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SPRING FEVER HAS HIT ME


How do I know? A few days ago, I bought a seed starting tray.  I know it was not a sustainable action on my part--consumerism at its worst--purchasing plastic. I just wanted to try them and I promise I’ll keep the tray for as long as I live. And it is supposedly recyclable plastic so if/when I’m done with it I’ll chop it up into tiny pieces and use it to aerate soil in my garden.  Also, I have saved those awful Styrofoam containers that eggs come in that Charlie bought without thinking.  I’ll use them also for the rest of my life to start seeds in. Why the rest of my life? Let's talk about the half-life of those egg cartons. Basically, this is the time required for half of a reactant to be depleted or to decompose and decay. The half-life of those Styrofoam egg cartons is 500 years. Scary fact: almost 30 percent of landfills are Styrofoam and polystyrene.  What a horrible legacy we are leaving our children.

 

Say what you will about the Internet and social media.  I love it.  No. I don’t love the censorship of the corporate owners but I love the community.  Social media brings the whole world right into our homes.  It enables us to establish relationships with people halfway around the world.  We can learn what ordinary people just like us think about things and best of all, we are exposed to new ideas and new ways of thinking that we would not have otherwise known about. Of course, I don’t agree with all that I read and that’s OK.  It’s good to abide by the old adage of “take what you need and can use an disregard the rest.”

 

Well look at me!  I got off my beaten path and onto my soapbox--an easy thing for me to do considering what is happening in the world today.  For now, I’ll get back to the topic for this post which is seed starting.  A few weeks ago, I saw a video where someone cut up a strawberry and planted pieces of it which in turn sprouted into strawberry plants.  I’ve never started strawberry plants from seed so I decided to give it a go.  We have a large strawberry tower at the Garland Community Garden.  I think it holds about 35 plants.  Last year strawberry plants cost $5.98 each.  You can see how expensive that gets.  This year they will probably cost $8 each.  I’ll keep you posted if they sprout.

 

I’ll tell you something else I do:  I can’t stand to plant seeds in the ground and then there are bare spots where some don’t germinate so. . . I always start seeds in a wet paper towel in a baggy. Then, the ones that germinate I plant either in a little pot to transplant or right into the ground.  Don’t pay attention to the dates on the seed packages as seeds are more often than not viable many years beyond that date.  Start some from last years seed packets and you’ll see what I mean.  And you’ll also have a great lesson in learning to not believe everything you read.

 

Another seed lesson:  Your best seeds will most often be those that come from successful plants that you have grown in your garden.  They are tried and true for your particular environment.

 

One last note before I post all the related photos:  If you live in Garland Texas and need mulch for your urban garden, we have plenty to share down at the Garland Community Garden. There was a misunderstanding between me and a generous fellow from Encore Electric.  He asked if we need some mulch.  I said yes but only two loads full.  To date it looks like we have about five loads down there.  Please wait until it stops raining and dries up a bit before driving down there as we don’t want deep ruts.  But you can come and take what you need for your garden.

 

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MUSTARD GREEN HARVEST GARLAND COMMUNITY GARDEN!

10 AM to NOON

Saturday November 18, 2023

I will be at the Garland Community Garden for two hours on Saturday  to guide those who want to harvest Mustard Greens.  Normally we ask people to not harvest from the garden.  However as long as I'm down there, I can direct you to the beds that can be harvested.  Otherwise, out of respect to the other gardeners, we ask you to not harvest unless a member of Loving Garland Green is down there to direct you to the beds where we might make exceptions on occasions such as this.

You will need to bring:

1. Scissors

2. a bag for your greens.

Also, I will supervise folks who want to make cuttings of a few herbs such as oregano.  You can put these is water and they will root and grow in a sunny spot on a window sill in your kitchen.

In late September I threw some mustard and collard green seeds around the garden.  I didn't expect the great result that resulted. Many of these greens will be gone with the first heavy frost we have.  Of course the Kale and Collards are more hardy.  Our  first killing frost is usually around the 21st of November.  I would hate to see all these lovely greens go to waste.

If you've never eaten greens, now might be a good time to try some.

HOW DO YOU COOK THEM?

Mustard Greens

PREP TIME. 10 mins

COOK TIME. 15 mins

TOTAL TIME. 25 mins

SERVINGS  4 servings

Ingredients

1/2 cup thinly sliced onions

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced I don’t like garlic

1 pound mustard greens, washed, large stems removed, leaves torn into large pieces

2 to 3 tablespoons chicken broth, or vegetable broth

1/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper
Sautee onions in olive oil

Add mustard greens and broth.  Cook until barely wilted.  Remove from heat. Toss with sesame oil Season salt and pepper.  Calorie per serving 79.  4g fat, 9g carb. 4g protein

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Greens make a great side dish.

