Hakurei Turnips: First Garden Take of the Spring

Hakurei turnips just pulled from the garden (2-17-14)

Hakurei turnips just pulled from the garden (2-17-14)

Two or three warm days make it feel like spring is here.  The grass is noticeably greening up.  Even here in southeast Texas, where the temps normally come back up after a few cold days of cold, we’ve had a long winter of bundling-up.  I know our mostly in-the-50s days and down-in-the-30s nights are not that bad compared to those in some other parts of the country.  I spent a good many years lasting through cold Kansas winters, so I can appreciate not having to scrape windshields and scoop off driveways these days.

The below 30s and accompanying freezing rain and sleet we did have on a couple of occasions have interfered very little with the veggies that I planted at the end October out in the small garden behind the garage.  The perky leaves of the mix of greens and the glistening tops of the carrots and turnips seem to be almost showing off here in the middle of February.

The carrots and the traditional purple top turnips probably won’t make for some time, but this next weekend I intend to cut a batch of the greens for a wilted salad.  This evening, though, I couldn’t resist pulling up four of the Hakurei turnips.  Right now, some are about the size of a big radish.  They are sweet and crunchy with just a little bite, as I verified by munching them down once they were washed and the tops nipped off.

I get most of my seeds on line from Johnny’s Seeds.  I don’t mind giving them a plug because I’ve gotten the seeds very quickly and the packs are a lot fuller than those you get at the big box stores.

I’m eating a lot of store-bought veggies these days, but it’s sure fun to have a bit of the home-grown taste of these turnips.

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Just the Right Kind of Day To Spend Puttering in the Garden

The garden space behind the garage is a mini-jungle. The peas have already hit their peak, but the tomatoes and beans stretch higher every day. I'm getting enough lettuce for a salad every day, pulling up a tender scallion to go along with it.

What a beautiful, lazy Sunday morning.  After getting up at 5:30 to let Annie out for a quick go, I crawled back under the covers for another few hours of dreamy–weird dreamy–dozing.  When I could no longer bear the crazy slumber, I pulled enough clothes on to go out to the backyard, but not before grinding a few coffee beans and setting them to brew.

Not being a “churchy” person, I then began my leisurely Easter morning puttering, repotting a couple of under-tended plants, squeezing in a few more wax bean and okra seeds in the already jungle-like garden, tying up the drooping passion flower stems to steady pergula posts, weeding out any ever-present chickweed and elm sprouts that I could reach, then finally giving everything a good dose of watering before the sun’s cheery Sunday rays would obliterate the remaining protective shadows.

Now it’s time for a good shower and then off to see if I can find a few groceries.  I doubt much will be open out here in conservative suburbialandia.  I don’t need to buy much, just wasn’t in the mood to do the shopping yesterday.  I will have to remember not to take the street out of the sub-division that enters onto the road that passes the Catholic church.  They’ll be swarming into that place like those ants that were trying to make a new hill next to the patio.  Ortho took care of that.

I hope you will enjoy this visual taste of my yard and garden.

This cherry tomato plant growing in a container is loaded with clusters of the small fruit.

A bud has appeared on this passion flower plant, not so many weeks after I brought it home from the nursery.

I now know this is a white shrimp plant bloom, of which each little pod slips out a lavendar tongue as it opens.

This verbena brings a blanket of color to the sun-drenched bed on the south side of the house.

This hand-me-down amarylis so invariably blooms at Easter, no matter when it falls on the calendar, that I have always called it an Easter lily.

This cleome brightens the edge of the patio.

The First Ripe Tomatoes Do Make for a Good Monday

There's no better find than the first tomatoes of the spring!

As Mondays go, this one wasn’t all that bad.  Work was nothing other than ordinary, even for the first day of the work week.  Getting home was probably the worst part of the whole day, with a number of slow spots on my route.  I take most longer-than-usual commutes pretty much in stride.  I do like my SiriusXM radio, and though I normally stick with OutQ’s Derek & Romaine Show, I don’t mind hittin’ Channel 51 for some electronic dance music, when the talk radio goes astray.  Why the last three miles of my tree-lined suburban drive got into bumper-to-bumper mode tonight, I have no idea, but the satellite radio and knowing that I was inching nearer to my home got me through it.

