Today I decided to pretend the temperature is a balmy 60 degrees and install at least one of my potato towers.  I went to Home Depot the other day to get the lovely green wire that Mavis Butterfield of One Hundred Dollars a Month used for her potato towers.  Alas the cheapest I could find was $45.00 so I opted for some chicken wire I had on hand and some fallen bamboo that I had found to stabilize the sides.  Free is impossible to beat.  My potato tower does not look as fine as Mavis's, but I can live with that. (I hope my neighbors can too.)

Below is a photo of my potato tower:

I cleared away the compost down to the cardboard in the bottom of my raised bed and set the chicken wire cage inside.  Then I shoveled the soil back inside the cage and put straw on top of the soil and built it up about four inches all around on the sides to make a nest.

 Next, I shoved about 4 inches of compost on top of the straw.

Then I placed my potatoes on top of the soil as you can see in the photo below;

As a final step, I shoveled about four inches of soil and straw on top of the potatoes.  Now my potato tower looks like it did in Step 1.  When the potato plants are about 6 or 7 inches high, I will once again cover them in soil and straw just up to within an inch of their tops.  This process of layering with soil and straw will end when the potato plant begins to bloom.  At that time, some of the potatoes on the bottom level will likely be ready to harvest.



Seed Potatoes.  The two smaller ones can be planted whole.  The larger ones will be cut into two or three pieces, each one with an eye.

Now is the time for Potato Planting! 

A few days ago I ordered online organic Yukon Gold seed potatoes.  They should be here on Monday.  Then on Saturday, I stoped by Rhodes, one of our locally owned nurseries here in Garland, Texas, and purchased the seed potatoes shown in the photo above.

Required Materials and Conditions:
1.  A wire cage. You can make a cylinder of chicken wire.
2.  A sunny spot ideally where a raised bed is located.
3.  At least 15 gallons of soil.  [A recommended mix is 1/3 vermiculite; 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 compost.]
4.  Seed potatoes. [Note: these are potatoes that were grown to be seed stock. You can purchase them at your local feed store.  Do not use potatoes you purchase at the supermarket as they may come with issues such as fungi.  The seed potatoes have to be prepared ahead of time.  The slips should be at least the size of a chicken egg.  The chunks cut off the potatoes should have at least two eyes.  Allow the cut pieces to dry about 24 hours prior to planting.  This reduces issues with fungal problems. The cut surface should have a callous after drying out.]
5. Straw  [I got a bale for about $9.00 at our local Roach Feed store here in Garland, Texas.  Below is a photo of it sitting in my dining room.  Don't get hay as it is full of weed seeds.]
INSTRUCTIONS for growing potatoes:
1. Put the wire cage on top of soil in a raised bed.
2.  Put the seed potatoes on top of the garden soil inside the cage and cover with four inches of soil.  Allow 10 to 12 inches between each potato.
3.  In about 2 weeks green foliage should protrude from the soil.  When the green tops are 6 to 8 inches tall, cover up to within 2 inches of the foilage with a mixture of two parts straw to one part compost.
4.  Note:  Make sure to keep the developing potatoes covered.  If they are exposed to sunlight, the potatoes turn green and become slightly toxic.
5.  During the growing period, you will need to repeat steps 3 and 4 two or three times.  Potatoes mature in 60 to 130 days depending on the variety.
6.  Stop adding soil and straw when the plants start to flower.  You might even be able to pull back the cover and harvest a few new potatoes at this time.

No one who has talked to a member of Loving Garland Green--that's for certain!

from my seedling greenhouse - Flamenco Tomatoes are part of my ongoing quest to grow a decent tomato in Garland.  These open-pollinated seeds I purchased from  I also planted seeds I saved last year from a small, pear-shaped tomato that was prolific and delicious.

Our members are busy busy busy:  Starting seeds, installing beds for urban gardens in people's yards, working on the papers for our 1023 filing as a nonprofit with the IRS.  We completed and received notice of our certification as a nonprofit in the state of Texas last week and hope to have waded through all the required paperwork for the IRS by March 1.  In the meantime, we are also registered as a Neighborhood Based Group with the City of Garland.   This entitles us to apply for grants under the Neighborhood Vitality program and currently we are writing a proposal to submit on or before March 1 to help fund a program we are developing as part of our Another Urban Garden.  This program segment is designed to create square foot gardens for children ages 4 to 12,  adolecents ages 13 to 18, handicapped adults any age, and seniors.  [Square Foot Gardening is a successful gardening format that was created by Mel Bartholomew in the 1980's.  It is a revolutinary way to grow more in less space.]

