THIS is great weather for dreaming up projects.


When the weather clears this weekend, I’ll be putting in another keyhole garden down at the Garland Community Garden.   Keyhole gardens are great for those who have difficulty bending down to ground level. They are three-feet tall.  You can make the sides from about anything--from corrugated tin, to bricks, to concrete blocks, to wire fencing.  (If you use wire fencing, you’ll have to put a liner around the inside of the fencing to prevent the soil from falling through.)  Weed prevention cloth makes a good liner.

Here are the materials I’ll be using:

  • 27 feet of 14-gauge wire fencing
  • Four 12-foot rebar (cut into 6-foot length) making 8 rebar poles
  • Eight ¾ inch metal conduit pipes (5 feet long and 2 are 7 feet long)
  • 27 feet long of 36-inch-tall plastic feed bags sown together
  • 27 feet of clear environmental greenhouse plastic 4 feet wide
  • 110 feet of 18-gauge galvanized steel wire
  • Six feet of chicken wire 36 inches wide
  • Wood chips and other organic matter--enough to fill 3/4s of the enclosure for the garden.
  • About half a cubic yard of  garden soil
  • About 8 gallons of compost to top off the upper layer of soil for the garden
  • Water

    TOOLS:  wire cutter and hammer for driving poles.
  1. Determine the location for your Key Hole Garden (flat with plenty of sun)

  2. Bend the 27 feet of wire fencing into a circle.

  3. Join the ends together with the 18-gauge wire.  Make sure the ends of the wire are on the inside of the circle to you don’t  have sharp edges sticking out of the fencing

  4. Make the keyhole, the indentation in the circle:  At a point directly across from where you wired the two ends together, make a crease from the top of the wire fencing down to the ground.  This will be the center of the “V”.  (See photo of Keyhole Garden for clarification.)

  5. Measure out 3 feet on either side of the crease and make a crease.  You should now have 3 creases in your circle.  (See photo of keyhole garden for clarification.)

  6. Drive the six-foot rebars in the inside of the fencing at the points shown in the photo where you see the vertical poles.  Drive them into the ground a little more than a foot. They will be sticking above the top edge of the fencing about 2 feet. Slide the 4-foot conduit pipes over the rebar.  [Note I’m using materials I have on hand which are 12-foot 3/8 rebar that I’ll cut in half and various lengths of ¾ inch metal pipes.  You could use half inch rebar and skip the pipes.]

  7. Using twine tie each rebar at about midway to the top of the fencing.  You will eventually use wire to connect the poles to the fencing.  The twine is temporary to stabilize the fencing as you install your side liner.

  8. Starting at the back seam where you joined the two ends of the fencing to make the circle.  Place the liner along the side of the fencing.   Make sure to allow about a foot of the liner to rest on the ground.

  9. Begin by untying the twine that secures the rebar to the fencing.  Slide the conduit pipe over the rebar.  Using the wire, secure the pole to the fencing at least at the places

  10. Unroll the liner until you come to the next rebar.  Undo the twine and follow step 9 for each pole on the inside of your Keyhole Garden.

  11. When you get back to the seam, your starting point, be sure to overlap the liner about 18 inches.


Now your liner is attached and you are ready to make your compost basket. 

The compost basket can be made of chicken wire fencing.  You’ll need a length of 6 feet by 3 feet wide to make a basket that is 2 feet in diameter.  Make a circle and attach the ends as you did for your keyhole garden.  This basket goes at the center of the “V” or keyhole.  See photo of Key Hole Garden for reference.  Once the compost basket is ready, place it at the point of the “V”.  Now or later this basket will be filled with compost (leaves, and raw vegetable and fruit   cutting from the kitchen, spoiled lettuce from cleaning out your veggie bin, etc.  no meat!). When you water your garden most of the water should got to this basket as it feeds the rest of the plants in your garden.



About ¾’s of your garden will be filled with wood chips, logs, mulch, grass clippings straw--anything organic except weeds.  We have a lot of wood chips down at the Garland Community Garden so we will be using them to fill up our keyhole garden. Water the organic matter well.  Add about a foot of garden soil to the top and the top off with about four inches of compose.

 The wood chips will hold water and reduce the need for watering.  You will get the same benefits from the compost basket which should be feed at least every two weeks. You cannot put too much water on a keyhole garden during initial construction. Use lots and lots of water. After that, it will be very water-wise. You may only need to water two or three times during the summer.  Here in drought-prone Texas, that translates to once a week.

