I’ll have the chick brooder cleaned and sanitized before I leave the store today. We are expecting our first round of chicks on Thursday here at Gaddy’s. We will have three different types of chicks arriving almost every week during the spring. To see what’s expected click the ‘chicken’ tab on the menu above. I have also compiled a chart showing the characteristics of the breeds we have booked. To download a copy click here: poultry-breed-profile-chart
Peas are a great cool-season crop to get into the ground as soon as you can work the soil in the early spring. Even young plants can tolerate a little frost. Because they need trellising, peas can be a bit of a bother to grow, but the pay off is well worth it. Whether you’re eating them right out of the garden or adding them to salads or a stir-fry, nothing tastes better than fresh peas.
Another fabulous thing about peas is that peas are actually good for your soil. Peas are a nitrogen fixing plant. This means that peas have little nodes on their roots that area are able to take nitrogen out of the air (and not so much from your soil) to use for food. To give the pea roots a little nitrogen-fixing boost, we coat our pea seeds with a powdery inoculant. The inoculant contains bacteria that will help the roots of the pea plants convert nitrogen to food. Since this is the first time we’ve planted peas in this bed, we especially want to introduce the inoculant’s bacteria to the soil.
I sprayed the pea seeds with a little water then sprinkled the powdered inoculant over the seeds in the ratio recommended on the inoculant’s packaging. The inoculant looks like I sprinkled black pepper on my peas. I put these seeds into a plastic bag and took them right to the garden to plant.
We are planting two rows of peas 10″ apart. Peas are a larger seed and need to be planted about 3/4″ deep and 1-2″ apart. Both of the rows I’m planting will share the same trellis. If we wanted to plant more peas, we would make our next set of rows 2′ away.
We will keep the soil moist but not wet so our pea seeds can germinate and pop up out of the ground easily. Once the plants are up out of the ground a good weekly watering may be sufficient depending on how much it rains during the growing season.
Find the first of our monthly planting guides for Pflugerville vegetable gardeners under the Garden Tab on the menu bar above. February is a big month for planting cool weather crops. Many must be planted from transplants in order to harvest them before the weather warms and the plants bolt. March will be the month for starting many warm weather crops. Stay tuned for the March planting guide.
Twenty years ago we sold four different Purina chicken feeds–starter, layer, scratch and broiler feed. I’m glad to report that today Gaddy’s offers a much wider variety of chicken feed. Here is a brief overview of what we carry. Click the link below for a easy to read pdf table of available chicken feeds.
Texas Natural Feeds. Located out of Elm Mott, Texas, Texas Natural Feeds produces a quality line of non-soy, non-GMO feed using peanut meal, sorghum grains, oats, brewer’s yeast, fishmeal, probiotics, diatomaceous earth and a vitamin/mineral premix. Texas Natural Feeds boasts a 50% increase in vitamin content over standard commercially-grown feeds.
Texas Natural Feeds Scratch. 4# bags. 50# bags. Ingredients: wheat, grain sorghum, oats, trapper peas, and black sunflower oil seeds.
Texas Natural Feeds Chick Starter. 4# bags. 50# bags. This is a complete feed with 20% protein recommended for layer-type chicks up to 10 weeks of age.
Texas Natural Feeds Pullet Grower. 50# bags. This complete feed with 18% protein is formulated to nourish your flock after they are finished with the starter (around 10 weeks of age) until they lay their first egg.
Texas Natural Feeds Layer Pellets and Crumbles. 50# bags. This is a complete feed with 18% protein recommended for laying birds throughout egg production.
Texas Natural Feeds Layer Pellets Elite Formula. 50# bags. This elite 18% protein feed contains fishmeal organic alfalfa meal, organic kelp meal, Redmond’s natural salt and Fertrell’s Nutri-Balancer.
Bluebonnet Feeds. 50# bags. Scratch. Ingredients: steel cut corn chaps, whole wheat, whole milo. 9% protein. Grain is triple cleaned and polished.
Purina Feeds. Gaddy’s is proud to have been a Purina Dealer for over 30 years. The majority of our Purina Feeds come out of the Purina plant in Gonzales, Texas. Purina delivers a consistent quality backed by a tradition of research in animal health sciences. Purina also has excellent web resources for backyard birders.
Purina Scratch. 4# bags. 25# bags.
Purina Chick Starter. 4# bags. 25# bags. 50# bags. This 18% protein feed has everything your chick needs up until they lay their first egg around 18 weeks of age. This feed is medicated to aid in the prevention of coccidiosis and should not be fed to ducks and geese. Gaddy’s also carries non-medicated chick starter feeds and feeds appropriate for ducks and geese.