This is a classic Sicilian side dish using greens. Of course, I skip the garlic because I don’t like garlic. 

It's made with leafy greens that you sauté with garlic in olive oil and toss with toasted pine nuts and raisins. The result is sweet, savory, salty, spicy and just a little bitter.

I often use dinosaur kale (aka Lacinato or Tuscan kale) but you could easily use collard greens, mustard or turnip greens, or spinach. Any leafy green will do. It takes less than 10 minutes to cook.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 bunch kale, chard, collards, or turnip greens, etc., about 1 pound, tough stem centers removed (if any) and discarded, greens chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Roughly 1/4 cup dry white wine (can sub water with a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Toast Pine Nuts in skillet.  Add Olive oil.  Wilt the greens. Add the greens and mix well. Sauté, stirring often, until the greens wilt and begin to give up some of their water, anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes for spinach to 4 to 5 minutes for collards or kale. Add the nuts, raisins, salt, and red pepper flakes:

Stir in the nuts and raisins, and sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes

Add the white wine:

Use a little more wine if you are cooking collards, and less if you are cooking spinach. Toss to combine and let the liquid boil away. Once the liquid boils off, remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can also see some of our lovely self-seeded Zinnias scattered throughout the garden.  I'll also have a few of their seeds to give away.

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OH MY GOSH!

It's been three months since I posted. I don't know about you, but I've been too busy trying to keep everything, including myself and Charlie, alive in this awful heat.  This  has been the year of the tomato for me and the Garland Community Garden. We've had quite a harvest of tomatoes. As for Okra?  Well it is just now at the first of August beginning to produce even a little.  To say that okra pods are as scarce as hen's teeth  would be giving it too much credit.  Below is a photo of okra growing in an 8, five-gallon bucket holder that Charlie made. As you can see, the plants are nothing to brag about.  We also have some okra growing in a few of our flower beds.



Basil, unlike okra,  has thrived this year although now it is breaking out into blossom. [If you deadhead the blossoms, your basil will continue to bush out as you can see from this plant I have growing in my front yard.  I have been diligent about snipping off its flowers}.  

Basil plant is three feet tall and 72 inches in circumference.  

Zinnias have done well this year and are still looking beautiful.  In the background is our small orchard/woodland forest garden.  Our peach trees have really taken off this year.  I estimate that so far we have gotten four bushels and there are about as many left on the trees.  I should have gotten out and pull off a few peaches earlier on in the season but was too busy.  However, this year I did finally spray as I should have 1) when dormant 2) when buds break out and 3) right after the blossoms fall.  I used Neem oil.  Low and behold, we have lots of peaches, large ones, and worms are only in a very few of them--less than 5%.

Above is a closeup of one of the branches of one of our four peach trees.  As you can see, it is laden with fruit--so heavy that the branches are bent to the ground.

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 MOTHER'S DAY -- A GREAT DAY TO VISIT THE GARLAND COMMUNITY GARDEN!

Jane is a former president of Loving Garland Green and a current board member. Because of the generous donations of Jane and her husband, Bob, the Garland Community Garden has been able to continue as Jane and Bob have been footing the major part of the bill for our water for the past five years. Jane’s mother was an avid gardener as well as many other things.  This story is about her and a tribute to her memory.

Laura Link Allison was born on July 18, 1930, in Shreveport, LA to the late Horace Richmond Allison, Sr. and Laura Lesby Elona Link Allison. She graduated from Carthage High School as Valedictorian of the Class of 1947. [That must be where Jane got her smarts as she grew up to be a microbiologist.]  Laura attended Texas Women’s University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree and later worked towards a post-graduate degree. She also studied for a summer at the Merrill Palmer Institute for Child and Family Development in Detroit, MI. Laura earned a Master’s Degree in Education at Stephen F. Austin State University. She enjoyed a long teaching career at Milford, Carthage, and Beckville school districts as well as Stephen F. Austin State University before retirement. Laura married Henry Grady Shivers, Jr. on Aug. 24, 1951, at the First Methodist Church in Carthage.

Laura was very skilled and thoroughly enjoyed many types of sewing, embroidery, garments, smocking, tatting, and heirloom sewing. She was an excellent cook and truly enjoyed perusing cookbooks. Laura was very generous with her family and her community. She was dearly loved and is fondly remembered by all. Like many mothers, Laura made a difference in the lives of many--from the children she taught to the adults in her community.

