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



For the most part, after my children were grown, my Christmas-giving has been even more low-key than it was when my children were growing up.[I've always given people what I want to, not because I have to, and certainly never because they asked for it. The only exceptions I made to not fulfilling requests were to my children when they were under the ages of 18 and when I could afford it.]. Unless you are a kid, I think it is downright rude to ask for what you want for Christmas.
I'm only giving 15 gifts this year to a few family members and very close friends.They each will get a pound of pecans per friend (2 pounds per couple) and a peace rock*. The local ones will also get a tomato transplant that I started from seed a few weeks ago. Nothing shouts "hope" quite as loudly as a tomato transplant in December in North Texas.
I was going to plant seeds for a papaya tree earlier but just didn't get around to it. Papaya trees are not outdoor hardy for North Texas but they have a very fast growing season and will produce fruit within the first 7 or 8 months. Thus, in one of my many horticultural experiments, I am planting several seeds within the next week and by July or August I expect papayas. When all danger of frost is gone, I'll plant them down at our community garden. Then before the first frost we will dig them up and give them to people who would like to have an indoor papaya tree.
*Peace rocks are part of an exhibit that I hope Charlie and I will be able to install at the Garland Community Garden this weekend. I have painted a sign with the world PEACE that will have lights and a box of peace rocks I painted along with permanent markers for those who wish to write their message for peace on the rock and commit to being their word throughout the coming year and beyond.
Dec 13 @ 2:57 pm


Those who know me well, know that among other things I am somewhat of an okra aficionado. This year I grew approximately 250 pounds of okra in 8 five-gallon buckets. [I'll have to check my exact figures as I kept records.]

I planted them around the 15 of April and they started producing in May. My last harvest was on November 15. Okra needs to be cut about every two days. It is quite prolific.

I conducted this okra-growing experiment to prove to folks that even if you live in a city with little growing space, you can still grow a substantial amount of food. I chose okra because it is drought tolerant, requires no fertilizer, has no pest enemies, and seems to thrive on neglect. The only requirements it has are sunlight and heat--the two main natural resources in Texas after oil and gas of course.

Average retail market prices for okra range between $3.45/kg in the frozen form to $7.07/kg when sold fresh [about $3.50 a pound for fresh okra].

 Over the course of the past 7 months I have saved 200 pods for next year. Thus, I have a few thousand okra seeds.

Yesterday I hung a wreath on my front door, and on a whim, I added a stem of okra pods--lovely as you can see for yourself in the attached. photo. Then I wondered if perhaps others had used okra seed pods Christmas decorations so I googled "okra Christmas decorations" and got my answer in a few seconds.  Just as I suspected. Using okra pods for Christmas decorations was not my original concept. For example, there are Santa Clauses made from Okra pods. Don't laugh. These ornaments have considerable market value as they sell for $10 each on Etsy.


To summarize, my limited urban farm of eight, 10-gallon buckets of okra plants yielded approximately $700 in value of Okra to eat. If the 200 seed pods I saved were converted into Christmas decorations, that would be an additional value of $2,000.

Who would think that 8 five-gallon buckets, a little soil and 8 okra seeds could be the raw materials for creating a food and product value of $2,700?


NOW, if I still have your attention, consider this: What if responsible adult(s) undertook a project with high school students. 1. Create an Okra Cooperative (a business model that we need more of in this country). This would be a great education into the operation of this type of business. 2. Obtain two to four acres of unused land owned by your city. 3. Borrow a tractor from a local implement dealer or perhaps the city. 4. Plow the field. 5. Plant the Okra in mid to late April if you live in Texas. 5. Figure out how you will package the crop and get it to market, advertising, allocation of work schedules among co-op members, etc.

Nov 23 @ 5:17 pm

POSTER AT GOOD SAM'S - Yes, it's corny and yet still true and uplifting to remember.  In fact, it is often the broken among us who bring forth the most amazing gifts to the world.


I spent 8:30 to noon today at the Good Samaritans of Garland preparing packages of groceries for citizens in my community.

Good Samaritans is a 501(c)3 non-profit providing supplemental food assistance.

All families and individuals, regardless of residence can obtain food assistance very two weeks. No appointment needed.

Unhoused guests (the homeless) are provided “10-Packs” of food/drink once a week. In the winter, warm clothing (coats, gloves, hats, scarves) are distributed, as available.

In addition, Good Sam’s, through on-site partnerships, provides street-side Showers on Tuesdays, 9:30 am to 1:00 pm. Parkland HOMES, Medical provides medical services every third Tuesday, 8:30 am to 3:00 pm.

 This morning, as I talked with other volunteers, I noted that it is highly likely that none of us are extremely wealthy “high society folks”. I thought about what John Steinbeck once wrote in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath, a novel that is now banned in many schools across the USA: “If you are in trouble or hurt or need, go to poor people. They’re the only ones that will help--the only ones.” 