Purina Layer Crumbles. 4# bags. 50# bags. This 16% protein feed is specially formulated for laying birds. It is non-medicated and contains oyster shell and vitamin D and manganese to ensure an adequate calcium supply for egg production.
Purina Layer Pellets. 4# bags. 25# bags. 50# bags. This is the same formulation as the Layer Crumbles in pelletized form. Chickens tend to waste less feed when eating pellets, however birds often take a while to get used to the pellets after eating crumbles. We recommend mixing the pellets with the crumbles for a bit to help the birds transition to a pellet feed from a crumble.
Purina Flock Raiser Crumbles. 4# bags. 50# bags. This is an excellent all purpose type poultry feed. It is a 20% protein complete feed with no preservatives, antibiotics or animal by product fillers added. It can be fed to ducks, geese, turkeys, broilers and mixed flocks. It can also be used as a non-medicated chick grower feed.
My latest hobby is cold process soap making. I highly recommend giving it a try if you’ve ever been curious about making your own soap. It is easier than I thought, but you do need to educate yourself on the process before you begin so you can be safe–and make good soap. Alicia Grosso’s book, The Everything Soapmaking Book, was an indispensable resource. I also watched a youtube series on cold process soap making by Anne-Marie Faiola, otherwise known as the Soap Queen. Check out her youtube channel here https://www.youtube.com/user/soapqueentv. Anne-Marie has excellent videos not only on soap making, but also on lotion, lip balm, bath fizzies and more.
For my first ‘starter batches’ of soap, I was able to purchase everything I needed at the feed store and at HEB. I had a thermometer and a good kitchen scale at home as well as a couple of old silicone spatulas and microwave safe bowls I was willing to donate to the cause, so my start up expenses were not too steep. I also used a freezer paper lined cardboard box as a soap mold. From the feed store I got safety equipment like goggles and gloves (both a MUST), and my lye. From the grocery store I bought olive oil, coconut oil, lard and distilled water.
After I mastered a very simple recipe, I had a great time ordering a few specialty oils, fragrances and color pigments from the Soap Queen at Brambleberry.com, https://www.brambleberry.com/. I even bought two small silicone molds. After a bit larger of an investment, I’m all set for some serious soap making. Now all I need to do is find a source for some goat’s milk so I can make goat’s milk soap. (Maybe I’ll just get a goat.)
If you get into soap making, you will find there are many fabulous educational resources on the internet as well as a warm and friendly soap making community out there. One soap maker I became a fan of is Caitlin Abshier. Caitlin turned her passion for natural soap making into a successful business (see Revive Soaps). Even better, Caitlin is paying her success forward through the Lovin’ Soap Project to which she donates 5% of each of her sales.
Until yesterday, I had only read about Caitlin, but then I got to meet her in person! Mark and I had gone up to Dallas to do a little buying for the feed store. Just as we were walking out of the trade center, we passed a showroom and I saw some Revive soaps. I went in ‘just to look’ and I almost bumped into Caitlin herself. She is just as friendly and gracious as I thought she would be. It was such a treat to meet one of my soap-hero’s!
Caitlin is standing in front of her new line of essential oil products. Find them on her website or in specialty stores.
Mid March is the magic time of year for vegetable gardeners in the Pflugerville area. By mid March we’re almost guaranteed to have seen our last frost of the season. This means plants can go into the ground with minimal risk of loss to cold weather.
Why am I thinking about March 15 on January 14? Because it’s going to take about 8 weeks to grow our pepper and tomato transplants from seed. If we get the seeds started today, the plants should be big enough to go outside as soon as March 15 comes around. I’ll show you how we do it at the feeds store and how you can do it at home.
Start with a loose potting soil with lots of peat. We use a seed starting mix. Fluff up the soil and break up the clumps to get the soil ready to fill the planting tray.
You can plant into many different types of containers. We are planting in a tray with 128 little cells but you can plant into clean six-pack trays, peat pots, newspaper pots, or small paper cups. (Since we are starting with such small cells, we will transplant these into larger pots before they go outside.)
Fill your cells to the top with loose soil, then tamp the soil down so that you have about 1/4 inch ‘head space’. We put a big pile of soil on top of our empty tray of cells then scrape it off to fill up all the trays. It’s a bit like scooping up a big cup of flour when you’re baking then leveling it off with a knife. Just as with baking, don’t compact the dirt when you fill it to the top. Then we place an empty tray of cells on top of the filled one and press just a bit to compact the soil.
Place one seed in each cell. There are some little gizmos you can buy to shake out the seeds one at a time, but after doing a lot of seeding we have found it’s easier for us just to use our hands or shake the seeds out of the package one at a time.
Cover the top of the seeded seed tray with some more of the soil (not quite up to the top of the cell) and water it in. I use a big spray bottle to water the plants so I don’t wash the soil and seeds out of the tray.