Laura, like many of her generation, knew the importance of saving seeds, and save them she did. Jane recently came across a baggie of seeds that her mother had carefully labeled “German Butter Bean (Vining, Pole) Heirlooms (Maybe Alabama Black-eyed Butter beans -1997.

Yes, the seeds were 26 years old. Jane gave them to me and I decided to plant them.  I planted five of the seeds and one of them germinated.  I gave that one to Jane. There were twenty seeds left so I decided to plant them (two to a small pot).  So far eight of these seeds have germinated.

 

I created a plot for them at the Garland Community Garden yesterday in memory of Jane’s mother, and all gardening mothers as well as all seed savers of the world.

Seed savers are important people and Heirloom, open pollinated seeds are the only kinds of seeds worth saving. In the final analysis, if gardeners only chose hybrid and GMO seeds, our food source (seeds) will totally be in control of a few people.  Some say that we are headed in that direction.  I’m sorry to say, but the evidence does seem to be pointing that way.  Since 1903 we have lost 93 percent of heirloom varieties such as these seeds that Laura saved.

The world needs more gardeners, more heirloom plants and more people like Laura to save the seeds and continue to plant them year after year. 

Thank you, Laura.  You did your part and more.

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Growing Edibles and Seed Saving in 2023--News from the Garland Community Garden

This seems is the year for successfully growing things from seed for me and many of us at the Garland Community Garden.  My most successful story are butter bean seeds saved from 1997 that germinated.  I don’t know if it is a law but seed packets always have an expiration selling date which is usually December of the year you purchase them.

Expiration dates are used on seed packaging as a measure of the likelihood that the seeds will be viable. Depending upon the type of seeds, environmental conditions, and the manner in which the seeds have been stored, the germination rate of older seed packets may be greatly impacted. The best storage conditions for seed packets require a dark, dry, and cool location. For this reason, many growers choose to store plant seeds in airtight jars in places such as refrigerators or in cellars or basements. Many may also add rice grains to the jars to discourage the presence of moisture.

ABOUT SEEDS

There are three general types of seeds: Open Pollinated (heirloom), Hybrid (F1) and GMO.

Open pollinated (OP) seeds are naturally pollinated by wind and bees.  These are seeds of value to be saved from your healthiest plants and replanted. Preserving an heirloom means growing it out, maintaining the variety and sharing its seeds with as many growers as possible.

Hybrid (F1) seeds come from two inbred open pollinated parents bred for specific characteristics.  For example, most of the tomatoes you buy in the chain grocery stores have tough skins.  This is because they were grown from hybrid seed that was developed to create tougher skins for tomatoes so they could still look good after traveling the average 1,500 miles to the shelf in the grocery store.

GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) are typically hybrid plants whose DNA is artificially altered to tolerate higher levels of pesticides/herbicides. n the final analysis, if gardeners only chose hybrid and GMO seeds, our food source (seeds) would totally be in control of a few people.  Some say that we are headed in that direction.  I’m sorry to say, but the evidence does seem to be pointing that way.  Seed banks have not prevented the loss of 93 percent of heirloom varieties since 1903.

SEED SAVING BUTTER BEANS FROM 1997

The mother of Jane Stroud (board member of Loving Garland Green) saved seeds from some butter bean plants she grew in 1997--26 years ago.  Jane gave them to me in the early spring just for the heck of it.   I planted about five of them and one germinated.  Then a few weeks ago I decided to plant the rest about 10 to 12 in all.  The results are stupendous.  So far, 8 of them have germinated.  I’ll make a special plot for them in the garden along with a sign telling their story and the story of Jane’s mother.

 

UPCOMING EVENT AT THE CENTRAL LIBRARY EXPRESS

 On May 20, Loving Garland Green will be presenting a Container Gardening Class at the Temporary Location for the downtown Nicholson Library.  The temporary location is at the little building (former Women's Building) across the parking lot from the Central Library. It's called "Central Library Express." And has a large sign to identify it.  You must sign up for the class.  Participants will each get a five-gallon bucket filled with amended soil and an okra transplant. You must sign up at the library prior to attending the event as class is limited.

In preparation for the class, I’ve planted Okra seeds saved from plants grown at the Garland Community Garden last year.

 

DO YOU KNOW WHAT TOMATO SUCKERS ARE?

 Tomato suckers are small shoots, or leaves, that sprout out from where the stem and the branch of a tomato plant meet. Although relatively harmless to the plant, suckers don't serve much of a purpose. They can, however, draw energy away from the main stems, decreasing tomato growth so most avid gardeners pinch them off.  I just recently learned that you can plant these suckers in potting mix and grow new tomato plants for the fall.  I tried it and it looks like they are surviving.  I’ll pinch a few more off in mid-June as that is getting closer to the time to start growing tomato seedlings for the fall. 




