Yes, It is official!  I am an okra fanatic.  We have 40 okra plants at the Garland Community Garden and I planted 25 of them.  Here are some facts about Okra in Texas:

1.  Even though the onion is our state vegetable, if I were queen, I would assign that honor to Okra for many reasons, not the least of which is because okra is far more nutritious than the onion.  But onions clearly make more money than Okra.  According to Aggie horticulture, ONIONS are Texas' leading vegetable crop. Onion sales bring the state between $70 and $100 million per year and the onion industry has an overall impact of about $350 million per year on the Texas economy. Most of the sweet yellow onions, which people all over the world enjoy because you can "eat them like an apple", can trace their origin to the Lone Star state.

However if nutrition and not profit are to be the guidelines, Okra wins hands down and it’s much easier to grow than onions or tomatoes.

2.  Every part of the Okra plant is edible--the leaves, flowers and the pods of the Okra plant. If you want to derive full nutritional value from almost any vegetable, eat it raw.  Now picture this at your next Texas barbecue:  You serve them a green salad made with okra leaves, chopped okra pods and garnished with okra flowers.


3.  Okra can be eaten raw, fried, or boiled.  It can easily be preserved by slicing and freezing.

Admittedly, getting a Texan to eat a raw okra pod might have a difficulty level approaching that of trying to get a Baptist to genuflect but it can be done as I’m living proof that a real Texan can be convinced to eat a raw okra pod.  I did and they are delicious--crunchy and good.  I also tried an okra leaf  today and they are at least as tasty as lettuce.  I have yet to devour a blossom but that adventure will come soon.  There is just something about eating a flower that seems dangerously close to being a cannibal.


4. Okra  produces well and even thrives in poor soil and even under drought conditions.  You don’t have to baby it.  You don’t need a vegetable garden to grow it. You can grow it in 5-gallon pots.  It’s OK if you forget to water it for days in a row.  It’s OK if you forget to cut it for a few days as you can dry out the too-large-to-eat fibrous pods and paint them for Christmas ornaments.  Okra is the most forgiving vegetable that I know.




Carl Hunt’s weekly compost donation is responsible for three plants and about 30 butternut squashes this spring and early summer.  And, seeds from one of the 3o squashes has this fall produced 36 plants that may in turn produce 360 butternut squashes in our fall garden at the Garland Community Garden


Seeds Are the Basic Building Block for all Life and the Garden is the best place to learn and appreciate their value. 

What we do matters very much and our actions, like planted seeds, often grow larger than we may ever realize.  Sometimes, however, we are lucky enough to see the influence of another and tell them of our appreciation.  Today was such a day for me.

Carl Hunt has been coming down to the Garland Community once a week for at least the past three years to bring his weekly spent vegetables and coffee grounds for our compost.  It’s a  small amount.  Most would not bother. 

Then one day last spring several of us noticed what we thought was a pumpkin vine growing out of the compost box where Carl deposits his compost.  Several of us took the sprouts and transplanted them elsewhere in the garden.  I believe there were three vines in all, but I kept track of one of the vine’s produce.  From that one vine I counted 10 butternut squashes.  There may have been more, but there were at least 10 from that one vine.

During the first week in September, I planted some seeds from one of these squashes from that vine.  Thirty-six plants germinated.  I have transplanted 10 of these to various beds in the garden and will thin out about 10 more from the 26 remaining.  If all 36 plants live and produce 10 squashes each, that will be a total of 360 squashes from the seed of one squash that originated from Carl’s compost.

Today I just happened to be in the garden watering when Carl came down with the weekly compost from his kitchen.  I asked him if he ate butternut squash and thus brought the rinds and seeds with his compost to the garden. He told me that indeed he often purchased butternut squash from Whole Foods and brought their remains to the garden.

I told him the Butternut Squash story;  His compost has literally given our garden 30 butternut squashes and now 36 butternut squash plants that have the very real potential of yielding 360 more butternut squashes. 



Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata), known in Australia and New Zealand as butternut pumpkin or gramma, is a type of pumpkin or winter squash that grows on a vine. It has a sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin. It has tan-yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp with a compartment of seeds in the blossom end. When ripe, it turns increasingly deep orange, and becomes sweeter and richer.

Yes, seeds and people are powerful forces! Multiply 360 squashes times 2 cups  (average yield from one squash) and you get 720 servings of the following nutrition:

One cup = 82 calories; 22 grams of carbs; 2 grams protein; 457% daily requirement for Vitamin A [Vitamin A is essential for regulating cell growth, eye health, bone health, and immune function]; 52% daily requirement for Vitamin C.




Gifts under the Tree in September?

Yes, if it's a pecan tree in the Garland Community garden.

When Charlie and I went down to water the garden yesterday, what to our wondering eyes under one of the large pecan trees should appear was not a sleigh with eight tiny reindeer but two lovely wire mesh chairs, a matching table and a vintage wooden box--left by whom we don't know, but that doesn't stop us from saying thank you.  THANK YOU.

The Vintage Wooden Box Found a Use

It is now home to four Collard Green plants.  The bottom of the box is very thin wood that was also cracked in places, unsuitable for carrying things so we made it into a planter and placed in in our Children’s Garden area.


Thinking about the Garland Community Garden and Garland People: “Keep the Garland Community Garden Weird”

Charlie and I had to test the chairs and yes, we can attest to their ability to bear weight and comfort.  As we sat there, surrounded by the garden all around us, I thought about how our garden should borrow from an Austin moniker and pronounce:  “Keep the Garland Community Garden Weird.”  As far as community gardens go, our garden is weird.  We have few requirements for our beds except that we recommend they are accessible to the gardener from all sides and that from at least one side you can reach to the middle of the bed without stepping into the bed.  People can put wood around their beds or not.  You can even have pots for your garden plot if you like.  Our mission is to encourage people to grow some of the food they eat.

In addition to our general lack of uniformity, our garden is open to visitors (with same hours as our Garland Parks) and many people visit our garden to walk around and also just to sit under the shade of a pecan tree. One man I know comes there at least once a week to eat his lunch.  It is very comforting to be around trees that are older than you are.  Most community gardens have strict bed requirements and no shade.  Many  of them are gated and access is only allowed to members.  Our garden has no fences (except the small ones to keep rabbits out).  Yes, we want to keep our Garland Community Garden weird and inviting--a place where people can come to and remember who they really, a place with soul for connecting with real life and growing things.



I am now a modified version of Elmer Fudd and Mr. McGregor

In addition to watering yesterday, I was also beginning my first battle in 7 years with critters in the garden. I came armed with 25 feet of chicken wire. some 3 ft rebar and tie-wraps along with Broccoli and Collard Green plants.  [I don’t go in for the violent solutions of Fudd and McGregor.]  The broccoli patch is now secure with 20 broccoli plants.

I don’t mind sharing with rabbits, but like some people, they don’t know when to stop.  Two weeks ago, I planted 12 broccoli transplants.   They left 4 plants.  The other eight  plants are nothing but a stem.  Raccoons are much more reasonable.  A few years ago, I planted a lot of corn that yielded 50 ears.  Raccoons got 10 of them.


Seed from Seeds ‘n Such finally arrived!

You may recall a few weeks ago I planted two metal beds with seeds I had gotten from Johnny’s Seeds. (The beds were also a gift left by another unknown community Santa Claus).  They are now seedlings that are almost ready for thinning.  Yesterday the other seeds arrived.  I’ll plant them today to finish the crop planting for these two beds.  The Komatsuna (Japanese Mustard Spinach) is of particular interest to me.  Mustard grows really well in North Texas, but it has very strong taste so a little of it goes a long way.  Komatsuna Mustard Spinach supposed to taste like Spinach with a zest of mustard. If this is true and if it grows as well as mustard does in North Texas, it will be great.

