Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tomato update

This is my first time to grow tomatoes in pots. I've been planting them in various places around the garden for years and have decided that I would like to use the space for other things and give the soil a rest from the nightshades. For the last couple of years we've been buying tomato starts at Sunshine Gardens spring sale, this year I sent my daughter Autumn Sage to do the buying as I was at the "It's My Park Day" and devoted spouse at CAMN. She bought 12 plants, 8 are in pots, 4 on the side of the house in the greens-garden along with 3 eggplant and half a dozen basil.


Brandywine was the first to fruit this spring. I filled the base of each pot with my own compost, then added a mixture of organic potting soil and Texas Organic Compost, and topped 'em with Dark wood Organic Mulch.

Cherokee Purple

I stripped the bottom leaves and scrapped up the stem with my fingernail then spiraled them into the pots leaving only the top leaves above the soil. I've used the "trough" method that I learned in the Master Gardener Class for the past two years and wholeheartedly believe that this method is the best for shallow Central Texas soil. I also sprinkled organic plant fertilizer at the time of planting then spritzed the leaves with Alaska Fish Emulsion.

Cherokee Purple is my favorite tomato for taste and overall beauty! We've got 2 plants going this year.

First Ladies

Growing tomatoes is a joy and something I didn't think I'd ever get into...I mean I liked tomatoes and all but didn't get hooked until I had my first bumper crop and ate fresh heirlooms with basil, mozzarella/Tillamook cheddar, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh cracked pepper daily for I can't wait 'til July!

Garden Peach

The biggest frustration I've had over the years is with bottom rot...last year I was vigilant and kept the watering regulated, that was the key! The other problem is of course the nasty stink bug, which after seeing the damage, I got tough and started popping them in the early morning.

Japanese Black Trifle

I've put fresh compost on the top once since planting and have tried to hit them with the Fish Emulsion every 10 days to 2 weeks. With them bunched together I'm reminded of my cannery days in Alaska...P.U. I don't have any of the companion plants nearby but so far, no real pests to be concerned with, save a few leaf miners. Of course, the sparrows and wasps seem to be hanging around for a free meal, so thank you to them!

Eva Purple Bell

Except for the Purple Cherokee and, Green Stripe all the varieties are new to me this year...good going Autumn Sage, I'd have been more conservative in the selection process...gotten some Roma's and more cherry tomatoes.

Golden Cherokee

I should also mention that I pinched off the first set of flowers on each plant to encourage root growth, I forgot to pinch off the first new leaves after planting to encourage branching...but I never seem to remember all of the tricks...oh well.

Tomato Island

Green Gage (cherry tomato), Chocolate Stripe, Dona and Carmello are the plants on the side of the house, they don't seem to do so well because they have less light, but this morning I noticed that they all had fruit, and no pests. They haven't gotten the daily care that the Island gets and they are smashed between the fig and pomegranate trees that have now leafed out. The poor little 'maters don't have much we'll see how that turns out.

It's overcast today and we've got a 40% chance of rain, which we desperately need...this has been one super dry April and the pots require more water than plants in the ground, but I'll have trays under all the plants soon. I plan on filling the trays with water to help keep the roots cool through the hottest of days...yet to come!

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Three For Thursday

Just 3 of the goddesses in the garden...this one in the butterfly mix!

and in the birdbath,

and on the window box!

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Two for Tuesday, a Poem and Fingerwag

I love before and after shots. This isn't the beginning and the end, but two shots of Earth Day. We planted 9 Martha Gonzales roses and 3 Cecile Brunner's on a pergola that I designed for the back entrance of the Baptist church across the street from me. I moved into my Crestview Bungalow in '97 and watched 5 mature trees die and NOT be replaced and approached the church several times about replanting. They didn't have the interest, but I found one minister and he had one fellow, Melvin who were willing to work with me to help their space.

This shot is Earth Day '09, two months after we cleared and planted the tiny roses on Valentines Day. It was me, my husband Greg, my neighbor Regine and Melvin...Melvin's wife made coffee for us, it was a bitter cold morning!

Regine, another neighbor Susan and I spent 3 hours pruning, for the first time just after Valentines Day this year, and here are the mature roses on Earth Day '11.