Tomato Suckers grow  right in the middle of the "v" formed by two branches.  You can break them off
near to the joint and plant them in potting soil to grow more tomato plants.

 

SPEAKING OF SEEDS. . .

Some kind soul left several hundred seed packets of heirloom seeds at the garden--all with a last date of December 2022.  We’ve been sharing them with LGG members and others in the community.  One of our members, Margie Rodgers, has planted close to 100 heirloom tomato plants from these seeds, many of which are now growing down at the garden.  In addition, she has shared with others in the community.  I planted and have growing about 10 snow pea plants at the garden.  So far, they have produced over 20 large servings of delicious snow peas.

As transplants become more expensive by the year, seeds and especially locally saved seeds become the best and most economical choice for gardeners.

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Apr 20 @ 6:39 pm

HOW TO CELEBRATE EARTH DAY?

Come to the Garland Community Garden and listen to the sounds of the garden.

We need to do much more than pay attention to the earth for one day. Honoring Earth Day this Saturday can be a beginning.
 
Do you feel generally happier and more peaceful when you’re out in nature, away from noise, traffic jams, and neon lights? It is not just that you left the city behind. Or that you’re a person who likes nature. In nature, you more easily tune into the Earth’s frequency and can restore, revitalize, and heal itself more effectively.
 
The Earth behaves like a gigantic electric circuit. Its electromagnetic field surrounds and protects all living things with a natural frequency pulsation of 7.83 hertz on average — the so-called “Schumann resonance,” named after physicist Dr. Winfried Otto Schumann, who predicted it mathematically in 1952.
 
When viewed through the lens of mythology, rather than the theories of science, many origin stories depict a living world that is conceived in sound with each thing having its own vibration. In the beginning was the sound that became the song of the earth, which continues in the whispering of the trees, in the winged nation of birds singing in the skies and in the mysterious incantations of whales in the oceans deep. If you've ever walked through an Aspen forest and listened to the song of its leaves, or walked in a garden and heard the flutter of wings, you know this.
 
I've been writing haikus for a few years.  Tonight, to honor upcoming Earth Day on Saturday, I wrote my 31st poem.  If I live long enough and get to my 100th haiku, I'll publish a book of them

I wrote a Haiku tonight in honor of Earth Day and took a photo of my lettuce bed at the Garland Community Garden to illustrate it.

listen to the sounds

of large lettuce whispering

wisdom to deaf ears

 

             Photo taken April 20, 2023 Garland Community Garden - E Berry
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BIOPLASTICS

Bioplastics are a type of plastic that can be made from natural resources such as vegetable oils and starches. Since bioplastics are plant-based products, the consumption of petroleum for the production of plastic is expected to decrease by 15–20% by 2025.

FROM AVOCADO PITS TO BIOPLASTIC KNIVES, FORKS AND SPOONS

Last year, Americans consumed over 6 billion avocados - leaving behind mounds of inedible pits. Now a company in Mexico created a method to transform avocado waste into “bioplastic” - which breaks down fast and requires less fossil fuels to produce.

HERE IS ANOTHER RECYCLE STORY NEAR TO MY HEART: RECYCLED COFFEE GROUNDS.

Kaffeeform in Berlin, Germany makes coffee cups from spent grounds.  The cups are 100% recyclable.

Charlie and I go around to various coffee shops in the area periodically to gather their spent coffee grounds. We use them for fertilizer in the Garland Community Garden. Each trip to about five shops yields on average 150 pounds--quite a lot, especially if you consider this is usually only from five shops AND it is only about a 10th of their day as we usually gather them at 9AM.

KEEPING IT SIMPLE NOTES ON ADDING COFFEE GROUNDS TO YOUR COMPOST BIN

Put coffee grounds in your compost bin. There are two types of compost material: brown and green. Your coffee grounds may be brown in color, but in compost jargon they are green material, meaning an item that is rich in nitrogen. Coffee grounds are approximately 1.45 percent nitrogen. They also contain magnesium, calcium, potassium, and other trace minerals. Other green compost materials include food scraps and grass clippings.
 
Adding coffee grounds and used paper coffee filters to your compost will provide green compost material. However, it must be balanced with brown compost material, which includes dry leaves and newspapers. There should be a 4-to-1 ratio of brown compost material to green compost material. If you have too much green material your compost pile will start to smell. If you don't have enough, the compost pile won't heat up.
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April 16, 2023 in the Garland Community Garden with Ahmet Cetinkaya, his father and Vijval Byagari and his father


A Big THANK YOU to the Helping Hands in the Garden Today!

