Category: garden

Revitalizing an Old Flowerbed

Mark and I are slowly tackling neglected yardwork at our home.  Our latest project is a flowerbed that runs along the narrow west-facing side of our house.   We have done absolutely nothing to this bed for the past three years.  And I suspect that the last time this it had flowers in it was back when we lived here almost 20 years ago.

I was eager to make this an early project  for us because it’s located close to where we park.  I wanted to see something colorful and happy when arrived home after a hard day of work, instead of an unattractive reminder of work to be done.  –I also thought this would be a quick and easy project I could use to test out several new-to-me annuals that are supposed to be sun tolerant.  Unfortunately, I was wrong.  You can view our YouTube video of this project here.  I’ve included information about the plants we used at the bottom of this article.

How to revitalize a neglected flowerbed:

  1.  Remove old mulch, leaves, and debris from the top of the bed and place in your compost pile.
  2. Remove any dead, struggling or unwanted plants.  Relocate, give away, compost or trash as indicated.
  3. Trim away dead foliage from existing plants.  Lightly prune if needed.
  4. Evaluate the soil.  At the very least you will want to add fresh, quality compost to your existing soil and mix it in well.  You may even want to remove some of the tired old soil and replace with a fresher planting mix and compost.  Be careful when digging around existing plants so that you don’t disturb larger roots.  Cutting through ‘hair-like’ roots is usually not a problem, but damaging larger roots can harm the existing plant.
  5. Evaluate the planting site and determine sun exposure as well as the amount of protection from heat in the summer and cold north wind in the winter.  Also evaluate the bed for soil condition and soil drainage.  Choose new plants appropriate for these conditions.  Proper plant selection will largely determine the success of your gardening endeavors.
  6. Taking mature plant height, foliage and flowering color, and texture into account, arrange your bedding plants in the flowerbed.  When you are happy with the design, plant.  Use a starter mix or planting fertilizer when you pop your new plants into the soil.  Water well.  If bedding plants are ‘leggy’ or overgrown, consider trimming them back at this time.  Doing so will produce fuller foliage as the plant matures.
  7. Mulch well, making sure not to cover the stems or wood of bedding plants, trees or shrubs.
  8. Maintenance.  Keep watering throughout the season.  New plants will need careful attention during the first year.  If you are unable to water daily especially in the summer, install a drip system and a timer.  If you have planted lots of annual color, fertilize at least once a month.  As always inspect your plants regularly for water needs, fertilization needs, insect damage or signs of disease.  Treat any of these issues promptly.

Notes on our video:  The video footage we shot where I explained what plants we were using in our flowerbed turned out to be unusable.  So here it is.  We planted Black Rose Tattoo Vinca, Bordeaux Supertunia and Diamond Frost Euphorbia.  According to the plant tags, all of these purport to have the ability to tolerate ‘full sun’.  I want to see if this means full Texas sun, so planting them in a bed that faces west will be a real test.  After seeing the finished project, I do realize that the bed overall would look best if I had planted a small shrub in between the existing crepe myrtles.  However, we had a hard enough time planting bedding plants between the crepe myrtle roots, that I don’t think we could have made space for something with a larger root ball.

 

 

Texas Tee and 5 Tips for a Green Organic Lawn

Mark and I were as surprised as everybody else when we found out Ladybug garden products was going out of business.  Ladybug has been our go-to organic fertilizer and compost for many years.  For the first time in ages we found ourselves researching other products and trying to source organic soils, composts and fertilizers and I think we found some great new products.

We like to shop local.  One of the new lawn fertilizers Mark found was from Texas company, Maestro Gro.  These folks, from Joshua, TX,  have been making organic fertilizer since 1987.  They produce Rabbit Hill Farms fertilizers, Garrett Juice and our new lawn fertilizer, Texas Tee.

texas tee

We tried the Texas Tee out on our own back yard last week.  We get so busy during the springtime, our own yard work often gets pushed back until early summer, so this was the first fertilizer application of the year.  The dry weather combined with our frugal lawn watering regimen has left our yard a little stressed as well.  Add in the fact that our little dogs are often in the back yard, and organic fertilizer is really the only choice for our back yard at this time.