Speaking of seeds, at our fall festival for gardeners last Sunday, Pam Swendig, Executive Director of Good Samaritan of Garland, stopped by with a large box of seed packets.  I’ll be finding a good home for some of them in the Garden as I’m sure the folks will who attended our event.  Thank you Pam!  We appreciate all that you and the Good Sam volunteers do for the homeless in our community.  If you have time on your hands, join the volunteers at the Good Samaritans of Garland and tell that I sent you.








Unfortunately it seems that many of our city parks in the USA put too much emphasis on fields for aggressive sports activities and not enough emphasis on nature and the importance of growing things which teach the values of patience, humility and respect and awe for the natural world.  Fortunately for us in Garland we have several parks that combine both and even a few that seem entirely devoted to nature and family gatherings. And of course, we have the great Garland Community Garden.

If you live in Texas and you really love gardens, of course you should visit the Garland, Texas Community Garden--a garden that I founded in 2013 with a few good friends. It is a unique garden for many reasons.  It has all the usual  edibles found in a community garden--tomatoes, okra, broccoli, etc.  It also has many drought-tolerant plants native to other places in the world that happen to grow well in Texas with little care such as  Cardoon, jujube and Amaranth.  We also have ancient plants such as Teosinte, the mother of modern-day corn which began its history in Central America centuries ago as well as various native plants that once graced our Blackland Prairie such as inland sea oats.

Gardens are wonderful sanctuaries where people can regain peace of mind--very important places for human beings.

Texas Monthly recently published ‘A Guide to Texas Best Botanical Gardens” in the article below.  These gardens include the Amarillo Botanical Garden; The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in south Austin; The Zilker Botanical Garden, an oasis in urban Austin; The South Texas Botanical Garden and Nature Center of Corpus Christi; Fort Worth Botanic Garden; Dallas Arboretum  and Botanical Garden; El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens; also El Paso’s Chihuahuan Desert Gardens; Keystone Heritage Park’s Desert Botanical Garden located in Ft. Davis; Houston Botanic Garden; Mercer Botanic Garden (just outside Houston); The National Butterfly Center in Mission Texas; New Braunfels features a well-kept garden plot beside the home of Ferdinand Lindheimer known as the father of Texas botany  who fled Germany in 1833 when his reformist political beliefs put him at odds with his family and the German government [Not all but some gardeners are radical activists.]; Orange, Texas has the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center; In San Antonio we have the “Frida Kahlo Oasis,” the San Antonio Botanical Garden  



Always a shady spot somewhere in the garden for people to gather and chat


Such a nice celebration in one of the nicest places in Garland!  If you are looking for conformity, uniformity or status quo, then the Garland Community may not be the place for you.  However, if you are seeking the unusual, pleasant encounters, and a feeling of contentment where edges of the wild meet with those of civilization, then the Garland Community Garden is definitely a place where you will enjoy spending time.  Many use words such as “healing” and “peaceful” to describe the atmosphere of the garden--a large area with enough ancient pecan trees to provide shade somewhere in the garden all day long.

In addition to being a community garden, our surrounding wooded area is a certified National Wildlife habitat. This is one of the reasons we use no pesticide or herbicides in our garden.


A Day Filled with Happy Surprises

Most of the jujubes were eaten and the few that remained were taken home by our guests.  I had expected to bring most of them back home. People are more willing to try new food than I realized.  Even the youngsters gobbled down several.

