Monday, September 10, 2012

Rule #2: Raised beds or containers

Rule #2: raised beds or containers is essential for me. In other areas of the country, in other areas of Texas even you can grow in the soil in your backyard, but I prefer to grow my veggies in 8 - 12 inches of screened compost. Even in Montana where there was tons of rich soil, raised beds would have saved me from the massive weed invasions.

My raised beds are made out of 2 x 4 untreated lumber and held together with a 12" piece of 4 x 4 at each corner.

My raised beds are 4 ft by 8 ft. This is a length I can reach across but still holds a lot of plants. I grew all my veggies in 2 beds like this last year. This year I am adding 2 more beds (the one above and another one) and I'm growing in some containers.

I put cardboard underneath the beds and out several inches on the sides to keep weeds from sneaking in. 

Around the outsides I put mulch to walk on, in this case shredded cedar, but I have used dried leaves and commercial bark mulch. 

The inside of the bed will be filled with screened compost from Fertile Garden. I get 1/2 yard of compost in my Dad's Ford Ranger, that will fill one of these beds. They sell "Garden Soil" but I have found the veggies grow best in straight compost.

For the containers, I like containers that are at least 1 foot across and deep, any smaller needs too frequent of watering and doesn't have enough room for roots. I like the potting soil you can buy at Fertile Gardens, too, but you only need a bag and not a whole truck load. You can also bring in a 5 gallon bucket and fill it up for cheap! :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rule #1: Don't plant anything between April and August.

I've had gardens in central Texas, Houston, and Montana.

Currently, I live in the Texas hill country, just north west of San Antonio.

Searingly hot and dry central Texas is a tough place to grow food.

Because of this I have a list of rules that I created for veggie gardening in this part of Texas.

I break them a lot, of course! I'm always trying to push my boundaries. But I do find if I follow them I am a lot happier with my garden.

The first rule is the hardest to follow, and the hardest to explain!

Rule #1: No planting between April and August! I mean it!

This rule may be hard to adhere to, but it makes so much sense. I would have never thought of it before moving to Montana and realizing that MOST of the country doesn't garden in the winter. It's obvious up there because there is no way things will grow if you plant them at the wrong time.

In Texas, if you plant things at the wrong time, they will try to grow and will quickly die. Then the gardener feels at fault, but really just their timing was off.

In Texas we have an awesome opportunity to garden all winter long, but we trade it for the most frustrating summer a gardener could imagine.

Here are 5 things that are annoying about central Texas summers:

1. 100+ degree temperatures. Also, lots of temps in the 90s. Veggies hate growing in this hot of weather! and honestly, I hate going outside in this weather.

2. Drought! I've lived the majority of my life in this area, and the majority of that time it has been drought. Drought means the ground looks like the picture above during most of the summer. Plants don't grow in dry dirt! Whenever you garden in this area, you have to have a plan for irrigation, but the dryness of the summers here even make heavy watering insufficient -- the air is too dry! Plus, summer is a horrible time to be using up the precious aquifer.

3. Hey buddy! Scorpions are all over down here in the summer. They love dark, quiet places. You know, like under rocks and flower pots and garden tools and.. oh, yeah like pretty much everywhere in the garden. But I let them be because they, along with the millions of spiders and centipedes, eat a ton of the nasty buggies that eat my garden. Montanans have freezing weather to kill their bugs, I have carnivorous bugs that come out in the summer. I'm not terribly scared of being stung, but I would just rather wait to garden until they've gone back into hiding.

4. Oh yeah! These guys too! Huge Western Diamondback rattlesnakes are reeeeeally common around here. Rattlesnake bites cause swelling, tingling, weakness, vomiting, perspiration and, um, heart failure. Luckily rattlesnakes go into hibernation in September-ish!

5. Sandspurs! These things are vicious, especially for a flip-flop wearing gardener like myself. Honestly, if everything else was a non-issue, these little buggers would still keep me out of the garden! The only spurs we like around here are the San Antonio Spurs NBA team!!!

But that's okay! Because you don't have to garden in Texas in the summer! It's not required in order to grow some delicious food. Even though I am still harvesting veggies well into June, I don't plant any veggies in April, May, June, July, or August.

Which means I haven't put a seed in the ground since March, so I am in a bit of gardening withdrawal. But I've been busy with nursing school and I've been reading, sewing, and relaxing in the A/C. I've also been spending my evenings riding bikes once the sun gets low on the horizon.

I am getting tired of my hiatus though, so it's time to start planning and doing the non-planting work so that come September I can hit the ground running!

Garden goals

It's almost garden time again and I want to track things better this year :)

Plan before I plant

Plant a wider variety of veggies

Eat or preserve everything I grow -- no wastes!
Record everything I plant and everything I harvest.
Take pictures.
Try new recipes!

I also want to keep track of some "rules" I've learned over the years of gardening in Texas.

Here's to a bountiful year! :)