>On the next episode of "As the Veggies Ripen"

>It’s time to take a peek back at my veggie garden that I had planted beginning of April. The weather has been very hot- heat index in 100s the last few days so it really changed everything since many tomatoes will stop setting flowers once the heat gets up too high.

The good news is that down here we really have two warm veggie seasons, one spring/summer and one in fall. So if you don’t get tomatoes by the time it gets too hot, you can start your fall tomatoes in July/August and have a whole new crop. I like the trick where you just end a tomato branch down, cover it with dirt and maybe a rock to weigh it down, let it set roots for a few weeks, then cut it apart from the mother plant. Voila, new tomato plant for the fall season.

So here is how things are going with the current crops- I have kept my descriptions from my first entry (in italics) so you can see how things are comparing to the marketing verbiage:

Azoychka Tomato: Recently maimed, now deceased. The top of this tomato plant (but no other plant around it) got snapped off not once, but twice. One day it was there, the next it was gone. It managed to come back after the first massacre, but the second just did it in. Wished I had a chance to try it.
One of the first to ripen in your garden, this lovely lemon yellow 7 to 8 ounce tomato has a delightful sweetness with just a touch of acidity. Ripening in only 70 days from planting out, it has a delightful yet subtle hint of citrus with a rich lingering flavor. This beguiling Russian heirloom has become a favorite of chefs and tomato lovers world wide.

Jetsetter Tomato: No fruit yet. Good growth and flowers. But dang, give me something I can taste!
Produces good yields of very flavorful 8 oz tomatoes. Tomatoes turn red when mature and have a very rich tomato taste. This variety matures very early offering those in the South a great early harvest. Excellent in salads or sandwiches. Disease Resistant: VFFNTA. Indeterminate.

Cupid Tomato: Contributor of my first tomato! I popped it right in my mouth while gardening, I was so delighted to see it. Good growth and lots of flowers. Plus I have about 10 little green tomatoes. I think this will keep growing strong even in hot weather as small tomatoes tend to keep producing in high temps.
Grape Tomato plant, will make you fall in love with its rich flavor, huge yields, and ease of growth! ‘Cupid’ is a very lucky find, and without a doubt the most flavorful grape tomato ever grown!
Huge clusters of bright red fruit that resists cracking and is disease resistant. Natural sugars make Cupid a sweet nutritious snack.

Brandywine Tomato: Very little to brag about on this one. A few flowers but they look like they are just falling off. I see no evidence of fruit yet. I’ll be disappointed if I get nothing from this guy.
Indeterminate, pink fruited, large fruit, oblate shape, some green shoulders, some ribbed shoulders, some cracking, yield can range from how to relatively high, potato leaf, meaty, flavor from insipid to superb.

Yellow Boy Tomato: Two nice big green tomatoes are slowly ripening on this one. I’m looking forward to it. But how long do I have to wait?
(VFN)The first lemon yellow, not golden, tomato variety, and still one of the best. Extremely vigorous plants produce large harvests of attractive fruit that weighs 8 ozs. or more. Flavor is outstanding, mild and sweet yet tangy and definitely not bland. Indeterminate.

Japanese Soyu Cucumber: Soyu is now twining up my trellis very nicely and it has a ton of flowers and I even see some nice baby cukes on it.
This sweet Asian cucumber can be eaten like any traditional Western variety but also popular in soups, raitas and stir-fries. Long-ridged, sweet fruit, 18″ or longer. Can be trellised for longer, straighter fruit.

Homemade Pickles Cucumber: Growing steadily along the ground, flowering nicely. It took these guys a while to really get their growth going.
Arguably the best cucumber available for pickles. Solid and crisp interior-perfect for 1-5″ pickles. Also great for salads.

Scallop (Patty Pan) Blend Squash: I am now steadily getting patty pans from these plants. Taste is excellent, less sweet than yellow straightneck. Very delicate. No bitterness like I experienced in storebought patty pans. All the ones I have gotten so far are green which is the problem with seed blends, since once you pick seeds from the packet and then thin to appropriate numbers, you may end up with a homogenous bunch
Mix contains Early White Bush, Golden Scallop and Bennings Green Tint, all heirloom varieties. Having a slightly spicier, nuttier flavor than other summer squashes, this is a must-have blend for squash lovers.

