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Hard to believe, but February is almost half over!

What can you plant now?

 
The good ole Farmer’s Almanac have a great modern online site with lots of great gardening tips tailored to your area. These tips that appear in my post are most relevant for those to live in the Garland/Richardson, Texas area which is mostly in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8a. The suggested planting dates in my post are for Zone 8a only. You can go to this link and find the planting dates for your area.
 
 
All gardeners should know the average frost date for their area. A frost date is the average date of the last light freeze in spring or the first light freeze in fall. The classification of freeze temperatures is based on their effect on plants: The nearest climate station to Garland where I live is Richardson, Texas. Our last spring frost is typically March 14 and our first fall frost is typically November 13.
 
Light freeze: 29° to 32°F (-1.7° to 0°C)—tender plants are killed.
Moderate freeze: 25° to 28°F (-3.9° to -2.2°C)—widely destructive to most vegetation.
Severe freeze: 24°F (-4.4°C) and colder—heavy damage to most garden plants.
 
[Note: I saw in a recent forecast for my area that we have one more night of moderate freezing weather in February next Friday, February 17 when the temperature is to dip to 27 degrees. Otherwise, the low temperatures are all predicted above freezing for the rest of February.)
 
We’ll have to wait and see what is predicted for March.
Frost dates are only an estimate based on historical climate data and are not set in stone. The probability of a frost occurring after the spring frost date or before the fall frost date is 30%, which means that there is still a chance of frost occurring before or after the given dates!
 

FEBRUARY

Start Seeds Indoors

Feb 13 to Feb 20th Cantaloupes, Cucumbers, Watermelon
Feb 20 to March 6th Pumpkin

 

Seed Outdoors

Feb 7 to Feb 20th - Carrots
Feb 13 to Feb 20th - Chives
Feb 27 to Mar 14 - Arugula, Beets
Feb 13 to Feb 27 - Parsley
Feb 20 to March 14 Parsnips
January 30 to Feb 20 - Peas. Spinach
February 13 to Mar 6 - Turnips

 

Transplant Outdoors

NOTE: I have already planted some Swiss Chard and Kale down at the Garland Community Garden, but I put straw around the plants to keep them warm.
Feb 13 to March 6 - Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Cabbage
Feb. 20 to Feb 27 Kohlrabi
Feb 27 to March 28 Lettuce
Feb 20 to Feb 27 Swiss Chard
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Feb 9 2023

Good morning.  I'm making more signs for the Garland Community Garden. Here is one on watering.

 

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YEA!

AT LAST THE SECOND KEYHOLE GARDEN IS COMPLETED!

I thought it would take about 5 hours to build.  It took 15 hours. Also, although I can't imagine why, I envisioned it as being much more sophisticated and slicker.  I made it for my friend Gene who has back problems.  The keyhole garden is a perfect garden structure for people with back problems or who are in a wheelchair.  For wheelchair able people you'll need to place your keyhole garden on a hard surface such as a concrete patio.

 

The other Keyhole Garden garden is shown in the center near the top of the photo.  It is the large green object made of corrugated plastic often used for roofs.

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Update on the Jiffy GreenHouse.

Charlie and I purchased a small seed starter kit just 6 days ago on the Monday right before our cold snap.
 
There were two main reasons for planting 72+ seeds:
1) to test the viability of 800 seed packets that a generous soul left at the Garland Community Garden about a month ago. These seeds were packaged to be used by December of 2022);
2) and to get a head start on transplants for the spring garden.
 
 
In my first purpose I can say that I have succeeded as so far over half of the seeds have germinated--thus we can feel fairly certain that in handing out these seeds to the public that we are giving them reliable seeds.
 
As in regard to achieving my second goal--to create transplants, well that remains to be seen as Chakota has an unhealthy obsession with the Jiffy Greenhouse. Several times I've had to remove her from lying on the top of it and squashing the lid down. I also have noticed puncture marks in the lid where she has chewed on it. No, of the seeds are catnip.We'll see what transpires over the coming week.
 
 
With the dog, it's often about you.
With the cat, it's always about the cat.
 
 
No, even though I did acquire  a Master Gardener certificate from Texas AgriLife in 2015, I am far from the perfect gardener or the perfect anything.  As for being the perfect gardener, anyone who lives with a cat will tell you that the chances of attaining perfection are close to zero.
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NOT PERFECT BUT ENTIRELY FUNCTIONAL

 
I went down to the Garland Community Garden yesterday and built most of Gene's Keyhole Garden. [Gene has serious back problems.] I just have a little bit more mulch to dump into it. Below is part of the sign I posted by his bed.
 