One of the many nice things about being a steward for a community garden is that you get to meet nice people of all ages and backgrounds. This afternoon was such a day. Ahmet Cetinkaya and Vijval Byagari came to the garden today to volunteer two work hours to the garden.  Both boys attend Harmony Science Academy here in Garland and both are members of the National Elementary Honors Society. Students who excel academically and model exceptional responsibility can become members through a local selection process that concludes with induction into the school’s National Elementary Honor Society chapter.  Membership provides an outstanding means to prepare and shape students for their middle level and high school experiences

Vijval Byagari and Amet Cetinkaya are good friends and both play soccer.  Today at the garden, Vijval wore his National Elementary Honor Society shirt and Amet wore his Rodolfo shirt. [Rodolfo is a Soccer player from Portugal.]
 

Vijval is 11 and Amet will be 11 in July.  While chatting with them, I learned they are involved in other community services as well. For example, twice a month they help make sandwiches for the homeless at On the Border and at Boomer Jack’s.

Today the boys chopped weeds and watered the entire garden.  If you’ve been down there, you know that’s saying a lot as it takes one person almost two hours to water it all. Both boys are absolutely great--not because they are so intelligent, although there is that, but because they are both obviously endearingly kind.  Intelligent and kind is an unbeatable combination.  Vijval is trilingual and Amet is bilingual.  Both boys were born in the USA.  Amet’s parents are from Turkey and Vijval’s parents are from India.

Elementary National Honor Students from Harmony Science Academy in Garland, Texas: Amet and Vijval give lessons in weed chopping and garden watering.
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APRIL 14 IS NATIONAL GARDENING DAY!

Celebrate this weekend by visiting the Garland Community Garden.

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UPDATE FROM THE GARLAND COMMUNITY GARDEN

Yesterday afternoon I spent a few hours in the garden putzing around.
 
Our garden is different from most community gardens in several ways: Every bed is different. [Some are pots and some are plots. Some are wooden box raised beds, some are lasagna beds, some are keyhole gardens, some beds grow vegetables and some beds grow food for pollinators.]
 
Our garden is located on a flood plain between a riparian area and a meadow. We are a certified wildlife habitat with a resident owl, several cardinals and a bluebird and at least one coyote who lived in the woods that we share a border with. Feral cats also often visit the garden. In the early spring people from our Asian community come to harvest new bamboo shoots. We have several chairs and two picnic tables. Many people have told us that our garden is a special, magical place and I know just what they mean. Families come down to look at our plants, read our signs and have picnics.
 
I helped to establish it in 2014 with several other people and I'm so glad I did.  Our mission is to encourage people in our community to grow some of the food they eat because we know of all the great benefits they and their families will get when they do this.  That is one of the reasons our garden features a variety of gardening places--from traditional in the ground plots to pots made from recycled containers.
 

A FEW PHOTOS FROM YESTERDAY IN THE GARDEN:

BECOMING:  They may not look like it now, but the photo on the left shows  California giant zinnias that will bloom from June to November.
Cactus leaves or Nopales have sprouted all over the cactus in the Medicine Wheel. After they mature into full grown leaves people can eat them as a vegetable. Nopales have a moist crunchy texture with with a slightly slimy texture similar to okra. In terms of flavor, they are tart, with a slightly citrusy taste.
 
 
COMMON MILKWEED (Asclepias Syriaca). Our milkweed bed for the Monarchs is coming to life.  This plant is a perennial and its leaves are the only ones that the so-called milkweed butterflies will lay their eggs on.  The Monarch butterfly is a member of that exclusive club. The Black Swallowtail butterfly, of which we have plenty, lays its eggs on plants of the carrot family which includes fennel.  We also have plenty of fennel and carrots planted at the garden.
 
 
 
 
LETTUCE, KALE, CILANTRO - This has been a great spring for lettuce and cilantro--The best I remember.
Our greens patch would make Mr. McGregor jealous.
 
 
EXPERIMENTS IN ACTION - In the photo on the left we have a yellow plastic cup that is covered in vaseline.  The idea is that aphids and gnats and other pests will fly into and get trapped.  We will monitor it carefully to ensure that we don't trap too many pollinators.  But, if we have as many aphids as we did last year, there won't be room for any pollinators.  Just above the yellow cup is a pot with a huge sage  growing in it.  The photo on the right shows a trellis for zucchini plants that I installed yesterday.  It is a cattle panel (4 x 7 feet) folded in half and  wired to two T-poles..