Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The First Tomatoes and Peppers

The first tomatoes and peppers of the season have ripened today.

Tomato varieties include: Big Cherry, Sweet 100 Cherry, Pear and Grape Tomatoes, Porters and Sun Gold.

I prefer to plant smaller tomato varieties that mature quickly to beat the Texas heat. I have continued to have the most success with these varieties in North Texas. My tip is not to buy tomato varieties that are shipped in from the chain stores that might grow better in say Michigan. Buy your tomato plants from a locally owned nursery. They know what varieties grow best here in Texas.

Pepper varieties from left to right include: Giant Sweet Marconi, Sweet Banana and California Wonder Bell Pepper. Peppers grow well in Texas. I always get large, continuous pepper crops in the spring, early summer and fall. During the heat wave of July and August, production slows down. During this time keep watering the plants to keep them alive and you will be rewarded with a huge crop of peppers when the weather begins to turn cooler in the fall.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Growing and Using Thyme

Thyme is a very hardy and easy to grow herb. The word thyme comes from the Greek word "thymos" meaning spirit or smoke. Thyme survives below zero temperatures and is evergreen here in Texas. It likes full-sun and good drainage. There are many types of thyme. Some of the varieties include: French thyme, English thyme, German thyme, caraway thyme and lemon thyme.

Some thymes creep along the ground forming 6" to 8" tall spreading carpets and others grow into a 1.5' clump. The carpet-like varieties look nice planted at the front of a garden bed, in a rock garden or between paving stones. Thyme blooms in mid-spring and attracts lots of honey bees. Thyme honey is considered some of the very best.

The easiest ways to propagate or multiply thyme are by root division or rooting cuttings in water.

To Propagate Thyme by Root Division: Lift up the plant and find the places where the roots are growing into the ground. You will notice that there will be roots coming down from the carpet of thyme every foot or so. Place your shovel about 5" from the root system of the plant you want to separate and push the shovel all the way into the ground. Lift the shovel at an angle to separate the root system of the plant you want from the rest of the carpet. Now plant this newly separated plant in your garden. Choose a place where the thyme can spread a couple of feet or so over time. Water the new plant thoroughly.

To Propagate Thyme from Cuttings: Cut a non-woody 6" sprig of thyme from the parent plant. Remove the last 2 or 3 inches of leaves. Put your sprigs into a clear glass or plastic container and add enough water to cover the area where the leaves were removed. Sit your thyme sprigs on a window sill or other sunny place outside to root. Watch the water level and do not let it evaporate and if the water turns dark, refresh it with new water. In a couple of weeks roots will emerge from the places where the leaves were removed. When the roots are at least 1" long plant the thyme sprigs in your garden. After planting, water the new thyme plants with the water they were rooting in and extra water if needed.

How to Harvest and Use Thyme:

Thyme is best used fresh. Cut thyme leaves any time of the year that you need them. To use thyme fresh, cut the sprigs you need with scissors, wash, and then strip the leaves from the stems and cut the leaves to help release more flavor. Use thyme early in the recipe to help balance out its strong taste and to give it time to adequately infuse the food.

Thyme can also be frozen, refrigerated and dried and bottled for later use.

Check out this video for more detailed instructions and tips:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bird Nesting Season and Your Garden

A video about some of the materials birds take from your garden to build nests and some things you can do to prevent damage to your garden structures and still make the birds happy. Trellises and coconut hanging basket liners are specifically discussed.

Friday, May 4, 2012

How to Propagate or Grow Herbs from Cuttings

A demonstration about how to multiply your herb plants from cuttings.
Rosemary and mints are specifically discussed.