Like many of my Einstein's, the project took longer than I anticipated, was more work, and didn't quite turn out as I envisioned. However it is still functional as intended: to provide a gardening format for Gene where he doesn't have to bend down too far to garden. It also demonstrates that it is possible to build a keyhole garden from recycled materials. With the exception of a roll of wire I purchased for about $6 all the materials I used were gently used materials I procured from friends or had on hand: recycled metal conduit pipes, 8 rebars, 14 gauge wire fencing, wood chips from a pile that a tree cutter delivered to the garden last spring, leaves that some citizen left at the garden, used feed sacks from Roaches Feed store here in Garland, Texas. I
 
'll post a photo later today of my creation.  In the meantime, I'll post part of the sign that I put up beside Gene's new keyhole garden. 
 
Once again, I've proven one of the adages I live by:  "Never allow the fear of not achieving perfection to stop you in beginning and completing any endeavor."  Yes you can build a keyhole garden too.  Beg borrow or acquire what you need curbside from your neighbor's yard.

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Only a gardener would be looking forward to what grows out of a compost pile. . . OK well maybe a hungry possum would but I can tell you that I'm curious to see. what comes out of one of our compost piles down at the garden this spring.  Several of our caring citizens have been bringing down compost weekly to the garden since October. Some of it I've been able to recognize as cantaloupe and squash but other things are unfamiliar to me but I can see they have seeds.  All this pondering reminded me of Ruth Stout, the mulch queen.  So, I decided to make a sign for this compost pile as a tribute to her. 

The main rules for safe composting are 1.  NO MEAT.   2. Preferably only raw vegetable scraps and fruit, not cooked--a little cardboard is OK.


 

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Tomato plant growing from a tower on a deck growing in only four square feet.

Think vertical!

You can grow a lot of plants if you grow them up and, in a container, instead of spreading them out in a traditional garden plot. For example, last year from May to the end of October, I grew over $800 worth of okra in 8 five-gallon buckets.  One key is to grow vegetables that your family loves to eat.  Another key is to grow vegetables that are easy to preserve.  For example, Okra is very easy to freeze:  wash, chop and put in freezer bags.  Yet another tip is to choose vegetables that you like that are expensive to buy in the store.  For example, the yellow buttery Yukon potatoes are more expensive (and tasty) than the Idaho potatoes.

You don't need an expensive tower.  You can build your own grow towers our of straw, chicken wire and soil.  Potatoes are a crop that grows well and prolifically vertically. I already have a post showing how to grow lots of potatoes in a pot on this blog in my January posts.  These instructions you can also find down at the Garland Community Garden.  You can take a snap shot of them with your phone if you like.

 

Speaking of Vertical . . .

Loving Garland Green was recently gifted a plant tower by Jane and Bob Stroud.  I'm very excited about  putting it to use.

Garden Tower 2™, 50-Plant Composting Vertical Garden PlanterThe “World's Most Advanced Vertical Garden Planter”

The composting 50 plant accessible vertical Garden Tower® for organic balcony and vertical gardening by Garden Tower® Project. 

100% UV stable food-grade high-purity HDPE plastic, and backed by a 5-year manufacturer warranty.
Recently named the “Worlds Most Advanced Vertical Garden Planter”, the Garden Tower® 2 features food-grade USA-made HDPE (non-toxic, BPA & PVC free plastic) components, FDA-approved dye, and UV-protection antioxidant package for health, durability, and recyclability.  

Here is the description of the tower:

  • The rotating Garden Tower® 2 is a composter that grows 50 plants in 4 square feet nearly anywhere.
  • Turns waste kitchen scraps into organic fertilizer to grow organic produce.
  • The Garden Tower® vertical garden planter and composting system replicates a natural ecosystem allowing plants to access nutrients recycled through organic composting processes.
  • Easily grow nearly any vegetables, herbs or flowers organically.
  • An organic and resilient 6 cubic foot vertical soil-based alternative to expensive and difficult hydroponic systems.
  • Proudly 100% Made in the USA using 100% UV stable food-grade high-purity HDPE plastic, and backed by a 5-year manufacturer warranty.
  • 43? tall & 24.5? wide. 36 lbs. (~220 lbs. with moist soil)

Yes, I am just the kind of rude person who looks a gift horse in the mouth.  I asked my friends why they are getting rid of the tower.  They had it for several years.  It is basically the result to two bad years back to back.  Two years ago fire ants got in it.  Then last year it was too hot and too much bother to water every day.  [I plan to 1. put a bed of diatomaceous earth beneath it and to coat the bottom and sides of it at as well as its feet to discourage fire ants.  As for watering, I'll put a little bit of moss in the bottom of each cup.]