It may be because those of us closer to poverty know the pain of it better.  I don’t know. But the truth of Steinbeck’s words has been proven literally to be true.  In 2010, Paul Piff, a psychologist at U.C. Berkeley, carried out a study and published his findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  His experiments found that poor people were inclined to give away 44 percent more of their points or their credits than the wealthy people involved in the experiment.  His team's findings that the poor are more charitable than the rich were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

SO HERE IS A TRIBUTE TO SEVERAL OF THE VOLUNTEERS WHO WERE HELPING OTHERS THIS MORNING AT GOOD SAMARITANS OF GARLAND, TEXAS. I’m sure many of us would fit right in at the dinner table of the Joad family from Steinbeck’s novel--not a hoity-toity one in the bunch.  Also, as you can see, we come in all ages, shapes and colors.



KAREN, A four-year Good Sam Volunteer


LARRY - A 4.5 Year Good Sam's Volunteer

VICKY  -  I think she is second in command of the operation, a full-time employee.Thanks to Vicky, I'll be serving "a pink thing" on Thanksgiving in tribute to my mom and her Aunt, my great-aunt Lois.  Both of whom made these perfectly awful yet delicious concoctions from jello. My mom's was pink and Great Aunt Lois's was green. They both escaped this veil of tears without leaving me the recipes.  I was talking about it with Vicky on Monday (my usual time for volunteering) and Vicky gave me the recipe for a reasonable facsimile: But Vicky's recipe does not call for jello. Two cans of cherry pie filling; two medium containers of cool whip; two cups of Walnuts; one can of condensed milk (the thick syrupy stuff). Mix it all together and voila--It tastes pretty good.  But should I call it a dessert or a salad.  My mom and Great Aunt Lois always referred to it as a "Salad".


Another Full-Time Good Sam's Employee, 


Three beautiful Good Sam's Volunteers. They were in Vicky's office preparing sacks that are  given to Good Sam's unhoused guests.  It's great  that the little girls is  getting to have the wonderful experience of giving to others.  Good Sam's is also extending the possibility of this experience to other parents and their children.  Once every quarter they will be open on Saturday mornings for parents to come with their children and fill food boxes that will be given away the next Monday.  Yesterday, Tuesday, the day normally devoted to the unhoused, the volunteers of Good Sams along with other community volunteers, hosted a Thanksgiving feast for the homeless.  About forty people attended.  Isn't it amazing to consider there are even 40 people/families in our community without a place to call home?  [And  there really are many more than the 40 who attended this feast.  So many of the homeless in our communities maintain invisibility to the rest of us due to the shame associated homelessness.]


Megann - This was Megann's first day at Good Sam's.


If you want to know what's going on in Garland, Texas, visit the Good Samaritan's and read their bulletin board.




Just one of many serious considerations of an older person who is a gardener.
 I’m now contemplating the possibility that my grow light could well outlive me.
Indeed, it will if I dive off unexpectedly into that oblivion referred to as death before now and approximately. 6 or more years. The bulb's specifications say that it will last for 25,000 hours or 2.85 years. However, I can expect the bulb to last much longer as I will only be using it for about 4.5 months a year, AND I'll only have it on for about 10 of each of the 24 hours when in use.
Yesterday I purchased a grow light at North Haven Nursery. In reading its specifications on the box it arrived in, I learned that it will burn for 25,000 hours. [25,000 hours divided by 24 hours (in a day) = 1.041 days divided by 365 days in a year = 2.85 years.]
It is LED and very low energy burning only 9w an hour. The bulb cost more than the container for it ($19.99 compares to $14.95 for its metal container that came with a clamp).
I’m very excited about my new grow light as it is the first one that I’ve owned. My home, like most homes in Texas, is designed to minimize the amount of indoor sunshine--great in the summer heat but not so much in the winter--especially for eager gardeners who like to start seedlings indoors for their spring gardens. Usually with me, I begin by faithfully moving the plants from sunny spot to sunny spot in the house throughout the day. Then, after about three weeks, I tire of this and of course the plants either die or become etiolated beyond redirection.
My main purpose in doing this is to see if I can grow a papaya tree to fruition. Already it is in its sixth month of life.


Section  of a mural painted on the side of a building in Amarillo, Texas.  Many of the buildings in Amarillo serve as the canvas for the artwork of artists and students sponsored by "Blank Spaces", a local nonprofit that brings artists and students together.

