Along the spectrum of "greenness" I have friends whom I would designate as the darkest green to the left on the chart above.  If I were to designate my place on this scale, it would be midpoint of the second square to the right (and that is perhaps being too generous with myself).  I'm not even a vegetarian, much less a vegan, although I eat meat rarely--once or twice a week and mostly the meat is fish.  But I am making progress:  I'm eating more of my vegetables raw and almost every day I eat greens.

Moving Up on the Green Spectrum

Just the other day I was in Home Depot with a friend and I talked him out of buying some pesticide to kill some pesky box elder bugs.  [I did so by promising to find an organic solution to getting rid of the bugs.]

It is precisely at that juncture (organic way to get rid of bugs) that I separate from my more Kermitesque friends.  Many folks think that we should not do anything mean to any bug.  They believe that bugs are there for a good natural reason and we should let them be.  They have a point and I appreciate it.  In fact, there are many cases where people have introduced insects to eat other insects only to have the organic killing machines become pests themselves.  It's not always easy to find the happy medium, or even learn if there is one.  Sometimes it seems as if we often have two choices:  poison our ground water and soil or upset the balance of nature with our "organic" solutions.  But again, where is that area where we draw the line?  It is a line that to a great extent, is left up to the individual.  Some folks go so far as to only eat fallen fruit.  I sincerely doubt I will ever evolve or dissolve to that green marker.

My solution for the box elder bugs (I have these pests too) is to get out there on a warm day with a fly swatter.  As I murder them by the thousands I also chant Hail Marys.   Of course, my deep green friends are outraged by my behavior, but I find that I can live with it.  I find that following the swatting routine for about two hours every day for three days works.  I have to do this about three times a year.

My yard has been a pesticide-free zone for five years now.  Murdering the bugs by hand is my pest control system, but don't tell my deep-green friends.

Our Artificial World

Our world, particularly in the USA, is so artificial that we sometimes don't even notice any more what is real and what is not.  We have become like those people in Plato's cave allegory watching a shadow puppet show on the walls of the cave and thinking the shadows are real.  We Americans have a tendency to even admire artifice.  "Gee, that looks so real, I thought it was a real flower, a real bee, a real bird, a real kid, etc."  We pay hundreds of dollars to take our children to visit fake plastic places like Disneyland. Our admiration for the artificial is boundless.

The Hummingbird Feeder

I like to think I'm above it all, but deep down I know better.  Here's a case in point:  As you may know, I'm a member of Loving Garland Green.  A couple of days ago I saw the cutest thing in an old Bird and Garden book that Charlie gave me.  I thought: "Wow!  I'm going to make those with my grandchildren and then perhaps we will offer a class at the Garland Community Garden to make them later this spring."  They are hummingbird feeders.  You make them with a test tube with a lid, some copper wire, some yard, a small suction cup like those on the end of kid's toy arrows, and a plastic or silk flower from which you've removed the fake stamen.  (You can figure out the rest as I'm not providing instructions.)

I was actually all excited about this idea but then reason overtook me:  Wait a minute!  I'm going to make a device to encourage a hummingbird to suck sugar water out of a plastic flower?  Something is really wrong with that idea.  I don't even have to be a scientist to understand that.

What I'm going to do instead is plant plenty of flowers this year--for the hummingbirds, butterflies and the bees.  At the top of my list is Asclepias curassavica or tropical milkweed.  I successfully grew this flower in my garden last year.  It flowered from July until the end of October.  Bees love it.  I saved seeds.

Other common names for this flower include scarlet milkweed, Mexican milkweed, Blood flower, and Silk Weed.  Read more.

From my garden early October 2013:


Anita and Robert's three raised vegetable beds

Today I dropped by the home of Anita and Robert Opel who live in the Coomer Creek Neighborhood of Garland, Texas to drop off the proceeds from our Loving Garland Green yard sale yesterday.  Anita also is the Treasurer of Loving Garland Green.  Her husband, Robert, is a member of the board.  Anita and Robert, like all officers and members of the board of directors of Loving Garland Green will participate in one of our programs, Another Urban Garden.* Just eye-balling their yard, I estimate the Opels already have approximately 350 square feet of their back yard set aside for growing edibles.  In addition to the beds shown above in which they will plant vegetables this spring, they also have other beds in their yard that include a raspberry bush, wild strawberries, a butterfly bush, rosemary, and some type of perennial spinach that I'll have to learn more about.