 

Think Intensive Planting!

Plants do need space, but not nearly as much as some may believe.  For example, if you plant a tomato plant in the center of an 18-inch square and stake it well, it can be surrounded on the perimeter by other compatible plants.  One big garden rule:  Do not plant peppers near tomatoes.  Square foot gardening is one method of urban gardening that takes advantage of the intensive planting format.  Four by four foot raised beds are divided into 16 one-inch squares.  The Keyhole Garden which also takes up a lot less space than the traditional row garden also takes advantage of intensive planting.

 

Related Hi-Tech Space-Saving Gardening Methods

Every year it seems there is some new contraption or method on the market that guarantees miracles.

 

 

AEROPONICS AQUAPONICS AND HYDROPONICS

Aeroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. Instead, roots are suspended in the air and irrigated with a nutrient-dense mist. This differs from hydroponics, where plant roots are submerged in a solution of water and nutrients. Aquaponics is a food production system that couples aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as fish, crayfish, snails or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics.  The aquatic animals waste provides the fertilizer for the plants.

I   tried aquaponics and failed.  Basically, for me, it was too much work:  You must feed the fish monitor the temperature of their water, check the pipes to make sure they are not clogged, and there are the plants to watch over. . .   I don’t like the taste of plants grown in water and chemicals.  To me they are watery and taste like chemicals.

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I FINISHED ANOTHER BAD WEATHER PROJECT

I was going to make a snow cat for our cat, Chakota but alas, the snow around my house is not the fluffy type conducive to snow people or animal building so I decided to take on one of the many community garden projects on my list.
 
For those who may not know, I am one of the founders of the Garland Community Garden.  April 24 marks the beginning of our 10th year in existence. We've had our ups and downs and in celebration of our survival, we are really going all out to make the garden special for 2023. So far Charlie and I have hauled and unloaded six cubic yards of rich garden soil from Plano and still have four more cubic yards to go.  The mission of our nonprofit organization, Loving Garland Green, is to encourage Garland residents to grow some of the food they eat, thus this year we are putting many how-to signs throughout the garden.
 
A local girl scout troop back in December helped to beautify our children's garden area by adding painted rocks with wise messages. I have made signs for places all over the garden. One of the most recent ones I finished just last night. This one is for our two pollinator beds. These are laminated pieces that are super glued onto a wooden board. We'll see how it stands up to the weather.
 
Several of the signs I have up already provide "How-to" information for gardeners: 1) Two signs telling visitors how to make an eight 5-gallon bucket holder for their urban garden. 2) Two signs that tell visitors all about potatoes and how to make a potato tower. 3) One sign that provides tips for taking care of potatoes 4) One sign that provides tips for organic pest control.There are more to come. For example, when I get Gene's keyhole garden made, I'll post a sign telling visitors how to make one of their own.

The mission of our nonprofit organization, Loving Garland Green, is to encourage Garland residents to grow some of the food they eat. We hope the signs as well as the living examples will encourage the citizens of Garland to grow some of the food they eat. The more food grown by local residents in any community helps to stabilize their economy. Yes, resilient, local food systems help to make communities more stable. One of the qualities of a sustainable community is a reliable food supply that optimizes local production.
 
The signs are fun to make. 1. Create them first on your computer. I use legal size paper and no smaller type than 14 pt for easy reading. 2. Once you have created them, take a usb to a printing place and have one copy in color made. Tell the worker that you want it laminated in the heaviest gauge of lamination they have. (It should be quite stiff. 3. You can then use Gorilla tape to attach to a one x 2 inch; 6 foot stake or a PVC pole.
 
When attaching, you want to be careful not to poke a hole, even with a stapler through the lamination that has any part of your poster because one hard rain will get water onto the paper of your poster and it will eventually mold. If you must staple through the poster, you might try. putting a dab of clear coat fingernail polish over the staple. This might seal it. For the pollinators I cut out for my pollinator poster I put clear coat fingernail polish around all the edges of each cut out. We'll see if that works.
 
 
 
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THIS is great weather for dreaming up projects.

BUILDING A KEYHOLE GARDEN

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.


MAKE THE COMPOST BASKET

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.

 

FILL UP YOUR GARDEN WITH GROWING MEDIUM

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.

 

NOTE:  MY LINER WILL HAVE TWO LAYERS

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.

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PLANTING BUTTER BEANS

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.