Journeys are the best path I know to education. The recent journey I just returned from was one of those kind in which I physically travelled among various geographical locations--from here to beautiful Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas panhandle; to Amarillo, Texas with all its beautiful murals on its buildings.
Palo Duro Canyon at Sunset (28 miles south of Amarillo, Texas). November 2,2022
From Amarillo we travelled to North Eastern New Mexico with its extinct volcano I never knew about now.  From there to Colorado Springs, Co and the magical Garden of the Gods and on to the quaint little hamlet of Oak Creek Co nestled in the mountains a few miles south of Steamboat Springs to visit my granddaughter.   After that magical weekend we drove down through Colorado and across the state of Utah.  We passed over a northwestern corner of Arizona that had the most beautiful and interesting display of rock formations. Our Journey continued down through California to Laguna Niguel to see my friend, Sandy.  Our visit with Sandy included a trip to beautiful Dana Point and a visit to a beach there I had never seen, even though I lived only about 20 minutes from it for as many years.
Dana Point Beach - Dana Point California
Then we were homeward bound across Arizona, New Mexico, and most of Texas. The three things that impressed me the most about my homeward journey were 1. the sheer beauty of our planet. 2. Pollution of our countryside by 1% fossil fuel industrialists that our elected officials have continued to allow since the early days of our formation as a nation and 3. All the vast empty spaces in our country where no human being lives--in some examples for over 100 miles.
But physical journeys are not the only kind of journeys one may take. There are mental journeys as well, journeys of the mind guided by the content of books that we read. These journeys are as real as the physical journeys and can also shape and even redirect the outcome of our life. I am embarking on such a journey this morning. When I was visiting my granddaughter, Megan in Oak Creek, I noticed a book on her coffee table, “A beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe. The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art and Science.” I thought that sounded worth a read so I ordered a copy online from Thrift Books [Yes, there are other and much more economical choices than Amazon]. The book was in my pile of mail waiting for me when I got home.
The book’s promise to readers on its back cover in part reads: “Michael Schneider leads us on a spectacular, lavishly illustrated journey along the numbers one through ten to explore the mathematical principles made visible in flowers, shells, crystals, plant and the human body. This is a new view of mathematics, not the one we learned at school but a comprehensive guide to the patterns that recure through the universe and underlie human affairs.” The book promises to show me, among other things, how the human body share the design of a bean plant and the solar system--definitely of interest to a gardener like me.
My advice to you and to myself is to keep taking as many journeys as you can.


This June a friend of mine, Pat Patel, gave me a small papaya plant, about four inches high in a paper cup.  It grew and grew--to the extent that I had to re-pot it three times. Today the diameter of my plant’s canopy is 30 inches.  It stands 27 inches tall from the soil in the pot to the top of its canopy.

I’m still undecided about a kitty, but at least for now or until it dies, I’ll be sharing my world with a papaya in my living room.  I’m sure it will teach me many lessons.  In fact, it already has.

It’s amazing how quickly one can fill up one’s brain and it keeps expanding to make room for more information. Even old people like me can continue to learn and evolve. For example, just day before yesterday I knew practically nothing about papayas except that I like to eat them and that they are a tropical plant that does not survive a frost.  Now just a day later, I know about two pages worth of information about papayas--not an expert to be certain, but perhaps I have enough knowledge to keep this one alive for a while or at least until it bears fruit. [I’ll keep you posted.]

I began my quest for answers with two deal breakers for me.

  1. How soon does it bear fruit?  Like most Americans I lean to the impatient.  I’m not about to nurse a plant that takes 3 to 5 years to make fruit.  Besides I might die in the meantime.

    Well, the papaya passed this criterion with ease.  According to all the sources, papayas begin to produce fruit 7 to 11 months after planting.  That means my plant could begin producing as early as Christmas.

  2. Does the papaya require a second tree for pollination?  Many fruit trees require as second tree.  I’m not about to nurse two indoor trees.  As it is, I’m not that fond of houseplants anyway as they tend to draw gnats and other undesirables.

    AND the papaya passed this dealbreaker with ease.   I found: “Papaya does not require a second tree for pollination because the male flowers on the tree can pollinate the female flowers on the same tree. However, papaya trees will provide a better fruit yield when there is an additional tree close by.”


  1. Sunlight is crucial for the growth and development of your papaya tree. Papayas need a lot of sun. (I’ll probably need to get a grow light for mine.)
  2. Papaya trees need fertilizer.  I read that Nelson Citrus Fruit and Avocado Tree Plant Food is a great fertilizer choice for your papaya tree. It has a balanced nutrient ratio specifically for fruit trees to properly grow fruit. I may see if I can find some on the Internet as I doubt my local stores (first choice) would carry it.
  3. Papayas need moist soil but they cannot tolerate standing water.  Make sure to put plenty of holes in your pot.  Papayas are prone to root rot.
  4. Male flowers grow in thin clusters, with thin shoots that extend off the tree a few inches. Female flowers are fuller and grow right above leaf stems. The female flowers need to be pollinated to produce fruits. If you are growing papaya plants inside strictly, you can pollinate these flowers yourself by using a cotton swab or a small paintbrush.

By the way, If you live in most parts of Florida, south Texas, Arizona, southern California, and Hawaii you can likely easily grow a papaya tree outside.


This is an especially fun activity to do with children.

  1. Buy a papaya in the store.
  2. Remove the seeds
  3. Wash the seeds, break the outer sac that contains the seed—this outer shell inhibits germination—dry the seeds for a day or two, then plant them.
  4. The seeds will start sprouting in a few weeks. You’ll just need to have well-drained soil, keep the soil moist, and make sure they are kept very warm. Papaya trees thrive in higher temperatures.  Keep the room warm.

    NOTE:  If you live in North Texas you can bring it outdoors when all danger of frost is past.

It's good to know as much as possible about the plants you grow because then you are better able to care for them. AND, it makes the adventure of gardening even more fun.


Plant in a nice clay pot.  Make instructions regarding its care and voila! You have a great gift that cost less than $5.