Ed and Becky Downing, also members in Loving Garland Green, will work with two other members of Loving Garland Green in setting up their urban garden. Charlie, a master gardener, and I visited their home last Wednesday and worked with Ed and Becky to map out their plan for their urban garden.  Every garden is unique.  Ed and Becky will have one 4 x 8 foot vegetable bed.  Then in another bed they will have cantaloupe and watermelon along with an herb garden.  Their back yard is quite small and is dwarfed by a huge old native Texas pecan tree.

It will be interesting to track the produce throughout the season from all our gardens as well as from the gardens of other residents who participate in our "Another Urban Garden" program.


Another Urban Garden is a program that Loving Garland Green is offering to the residents of Garland.  This program is designed to increase the number of urban gardens in our community by making the setup easier and more affordable and by increasing community awareness of the benefits of urban gardens.  The program has many levels of participation and will evolve as we learn from our successes and mistakes. 

1.  One level of participation includes those who already garden. These people can register their urban garden with Loving Garland Green. The garden must be located in Garland.  The urban gardener measures the total square footage of the garden and provides information regarding what is planted in each plot.  The gardener then agrees to keep records and report regarding the plant yields and estimated market value of the yields.

2. Another level of participation includes those who do not garden, but who would like to garden.  These people can contact Loving Garland Green (a nonprofit corporation).  We will work with the resident to create one raised bed in their yard for the first year. For those who prefer to get started by themselves, we recommend  for great online assistance.  If you prefer to work with a person, we will assign a Loving Garland Green volunteer to work with you.*  Regardless your choice, we hope you will keep records of your crop yields and market value of your harvests and that you will participate in our program by reporting this information to Loving Garland Green.  Together we can promote a healthier local economy as well as a healthier populace.

*Note:  Loving Garland Green will be applying for grant money to help us fund the establishment of gardens for anyone living in Garland who wants a garden, but who doesn't know how to get started; anyone who does not have the physical ability to set up a garden; and/or those who may not be able to afford the initial set-up costs for the garden.  If urban gardens are set up properly, almost anyone can manage one.  After the first year most gardens can operate at a profit for the urban gardener.  (Often this is possible even in the first year.)


In late May of this year, Loving Garland Green will sponsor a tour of Urban Gardens in Garland.  Gardens connect people and bond them to their community and to their neighbors.  Gardens also strengthen local economies.  We hope to eventually see many urban farmers markets springing up in neighborhoods all over Garland--places were neighbors can gather to share and sell from the bounty of their gardens.



Get a ballpark figure for the potential market value of what you can grow in the space available to you.    But keep in mind that some things like digging delicious winter carrots in December are just one of many gifts of gardening that are priceless.


Another Urban Garden is a program that Loving Garland Green is currently developing to support our goal of increasing the number of urban gardens in Garland. Record-keeping is an important part of this program for a number of reasons:  First of all, by writing it down, the urban gardener can reflect better on what worked and what didn't in their garden.  Then next year, they can plan better.  I've found that what grows in a friend's garden who lives only a few houses away will not necessarily grow in my garden.  This is another reason why I value seed saving.  In my garden, this year's okra, marigolds, cantaloupe, and tomato seeds will all come from plants that I successfully grew in my garden in 2013.


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Urban Gardens Stimulate Local Economies

Loving Garland Green continues to grow.  Last night we had a surprise visit from our mayor--Douglas Athas.  The Mayor has been very supportive of our group and its efforts to establish a community garden here in Garland.  Our goal is to encourage citizens of Garland to plant gardens in their yards and to grow gardens on their patios and windowsills.  

We are currently developing programs to assist in stimulating our local economy by increasing the number plant-based products created in our community.  For example, there is the potential that bamboo offers Garland.  You may not realize this, but we have large bamboo groves growing all along every creek within the 57 square miles that we call "Garland."

Last night we offered Mayor Athas a drink of iced bamboo tea which he enjoyed as did other members who also had their first taste of bamboo tea.