When planting in a Keyhole Garden, forget all the rules about proper spacing.  Crowd everything in.  Intensive garden spacing is a great way to increase your return in the garden. This concept uses all the space in the beds eliminating the need for rows and paths. Intensive spacing not only increases the return but also helps control weeds and save on water.  One keyhole garden will grow over 70 tomato plants. You plant intensively in a keyhole garden. Some plants will grow tall and others will hang over the sides.



The layer against the inside of the fencing will be a an environmental greenhouse clear plastic lining.  Then against that will be colorful  plastic seed sacks that I've sewn together.

Feed bags sewn together


Closeup of one of the feed bags.




In general most all varieties of beans should be planted two weeks after the last frost.  Certainly true for butter beans (a.k.a. lima beans).

Gene has got me going on butter beans now. 

Only instead of bush butter beans, I’ve already ordered some pole butter beans.  I will plant them in the top row of my five-gallon bucket that that Charlie is building.  I will stick three six-foot poles in each of the buckets on the top row

Plant the butter beans after the last frost of the season and after the soil temperature has gotten above 55 degrees F. (13 C.). Butter beans are very sensitive to cold soil. If you plant them before the soil is warm enough, they won't germinate.  The ideal time is two weeks after the last frost.

Companion plants for Butter Beans (and information regarding pests)

  • Catnip. Catnip deters flea beetles, which feast on not only beans but many other vegetables and garden plants as well.
  • Aphids:  Smear outside of yellow solo cup with Vaseline and thumb tack over one ft wood stake
  • Marigold:  Many insects go out of their way to avoid this pungent fower
  • Kale -As a nitrogen-hungry leafy green, kale will profit from being grown with nitrogen-fixing legumes like beans.
  • Dill When intercropped with beans, dill’s essential oils are increased, making the plants more fragrant. ‘Bouquet’ is an early-blooming dill variety, meaning it can provide a source of spring forage for garden visitors that arrive on six legs and two pairs of wings. And once your dill crop has gone to seed, you can use the seed heads to flavor pickles made from home grown cucumbers– or save the seeds to sow next year.
  • Fenugreek - This herb is Most often used culinarily for its fragrant seeds, which are ground or used whole as a spice, in the garden fenugreek can provide pest control services for your beans.  Fenugreek is an herb long used in alternative medicine. It’s a common ingredient in Indian dishes and often taken as a supplement. This herb may have numerous health benefits.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a plant that stands around 2–3 feet (60–90 centimeters) tall. It has green leaves, small white flowers and pods that contain small, golden-brown seeds. For thousands of years, fenugreek has been used in alternative and Chinese medicine to treat skin conditions and many other diseases. It is also a common household spice  and thickening agent and can be found in many products, such as soap and shampoo.  Fenugreek seeds and powder are also used in many India dishes for their nutritional profile and slightly sweet, nutty taste.


I'm having lots of fun getting the garden ready for spring planting.  In addition to making trips to Plano to get soil (so far Charlie and I have made two trips and will make two more for a total of 8 cubic yards of rich garden soil) I'm making new signs for the garden.  So far there are  two signs about potatoes and how/when to plant them.  Also you'll learn now to make potato towers.  Just take a snapshot of the sign for instructions.  There is a sign already up to let you know what will be coming soon in the multicultural garden.  Nancy Seaberg has some interesting exotic plant surprises in store for the public.  There are two signs also already up in my container plot that provide instructions for building an 8 homer bucket holder to create an urban garden.

So far we have seven new signs and more to come down at the garden.

Today, I just finished one for Gene Rogers' plot.


Well I've just found an excellent project for Charlie:  Build a five gallon bucket holder for my Pots only bed at the Garland Community Garden.

Great instructions for building a bucket container of 8 five gallon buckets. Perfect for an urban garden. AS it takes up a small space and you can grow just about any vegetable in a five gallon pot. It's footprint is 55 inches long and 25 inches deep.

The foot print for this build is 55 inches by 25 inches deep--perfect for urban gardeners who don't have much space.  Also as I have demonstrated on this blog, if you drill enough holes in the bottom of the buckets you can grow just about any kind of edible in a five-gallon bucket.


Later this week, after Tuesday's rain,  I'll be posting several signs around the Garland community Garden.  It is still about two month before visitors will see many plants growing but many people still visit the garden.  It is such a peaceful and comfortable space.

Here is a preview of a few:





Currently we only have one perennial growing in our Multicultural Plot--a showy Cardoon but that will change.  Although at the moment it appears as a stick, it will soon be sprouting leaves.