My Seedling Greenhouse - purchased from a local garden store for $29.00

Another Urban Garden Installation

My urban garden is registered as the first one with Loving Garland Green's Another Urban Garden program.  My garden was installed six months before Loving Garland Green came into existence.  We are hoping that urban gardener residents of Garland will also register their gardens with us and I did and share records of their crop yields and experiences with us.  Our ambitious goal is to have 50,000 urban gardens registered by the end of 2015.  We are convinced that increasing urban gardens not only reduces food scarcity, it also boosts the local economy by creating new markets and by supporting existing markets.

Part of the Another Urban Garden program includes helping citizens of Garland to create their own gardens.  To do this, a volunteer from Loving Garland Green meets with an interested citizen to help them plan their garden.  For beginning gardeners we recommend starting small the first year with a raised bed no larger than 4 x 10 (40 square feet).  We help the resident build the bed, plan the contents of their garden, set it up with some type of water conservation device, plant seeds, and monitor the garden throughout its first season.  Eventually we hope to develop this program into a local business that will support 5 to 15 new jobs for our community.

Last week, Charlie Bevilacqua, one of the founding members of Loving Garland Green, helped Ed Downing, one of our new members, to put together the frame for a raised bed (12 feet x 4 feet).  Charlie and Ed also selected large clay pots for Ed's container garden surrounding his patio.

Below Ed is watching Charlie put together the sides of the raised bed for his urban garden.


Below is a snapshot of what will eventually be Ed and Becky Browning's raised garden bed.  The sides of the bed were made with reused, found lumber.  The soil beneath the bed will not be tilled.  Instead, about 9 inches of amended soil (compost and vermiculite) will be placed right on top of the grass inside the box.  At the end of each growing season, a layer of compost will be added to the top layer of soil before planting the new crop.



Along the spectrum of "greenness" I have friends whom I would designate as the darkest green to the left on the chart above.  If I were to designate my place on this scale, it would be midpoint of the second square to the right (and that is perhaps being too generous with myself).  I'm not even a vegetarian, much less a vegan, although I eat meat rarely--once or twice a week and mostly the meat is fish.  But I am making progress:  I'm eating more of my vegetables raw and almost every day I eat greens.

Moving Up on the Green Spectrum

Just the other day I was in Home Depot with a friend and I talked him out of buying some pesticide to kill some pesky box elder bugs.  [I did so by promising to find an organic solution to getting rid of the bugs.]

It is precisely at that juncture (organic way to get rid of bugs) that I separate from my more Kermitesque friends.  Many folks think that we should not do anything mean to any bug.  They believe that bugs are there for a good natural reason and we should let them be.  They have a point and I appreciate it.  In fact, there are many cases where people have introduced insects to eat other insects only to have the organic killing machines become pests themselves.  It's not always easy to find the happy medium, or even learn if there is one.  Sometimes it seems as if we often have two choices:  poison our ground water and soil or upset the balance of nature with our "organic" solutions.  But again, where is that area where we draw the line?  It is a line that to a great extent, is left up to the individual.  Some folks go so far as to only eat fallen fruit.  I sincerely doubt I will ever evolve or dissolve to that green marker.

My solution for the box elder bugs (I have these pests too) is to get out there on a warm day with a fly swatter.  As I murder them by the thousands I also chant Hail Marys.   Of course, my deep green friends are outraged by my behavior, but I find that I can live with it.  I find that following the swatting routine for about two hours every day for three days works.  I have to do this about three times a year.

My yard has been a pesticide-free zone for five years now.  Murdering the bugs by hand is my pest control system, but don't tell my deep-green friends.

Our Artificial World

Our world, particularly in the USA, is so artificial that we sometimes don't even notice any more what is real and what is not.  We have become like those people in Plato's cave allegory watching a shadow puppet show on the walls of the cave and thinking the shadows are real.  We Americans have a tendency to even admire artifice.  "Gee, that looks so real, I thought it was a real flower, a real bee, a real bird, a real kid, etc."  We pay hundreds of dollars to take our children to visit fake plastic places like Disneyland. Our admiration for the artificial is boundless.