Imagine this:

Garland is not limited to bamboo as a source for plant-based products. Look at all the possibilities shown in the chart below.  Remember, these don't even include the potential revenue to be gained from cultivated urban crops.  The chart below represents the potential to be realized from food in our community that is currently not being fully used.  Over the coming year, Loving Garland Green hopes to rally local groups to join us in establishing some of these companies/cottage industries in our community.



Urban gardens save families hundreds even thousands of dollars annually.

As far as cultivated urban gardens are concerned, savings to people who grow at least some of their own food can be significant. In 2008, Rosalind Creasy, author of "Edible Landscaping" conducted an experiment in which she planted an organic garden in a space 5 x 10 feet (100 square feet).  

She kept close records of her harvest and found that from April to September of 2008 she produced $700 worth of food.  According to the Garden Writers Association, 84 million U.S. households gardened in 2009. Ms. Creasy reasoned that if just half of them (42 million) planted a 100-square-foot garden, 96,419 acres (about 150 square miles) would no longer be in lawns.  Thus there would be no need for the tremendous resources used in keeping them manicured. If folks got even one-half of the yields Ms. Creasy obtained, the national savings on groceries would be about $14.35 billion. [Source

Bringing those statistics on home to Garland

What if 50,000 5 x 20 foot gardens were established in Garland Texas that saved each person approximately $700 in groceries?     The total savings would be $35,000,000.00 in our economy.

Loving Garland Green's stated goal is to see that 50,000 urban gardens are planted in Garland by the end of 2015.  "Another Urban Garden" is a new program that we will be launching this spring to support us in meeting this goal.  In fact, we already have our first participant.


From my Seed collection:  Okra, Marigold and  Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)

What are the best seeds you can possibly have?

Answer:  Seeds from healthy plants that you have grown because  you know they will thrive in your garden.  In terms of risk management for your crop yields, seeds from your own garden should be at the top of the list for next year's planting.

Here is an example of the Tropical Milkweed that I grew in my urban garden last year.  It bloomed from mid July until the end of October.  I made sure to save as many of the fluffy seeds of this annual as I could.  Not only do butterflies like it, bees adore it.  And, the blooms are lovely as  you can see from the photo below:


Still and yet. . . there are other good sources for seed as well

Native Seeds/S.E.A.R.C.H.

This nonprofit organization aims to preserve native plant varieties from more tha 50 southwestern tribes.  I am particularly interested in the indigenous vegetables featured in their catalog.  Here is the PDF for their seed catalog.   I plan to order some seeds from this in a few weeks.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Johnny's Selected Seeds are two other standbys for seeds--both of whom I've ordered seeds from before.  I can only personally recommend Johnny's as I've ordered buckwheat from them that grew like weeds last year.  Even you don't want to harvest the seed from the buckwheat, it still makes a great over-winter crop to turn under as it is high in nitrogen.  And, many people don't realize that the leaves of buckwheat are quite tasty and nutritious. They produce dainty little white flowers that are highly fragrant and loved by bees.  From August through September of 2013 I put buckwheat leaves and flowers in my salads.  Not only did the salads look prettier, they were more tasty with the addition of the nutty flavors of the buckwheat.   Many people think that buckwheat is a cereal grain, but it is actually a fruit seed that has been linked with all sorts of good things such as lowering blood pressure.  Its flavonoids protect against disease by extending the action of vitamin C.  It is also said to lower the risk of diabetes and other diseases.

As for Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I didn't have much luck with their seeds.  However, in their defense, I am an amateur gardener and I ordered heirloom tomato seeds which are difficult even for an experienced gardener to grow.


Now is the time for deciding what you are going to put in your Spring 2014 Urban Garden.  Planting time is almost upon us.  Already the garden stores have in their onion sets.  I bought a few yesterday along with some kale and Swiss Chard seed--all of which I'll put into a plot in Urban Garden One the first week of February.


And why I've ordered this poster from the YES store.

Kale will be among those that will be featured at the Garland Community Garden which is being supported by Loving Garland Green--a nonprofit that you can join if you want to be part of a grand experiment to show the residents of Garland that adding urban gardens to your community will also add dollars to your local economy.