Early Prolific Straightneck Squash: Holy cow, do these guys produce. If I don’t check every day, I suddenly end up with an 8 inch squash. And I really like picking them as babies since I think they are much tastier and tender. Very prolific producer and great taste. I probably get 4-5 every 2 days.
This old favorite open-pollinated squash is still a favorite- best tasting when harvested at 4-7″, the flesh is fine-grained, thick and firm. If left on the vine, will grow so big that it will affect the orbital spin of the earth.

Rosa Bianca Eggplant: MIA. Literally just disappeared. Like a veggie-loving alien just got the plant in its tractor beam and pulled it up into the ship. But good news, after looking for weeks, I found a replacement at Barton Springs nursery and it got planted May 21 so we’ll see if we get a crop.
A gorgeous Italian variety with a delicate, mild flavor, creamy consistency, and no bitterness. Considered one of the best by gourmets and gardeners alike. 4-6 in. long, 4-5 in. diameter.

Additions to garden:

Ichiban Eggplant: Planted in early May as a replacement for the alien-abducted Rosa Bianca I. Has some good growth but no evidence of fruit yet. Long and slender fruits, mild flavor.

Random Cucumber #1 and #2: I found these guys growing in my front lawn. So I hoisted them out and plopped them down into the veggie patch. No idea what variety or if they will produce.

Bell Pepper: Just a straight-forward bell pepper plant. Probably California Bell. Has lots of flowers and I am just starting to see small fruits emerge after flower drop.

Still producing from winter/spring:
Strawberries: Still going. They’ll give up any day now but I still get about 5-6 per week.

>May 2008 Bloom Day

>I’m actually on time for Bloom Day this month. Lots of color emerging in the yard and everything seems to be growing a foot taller every night.

The confederate jasmine continues to reach up, stretching to reach the deck. The other night, a big wind that we had blew the topmost tendril down so now it has to redo that last stretch up to the floor of the deck

Rock rose is blooming pink in the new bed I created this fall. These rock roses were originally planted in a deer accessible bed and I couldn’t understand why they looked so stunted and never taller than 4 inches. It finally dawned on me that those stumps were actually gnawed ends of the plant and I moved them. I hear them sigh with happiness whenever I visit them.

Coleus, while not technically “blooming”, are such vivid colors that I can’t help but show them

Day lilies. No idea what type. But man, they’re pretty.

Purple clematis. This is one that I transplanted from a pot it had been in for years. Had to literally break the pot to get it out.

Now it’s growing alongside “Golden Showers” rose.

The yellows and oranges have taken over from the pinks in my wildflower/septic field. Here you see sunflowers (no idea which kind, lord knows I’ve thrown dozens of packets out there in a survival of the fittest contest) and Mexican hat now towering over the gentle pink primrose.

A closeup of Mexican Hat

My Rose of Sharon’s first bloom

Red columbine, had no idea what the color would be when I bought them. I ended up with a purple variety and a red. OK then.

Mexican oregano. God, I love this plant. Beautiful shrub. Blooms the whole summer and VERY deer-proof.

And what’s blooming in the veggie garden?
Squash. Lots of squash.

I have both yellow straightneck and patty pan. I saw today that the patty pans are just starting. The little yellows are already making their way onto our dinner menus.

Here are the soyu cucumbers, beginning their climb up the trellis.

Strawberry patch, still going strong.

Other things that are blooming but were not exciting enough in pictures:
Salvia Gregii
Mexican Bush Sage
Blackfoot Daisy
Buttercream Lantana
Narrowleaf Zinnia
Butterfly Iris

I’m looking forward to visiting your blog to see what’s blooming!

>New Austin blogger!