Pam Swendig, Director of our local Good Samaritans, came bearing lots of gifts for Loving Garland Green and our guests:  a huge box of garden seeds, lots of sanitary wipes, and the promise of one of the lovely turquoise picnic tables from Good Samaritan’s. In case you don’t know the story of the turquoise picnic tables, The Turquoise Table was an unintentional movement started in Austin, Texas by Kristin Schell in 2013 and has reached homes around the globe. Today all fifty states have at least one turquoise table.  One day, Kristin decided to have the delivery service leave her picnic table in the front yard instead of the back and proceeded to paint it her favorite color, turquoise.  Kristin soon noticed that people started stopping and talking and that there were so many neighbors she had not met or did not know as well as she wished she had. The table became a social meeting place that brought together everyone and helped form a community focused on family, friends and most importantly, hospitality. Kristin realized she had stumbled upon something most Americans were missing, authentic and meaningful conversations with the people around them and their families.

I had a similar front-yard experience, oddly enough, also in the spring of  2013. I had only shade in my back yard so I decided to dig up my front lawn and plant vegetable and blackberries, along with a few peach trees and a couple of pomegranate trees.  People driving by would stop to talk to me about my work in progress.  I began counting the people who stopped and got out of their cars to talk to me.  Over the course of two months, over 150 people had stopped.  I decided we need a community garden and then on April 24, 2014 we installed our first bed at what is now the Garland Community Garden.

Young people love gardens too!


Linsey Gilbert, School Nurse at ParkCrest Elementary, Stopped by Today


Looks like Kristy is telling Linsey a  tall garden tale.

A few years ago, Linsey spearheaded the development of a wonderful school garden at ParkCrest Elementary.  She brought together many elements of community--many of our local master naturalists such as Reba Collins and David Parrish, our Garland Neighborhood Vitality Department, and members of Loving Garland Green worked with Linsey to achieve her award-winning dream. Due to a recent discovery of tainted soil, the EPA is removing the soil and will be helping Linsey to restore the garden to an even greater condition for use by teachers, students, and the surrounding community.

Kristy, the "Okra Angel" Stopped By


Kristy eats a Jujube for the first time and likes it!

Almost every time I am in the garden, I meet someone new.  This week Kristy stopped by as I was weeding a bed.  She asked if she could pick the large okra for me.  She really felt like an answer to my prayers.  It was already getting hot and I had only minutes before had the thought “Oh gosh. I have to cut okra before I leave.”  If you don’t cut okra--especially that which has grown too large, it discourages the proper development of more okra.  You really need to pick okra daily as most Texas gardeners will tell you.



We were happy to see Angela Verlah, one of our Loving Garland Green members at the Garden. Angela, originally from Africa, is one of our more enthusiastic gardeners.  She and her daughter maintain two large beds.



There are many other happy memories of the day, but I would like to close with a special thank you to the members who helped with this event:  Jane Stroud, Charles Bevilacqua, Nancy Seaberg, Margie Rodgers, Gunvat Patel (Pat).  Also, a special thank-you  to Nancy Tunell of our Garland Neighborhood Vitality department and of course to our Garland Parks and Recreation personnel who keep the meadow in front of the garden beautifully mowed



We have save a spot just for you in the shade!




Come to the Garland Community Garden for the Fall Garden Fest with lots of freebies which include common milkweed seeds as well as seeds from other plants  we have grown in 2021 as well as gifts from our own Garland Neighborhood Vitality.


Come tell others about your gardening experiences from 2021 and before. What have you been most successful at growing?  

Walk around our garden and look at all the seedlings coming up for our Fall Garden.  We have turnips, beets, butternut squash and broccoli to name a few.  You’ll also see plenty of swallowtails and Monarch butterflies.  At just about any time of day, some part of our garden is in the shade.  We have our tables and chairs set up in a shady spot.

We also have some more exotic plants growing as well:

Look for Cardoon in our Multicultural bed.


Amaranth is another ancient lovely at the garden.  The Aztecs used the grain and ate the leaves which can be an unusual addition to any salad.

We have peas reaching for the ski surrounded by giant zinnias.


We have several stands of Common Milkweed--the home for Monarch caterpillars  .

Our lemon grass is huge!


Come see our Jujube tree and try a jujube fruit.  We have many individually wrapped in plastic bags.

Search our milkweed patches and see if you can find a Monarch caterpillar.

