Archive for the ‘anita’ Category

Apr18

Anita – Week 4

Unfortunately, it’s not quite time to harvest my vegetables, but I’m still excited about the growth I’ve seen thus far. According to the packaging, most of my vegetables will be ready to harvest in 60 – 70 days. So, I am halfway there!

Gardening has been such an adventure. I rarely went into my back yard, now I’m back there daily. Gardening has helped make me appreciate being outside (except for when it’s REALLY hot.) Writing these reports has helped me to reflect on the process and identify my gardening strengths and weaknesses. I have a list of things to do differently next round. And I’ve improved my understanding of the Central Texas environment and the importance (and tastiness) of producing and using products grown and created locally.

As I stated in an earlier post, the seeds I purchased were part of a gardening kit. The kit was a salsa recipe kit. So it felt appropriate to share a salsa recipe with y’all.

Fresh Tomato and Black Bean Salsa

Recipe adapted from Everyday is a Party Cookbook, by Emeril Lagasse, with Marcelle Bienvenu and Felicia Willett, 2000

Prep Time:20 min
Level:Easy
Serves:6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

4 cups chopped vine-ripened tomatoes
2 cups dried black beans, cooked in salted water until tender, cooled (about
2 cups)
1 cup small diced red onions
1 large fresh jalapeno, seed and cut into small dice
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Crispy corn tortilla chips

Directions

Combine the first seven
ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lime juice and olive
oil. Mix well. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve with the chips.

 

And for those of you who are planting or plan to plant strawberries, here is a recipe for a tasty treat :)

Strawberry Upside-Down Cakes
adapted from Organic and Chic
makes 24 mini cakes

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups strawberries, sliced vertically

Preheat oven to 350. Grease cupcake tins. Sprinkle a teaspoon of brown sugar into the
bottom of each cup, then arrange 4-5 strawberry slices on top. Reserve extra berries and
sugar.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating
well after each. Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. In another, whisk
together milk and vanilla.

Alternate adding flour and milk mixtures to the large bowl, starting and ending with the flour.

Make sure everything is well combined, but don’t overmix.

Divide batter equally between cupcake wells. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick
inserted in center is clean. Cool for 5-10 minutes, then invert onto a cookie sheet. Carefully
replace any strawberries that didn’t stick to the cakes.

While cakes are baking, cook the reserved berries and brown sugar over medium-low heat,
until thick and jam-like.

Cut the rounded tops off the cakes so each cake can sit flat. Add a spoonful of the cooked
berries to the top of each cake and serve.

Apr11

Anita – Week 3

This has been an amazing process! All of my seeds have sprouted into seedlings. I’ve been watering the plants several times a week. Before I water, I verify that the soil is all most dry. I don’t want to over water the plants. Even though I inspected the location of my garden prior to placing it,  I still like to check the sun exposure. Everything appears to be working out okay.

 

Grow baby plants, Grow!

However, I hope y’all didn’t make the mistake that I made. In one of the you tube videos, the gardener suggested making a map of your garden, methodically planning where everything goes. In order to continue my motivation for the project, I jumped straight into creating the garden. I did not do much planning on the layout. I even wrote the names of the plants on the pots. Smart, right? Nope, not when the ink becomes distorted on the pots because of the water and not when you plant the pots in the ground. Something I will definitely do different next year is label the vegetables some how. As exciting as it will be discover which vegetables are cucumbers and which are jalapenos, I think I will approach that aspect differently in the fall.

I haven’t had any pest issues yet, luckily. Except for caterpillars and butterflies, but I don’t consider those pests. I wonder if the best approach is to be proactive and spray pesticides on the plants or reactive and wait until I see a problem. I’d like to keep the plants as “natural” as possible, so I will be reactive.

I’m a little concerned about my tomato plants. There are little baby tomatoes growing, however the plant leaves are turning yellow. This does not look healthy.

 

Poor little tomato plant

The Texas A&M Aggie Horticulture website has some information on various problems with tomato plants.

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/lawn_garden/veg.html

I plan to look through the document to see if I can diagnose the problem.

I did not add fertilizer to my soil, so that is next on my list of gardening things to do. When Mark Gaddy spoke to us during our field trip, he provide some insightful thoughts about deciding soil, compost, fertilizer, etc. He explained to pros and cons about selecting cheap fertilizer versus not as cheap fertilizer. It sounded like there is an inverse correlation between price and smell. The lower the price, the worse the smell. I wonder if my lack of fertilizer is the reason my tomato plant leaves are turning yellow?

 

 

Apr04

Anita – Week 2

While deciding on how to create the perimeter around my garden, I’ve been doing some preparation work in the garden area.  I have determined a good location to place my vegetable garden. On the side of my house there is a perfect location to place a garden. It is facing west (maybe more southwest) so it receives a good amount of sun. I’ve verified several times that the area has good exposure to sun.