These eight lifestyles (not diets) are designed to prevent chronic health ailments and degenerative disease.  Guess what they all have in common?  Kale.  I've read many places on the Internet where kale is indeed a "super food."  

The diets shown are 1. Vegan  2. Traditional Asian  3.National Institutes of Health TLC diet  4. Raw Diet   5. Mediterranean Diet  6. Ancesteral Diet  7.Glycemic Index diet 8. Anti-inflammatory Diet

Visit Yes Magazine to order your copy of this poster and to read the entire article.

One Diet To Rule Them All Poster


Some of us gather toilet paper rolls to make our own biodegradable planters*

Put rolls on cookie sheet.  Mark the roll with a sharpie as to what will be planted in it.  Fill the roll with soil.  Plant seed.  When seedling is ready to plant, dig a hole the size and depth of the cardboard roll and plant.  Make sure to thoroughly moisten the cardboard before planting.  Note:  Any small cardboard container can be used. 

*Permaculture Design Principle 6:  Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.


January, like December, is a fairly dead month for most gardeners.  Of course one can start seeds in containers and prepare outdoor beds and gaze starry-eyed at all the great seed catalogues.  


Seeds to be planted outdoors in February in North Texas

But the outdoor planting of vegetables in North Texas, according to guides provided by Texas A&M, begins in February.  Following is a list of vegetables that can be planted in February:

Onion plants - 02/01 to 02/20

Radishes 02/05 to 4/15   (Radishes grow like weeds in our area.  It only takes them 21-26 days from seed to radish.)


Onion seeds, English peas - 02/10 to 03/01

Asparagus, Cauliflower - 02/03 to 02/17

Cabbage, Collards, Swiss Chard, Lettuce -  02/10- 03/10

Parsley 02/10 to 02/25

Potatoes 02/10 to 02/25 (I'm going to try growing potatoes in a tower in my plot in the Garland Community Garden.)

Spinach 02/10 to 03/15

Turnip 02/10 to 02/10

For Kale, plant seeds at least a month before the last frost date.  For those who live in North Texas, this would be around the first of February.

Vegetables to start from seed indoors

For Okra:  I'm starting mine from seed indoors February 14 and transplanting to the garden around April 8.  May 11 is last spring planting recommended here in North Texas for okra.

For Pepper plants:  I'm starting mine from seed indoors in March and transplanting to the garden in late April.

For Tomatoes:  I'm starting mine from seed indoors in mid-March and transplanting to the garden in early May.

For Eggplant:  I'm starting mine from seed indoors mid-February and transplanting to the garden 



Garland Officials take illegal dumping as a serious matter to be dealt with.

Doug Athas (mayor of Garland), members of our city council, our police department and the Garland Stormwater management team are addressing this incident in the most thorough and professional way.

I would like to report that Mayor Athas responded to my email almost immediately.  Then a member of our city council to whom I copied on my email to the mayor also called our Garland Police.  Within 24 hours I got a phone call from Lt. St. Clair of the Garland police department requesting details regarding the incident and also the names and contact information for the other four Garland residents who witnessed the dumping of 12 tires on the afternoon of December 31, 2013 into the creek that passes through the area at 4022 Naaman School Road.

Since his initial contact with us, Lt. St. Clair has contacted several of the witnesses with additional questions more than once. When I talked to him yesterday, the first workday after the incident, he informed me that members of the Garland Stormwater management team had already removed half of the illegally dumped tires from the creek.

Note:  Since these two men dumped material weighing more than 5 pounds into the creek, they committed a Class B Misdeameanor according to the law here in Texas.  A class B type of misdemeanor in Texas is an offense that is punishable by a fine that does not exceed  ($2000), confinement in a county jail for a specific term not exceeding 180 days or even both at the same time. Persons convicted under this type of crime may also be placed on probation instead of a jail time.

A Class A misdemeanor comes with a fine of up to $4,000 and up to a year in jail.  If a person has a prior conviction of a Class B misdemeanor for dumping and is caught again, the offense is automatically bumped up to a Class A offense.  All dumping offenses committed by a commerical entity begin as a Class A offense.