Organic fertilizers do tend to be a little more expensive than their chemical counterparts.  It’s because of the ingredients.  You do get what you pay for.  Texas Tee is made of feather meal, alfalfa meal, composted chicken litter, molasses, potash and humates.  These ingredients are blended in a formula that products a 6-2-4 ratio of nitrogen (greens the lawn), phosphorus (helps the roots) and potassium (overall plant health).  It’s worth it to pay for these ingredients because you get a slow release fertilizer that feeds your soil, the beneficial microbes that live in your soil, as well as your grass.

I filmed Mark explaining how to use the Texas Tee on your yard and posted it on our new youtube channel.  You can watch it here.  (Please subscribe and all that stuff . . . )

And now for my five tips for a healthy organic lawn:

  1.  Use an organic fertilizer.
  2. Cut your lawn to the recommended height (and NO shorter).  St. Augustine should be cut at 3 1/2 inches.  Bermuda should be cut to 2 to 2 1/2 inches.  NEVER remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time.
  3. Don’t bag your lawn clippings.  Leave the clippings on the grass.  They can help nourish your soil as they decompose.  You can use a mulching blade on your mower to help out the process.  (Caveat:  If you have lots of weed heads that you’re mowing off, you may want to bag these clippings.  To help lessen weed pressure, mow your weeds more frequently before they go to seed.)
  4. Add 1/4 inch of good quality compost to your yard every year in the spring or early summer.  This is the most loving thing you can do for your soil and grass.  It is a lot of work, so don’t skimp on the quality of the compost–make it count!
  5. Water conservatively, in the morning, only on your water days.  Around here you can water twice a week.  Some lawns can get by just fine on 1 inch of water once a week.  My best tip for watering anything in Texas is:  water in just a short, shallow, burst first and let it soak in, then go back and complete your watering.  Think of your yard like a dry dish sponge.  If you run the water real heavy on the dry sponge, most of it will run off.  It’s not until the sponge soaks in that first bit of water that it’s able to retain any fluid.

After years of gardening in Central Texas I have decided it’s not a bad thing to tolerate some weeds and a few bugs.  There are certain things just not worth fighting.  But, if you keep your yard and soil healthy, you really will have less weed and disease pressure and have more time in your gardening routine to enjoy your yard.

 

Class: Organic Vegetable Gardening

We’re happy to welcome Linda Burch, Travis Co Master Gardener, to Gaddy’s on Saturday, March 10th from 2-3pm.  Linda will talk about organic vegetable gardening just in time for the Spring garden season.  Join us for some great information on gardening and composting.  And as usual, we have plenty of room, just not plenty of chairs.  Please bring your own folding chair if you’d like to sit.

Call Kim at the store if you have any questions – 512-251-4428.

Stop Spring Weeds, Use a Pre-emergent Herbicide Now

February is the ‘sweet spot’ of the year when it comes to applying pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn.  A little effort now can greatly reduce the weed pressure in your yard later in the season.  Pre-emergents work by drying up weed seeds so they never get a chance to sprout.  The trick is, you have to apply the pre-emergent before the seeds begin to germinate.  And that means, you have to do a little yard work before it is warm enough outside for you to really feel like doing yard work.

We have several pre-emergent options at Gaddy’s.  If you want an organic pre-emergent, we sell corn gluten meal.  Besides being a desiccant, corn gluten is a natural source of nitrogen, the element that helps ‘green-up’ your grass once it starts growing.  Our Fertilome-Hi Yield Grass and Weed Preventer is an economical chemical pre-emergent.  One $15.99 bag will cover 3,500 to 5,000 sq ft.  If you want a product with a pre-emergent and a post-emergent, we sell Weed Beater Complete.

Use a broadcast spreader to apply pre-emergent granules.  Read the directions carefully.  Most pre-emergents need a little bit of moisture to become active.  For example the Hi Yield product recommends about 1/2 inch or rainfall or irrigation.  But too much rainfall immediately after application can lessen the effectiveness of the pre-emergent by washing it away.