I’ve also worked hard to keep the seeds and seedlings watered daily. Unfortunately one of my tomato plants died. I placed two tomato plant seedlings in the same pot. I’m not sure why one didn’t survive. I’ll have to ask one of the experts.

Because I am working on my short timeline, I chose to take a shortcut to prepare the land. I decided to RoundUp to kill the grass and weeds in the area. There are other, “greener”methods to kill weeds and grass.  One method I am aware of involves covering the area with newspaper or plastic. This method takes longer (weeks vs days). Please search the internet or go to your local nursery for more information on greener methods and share the methods in the comments or on a discussion thread.

I went to a local landscaping supply company (Whittlesey in Round Rock) to purchase soil for my garden. This place sells soil (and other products) in bulk and already bagged. The company creates a special blend of soil products that are appropriate for the soil and climate in Central Texas. There are quite a few nurseries and other places in Austin and the surrounding area to purchase bulk soil and compost. Local nurseries are another great source to purchase special blends of soil for your garden. And the employees have a wealth of knowledge! Make sure you calculate the amount of soil, compost, and fertilizer you will need.  I’m not sure what the return policies are at the smaller, local stores. The volume for my small area is about 8 cubic feet (4 x 4 x 0.5). I purchased 4 bags. Each bag is 1 cubic feet. I have some soil and compost at home to mix with these from other small yard projects.

I’ve decided to use a raised garden kit made from wood instead of concrete blocks for the perimeter of my garden. I could have gone to some place like Austin ReStore to purchase unused wood but I’m not confident in my handyman skills.  Luckily, I came across a 4×4 kit for the price of $35. SCORE!!!! My boyfriend put the kit together pretty quickly. So, I have the garden kit, the soil, and the plants. I believe I have everything I need to begin my garden.

Here is a picture of my garden area in the beginning stages. The green plastic is a barrier to prevent weed from entering my garden. One advantage to not planting in the ground is the purchased soil won’t be contaminated with weeds and you don’t have to work as hard to get the soil to a workable condition. Unfortunately the soil in my area is very hard and clayish. The soils is difficult to work with. I would have had to mix additional soil, compost, etc into the ground anyway. I did scrape off the grass in the area. Instead of using a hoe, I used a shovel. Notice the exposure to the noon sun.

Raised Garden Kit

Garden Area

And here is a picture of the finished area.

Finished Garden Area

At the Garden Fair, one of the gardeners said I should plant Marigolds to deter cats. I should have asked if they deter rabbits. Ever summer I see rabbits in the back yard. Hmmm, I should probably put up some sort of fencing. As soon as I finished planting, I thoroughly watered the area. I used a sprinkler hose (a hose with holes in the holes). The water stays lower to the ground. However, I felt like I still wasted water, so I am going to purchase some soaker hoses. The biodegradable pots made planting easy. I place the pots in the dirt, easy peasy :) .

Notice the tomato plants are missing. I’ve decided to leave the tomato plants in the pots. They seem to be growing well (except for the one seedling that did. RIP).

Mar28

Anita – Week 1 – Getting My Gardening On!

Every year about this time, I go to gardening events, see pictures of my friends’ gardens and decide that I will start a garden. And every year, I make excuses and don’t start a garden. This year a change is coming! In March, I attended the East Austin Garden Fair.

picture from East Austin Garden Fair

East Austin Garden Fair

 

At the garden fair, I once again became inspired by the simple things one can do to begin a garden. I learned about rain harvesting, a unique twist on container gardening, and raised bed/square foot gardening. In fact, it was the man at the raised bed garden that provided the spark for me to get started. Many beginning and seasoned gardeners are methodical about their gardens, but that style just won’t work for me. My take-away from my conversation with this man was it was okay to mix it up a bit. He was an advocate for mixing flowers and vegetables. He suggested I use concrete blocks instead of wood for the perimeter of the garden. And he did something magical. He gave me a tomato plant to get started. Apparently, that’s all someone needed to do all of these years. I scurried to Garden Ridge and Big Lots to purchase a pot and tomato cage for my new plant.

 

Tomato Plant - Day 1

Tomato Plant - Day 1

While at Sam’s Club, I purchased a salsa and vegetable garden kit. Next I went to Lowe’s to purchase some biodegradable containers to start my plants while I decide where and how to build a garden area. I placed the seeds and tomato plants (I receive 2 additional smaller tomato plants at the Garden Fair) on my back porch in a location where they would receive plenty of sun exposure.

Seeds in containers

Seeds in containers

adventures in urban gardening