What a Difference a Day Makes!
Flowers in my yard December 6 and December 7
Those of us who live in the DFW area live in Hardiness Zone 8a, which means that we can expect temperatures here to plunge to 10 to 15 degrees at least once each winter. Thus, by the end of the first week in December we have had our first killing frost and most of the plants in our gardens are looking sad.
Still like other aspects of our lives, we are left with the memories of what once was and the dreams and hopes of what is to come in the new year. For the gardener this means remembering what grew well last year and dreaming about where you will grow those plants the coming year in your garden. Of course, it is also in December when all the beautiful seed catalogs begin to arrive to cheer us up.
Citizen Science Report from North Garland High School's Experimental Garden Plot
In 2017 Jane Stroud, President of Loving Garland Green, did a fabulous job of keeping records of our harvest from the Garland Community Garden—especially records of our joint Citizen Science project with students from North Garland High School Environmental Club. The student’s experimental bed was a space of approximately 100 square feet—about the size of a family garden in the back or front yard of the average Garland home. The students tended the bed from April to the end of May and Loving Garland Green (mostly Jane) took over from June through September. The experiment for 2017 officially ended the last Saturday in October with the harvesting of sweet potatoes. [Even though vegetables such as turnips, kale, and broccoli are still producing in the plot.] We wanted to see how much produce it was possible to grow in one average-sized Garland vegetable garden. The vegetables grown included, several varieties of peppers, okra, turnips, squash, pole beans, tomatoes, parsley, oregano, two varieties of eggplant, radishes, sweet potatoes, mustard greens, kale and collard greens.
According to Jane’s careful records, the student’s bed produced 143 pounds of produce at a total estimated savings after expenses of $276.26. Loving Garland Green donated 95 pounds of the produce from this bed to the Garland Good Samaritans. In the rest of our garden at large, we estimate that we raised over 600 pounds of produce at an estimated dollar value of approximately $2,000 or more. Over 50% of this produce was also donated to charity. All of the food grown at the garden is organically grown which increases market value 2 to 4 times.
Food is expensive. We weighed 70 pounds of blackberries from the garden this year. However additional poundage was picked and eaten by visitors. We have 32 blackberry plants in our garden. The four in my yard, which I do keep close records on, produce 80 pounds a year. At an annual average of $3 for six ounces of organic blackberries, the value for just the 70 pounds from this one crop alone at the Garland Community Garden for 2017 is $558.00. Next year I promise to keep closer and more accurate records of our blackberry harvest. I estimate that harvest to be close to 200 pounds.
Based on four years experience: here are my choices for what grows well in Garland
1. Pole beans – Even if you don’t have a lot of space you can easily grow pole beans in a large pot with a trellis. Pole beans are prolific producers—from mid June to the first frost. The organic varieties we chose included Kentucky Wonder and Italian flat green beans.
2. Blackberries – We prefer the thornless variety, as they are not as invasive as those with thorns. You can pull up and pot replant those errant plants, or you can also sell them. Nurseries charge $7 to $10 for a 12-inch bare root stick. Average yearly price for blackberries is $3 for six ounces and they freeze well. I especially like blackberries because they are drought tolerant perennials that produce year after year. I have four vines in my yard that faithfully produce 80 pounds of blackberries each year. This amounts to an average annual value of $639. Blackberries (if you like them) are the best garden investment for those living in the DFW area.
3. Kale, once established (if you can keep the tender seedlings away from the squirrels) will produce and produce.
4. Sweet Potatoes—particularly if you harvest and eat the leaves throughout the summer are a good investment. Because of our heavy clay soil, I recommend you grow them in large pots filled with amended loose soil. In addition to being an edible, they will look pretty on a patio or deck from June to the end of October when they are harvested. Unlike the white or red potatoes, sweet potatoes do not belong to the nightshade family. Thus their leaves are edible and delicious in salads and stir-fries.
1. Lantana is great. It is a hardy drought tolerant perennial that blooms from June to December. Stick it in the ground and it grows.
2. Zinnias are my favorite flower for a pollinator garden. They start blooming in late June and bloom up through the first frost. They come in all sizes. I prefer the giant ones. Zinnias are heat and drought tolerant.
3. Wild Senna- This herb is not often mentioned for pollinator gardens but it is great. The large yellow blooms begin in late July and last through the middle of October. In fact, I like this plant so much I harvested seed from the one we have growing at the Garland Community Garden that I plan to give to friends as a Christmas present.
GETTING READY FOR CHRISTMAS
Among my stocking stuffers this year will be seed packets from plants that I’ve successfully grown in Garland. Nothing says dependability quite like locally sourced seeds. I’m making my own seed packets. Below is one for Wild Senna—a great plant for pollinator gardens!