When using pre-emergent, think about places in your yard where you want seeds to germinate and avoid those areas.  Don’t apply pre-emergent in a vegetable bed where you want to start seeds next month or in an area of your yard that you want to reseed.  Some pre-emergent can be effective for up to 3 months.  The pre-emergent will not differentiate between the seeds you want to grow and those you want to kill.

Seed Potatoes are In Stock

Now that we’ve warmed up from last week’s ice-pocalypse, I’m ready to get out in the garden.  First on my list will be getting my potatoes ready to plant.  If you’ve never planted spuds before, now’s the year.  They’re easy to plant and so much fun to harvest.  Here’s a link to last year’s article on how to get potatoes ready for planting.  https://gaddys.com/2017/01/13/seed-potatoes/

And here’s a picture of our potatoes sitting next to our new purple check-out station.

potato counter

Gaddy’s Partners with Johnson’s Backyard Garden

Looking for a way to keep your resolutions?  Try signing up for a CSA from Johnson’s Backyard Garden.  You can pickup your share every Wednesday straight from Gaddy’s! 

Johnson’s Backyard Garden (JBG) is an organic farm that has grown from a family project in an AJohnson's Backyard Gardenustin backyard to a bona fide farm large enough to provide fresh produce to Texans from Dallas to Houston to San Antonio and areas in between–including Pflugerville!  Mark and I first became enamored of Johnson’s Backyard Garden when we visited their booth at the Texas Farmer’s Market last spring.  The JBG booth was so packed with people and produce, we had to wait in line to get inside.  It was worth it!  Although we had a garden, JBG had grown lots of interesting veggies that we hadn’t even thought of growing ourselves.

If you’ve ever thought of signing up for a CSA, now is the time to do it.  Joining in January helps the CSA plan for and pay for spring.  Plus you get to enjoy some great produce.  And if that’s not enough, JBG is extending a great offer to first-time or renewing members.  Add “getcookin1” at checkout and receive one CSA share free with your subscription.  To sign up click here.

Mark and I are still planting our market garden in the back lot of the store, but this year we are being realistic about the amount of time we have to work in the garden.  2018 is going to be a year of changes for us.  We are in the process of adding to our sales floor and incorporating new shelving into the store that we purchased from Zinger Hardware (so sad to see them go).  This leaves us even less time for gardening than we had last year, so I’m doubly excited to partner with JBG because I want to keep fresh, organic produce a part of our store’s mission.  And, if you’d like to volunteer out in the garden please email me at kimgaddy@gaddys.com.  I’ll be more than happy for any extra hands.

U-Pick Saturday, May 20, 2017

I’m trying something new in the hopes of boosting our vegetable and flower sales at Gaddy’s.  I’m opening parts of the garden up for a U-Pick Day at the feed store.  If you’d like to pick some green beans, corn, carrots, onions or beautiful sunflowers, drop by the store tomorrow and I’ll guide you through the picking process.  Not all parts of the garden are open for U-Pick but we have a bunch of fun things to pick.  Prices for U-Pick are 10% off regular price.  Supervised children are welcome.

Look at all the beautiful sunflowers I planted that are just looking for a table top to decorate.  Come pick a bouquet tomorrow.  These sunflowers are a cut flower variety called Pro-Cut.  They are pollen-free (no yellow dust on the table) and have a very long vase-life.

sunflower.jpg

I’ll still be doing a ‘big pick’ of the garden in the morning to stock the store’s vegetables. In the store we will have tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, potatoes, eggplant and more available.  All produce is grown right here on our lot using organic growing practices.

onion large group.jpg

Update – Saturday.  Too rainy for U-Pick.  As soon as the garden dries out, we will open it for U-Pick, 5 days a week.  Stay tuned for the U-Pick schedule.