Peppers and tomatoes seeds need quite a bit of warmth to germinate. They would really like to have a soil temperature of 80-90 degrees. We put our trays under a grow lamp inside where it’s warm but probably not quite to an optimal temp. Next year we hope to have a heated greenhouse to use, so if you have one of those that’s where the seedlings would be happiest. If you don’t have a grow light, or a greenhouse, you can put your trays in a sunny window in a warm room. At lower temperatures just expect germination to be slower and may not be 100 percent.
Keep the soil moist but not wet. Feed with a gentle liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks when the plants get their first true leaves. Wait patiently for spring.
The reason why gardeners in Central Texas are so crazy mad to get a jump start on their peppers and tomatoes is because we want to get our plants outside early enough to get as many fruit set before the weather turns so hot the plants stop setting fruit. Once the daily highs reach 90 degrees and above peppers and tomatoes and eggplants stop setting fruit. They will ripen the fruit they have set and the plant can stay alive and healthy, but they will stop making fruit.
Our onion sets will arrive from Dixondale Farms in Carrizo Springs, Texas next week. We have White Bermuda, Southern Belle Red, and 1015Y Texas Super Sweet onion sets on their way. Onions are super easy to plant and you can fit them into even the smallest garden. Here’s how to do it.
The onion set may look a little dry. That’s OK. The onion start is just dormant. Please don’t water it, just keep it in a cool, dry place until your soil is ready for planting.
Since the onion needs to ‘push through’ the soil as it grows to form a large bulb, make sure your soil is nice and loose. Onions like plenty of feed and prefer a slightly acidic soil, so make sure you have plenty of organic matter or extra peat moss to balance out our alkaline clay soil in the Pflugerville area. If you use commercial fertilizer you may want to spread some 13-13-13 and ammonium sulfate (to decrease the soil pH) into your soil before planting.
Onions grow best with full sun and lots of drainage. A raised bed or row works best. Take the onion set apart and plant each onion about 3/4 inch deep, at least 4 inches apart down the center of the trench you made. (Note: 3/4 inch is not very deep. Make sure you don’t plant any deeper.) If you don’t have enough space for all the onions in your set, plant the others real close together in a sunny spot of your garden and harvest the tops as soon as they green up and use them like green onions.
Hand weed around the onions frequently during the growing season. You don’t want weeds competing with the onions for nutrients or growing space. And you don’t want to damage your onion bulbs trying to weed around them with a hoe.
Onions have a shallow root system. You may only need to water them weekly during the early spring, but later when it heats up or when it is windy, they may need to water more frequently.
Feed the onions at least once again when the tops have 5 or six leaves. You can feed more often but once the onion’s nearly done growing and has started ‘bulbing’ (it kind of looks like it’s half way out of the ground) it is best not to fertilize anymore.
When the onion top falls over and looks half way dead, the onion is ready to harvest. Usually this happens sometime in the summer if you planted in the spring. Pick the onions early in the day and leave them outside in the shade to dry for a couple of days before bringing inside.
The spring seed potatoes arrived last week. We ordered three of our favorite varieties of Irish potatoes, White Kennebec, Red La Soda, and Yukon Gold, all of which are reliable cultivars for the Pflugerville area. Plus they produce tasty spuds.
To prepare seed potatoes for planting, cut each potato into pieces about the size of a hen’s egg. Make sure each piece contains a healthy looking bud or eye. The eye is what will sprout and grow into a plant. The ‘meat’ of the potato will provide food for the plant until a root system is formed. (It’s not necessary to wash the seed potatoes. Leave the dirt.)
Keep the potato pieces, now called ‘seeds’, in a well ventilated area for about five days. You want the wet part of the potato to dry out or ‘heal over’ before the seed is planted. This will help prevent the seed from rotting in the ground.
There are many ways to plant a potato seed. Basically you want to get the seed deep in the ground because the new potatoes will form above the seed, but below the top of the soil. So the more space you have between the seed and the dirt level, the more space you have for potatoes to grow.
When pressed for time, Mark simply digs a trench about 10 inches deep then places the seeds 12 inches apart in the trench. Always plant seeds with the eye side up. He fills the whole trench in and calls it a day. Mark says he cuts the seeds a bit bigger than necessary if he takes this shortcut because the new plant has a long way to grow to punch through to the sunlight.
The preferred method of potato planting takes a bit more time. Dig a trench at least 3 to 4 inches deep (although I may go a bit deeper) and place the seeds 12 inches apart. No matter how deep your trench is, cover the seeds with 3 inches of soil and tamp down well. Now the plant only needs to grow 3 inches to get to the sunlight. But, as the plant grows, you have to pull dirt or mulch around the plant to make a place for the potatoes to grow. Although this method takes a little more effort throughout the growing season, it allows for easier harvest. Plus if you add soft mulch around the plant instead of soil alone, the potatoes are often smoother and have a better shape.