The Hummingbird Feeder

I like to think I'm above it all, but deep down I know better.  Here's a case in point:  As you may know, I'm a member of Loving Garland Green.  A couple of days ago I saw the cutest thing in an old Bird and Garden book that Charlie gave me.  I thought: "Wow!  I'm going to make those with my grandchildren and then perhaps we will offer a class at the Garland Community Garden to make them later this spring."  They are hummingbird feeders.  You make them with a test tube with a lid, some copper wire, some yard, a small suction cup like those on the end of kid's toy arrows, and a plastic or silk flower from which you've removed the fake stamen.  (You can figure out the rest as I'm not providing instructions.)

I was actually all excited about this idea but then reason overtook me:  Wait a minute!  I'm going to make a device to encourage a hummingbird to suck sugar water out of a plastic flower?  Something is really wrong with that idea.  I don't even have to be a scientist to understand that.

What I'm going to do instead is plant plenty of flowers this year--for the hummingbirds, butterflies and the bees.  At the top of my list is Asclepias curassavica or tropical milkweed.  I successfully grew this flower in my garden last year.  It flowered from July until the end of October.  Bees love it.  I saved seeds.

Other common names for this flower include scarlet milkweed, Mexican milkweed, Blood flower, and Silk Weed.  Read more.

From my garden early October 2013:


Anita and Robert's three raised vegetable beds

Today I dropped by the home of Anita and Robert Opel who live in the Coomer Creek Neighborhood of Garland, Texas to drop off the proceeds from our Loving Garland Green yard sale yesterday.  Anita also is the Treasurer of Loving Garland Green.  Her husband, Robert, is a member of the board.  Anita and Robert, like all officers and members of the board of directors of Loving Garland Green will participate in one of our programs, Another Urban Garden.* Just eye-balling their yard, I estimate the Opels already have approximately 350 square feet of their back yard set aside for growing edibles.  In addition to the beds shown above in which they will plant vegetables this spring, they also have other beds in their yard that include a raspberry bush, wild strawberries, a butterfly bush, rosemary, and some type of perennial spinach that I'll have to learn more about.

Ed and Becky Downing, also members in Loving Garland Green, will work with two other members of Loving Garland Green in setting up their urban garden. Charlie, a master gardener, and I visited their home last Wednesday and worked with Ed and Becky to map out their plan for their urban garden.  Every garden is unique.  Ed and Becky will have one 4 x 8 foot vegetable bed.  Then in another bed they will have cantaloupe and watermelon along with an herb garden.  Their back yard is quite small and is dwarfed by a huge old native Texas pecan tree.

It will be interesting to track the produce throughout the season from all our gardens as well as from the gardens of other residents who participate in our "Another Urban Garden" program.


Another Urban Garden is a program that Loving Garland Green is offering to the residents of Garland.  This program is designed to increase the number of urban gardens in our community by making the setup easier and more affordable and by increasing community awareness of the benefits of urban gardens.  The program has many levels of participation and will evolve as we learn from our successes and mistakes. 

1.  One level of participation includes those who already garden. These people can register their urban garden with Loving Garland Green. The garden must be located in Garland.  The urban gardener measures the total square footage of the garden and provides information regarding what is planted in each plot.  The gardener then agrees to keep records and report regarding the plant yields and estimated market value of the yields.

2. Another level of participation includes those who do not garden, but who would like to garden.  These people can contact Loving Garland Green (a nonprofit corporation).  We will work with the resident to create one raised bed in their yard for the first year. For those who prefer to get started by themselves, we recommend  for great online assistance.  If you prefer to work with a person, we will assign a Loving Garland Green volunteer to work with you.*  Regardless your choice, we hope you will keep records of your crop yields and market value of your harvests and that you will participate in our program by reporting this information to Loving Garland Green.  Together we can promote a healthier local economy as well as a healthier populace.

*Note:  Loving Garland Green will be applying for grant money to help us fund the establishment of gardens for anyone living in Garland who wants a garden, but who doesn't know how to get started; anyone who does not have the physical ability to set up a garden; and/or those who may not be able to afford the initial set-up costs for the garden.  If urban gardens are set up properly, almost anyone can manage one.  After the first year most gardens can operate at a profit for the urban gardener.  (Often this is possible even in the first year.)