The reason I'm focusing on this success story is that on April 9th, this year, the church decided to "clean-up" the garden. The minister that we'd worked with, long gone had been replaced by a fire and brimstone fellow, then another and Melvin had gone back to not talking to me because I don't share his beliefs. The only garden they have, outside the central beds that are not visible to the neighborhood, are the rose garden and the 17 trees I wrote a grant for and organized neighborhood volunteers to plant and care for, 3 years ago. No one spoke to me, even though many of the church members know who I am, and Melvin is still the grounds keeper.

With dull tools they systematically butchered 13 of the 17 trees, some with fruit and blossoms and topped 4 oaks. The oaks were strategically placed to relieve the heat island effect caused by the enormous parking lot and to cool the building like the mature trees they'd let go, and not replaced. A few of the trees were donated by neighbors, that they had nursed before and after planting that held sentimental meaning.

My two neighbors to the east, Regine and Dana and I have been caring for the trees, pruning when necessary, buying our own compost and watering for the obligatory 2 years as said by the TreeFolks contract. After we realized what had happened, we cried. We wrote letters to the new minister explaining the situation and he replied with an apology and a promise to repair, what they could, of the damage. I asked him to call me, said that I'd put together a packet of information about gardening practices but to please, immedately compost and deeply water the poor trees that had just lost their spring growth and to replace the oaks, now topped in the fall.

To date they have done nothing.

Thank goodness we were able to save the roses.

What is still puzzling to me is why? How can it be, in this day and age that anyone could not find "when to prune and how to prune" information within minutes on the computer? I am sickened everytime I walk out my front door, but am not surprised that the church is not keeping their word.

I leave you with one of my favorite poems by Joyce Kilmer printed in 1914.


I think that I shall never see

a poem as lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest,

Against the earths sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robbins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

I hope your EarthDay was rewarding, there is much to do.

Friday, April 15, 2011

April Bloomday 2011

Bloom day, the blog roll for gardeners world wide is the creation of Linda at

May Dreams Gardens, and you're one step away from having a look at gardens in bloom across the world. Thank you Linda! Now here's a quick peek at some of the things going on here at Conscious Gardening!

Red Yucca One of 12 tomatoes currently in bloom, I pinched off the first set to encourage the plant to set out more roots, I'm giving the ground a rest from the nightshades and have put them in pots! One of the multiplier onions blossoms in the onion bed. A pass along Canna from a plant swap, years ago at Elaynes. A gulf fritillary caterpillar munching away on one of several pass along Passion Flower Vines from Randy Case's garden 3 years ago. Spiderwort, coming up all over this year! Cecille Bruenner Rose with this years booming crop of blackberries! Also in bloom are my first Dewberries and Boysenberries! Summer ice cream fun on it's way! I am in love with the Peggy Martin Rose! I've planted two and they have been stunning. I'm not sure if they officially changed the name to the Katrina Rose, but I call her that too. This was the first rose to return to New Orleans after the hurricane, and she's a hurricane of pink!

Baily's Red Rose

This is another pass along rose that I picked up a few years ago and this is the first year it's done anything. I think it's a climber, well...a fainter actually. She's sent out several sprays that creep on the ground but put out these beautifully colored blossoms...this is the last of them unfortunately, now to get a trellis!

Katrina Rose, up close.

I don't know this lovely ladies name. I ask every year when she blooms for some help on an ID but have never heard back from the rose aficionados. So, I'm going to simply call her "Red."

Knock out!

Oh yea, she's a Knock out!

The fernleaf verbena and santolina have taken over the south end of the mound.

Fernleaf verbena

This is a long shot of the hummingbird and butterfly mix I threw down in my culinary garden, why? So I could watch my favorite garden faeries from the window in the Bird blind Bar through the summer, and stay nice and cool with a frosty Margarita in hand! I'm no dummy! Summer's upon us!

This is a portrait of the first cosomos in the mix, by afternoon several others had opened up.

Confederate Jasmine, and there's that sole cosmos in the rich and lovely!

Frida's larkspur, a volunteer from my deceased neighbor that comes back each year in my yard.

She was a great gal, and I have fond memories of her quirkiness. Everytime I see a larkspur I think of her. I don't see people in too many flowers, but this one belongs to her.