Your Community and Local Officials Depend on You to Care about What Happens Locally

Illegal dumping regulations must be enforced.  However, in order for them to be enforced, violations must be reported. The Dallas County Illegal Dumping Hotline (1-888-335-DUMP) is a 24-hour hotline for citizens to report illegal dumping in Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Erath, Hood, Hunt, Johnson, Kaufman, Navarro, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rockwell, Somervell, Tarrant, and Wise counties. Citizens are asked to leave as much information as possible, city and county of the incident, specific street location, license plate number and description of vehicle, personal description of violator, type of waste dumped, caller's name and telephone number, date of violation.

As an incentive to report illegal dumping, a $50 reward is given to reporting individuals if their information leads to an arrest (the City Web, 1998). Earthwater Stencils, Inc., supports stormwater pollution prevention by providing materials such as posters, stencils, and brochures to community-based storm drain stenciling and related programs in local watersheds. The (EarthWater-Stencils ) website offers information on how and where to stencil and how to obtain stenciling materials.

Here in Texas, we are governed by a law called the Texas Litter Abatement Act.  Under this law any illegal dumping of units less than 5 pounds is a Class C misdemeanor;  more than five pounds is a Class B misdemeanor; if person dumping has prior conviction for dumping, it is a Class A misdemeanor and for repeaters it becomes a felony.  However for any commerical entity it is classed as a felony here in Texas.

Frankly, I think we need initiate a public awareness campaign regarding illegal dumping as it is costly to the people who live in the community.  

Help Prevent Illegal Dumping in Dallas County!

Here is a link to a poster to share with your friends:


This is not what a creek next to a Community Garden should look like!  In fact, it's not what a creek anywhere in the USA should look like!  Photo showing eight of twelve tires dumped in the creek at 4022 Naaman School Road, December 31, 2013, mid-afternoon in full sight of five witnesses.


Yesterday (New Year's Eve) was an eye-opener for me.  Several of us were at the site for the Garland Community Garden (4022 Naaman School Road) selling Texas native pecans.  Between two and three PM a large gray truck illegally pulled on to the city property entering down by the bridge where there is no road.

There were two men in the truck and a load of old tires in the back.  It was obvious to us they were heading for the creek to dump the tires.  One of the five citizen witnesses to this crime dialed 911 to report a crime in progress before the truck was even half way to its destination.  Another citizen took his truck and blocked the pathway so the criminals could not leave until the police arrived.  Both he and another citizen witnessed the men tossing the tires into the creek and told the police they would be willing to testify.  As the men were tossing the tires in the creek, on of the citizens commented that it was illegal to which the criminal replied:  "It's OK, the will float down to my house."

After the men finished dumping the tires and realized they were blocked in, they threatened to ram the truck of the Garland citizen.  He moved his truck.

The criminals exited the site via the only legal entrance.  They drove past no less than five witnesses who saw them and took pictures.  


When the police arrived, an officer told us that it was a Class C Misdemeanor and their "hands were tied" because they had not witnessed the crime.  He said they had to actually see the men tossing the tires into the creek.  I don't know about that part, but I do know the crime committed here was not a "Class C Misdemeanor".  According to the penalties under the Texas Litter Abatement Act, Class C Misdemeanors are those which involve five pounds or less of litter.  Twelve tires weigh a great deal more than five pounds.  At the least, these men committed a "Class B Misdemeanor."

These two men may in fact have been committing a "Class A Misdemeanor".  To quality for a Class A Misdemeanor, these men would need to have been acting on the behalf of a commercial entity.   If a person has been previously convicted of violating the Texas Litter Abatement Act, that person's punishment will be upgraded to the next highest category for any subsequent violation. For example, if a person has a prior conviction of a Class A Misdemeanor, that person's punishment will be bumped up to a third degree felony the next time he/she is convicted.  That's how the law is supposed to work.

 What is the Solution?

I don't know, but I do know this much:  The solution is not to ignore what happened yesterday and hope that it does not happen again.

I do know that I plan to attend the next city council meeting and present a formal report to the mayor and the council on this incident.  I already sent them an email on this topic today.

It is not OK with me for people to dump trash in our waterways and get away with it.  A friend of mine called my attention this morning to the fact that it is not OK with Homeland Security either so perhaps they should be notified as well.