needs to go in now and what crops I can push back on planting until late fall/early winter.

Bolita Bean Pods

Bolita Bean Pods

In addition, under the LED grow lights in my workroom, I have started in flats several types of mustards, lettuces, spinaches, etc.  These become my reserve army of plants ready to pop into any space that opens up in the garden on an as needed basis.  Having the plants ready allows me to quickly maximize available space.

East Austin offers superb conditions for growing food year round.  However, these benefits often remain hidden behind scorching heat, unpredictable weather conditions, and “reversed” gardening seasons.  A little planning helps fill in the gaps and truly stretch the season to twelve months.

Bean attacks Iron Butterfly

Whole Wheat Couscous Summer Salad

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Here’s another fast food lunch from the Valdes kitchen.  Did you ever get the feeling that most recipes are just recycled over and over again in various forms?  I’m an avid recipe reader and sometimes they all start to look alike.  Maybe one or two ingredients are changed but the basic dish is the same.  This salad is no exception, it’s just tailored to things we have on hand and what’s in the garden at present.  Give it a try.  With different veggies, herbs and vinegar you’ll have your own creation!

1 ½ cups boiling water

2/3 cup whole-wheat couscous

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 garden tomatoes preferably of different colors, chopped

1 cob fresh garden corn, kernels removed (of course)

1 tablespoon cilantro, or basil if you prefer, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon, or to taste, balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Feta cheese garnish, optional

Pour the boiling water over the couscous in heat proof bowl.  Stir, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.  Fluff and toss with the olive oil then stir in rest of the ingredients.  Top with feta cheese and serve at room temperature.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day September 2010

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

This morning I walked around my yard and snapped a bunch of pictures for bloom day. Then I decided I didn’t really care all that much about the pictures I took. So this afternoon, Judy and I headed over to our friend Eve’s place so we could take pictures of her garden. As you can see, Eve and her husband Dave live out in the country, and I’m ever so slightly envious of their lovely spot. However, I’m not at all envious of the amount of work that goes into keeping up the gardens.

We started out in the rock garden, traveled around the pond to the prairie, and ended up back by the house and the shade garden. I took over a hundred photos and have spent a good hour whittling them down to twenty or so.

Judy actually wrote down the names of many of the flowers as we went, but lazy blogger that I am, I’m going to forgo labeling any of them, since I don’t necessarily remember which flower name matches which photo. However, if you do have questions about any of the blooms, please feel free to ask in the comments, and I will do my best to provide the correct answer.

Please visit May Dreams Gardens to see where Bloom Day got started!

Identification time!

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

It’s not really a big secret that I am not a plant geek.  In fact, up until a few years ago, I never had much use for flowers.  There.  I said it.  However, I’ve been coming around, and it would be nice to at least know what’s growing in my own yard. Posting pictures here on the blog and asking for help has yielded very successful results for me in the past (you garden blog readers are such a resourceful bunch!), so I’ve decided to do it again.

A few days ago, I was walking to my car when I noticed one of the bushes had several clusters of lovely little pink flowers. They looked like this:

Cute, eh?

Here’s what the whole bush looks like:

If you know this plant, please tell me what it is in the comments! My guess is it’s probably some really common shrub that I should feel embarrassed for not recognizing.


Many thanks to sharp-eyed Facebook fan Chris and our good friend Cindy for identifying this plant as Lespedeza thunbergii, also known as pink bush clover.

Pumpkin Pies Coming Up!

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Young's Beauty Pumpkins

I’m going to be quite happy with my squash plantings this year.  I didn’t get my seeds started until the first week of June.  Since I had no beds set up for the squash, I just cleared out the overgrown weeds in my compost area and stuck the seedlings in the extremely rich soil.  I talk about the June planting here, and how well the vines were doing in August, here

Now the pumpkin vines are collapsing but the rest of the vines are holding up pretty well.  The pumpkins are close to mature and I’m thinking I should harvest them soon.  I’ll get 8 or 10 nice “Young’s Beauty” pie pumpkins from the two plants I started.

Buttercup and Red Kuri Squash

The Buttercup and Red Kuri squash look excellent, but not quite ripe, and what you don’t see are over a dozen butternuts, some sweet dumplings and a few other squash that are all doing fine.  On the other hand, the melons I planted at the same time did not do well.  I think it was mostly a spacing issue.  I planted too close to the larger and aggressive squash which crowded out the smaller melon plants.

Mess o’ Beans – Mix and Match

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Four plus pounds of various beans are pictured.  I was nearly bowled over at the amount of beans I picked.  If you had asked me a couple months ago I would have said we’d be lucky to get a handful.  Since Noel didn’t get around to fencing the garden this year, creatures of all sorts have been nibbling everywhere.  At least half of the bean plants were chomped off to within 4 inches of the ground.

This mixed batch of beans was blanched for the freezer and our winter enjoyment.  The next picking will be made into a bean salad with red onion, feta cheese and walnuts.  Just steam the beans to your liking & toss with a lemon vinaigrette.  Garnish with remaining ingredients and top off with freshly grated lemon zest.  We had this dish at a potluck a couple of years ago so I’m not sure where the credit goes but it’s an incredible combination.  Can’t wait!