>The Austin garden blogging ranks continue to grow!
Cheryl has just started blogging at Conscious Gardening

I first met Cheryl when we took a landscape design class together. As we talked, we found we had more and more threads of connection. We are both Master Gardeners, we both take Anusara Yoga at the same yoga studio (and had in fact taken many classes together), and I had admired her yard from afar since I parked across from it when I take my baby to Kindermusik class. Not only her yard, but she has a cool “art car”.

Welcome to garden blogging, Cheryl!

>On the Road- Part 2

>Going back to East Texas always stirs my mind into a whirlpool of memories. This area of pine woods was where I spent all of my holidays, as both of my grandparents lived in the area. My mom grew up in the small town of Marshall, Texas and my father grew up only a few miles away, in an even smaller town called Elysian Fields. I also spent every summer at nearby Camp Fern, a tradition in my family. Fern is where I learned to identify trees by their leaves, make banana boats over an open fire, and take walks in the woods exploring for animals, insects and secret hiding places.

So even just the smell of pine woods brings back sweet memories of childhood. On this trip, we stayed at a lakehouse owned by my uncle. The lake itself was built by my great-grandfather around 1910 with the help of a mule-team. My grandfather spent many nights out there with his brothers, exploring, fishing, eating. They kept a log of their activities “ate beans”, “walked to town”, “caught some fish”. Perhaps this is where I get my love of journaling.

They would have family parties, barbecuing chickens in a pit in the ground. My family was centered around this area, so family parties meant dozens of people and lots of cousins playing together. They built a set of rings spanning across the lake on a metal wire that my grandfather used to be able to go all the way across without getting wet. He could even do it in adulthood, successfully swinging across fully clothed with even his shoes still on. The rings are long gone, with just the posts and wire dangling into the water.

A pier used to run out into the lake near the rings, a perfect place to cast a line for fish. The pier too is long gone, just the supports peeking out from the water.

My mother also spent many days of her childhood here, playing with her sisters, brother and cousins. I look up at the tall trees now and wonder how many children they have seen play games of tag around them or hide behind them.

Many of them have developed strange growths, some from healed over wounds from storm damage or healing over a wire or rope attached around the tree. They stand like old, wise men watching over the lake.

My mother remembers the dam that used to stand off the end of the lake. It used to stand bare, but is now covered by trees that light up in the sunset.

When my mother was young, this dam used to beckon to the children, inviting them to wade in the shallow water around it. They used to call it “Wonderland”. How many children have found just such a childhood fantasy playground?

The lake stayed in my mother’s family until my uncle bought out his siblings interests. He built a new cabin to replace the one that had fallen into disrepair. He and his wife have decorated it with old relics which lie around like ghosts from the old memories the lake holds.

My aunt and uncle are creating new memories, holding family reunions for our far-flung family. Knock-out roses splash across the front of the cabin,something my grandparents would have loved, both being gardeners themselves.

I had bought a crinum “Milk and Wine” lily and divided it, wrapping each division into a plastic baggy that I carried on the plane with me to Dallas. My goal was to plant one at each of my grandparents graves. But the cemetery where my maternal grandparents are buried only allowed fake plants. Sitting on the porch at the lake house that night, I decided with my parents that planting the lilies at the lake might be a more fitting tribute to my grandparents. So they now sit along the front porch, waiting to bloom for the future generations who enjoy this Wonderland.

>On the Road- Part I

>Been out of town- I took a trip with my parents and brother to East Texas where my family is from to attend to some family business. But I’m excited to share some wonderful photos , still garden related, from the trip. My first stop was in Dallas where I met up with my parents. Both of my parents are huge influences on my love for gardening and they have built a beautiful landscape at their Dallas home. This time of year is so amazing up there with all they have in bloom.

They have a beautiful rose bed, with a variety of colors. One of my favorites is Tamora, with a wonderful spicy scent.

They planted a small patch of Louisiana irises years ago along a creek behind their house. Well, that patch has grown just a bit and really puts on a showstopper when the purple and yellow irises bloom.

Their japanese maples are all gorgeous right now, contrasted against the green of all of the other plants.

a close up of Bloodgood maple

Join me for my next installment where I’ll take you back to my parent’s small hometowns,some of my their childhood places and family history.