In late May of this year, Loving Garland Green will sponsor a tour of Urban Gardens in Garland.  Gardens connect people and bond them to their community and to their neighbors.  Gardens also strengthen local economies.  We hope to eventually see many urban farmers markets springing up in neighborhoods all over Garland--places were neighbors can gather to share and sell from the bounty of their gardens.



Get a ballpark figure for the potential market value of what you can grow in the space available to you.    But keep in mind that some things like digging delicious winter carrots in December are just one of many gifts of gardening that are priceless.


Another Urban Garden is a program that Loving Garland Green is currently developing to support our goal of increasing the number of urban gardens in Garland. Record-keeping is an important part of this program for a number of reasons:  First of all, by writing it down, the urban gardener can reflect better on what worked and what didn't in their garden.  Then next year, they can plan better.  I've found that what grows in a friend's garden who lives only a few houses away will not necessarily grow in my garden.  This is another reason why I value seed saving.  In my garden, this year's okra, marigolds, cantaloupe, and tomato seeds will all come from plants that I successfully grew in my garden in 2013.


Pin on Pinterest

Urban Gardens Stimulate Local Economies

Loving Garland Green continues to grow.  Last night we had a surprise visit from our mayor--Douglas Athas.  The Mayor has been very supportive of our group and its efforts to establish a community garden here in Garland.  Our goal is to encourage citizens of Garland to plant gardens in their yards and to grow gardens on their patios and windowsills.  

We are currently developing programs to assist in stimulating our local economy by increasing the number plant-based products created in our community.  For example, there is the potential that bamboo offers Garland.  You may not realize this, but we have large bamboo groves growing all along every creek within the 57 square miles that we call "Garland."

Last night we offered Mayor Athas a drink of iced bamboo tea which he enjoyed as did other members who also had their first taste of bamboo tea.

Imagine this:

Garland is not limited to bamboo as a source for plant-based products. Look at all the possibilities shown in the chart below.  Remember, these don't even include the potential revenue to be gained from cultivated urban crops.  The chart below represents the potential to be realized from food in our community that is currently not being fully used.  Over the coming year, Loving Garland Green hopes to rally local groups to join us in establishing some of these companies/cottage industries in our community.



Urban gardens save families hundreds even thousands of dollars annually.

As far as cultivated urban gardens are concerned, savings to people who grow at least some of their own food can be significant. In 2008, Rosalind Creasy, author of "Edible Landscaping" conducted an experiment in which she planted an organic garden in a space 5 x 10 feet (100 square feet).  

She kept close records of her harvest and found that from April to September of 2008 she produced $700 worth of food.  According to the Garden Writers Association, 84 million U.S. households gardened in 2009. Ms. Creasy reasoned that if just half of them (42 million) planted a 100-square-foot garden, 96,419 acres (about 150 square miles) would no longer be in lawns.  Thus there would be no need for the tremendous resources used in keeping them manicured. If folks got even one-half of the yields Ms. Creasy obtained, the national savings on groceries would be about $14.35 billion. [Source

Bringing those statistics on home to Garland

What if 50,000 5 x 20 foot gardens were established in Garland Texas that saved each person approximately $700 in groceries?     The total savings would be $35,000,000.00 in our economy.

Loving Garland Green's stated goal is to see that 50,000 urban gardens are planted in Garland by the end of 2015.  "Another Urban Garden" is a new program that we will be launching this spring to support us in meeting this goal.  In fact, we already have our first participant.


From my Seed collection:  Okra, Marigold and  Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)

What are the best seeds you can possibly have?

Answer:  Seeds from healthy plants that you have grown because  you know they will thrive in your garden.  In terms of risk management for your crop yields, seeds from your own garden should be at the top of the list for next year's planting.

Here is an example of the Tropical Milkweed that I grew in my urban garden last year.  It bloomed from mid July until the end of October.  I made sure to save as many of the fluffy seeds of this annual as I could.  Not only do butterflies like it, bees adore it.  And, the blooms are lovely as  you can see from the photo below:


Still and yet. . . there are other good sources for seed as well

Native Seeds/S.E.A.R.C.H.

