Tuesday, May 25, 2010

breeze catchers

Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima)

I love the cheery wave of Mexican feather grass, but I'm also enjoying a few other windsurfers blooming now that I doubt will make it until next month's garden bloggers' bloom day post. All are drought tolerant and need lots of sun.

Vitex tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri)

Provence lavender (Lavandula x intermedia 'Provence')

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

a huge branch from our old American Elm crashed into the back yard

Friday afternoon we noticed that there was a crack in the largest branch of our 80+ year old American Elm and that it was hanging down a little lower than usual. I called and left a message with an arborist, thinking it could wait until this week. It didn't wait.

Saturday evening we heard that awful sound of an electrical transformer blowing and our electricity went out. The cracked branch was now a crashed-into-the-back-yard branch. Some Austin Energy guys swooped in with flashlights and did something with chainsaws and ropes (too dark for me to see) to get it out of the electrical line then quickly disappeared, like a scene from "Brazil".

Besides squashing a small cherry laurel tree and some of my raised vegetable beds, the branch didn't cause any real damage. Whew.

Today the fantastic Scott George and his fantastic crew from Austin Beautiful Trees, Inc. cut off and removed the branch and pruned lots of other drooping branches from the elm and our old 50+ foot sycamore. Watching these guys do their tree art is fascinating.

The trees look much happier now.

street side before: dense, droopy, crowded

street side as of an hour ago: clean and airy

And shade is no longer a problem for my tomatoes.

new sunny spot for vegetable raised beds

Basil and chard aren't too squashed after all. I need to harvest the last few potatoes and pull out the old bolted broccoli and kale.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

garden bloggers' bloom day


Over the past 24 hours or so, Austin finally received a good rain--my rain gauge indicates 4.5 inches--so some of my blooms are a little battered right now. [EDITED May 17, 2010: In my excitement about the rain, I read the centimeter side of the gauge--doh! So we actually got 1.8 inches, not 4.5 inches.] Not complaining! Visit Carol's May Dreams Gardens blog to see blooms from the rest of the world today.

first plumbago bloom after extra-cold winter

Provence lavender

indigo spires salvia


blackfoot daisies and first Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) blooms

bicolor iris

last red cascade roses for awhile

Texas bluebells (Eustoma "Florida Blue")

Other plants somewhat battered but blooming today are society garlic, victoria blue salvia, purple and white ruellia, balloon flower, marigold, torenia, verbena, "Diamond Frost" euphorbia, and trailing lantana.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

first ever potatoes

This is my first attempt to grow potatoes--Yukon Golds--and although it's a small yield, I'm very pleased. They were delicious sauteed in butter with a little salt--very creamy. I should have a handful more ready in a few days.

I think I'm getting so few because the potato plants didn't get enough sun because my huge American elm leafed out earlier and more profusely this year from winter and early spring rains. The huge American elm covers both my raised bed areas and last summer it was drought stressed and not very lush, providing just enough shade to protect my tomatoes and cucumbers from the intense heat.

This time around, I think there's just too much shade for the tomatoes I put in more than a month ago, so I recently planted Sun Golds, Juliets, a Black Krim, a Creole, and a Cherokee Purple in pots in the sunny side yard. This pot hodgepodge isn't pretty but it's practical, and I should at least get a fair amount of cherries and Juliets.

Next fall we'll make a raised bed in that area, which wasn't sunny enough for vegetables until a few weeks ago, when husband Kurt cut down an ailing cherry laurel tree. Already too hot to mess with making that bed this season, though.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My spicy potato-chickpea stew with homegrown chard

Linda Lehmusvirta, producer of Central Texas Gardener (aired on Austin's PBS affiliate station, KLRU), suggested I post tonight's dinner recipe. We'd already eaten ours at that point, so my only picture is what was leftover in the pan!

This is fairly spicy but has lots of extra healthy stuff included, like ginger, garlic, and turmeric. I'm not used to writing out recipes because I always taste as I go along and am usually making it up as I go along, but I think my guesses on the spices are reasonable.

Every ingredient I used was organic (and some local or homegrown) except the jalapenos. The prep work takes the most time, but it's not too bad. It's worth the effort!

A few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or ghee)
One large yellow onion, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
approx 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
6-8 red new potatoes or Yukon Golds, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1-2 cups chopped swiss chard and/or kale

Ground spices (all to taste, but these are my guesstimates):
cumin (2 T)
coriander (1 T)
turmeric (1 T)
fennel (1 t)
fenugreek (1 t)
asafoetida (1/2 to 1 t)
cinnamon (couple of pinches)
honey (1-2 T)

One 28 oz. can crushed (or diced) tomatoes
One 15 oz. can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
salt (1-2 T)
Handful chopped cilantro (save part for garnish)
Half-handful chopped mint (save part for garnish)
optional: drizzle of yogurt as garnish

On medium-low heat, sautee onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and potato, and chard/kale in olive oil (or ghee) for about 20 minutes. Stir often. Add all powdered spices and honey, continue cooking, covered, over low heat until potatoes are starting to soften (stir occasionally). Add tomatoes, salt to taste, and garbanzo beans (mostly drained).

Continue to cook, covered, over low heat for around 20 minutes. Add cilantro and mint. Continue to cook, covered, for a few minutes. Turn off heat: taste, adjust, make sure potatoes are soft but not mushy. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before eating. Garnish with reserved cilantro and mint (and yogurt).