With the car in the garage and the dog properly picked up and hugged, I headed out to check on the garden, just to see what effect last evening’s soaking from the sprinkler might have had.  First glimpse showed peeking sprouts of the yellow beans that I had planted about eight days ago.  Other plants seemed to have stretched a few more inches.  When I headed around the corner to check on the four tomato plants in containers, I spied a bit of red among the velvety green leaves.  Though I knew that there were already cherry tomatoes on that plant, I had no idea that some would be ripe before the end of March!  Yet, there they were: one nearly ripe and another already turning yellow.    There are other small ones on that same plant, and other plants have blooms, but I know that it will be awhile before I can stop hitting the produce section at the supermarket for tomatoes for salads.

Early Days of Spring–When You Can Say, “This is what it’s all about.”

Homemade meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, and a salad with lettuce, arugula, and green onion straight from the garden. Can you beat this for Sunday lunch?

Today is one of those nearly perfect days that we get here in southeast Texas, usually in early spring.  The blue sky is filled with puffy clouds that keep the temperature mild as they intersperse shade onto the St. Augustine grass of the back yard.  With all the good rains we’ve had, the vegetable garden, the flowers in the pots and beds, and lawn are all trying their hardest to grow, even though the chickweed is fighting to outdo them.

After attempting to thwart some of the chickweed’s successes, I came back into the house and put together one of those old Sunday favorite meals:  meatloaf and scalloped potatoes.  I should have invited someone to share it all with, but I hadn’t thought far enough in advance to do that.  When it was time to eat,  I went back to the garden and cut some lettuce, arugula, and a green onion to go into a salad.  I’ll make lunches to take to work with all the leftover meatloaf and potatoes;  Marie Callender would be jealous.

Now that I’ve found all the various documents, this might be the day to set myself to doing my taxes.  Notice that I did say “might.”  (I hope you enjoy the tour that follows.)

Peas, lettuce, arugula, green onion, pole beans fill this end of my little garden behind the garage. At the other end are about 10 tomato plants and a holdover from last year, a hot Italian pepper. On the sunny side of the garage I have four more tomatoes in containers. The dog is not planted, but does like to be in photos.

The peas that I planted in mid-January are just starting to produce.

This ruellia and wandering jew require little care but add a lot of color to a corner of the patio.

My lack of patience is to blame for there not being a buzzing honey bee looking for nectar in this blossom of a large salvia that I planted last year and which withstood the drought.

This burst of color comes from a cleome that seeded itself right at the edge of the patio.

Sunday in Suburbia: Strings for Peas and a Hot Plate of Grub To Get the Morning Goin’

String lines to give the tender pea plants something to grab onto to keep them up out of the wet soil.

As gray and cold as it is outside, one can almost believe the prediction Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction that spring won’t come for another six weeks.  Despite the mid-40s temperature, I put the coffee on and went outside to tend to a much-needed task in the garden–putting up some string lines for the peas to climb on.  This year is my first to try peas, and I’ve found that the stems of pea plants don’t have the strength that beans have.  Consequently, after the rains of the last several days, most of the plants were flattened onto–thankfully, not into–the ground.  Still in my red plaid flannel pants and a hooded sweatshirt (yeah, I don’t say “hoodie”), I rounded up some heavy string, my garden chickens, and a few mini-trellises and rigged up some support for the plants, which already have tendrils ready to grab on.

Back inside the coffee was ready.  To help warm up, I decided to make something substantial.  My weekend breakfasts come in one of two types; the quicker is usually coffee with frozen waffles with a slathering of peanut butter or jelly.  On a cool, lazy morning–like this one–I get out the 6-inch cast iron skillet.  Sometimes, I might make an omelet, but usually, I saute some chunks of veggies–onion, a small pepper from the garden, celery, or whatever I have.  Sometimes that might be it.  However, this morning I had real good stuff in the fridge:  about a third of a box of french fries from a fast food run and tasty Kansas smoked sausage that had come back with me at Christmas.  When all these were browned and hot, over the top came a couple of beaten eggs that got cooked slowly, but ended up crisp on the bottom and easily flipped over to cook just a bit more.   Once on the plate, I added a hefty spoonful of homemade chili sauce, given to me for Christmas.  (If I haven’t made your mouth water just a little, you ain’t alive.  This is my version of migas, a Mexican dish that uses crispy pieces of tortillas in the eggs.  I think mine with the leftoever french fries are pretty good too!)