Cardoon [Cynara cardunculus] is a bold and versatile plant as a stand-alone accent or as a part of your edible landscape. Whether you eat it or not, it adds visual interest and attracts bees. It is native to the Mediterranean and was popular in ancient Greek, Roman, and Persian cuisine. It was brought by Spanish settlers to California in the mid-1800s, also by French settlers to the Louisiana Territory. Cardoons and artichokes are members of the Asteraceae family, and share the same ancient DNA. Unlike its cousin, the artichoke, you eat the stalks of the cardoon. Cardoon’s flavor is reminiscent of celery and artichoke heart with a hint of bitterness.

In addition to the spectacular cardoon, Nancy has some special and interesting plants that will be appearing in this plot later this spring. Since these plants are primarily from tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, most will not be planted until well after our last scheduled frost here in North Texas. Among these plants will be Winged beans. The winged bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus), also known as cigarillos, goa bean, four-angled bean, four-cornered bean, manila bean, princess bean, asparagus pea, and dragon bean, is a tropical herbaceous legume plant.


Oregano growing in a jelly jar with water.  Ideal gift for a cook 


What do gardeners do in January?  Many of us start seeds indoors toward the end of January.  I’ve never had much luck doing this.  My plants always end up become etiolated and/or wilting away.  I guess I just don’t have the patience but here is an idea I recently came across that   I’ll try




Several fruit jars--pint or quart size

Mature plants to snip cuttings from.  Here are a few plants that only need water and sunlight to grow.  [If you don’t have these growing already, you can get them at the grocery store and create several gifts from one plant.]

Peppermint, Oregano, Sage, Basil, Stevia, Thyme, Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Cilantro, Lavender, and Marjoram are a few good herbs that grow well in water.

You can add value to the plant by creating small tags with information about the plant and attaching it to the jar with a colorful ribbon.  These are also great additions to a seed sale for your garden club or a fund raiser for any type of club.







Kill Cabbage Worms

Mix equals parts flour and baking soda and dust plants (cabbage, broccoli, kale) being eaten by cabbage worms. They usually die in a day or two.

Spray to Treat and Prevent Powdery Mildew

On cucumbers, squash and zinnias too!

Here’s the spray recipe: 1 tbsp of baking soda, 1 gallon of water, 1 tbsp of vegetable oil, and 1 tbsp of dish-washing liquid. Mix all ingredients together and spray on your plants every week. 


I'll definitely remember this one for aphids if they return like they were in 2022! 



Potato Tower at Garland Community Garden 

What do Gardeners do in January - Part One

In addition to mooning over seed catalogs and ordering seeds many of us are busy cleaning out our beds and making new ones.  Now is also the time to purchase seed potatoes and onions.

According to Texas AgriLife, crops in North Texas to be directly seeded in the garden in January and into February include beets, carrots, spinach, Swiss chard, collards, lettuce, mustard, radish and turnips.  I think it’s ok to plant your onions now as well. 

I have my potato towers all ready to plant during the last two weeks of February.  So far I have installed three in the Garland Community Garden and plan to install one more.

Note:  You will need one potato eye for each plant. A four-foot tower will need 20 potatoes with eyes. The body of the potato should be cut to about the size of golf ball but no smaller.  About 24 hours before planting, if you have larger potatoes with several eyes cut chunks no smaller than a golf ball and let the cut end dry out.  This helps to prevent diseases.

  1. Cut wire mesh in 6-foot lengths to yield cages about 2 feet in diameter.

  2. Drive a five-foot rebar in ground

  3. Bend wire in circle and secure each end to rebar with wire or zip ties

  4. Lay down a four inch deep lay of straw in the bottom of the bin, creating a bird nest shape inside it. Curving the straw up against the sides.

  5. Shovel in some soil mixed with compost. Each nested layer will be about one foot in depth.

  6. Place potatoes about every six inches along the outer sides of the nest about half an inch in from the straw side. The eye of the potato should be pointing toward the wire of the cage.  Each potato will grow laterally outside a hole in your wire cage.

  7. Follow steps 4, 5, 6 for the next two layers.

  8. For the top layer, place potatoes with eyes facing up and about three inches in from the wire sides.  These potatoes will grow from the top and not out the sides.

  9. Cover top layer with about an inch of soil and two inches of straw.  After 12 to 16 days sprouts should begin to appear.

Generally, potatoes need between 1-2 inches of water per week;
this could be provided by rain events and/or you to make up the difference.  Each potato tower will require about five gallons of water a week.  Again, the need will vary with rain and /or extreme heat.

Most varieties are ready to harvest after 90 days. When the leaves start to die, stop watering (Usually about two weeks before harvest). Soil should be dry at harvest.