Mighty Little Zinnias

What’s not to like about zinnias?  Zinnias tolerate Texas heat and summer sun.  They provide bright pops of color out in the garden and can even be brought indoors as cut flowers.  Plus, zinnias grow easily from seed, making them a very economical addition to your landscape.

I grew this long row of zinnias from a couple of seed packets.  My total cost for seed was only  $3.78.  (Zinnias are sometimes sold as bedding plants in 6 packs, however I fin zinnias do best in the landscape when direct seeded in the soil.)

Zinnia seeds are thin little slivers of a seed and should be planted just under the soil, less than 1/4″ deep.  I sew the seeds about 4 inches apart and thin to 8 inches apart, although you could allow up to 12″ between plants.  Zinnias often germinate quickly and I look for little plants in 3-4 days or so.  Keep the soil nice and moist until the seeds germinate.

Once the zinnia plants are about 4-6″ tall and have at least two tiers of leaves, I pinch off the center group of leaves.  This will encourage the zinnia plant to branch out and produce more flower-bearing stems.

zpinchpic.jpg
Pinch or clip back the center leaves to promote side shoot growth.

Keep young plants watered and fed.  I water ever other day and occasionally spray with fish emulsion and liquid seaweed.   It will take about 60-70 days for a seedling to produce the first flower.  When your plants start to form blooms you may wish to fertilize with a root and bloom type fertilizer.

Zinnias will bloom throughout the summer.  Remove spent flowers from the plant to promote continued blooming.  Zinnias also make great cut flowers for indoor arrangements.  To get the longest vase life from your zinnias, cut zinnias right before the blooms fully open.  Also place a few drops of bleach in your flower water to help keep the water clean.

zflowertops.jpg

Since Zinnias will die off when the weather gets cold, zinnias seeded after July may not have enough time to fully flower before the cold weather sets in.

Garden Update

I’ve been spending more time out in the garden lately than in front of my computer.  Mark and I have been saying that this is our market garden ‘learning year,’ and we are busy learning just how labor intensive managing an acre of garden can be.  Here is a little photo update on what’s going on in the garden.

The onions were one of the first crops we planted, starting in mid January.  They looked so puny when we first planted them.  Now they are nearing harvest.

The tomatoes we started from seed are loaded with beautiful fruit.  The abnormally warm spring helped get our crop off a good start.

We have plenty of peppers almost ready and even a tomatillo or two.

Melons, beans and corn are a bit farther behind, but look great so far.

It’s always fun to try something new out in the garden.  This year I’m trying to grow some cut flowers to sell alongside our vegetables.  I’m experimenting with heat-loving annuals this year and if all goes well, I’ll branch out into more challenging flowers in the fall.  Here’s a couple pics of my sunflowers.  Even the foliage is lovely.  I can’t wait to see the blooms.

Please stop by the store and see what’s going on in the garden yourself.  You’re always welcome to take a stroll down the road that divides the garden, just watch your step and let us know up at the store that you’re headed back there.  One last before and after.

 

Fighting Weeds with the Hula Hoe

It’s challenging to keep any size garden weeded.  Mark and I are barely managing to stay one step ahead of the weeds in our market garden.  For plants that are not grown in groundcover, the hula hoe has been a godsend.  The hula hoe goes by several names.  It’s also called a stirrup hoe because it’s blade is  in the shape of a stirrup or a scuffle hoe because it scuffles back and forth in the soil.

Mark does a little demonstration (below) of how we use the hula hoe in our garden.  It’s good for clearing up walkways or even in between plants.  The hoe sweeps the weed’s feet right out from under them, slicing the roots below the soil line.  The hoe’s blade cuts on both the pull and the push strokes.  (Note:  you can tell that Mark prefers the ‘pull’ stroke in the video.)

The hoe works best with a nice sharp blade.  Use a file to sharpen the blade once it feels dull.

We carry this hoe at Gaddy’s.  It retails for $19.99.

It is best to use the hula hoe on young tender weeds.  I prefer to weed early in the morning on a hot day so the sun can bake any exposed root system.  Clear the weed debris from you garden and put it in the compost pile.