The common pittosporum, covered in bees each year is one of my favorites.

The first blog entry I did over 3 years ago now, was about my amazement and love for the

Pride of Barbados, she's nearly 6 ft. tall now and no longer needs to be covered in winter...thank goodness, because I forgot all about her!

My sole poppy, I'm envious of those of you who have them return year after year.

Gold Lantana and pony's foot.

Simple marigolds and such in the boxes, but check out the height of the river fern and

heartleaf scullcap...they've come back with a vengence!

Jerusalem sage

This last shot is the promise of winter...a persimmon blossom, my favorite brown flower.

Here's the rest of the shy bloomers, whose photos didn't turn out so well...but deserve a mension just the same:


Gulf Coast Penstamon

Texas Sage



Autumn Sage

Cherry Sage

Lipstick Sage

Gregg's Mistflower

Mutabilis Rose


Indian Blanket

Mexican Sage

Blue Mealy Sage


and volunteer Squash (?) flowers

Now, I've got 4 cubic yards of compost stinking my neighbors out, so I've got to get busy! I hope April finds you in blooms wherever you are! Thanks for stopping by, and do a little rain dance for us here in Central Texas...will you?

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Fool!

I meant to write a post on Fools Day, because it was Conscious Gardening's 3rd birthday...but I drank too much beer celebrating, and the weekend was a lot of gardening and more beer drinking. But I've been thinking about it a lot. Fools Day has become the beginning of the calendar for me as I like to challenge myself and start something new without the pressure of success...purely for the fun, fool and life of it. So, this years project is truly foolish...I've learned...more on that in a minute.

During the sunlight hours I've been spending most of my time doing the gardening chores...the stuff that's not really fun, but that makes a difference in presentation...pruning, raking, edging...I do all edging by hand, repainting, fixing stuff, transplanting...the list goes on. It's amazing how the garden is always in transformation, a living, breathing work of natural art...that I get to mess with.

But in the evenings I've been geeking out on YouTube watching countless home and professional videos about growing your own hops. Spouse of my life, is a beer enthusiast and home brewer. I, his devoted assistant am more of a cheerleader and micro-manager..."make this beer, make that one...I want to have a bitter beer that I can add my sage to, or brighten with some coriander" goes the weekend conversation, over many a beer and laughter, it's one of the reasons we work so well together.

Anyway, typical me, before doing the research, I'd already jumped in with both feet and ordered hops from the Austin Home Brew Store. Now, after countless hours of reading and watching I realize that I've bought the absolute wrong kind...meaning, any kind at all because hop growing in Texas is...well...foolish. Hops grow in cool, damp conditions...with up to a 30ft bine (that's what they call the vine) needing both full sun and an enormous vertical structure. I am no less in love with the idea of growing them mind you...just hyper aware of my probable doom.

Here's what came in the brown bag:

I think I picked this one because it sounded Alaskan, a temporary home for me, familiar...and totally wrong for here...doi.

And here are my two dead sticks soaking in some water and Alaska Fish Emulsion to try to bring them to life, and pump 'em full of good stuff before burying them...where they will most likely die a sad horrible baked death in our black land prairie mud. I was only able to find a few brave souls that have tried to grow hops here and they did it in 20 gallon pots, watering twice daily. I'm gonna take a more foolish approach, bury'em high on a mound (like they do up north) but with about 6 inches of mulch. I'll water them in the pre-dawn hours, but that's it. I've been fantasizing about wild success and building new elaborate arbor/pergolas on raised walkways like Mr. Miyagi's garden in Karate Kid to support my massive beautiful hop buds...once again, his garden is in a prime hop growing environment, ah...dream on. The only pre-existing structure that could hold the weight of the bines, should they actually grow, is my poor, sad, unused chicken coop, which doesn't get full sun but dappled, and I'm thinking of July and August and hoping that I'm right about protecting my northern roots from our hotter than hell crazy summer sun...we'll see. What's the fun of being a gardener if you don't take chances, right? Even if I get one hop bud, I'm celebrating! Join me on my foolish quest, I'll be planting tomorrow and staring at the ground, beer in hand for the weeks that follow. I feel like a kid who plants corn believing in a popcorn tree! What crazy risks have you taken in your garden lately? Happy Gardening!