Many potatoes in the grocery store have been treated with various chemicals to prevent their eyes from developing--not a desirable event for potatoes you want to eat.  Get seed potatoes now from your local garden store.  You can purchase sweet potato slips usually the last two weeks  in April.



Since the towers are only 2 feet in diameter, you can grow them on your patio.  To construct for a patio, fist fold a heavy contractor bag into about 1/4 its size and place the cage on top of that before beginning to layer the straw and soil.   Watering is simple:  just fill a five gallon homer bucket with water and water from the top down with the entire bucket once a week.  If you don't have a homer bucket, just save an old gallon milk jug five times and water from the top down.  pour water on four spots on each side and one gallon in the middle to ensure you have thoroughly watered all the plants once a week.



White potatoes come in shades of brown, yellow, and red, with white or yellow flesh, while sweet potatoes are typically orange in color, however, are also found in yellow, purple, and red varieties. Although, in some countries, sweet potatoes are referred to as yams, they are also a different species of plant.  Yes, a yam is a sweet potato--just a different species.  They are a deeper orange.

Sweet potatoes, and white potatoes are botanically unrelated; sweet potatoes are from the Convolvulaceae plant family, while white potatoes come from the Solanaceae plant family.  White potatoes are from the nightshade family and sweet potatoes are not.  Therefore, you can eat the leaves of the sweet potato--stir-fried or fresh in salads.  However, you cannot eat the leaves of the white potato as they are poisonous. 

Sweet potatoes are planted from slips (slender vines that have sprouted from the potato).  White potatoes are planted from the eyes of a potato.  

In North Texas, sweet potatoes are planted in late April after all danger of frost is past.  White potatoes are planted the last week of February and up to middle of March.  Their harvest time coincides with that of the planting time for sweet potatoes. It can be argued that the sweet potato provides more food than the white potato because you can eat the leaves of the sweet potato throughout its long growing season from May until the end of October.




Unbelievable but this is true.  It is time to directly seed some crops now.  According to Texas AgriLife, crops to be directly seeded in the garden in January and into February include beets, carrots, spinach, Swiss chard, collards, lettuce, mustard, radish and turnips. Start vegetable indoors now for planting later this winter and early spring – broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, lettuce, and parsley.

I hope you all had a wonderful 2022 and will have an even more spectacular 2023 in the garden and in the rest of your lives as well.

More news of gardens. . .

I'll step out and make a prediction:  More people than ever before will be trying their hand at growing some of the food they eat.  If you need an incentive, all you need to do is visit a grocery store and look at the prices. Already from my grand Okra project from last year, we now know that you can grow enough over $800 worth of fresh okra from 8 five-gallon buckets right here in North Texas.  The locals in Garland will have the opportunity to try their hands at this in April of this year.  We are planning a special Earth Day project with our local librarians.  Among other things we will be showing folks how to grow okra from a five-gallon bucket.

Just the other day, we at Loving Garland Green discovered that some generous soul had left a huge sack of quality seeds.  How huge?  608 packets of vegetable seeds--everything you can imagine: herbs, carrots, greens, tomatoes, pepper, pumpkin, squash etc. At an average of $3.00 a packet, we figured the value of this gift is $1,809.  Thank you whomever you are.  The seeds were packaged to be used by December 2022 but any gardener worth their salt will tell you that the viability of most seeds is far longer than one year.  So we will have plenty of seeds to give away this spring. 

Speaking of Things to Look Forward To . . .

This morning I woke up with an inspiration for a grand project.  My grandmother and namesake who lived to be 96 told me that the secret to living a long life is to always make sure that you have something to look forward to.  One of the things she did was to order free stuff from magazine ads and also to purchase things that way and from the Sears catalog.  No greater friend of the mailman than my Grannie.  She often waited on her front porch for his arrival. Those of you who are too young to know:  In the 50's and 60's and. 70's and likely before, but I don't know about that--enticing coupons were often featured in magazines and the newspapers. You filled out your name and address and got something free in the mail which more often than not was a further advertisement for some product that you had to purchase.  Cereal products also had their own version:  save a bunch of coupons from their cereal boxes and you could mail them in and get merchandise in return.  It is really just a more primitive version of shopping on the Internet.

Here is a version of one of the most popular coupons from the 50's and 60's. "DRAW ME".

Sorry I got sidetracked with my reminiscing--that happens with us old folks.  I am writing a book that will be published in 12 volumes.  Its title:  Ten Years of Gardening in North Texas and Life that Happened in Between.

Volume I

Ten Januarys of Gardening and Life In Between- 2013 - 2023

Volume II

Ten Februarys of Gardening and Life in Between - 2013 - 2023