This nonprofit organization aims to preserve native plant varieties from more tha 50 southwestern tribes.  I am particularly interested in the indigenous vegetables featured in their catalog.  Here is the PDF for their seed catalog.   I plan to order some seeds from this in a few weeks.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Johnny's Selected Seeds are two other standbys for seeds--both of whom I've ordered seeds from before.  I can only personally recommend Johnny's as I've ordered buckwheat from them that grew like weeds last year.  Even you don't want to harvest the seed from the buckwheat, it still makes a great over-winter crop to turn under as it is high in nitrogen.  And, many people don't realize that the leaves of buckwheat are quite tasty and nutritious. They produce dainty little white flowers that are highly fragrant and loved by bees.  From August through September of 2013 I put buckwheat leaves and flowers in my salads.  Not only did the salads look prettier, they were more tasty with the addition of the nutty flavors of the buckwheat.   Many people think that buckwheat is a cereal grain, but it is actually a fruit seed that has been linked with all sorts of good things such as lowering blood pressure.  Its flavonoids protect against disease by extending the action of vitamin C.  It is also said to lower the risk of diabetes and other diseases.

As for Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I didn't have much luck with their seeds.  However, in their defense, I am an amateur gardener and I ordered heirloom tomato seeds which are difficult even for an experienced gardener to grow.


Now is the time for deciding what you are going to put in your Spring 2014 Urban Garden.  Planting time is almost upon us.  Already the garden stores have in their onion sets.  I bought a few yesterday along with some kale and Swiss Chard seed--all of which I'll put into a plot in Urban Garden One the first week of February.


And why I've ordered this poster from the YES store.

Kale will be among those that will be featured at the Garland Community Garden which is being supported by Loving Garland Green--a nonprofit that you can join if you want to be part of a grand experiment to show the residents of Garland that adding urban gardens to your community will also add dollars to your local economy.

These eight lifestyles (not diets) are designed to prevent chronic health ailments and degenerative disease.  Guess what they all have in common?  Kale.  I've read many places on the Internet where kale is indeed a "super food."  

The diets shown are 1. Vegan  2. Traditional Asian  3.National Institutes of Health TLC diet  4. Raw Diet   5. Mediterranean Diet  6. Ancesteral Diet  7.Glycemic Index diet 8. Anti-inflammatory Diet

Visit Yes Magazine to order your copy of this poster and to read the entire article.

One Diet To Rule Them All Poster


Some of us gather toilet paper rolls to make our own biodegradable planters*

Put rolls on cookie sheet.  Mark the roll with a sharpie as to what will be planted in it.  Fill the roll with soil.  Plant seed.  When seedling is ready to plant, dig a hole the size and depth of the cardboard roll and plant.  Make sure to thoroughly moisten the cardboard before planting.  Note:  Any small cardboard container can be used. 

*Permaculture Design Principle 6:  Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.


January, like December, is a fairly dead month for most gardeners.  Of course one can start seeds in containers and prepare outdoor beds and gaze starry-eyed at all the great seed catalogues.  


Seeds to be planted outdoors in February in North Texas

But the outdoor planting of vegetables in North Texas, according to guides provided by Texas A&M, begins in February.  Following is a list of vegetables that can be planted in February:

Onion plants - 02/01 to 02/20

Radishes 02/05 to 4/15   (Radishes grow like weeds in our area.  It only takes them 21-26 days from seed to radish.)


Onion seeds, English peas - 02/10 to 03/01

Asparagus, Cauliflower - 02/03 to 02/17

Cabbage, Collards, Swiss Chard, Lettuce -  02/10- 03/10

Parsley 02/10 to 02/25

Potatoes 02/10 to 02/25 (I'm going to try growing potatoes in a tower in my plot in the Garland Community Garden.)

Spinach 02/10 to 03/15

Turnip 02/10 to 02/10

For Kale, plant seeds at least a month before the last frost date.  For those who live in North Texas, this would be around the first of February.

Vegetables to start from seed indoors

For Okra:  I'm starting mine from seed indoors February 14 and transplanting to the garden around April 8.  May 11 is last spring planting recommended here in North Texas for okra.

For Pepper plants:  I'm starting mine from seed indoors in March and transplanting to the garden in late April.

For Tomatoes:  I'm starting mine from seed indoors in mid-March and transplanting to the garden in early May.

For Eggplant:  I'm starting mine from seed indoors mid-February and transplanting to the garden