May 3, 2013
In the past week we have been picking beans and the first tomatoes in my Houston vegetable garden. I am very pleased with the Romano beans—they have a nice, rich flavor and heavy production. So far the cherry and plum tomatoes (Sweet Treat and Orange Paruche) are ripening. The slicer varieties are still a week or more away.
We are finishing up the beets, Swiss chard, carrots and sugar snap peas. I started okra in pint pots a couple of weeks ago and transplanted them today. Planted the old standby Clemson Spineless and well as Flowerbed, Green Fingers and Annie Oakley. I have not tried the last two before.
All three varieties of eggplants have small fruit.
April 12, 2013
I grew up on a farm/ranch near Yoakum, TX. When I was a kid we raised about an acre of tomatoes and sold them at “tomato sheds” that opened in the little towns to buy tomatoes from the farmers. Yoakum still has an annual tomato festival even though commercial tomato raising stopped long ago because of mechanization and cheap migrant labor.
We always pruned our tomatoes; that is removed the suckers at the branches below the first bloom. I did not find anyhow here in Houston that prunes tomatoes until I discussed it with Scott Howard of Urban Harvest. He is a strong believer in pruning. This year I have been pruning although I got a little behind on a couple of the plants. Pruning controls some of the rampant growth and forces the plant to use more energy making tomatoes. It also makes the plants easier to control in the space available. Think I will go back to pruning from now on.
Beans are starting to bloom. I planted cucumbers (that I started indoors and then put in pots) next to the sugar snaps so that they can climb on the fence. Carrots and beets are still producing along with the Swiss chard. Beets and chard (same family) stay fairly dormant until the days get longer and warmer.
Planted okra seeds in pots. They will go where the beets are carrots are now.
March 28, 2013
The New York Times did a review of gardening apps. You might give a quick read. I find them more trouble than they are worth, but beginning gardeners and gadget lovers might find them useful.
Not much new this week in the garden. Beans are growing fast. Sugar snaps are still yielding but the end is in sight. Have started some cucumbers in pots to replace the peas along the fence. Tomatoes are doing great. Some of the cherry tomatoes will probably be ready to pick in 10 days. A little angst this week on whether or not to cover them. We did not and the temperature here never broke 40.
Planted some more fennel seed. It may be a little late but fennel stands the hot weather reasonably well. My grandson wanted to plant some potatoes. I think it is too late but we planted a few anyhow. My grandfather always said to plant potatoes on Washington’s birthday (Feb 22 for those of you that know only President’s Day) I could not find seed potatoes but bought some fall raised potatoes at the Farmers Market. The vendor told me that he plants potatoes February 1. The warmer weather means we can and should start planting earlier than historical recommendations. Store potatoes are often sprayed with sprouting inhibitors—giving you some more chemicals to ingest.
March 19, 2013
The fall crops are fading away and the spring crops are enjoying the warmer weather.
On the left the Swiss Chard has really taken off. I find that it grows much slower than traditional Southern greens in the winter, but then puts out a lot of new growth when the days are warmer and longer. On the right the Orange Peruhle has set fruit. Sweet Treat has also. The slicer tomatoes should set blossoms this week.
Below is a picture of one of the beds. It is a prefab bed made of cedar and bought from naturalyards.com. It is a very good and visually attractive product but is an expensive option. On the left in the middle you can see green beans that have just come up. In the foreground the arugula is blooming. I like to have some blooming plants all the time to attract beneficial insects.
March 8, 2013
Lettuce is a great fall, winter and spring vegetable in Houston. It makes a nice landscape plant because of its variety of vibrant colors-various shades of green and red. Plant lettuce instead of flowers at the front of beds. The bright green lettuce shown below on the left is Black Seeded Simpson—a great variety that produces large, very tender leaves.
Lettuce can also be readily grown in pots if you have limited space. This pot is full of Winter Density—a romaine type lettuce that does well in Houston.
February 28, 2013
One of my Sweet Treat plants was broken off at the ground. Not sure if it was the high wind or a cut worm. I never have had problems with cut worms on tomatoes because the plants are fairly large when put in the ground. However, it was broken off cleanly right at the ground—a cut worm indicator. A fellow gardener told me he lost one plant to the wind.
February 22, 2013
The tomato plants have filled out in the one gallon containers, the weather for next week looks good; so, it is time to put the tomatoes in the ground in the Houston vegetable garden. The Sweet Treat tomatoes are wild vining plants so I will need to get some bigger cages for them. Bob Randall recommends 72” of 6’ tall 4×4 mesh fencing. I have trouble finding that fencing except in large rolls, but Southland Hardware has it in 2×4 mesh and will cut any length for you. the 2×4 mesh is a little small to put your arm through, but I can cut out a few to make some 4×4 openings. The determinate varieties will do fine in the old cages I got form Park Seed some years ago.
February 14, 2013
Planted tomatoes for my Houston Vegetable Garden from seed in early January. I am trying two new varieties this year: Sweet Treat and Orange Paruche. Sweet Treat is a Japanese pink variety (although the fruit looks red to me). It is a rampant vining plant that requires a large cage. My Urban Harvest friend Scott Howard highly recommended it. Orange Paruche is one I stumbled on to. It has good reviews but one never knows if it will do well in the Houston climate. We will see. Plants are in gallon containers outside now. Will plant in the ground towards the end of the month.
February 11, 2013
I have been out of the Houston vegetable garden for a while. My daughter bought our house and we moved to a townhome. She did a big remodeling job that tore up the garden and relocated it to to cedar boxes bought as a kit. One box is 18X4 and the other is 12X3. Both are about 15” high and are filled with a special mix from Ground Up. It looks like a good mix but the fall planting seemed to not be growing as it should. I sent off a soil sample and found it to be very deficient in nitrogen; perhaps not surprising because the mix has a lot of compost in it. Nevertheless, it was an expensive mix and was billed as ready to go. Fortunately, an easy problem to solve.
May 22, 2011
Tomatoes have been excellent in my Houston vegetable garden. They always seem to be best in dry years when the amount of water can be controlled. Merced was easily the best again. I think I still have 2 or 3 seed left for next year, but then that will be it for Merced. The “Merced replacement” has been ok but not especially noteworthy. Celebrity and Marglobe were both better. Moneymaker was disappointing but I planted it in a different and less desirable location so I will give a more fair trial next year. The Orange Paruche cherry has done pretty well. It is very much like Sun Gold, but on a determinate plant. The smaller plant does not produce as much total crop as Sun Gold, but it is more manageable space wise.
Beans are into the second cycle. Festina was rather disappointing; stick with Derby. The Annie Oakley okra starting producing on tiny plants. It must be picked while quite small. Stay with the traditional large varieties. Also eating eggplant, peppers, cucumbers and a few remaining fennel. Corn (Serendipity) did not do very well but I think it might be because I was gone and did not give it enough fertilizer.