See our two new beds that we have devoted to the Good Samaritans of Garland.




I’ve been preparing seed packets for our Gardener’s Fest on Sunday Sept 19 from 1 to 3PM.  Thus far, I have 100 seed packets (Luffa, cantaloupe, cucumber, tomato, common milkweed, and okra). I’ll also bring three very small jujube trees; some butternut squash transplants and some blackberry transplants.  All this seed packaging activity reminded me how important seed saving is and why I encourage it.


#1 Reason:  To preserve genetic diversity

Seeds have become the domain of just a few big companies. These companies focus their attention on just a few varieties of each crop. It is cost-efficient for them to focus on selling the most popular and they can more easily control their patents on a few varieties as opposed to the plethora of choices offered by nature .  As farmers and gardeners stop saving seeds, we lose more and more varieties.

Losing seed diversity makes us all more vulnerable. While we love all of our open-pollinated and heirloom varieties for many reasons, like flavor, beauty, and frost resistance, just to name a few, we might also really need a variety’s particular traits someday.  For example, if a variety develops a vulnerability to a blight, there are fewer and potentially no other varieties of that plant in existence to cross pollinate with. 

A few years ago, Texas A&M was doing experiments with cross-pollinating of varieties of corn with Teosinte, the original plant from which all modern corn comes.  Why?  Because this ancient mother of all corn is highly disease resistant.  If people had not been wise enough along the way to save seeds from Teosinte, this would not have been possible. As a food, Teosinte has little value to the modern human.  It only has 8 to 12 kernels per ear.  They are very hard. The ancient ones of Guatemala where Teosinte originated,  pounded these kernels into meal which then was made into bread.  A friend of mine who was working on these experiments gave me some Teosinte seed.  I still have some saved.  We grew it in the garden for a few years.  We’ll plant some again in 2022.

Planting seeds from Plants Grown in Your Local Area are the Best!

These plants have adapted to your local climate and weather conditions and generally have a much better chance for being healthy than those from commercial seeds.  By the way, save the seeds from your largest and healthiest plants as not all plants (and thus their seeds) are created equal.


Saving seeds is a good way to connect with your Loved ones.
If your parents or grandparents are avid gardeners, ask them to save seeds from plants they have grown.  Growing plants from these seeds is a wonderful way to feel continuity with them for generations.

Continue your education about Seed Saving on the Internet as it abounds with related information.


Be sure and mark your Calendar for this Sunday, September 19th!  From 1 to 3PM Loving Garland Green is having a garden fest at the Garland Community Garden.  Bring your seeds and plants to share along with your best garden story.  We are located at the junction of Brand and Naaman School Road in Garland 75040.


Green Bush Beans:  Plant by September 15. - 45 days to maturity {Harvesting around Halloween]

Lima Bush Beans:  Plant by September 15. -65-75 days to maturity. [About Thanksgiving]

Beets:  Plant by October 1 -  50-60 days to maturity {About Dec 1]

Broccoli:  Plant by September 30 - 60 days to maturity

Brussels Sprouts :  Plant by September 30 - 60 to 100 days to maturity

Cabbage:  Plant by September 30 - 60 to 90 days to maturity

Carrots: Plant by September 30 - 70-80 days to maturity

Cauliflower:  Plant by September 20 - 70 - 90 days to maturity

Chard Swiss:  Plant by September 15 - 45 -65 days to maturity

Collards:  Plant by September 22 - 60 to 80 days to maturity {transplants are available at nurseries now]