The old-time way of remembering when to plant potatoes in Central Texas, is to think about getting them into the ground around President’s Day. Think mid to late February. If planted too early the tender young potato plants could get hit by a frost. Potatoes take about 75 – 100 days until harvest. Plan for a late May or early June harvest.
How many pounds of seed potatoes should you get? The rule of thumb is that 1 pound of potatoes will yield about 10 seeds. Since you plant seeds 12 inches apart, 1 pound of potatoes will need a bit more than a 12 foot trench in your garden.
About the soil. Potatoes like an early feed and are relatively heavy feeders. Plant in good soil with adequate organic matter. If you use commercial fertilizer mix something like a 10-20-10 ratio into the earth beside the trench before planting. The fertilizer should not come into direct contact with the seed.
Note: Potatoes are a great project for kids. If you don’t have room for a garden, potatoes can be grown in a large pot. More on that later.
When we were young newlyweds, way back in the early 90’s, Mark and I used to collect Burr Oak acorns for fun. What can I say. I was a cheap date. Pflugerville was going through a growth spurt back then and Mark and his parents, Frank and Lynn, were expanding the business from a feed store into a garden center, specializing in locally grown trees and bedding plants. By the time Mark and I had kids old enough to be in elementary school, the feed store supported almost two acres of trees and shrubs–many grown from acorns Mark and I collected.
I spent the next fifteen years or so raising kids, helping out at the feed store, and doing various odd jobs around Pflugerville. At one time I was teaching Jazzercise, writing quilting patterns and doing the feed store’s bookkeeping. I was much younger and more energetic then. During this time we lost Lynn to cancer. Her passing left a huge hole in our hearts and in the business, but Mark and Frank plowed on bravely. With the help of long-time employee and honorary family member, Rodney, the feed store continued to operate as a full fledged feed, hardware and garden store. Lynn would have been proud.
By the time the 2008 recession hit, the big box stores had successfully populated Pflugerville. A decline in tree sales, combined with a drought, plus the loss of our agricultural exempt status on the tree-growing land, all worked together to seal the fate of the tree growing operation. Our business plan was just to stay in business. I am so proud of how hard Mark, Frank, Rodney and all our co-workers worked to keep the business afloat during the recession. Frank took on lawn mower repair and window screening. Rodney sold and planted many of our remaining trees. And on top of everything else, Mark took on all the bookkeeping I had done so I could get a regular job nursing. I would also like to try to express how immensely appreciative we are of our customers who made the decision to shop local and allowed us to stay in business all these years. Many, many thanks. We wouldn’t be here without y’all.
Fast-forward to 2017 and the big boxes are still here, but, thankfully, the recession is long gone. Frank is no longer working at the store, but only because he’s so busy running cattle and enjoying life. Rodney, Charlie and Wade help us keep the doors at the store open and feed in the feed room. And although we can hardly believe it, Mark and I are now empty-nesters. I work part time as an obstetrical nurse but know that there is only so long that my body will continue to handle twelve hour shifts on my feet.
As 2016 was coming to a close, and we were prepping ourselves for paying property taxes, Mark and I thought about what to do with the land that was sitting in the back growing weeds. We thought about building a strip center, or an office building, or storage units on the back lot, but couldn’t afford it. We thought about getting out of the business altogether, but couldn’t feature ourselves adrift from the feed store and all the people we’ve gotten used to seeing week in and week out. Instead, we decided to play the mid-life crisis card and do something unorthodox, something less than financially beneficial, something probably best done in one’s twenties or thirties–but something we love to do. We decided to grow the biggest darn garden we’ve ever conceived right at the back of the store. We’ve come to the decision that while we enjoy talking about gardening, and selling gardening supplies, truth is, we really, really miss getting our hands dirty and growing things. We want to grow a garden that our customers, friends and neighbors will enjoy walking through–a little reminder of Pflugerville’s rural past–a little inspiration to future urban gardeners. We hope visitors can have a little hands-on experience and are planning a u-pick corn patch as well as a vegetable sales area up front. One day we (I mean ‘I’) even hope to have a chicken coop out in the garden. Do put in a good word for me and my girls to Mark.
So far we have a couple rows of test crops in the ground (spinach, collards, chard, beets, carrots), an area prepped for corn, the bones of a greenhouse constructed, and a lovely pile of compost waiting to be spread. And this blog. Upon the advice of those younger than I, I have decided to try my hand at blogging.
Until next time.