Standing water from recent rains has caused some of Bear Creek Park's roads and picnic areas to be closed.

There’s still no sun out.  Since Christmas, it feels like we’re back in the groove of having more typical Houston weather.  I’ve started checking a site that shows the severity of the drought across Texas and the U.S.  Over the past week, my rain gauge has collected about 2.5 inches of rain, a lot of which came down early yesterday.  If the ditches, empty lot, and open fields are any indication, maybe the drought here in southeast Texas has been broken.  I hope that all the trees are getting a good, healthy drink.  Too many others didn’t make it through last year’s long hot summer and fall.

Getting In Some Early Gardening with the Help of a New Electric Cultivator

Planted 2 weeks ago, these pea sprouts are about 4 inches tall.

Again it’s garden time!  I know it’s still January, but last year I planted on the 1st, but this year I didn’t get seeds for some leafy greens into the ground until the 15th.  In addition, to various kinds of lettuce,  I also planted spinach and peas for the first time.  The rows of the little sprouts have aleady appeared; in fact, the peas are now about 3-4 inches high.  The 2.75 inches of rain that fell may have washed some of the lettuce and spinach seeds around, but according to national figures, we’re still not out of the drought yet, so whatever rain comes down is needed.

This year I used one of my gift cards to help purchase a roto-tiller.  For quite some time, I had been eyeing a Troy-Bilt Electric Cultivator at Lowe’s  (Model TB154).  After I got it home, the minimal assembly was a no-brainer.  Very similar to my electric lawn mower, there were just two, hand-grip bolts, which attach the upper part of the handle to the rest of the tiller. 

Once I got the cord connected and the tiller into the garden, it didn’t take long to get my small garden plot well-tilled.  Even though I had done quite a bit of soil amending last year, there is still so much clay, that turning over the dirt with a shovel and then working it

Attach the handle with these hand-grip bolts, and the tiller is fully assembled.

with a rake still didn’t break up the soil satisfactorily.  Using this cultivator really got the soil worked up to a very good depth.  For a smaller machine, and an electric to boot, the Troy-Bilt154 is surprisingly powerful.  For a first-time tiller user, there was about a 5-minute learning curve, because the machine really wants to get into the dirt and do its job.  Just because this cultivator is lightweight doesn’t mean garden-tilling with it is something that your 11-year-old kid should be doing!

I paid $199; it had been on sale for about $20 less before Christmas.  Like the rest of my outside power tools, this tiller is electric.  Check out more extensive reviews at Lowe’s.

OK, so this is just the side of the box, but I didn't take any photos out of the cultivator out in the garden, and I'm not pulling it out from it's corner in the garage just to get a pic.

Now That April Fool’s Day Has Passed, It’s Time To See How the Garden Is Growing

Annie is always ready to assistant in checking out how the garden is growing. (4-2-11)

When it becomes garden time, this blog could be one of the most boring in all of the blogosphere; however, my little patch helps keep me on an even keel, so I like to add a pic here and there just as a record for myself of what I planted when and how things are growing.

It’s just been about 2 weeks since I put in the last photo, but the entire plot looks so much greener.  The lettuce is still going gangbusters, and most of the beans have started on their second set of leaves.  I didn’t over-plant this year, so I’ve had to go back and drop in a seed or two in places where the originals didn’t sprout.  I have a total of 7 tomato plants and 4 sweet peppers, not counting the 1 volunteer tomato that I discovered a couple days ago; it probably came from the compost that I added last winter.

I need to get in and hoe out the chickweed and elm tree sprouts that would cover the ground if it weren’t for the vegetable plants; however, unfortunately–or fortunately–we have had enough odd showers to keep the garden soil a bit too moist for that task.

The neighbors across the street are having a garage sale, which they started preparing for before 6 AM.  Of course, Annie couldn’t stay settled with the commotion, so we’ve been up since that time; quite early to get up on a Saturday, but I’ve gotten the back patio swept of most of the remaining oak leaves and the nasty pollen crap that they put out in the spring.  I love my shady oak tree, but keeping the patio clean is an almost never-ending story.  Oh well, just like my garden, the patio with its shade-covered pergola is one of my favorite parts of my house.

OK, yes, it’s Saturday, and now 10 AM; it’s time for a shower and out to take care of any number of errands.  Tomatoe cages, for one.  Definitely need more tomato cages.