Kale:  Plant by September 22 - 50  to 80 days to maturity

Kohlrabi:  Plant by September 20 - 65 to 75 days to maturity

Lettuce:  Plant by September 30 - 40 to 60 days to maturity

Mustard:  Plant by September 30 - 30 to 40 days to maturity

Onion Plants:  Plant by September 15 - 80 to 120 days to maturity

Onion Seeds:  Plant by September 22 - 80 to 120 days to maturity

Parsley:  Plant by October 8 - 70 to 80 days to maturity

Peas English:  Plant by November 3 -  65-90 days to maturity

Radish:  Plant by Plant by November 17 - 25 -40 days to maturity

Spinach:  Plant by November 3 -40   to  60 days to maturity

Turnip:  Plant by November 3 - 30 to 60 days to maturity


NOTE: Your fall garden in North Texas can have even more edibles, but these should be planted in August and  definitely before the end of the first week in September:  Winter Squash (such as Butternut and Acorn Squash);  pole beans, corn, cucumber, eggplant, okra, Irish potato, pumpkin, tomato.  You can still try your luck with most of these if they are healthy transplants but seeds are not recommended.



Things are coming together as we approach the Sunday September 19th Event at the Garland Community Garden 1-3PM

I'm relieved for the rain to keep me out of the garden this morning but I've been working at my computer on some descriptions for the plants I'll be donating to our plant/seed exchange.  We will have many pots of Lemon Balm.  We have lemon balm all over the garden.  It grows well in North Texas and seems to thrive on neglect.

It was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion (including gas and bloating, as well as colic). Even before the Middle Ages, lemon balm was steeped in wine to lift the spirits, help heal wounds, and treat venomous insect bites and stings. Today, lemon balm is often combined with other calming, soothing herbs, such as valerian, chamomile, and hops, to promote relaxation. It is also used in creams to treat cold sores (oral herpes).

Native to Europe, lemon balm is grown all over the world.  The plant grows up to 2 feet high, sometimes higher if not maintained. In the spring and summer, clusters of small, light-yellow flowers grow where the leaves meet the stem. If not carefully controlled, lemon balm can quickly become invasive in the garden. Often, people mistakenly think that lemon balm is invasive due to its roots, like its cousins peppermint and spearmint, but in fact it’s the seeds of the lemon balm plant that cause this herb to suddenly take over a garden. Removing the flowers of the plant as soon as they appear will make your lemon balm far less invasive.


RECIPE:  Lemon Balm Pesto


  • 3/4 cup lemon balm leaves firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 TB lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fresh chives
  • salt and pepper to taste


1.              Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

2.              Add salt and pepper to taste.

3.              Store in an airtight container for up to one week in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer.


The first of August, or perhaps last week of July, I posted an article on regrowing Romaine Lettuce and promised you an update.  Here it is.

Now I remember.  It had been a few years since I had done this, but the second week of August I cut off the top of some Romaine Lettuce and stuck it into water to grow.  It grew great the first two weeks.  Then, I put it in soil and gradually it began to get spindly and finally during the first week of September, it bit the dust.  Perhaps the solution is to eat the leaves when it is only about five inches tall and call it "gourmet baby lettuce."

Now it looks like the one I started a week later in August is headed down the same path.  I may try it again, but this time leave it in the water.  Several years ago I tried this with celery and it grew so well that I transplanted it into the Garden where it grew really well and I harvested off it for over two months.


I have successfully grown sweet potatoes for several years.  I decided to try my luck at growing potatoes that unlike sweet potatoes, belong to the nightshade family. [Many folks don't know this but the leaves of the sweet potato can be eaten as a fresh or cooked green but don't try this with other potatoes as they are member of the nightshade family!]

I followed the rules and ordered seed potatoes from a seed catalog.  No only were they late in coming (took a month), they were rotten!  So I went to the grocery store and bought  1.5 pounds of small red potatoes and  1.5 pounds of Irish Gold potatoes.  

I planted them about 10 days ago which is past the last date for planting potatoes in our area for a fall garden a that date is usually not past August 1.  Five days after planting the red potatoes germinated.  The small Irish Gold potatoes have get to germinate. [Note: one of the reasons to order seed potatoes is that you can be guaranteed they haven't been treated with anti-sprouting chemicals which some  of those found in grocery stores have been.