Sunday, May 11, 2008

How Dost My Garden Grow?

This year marks my first foray into the realm of veggie gardening in Austin. I had quite a large garden back home in Seattle, but the idea of growing veggies down here in Austin was a little intimidating. First off, the ground is caliche/black gumbo/landscapers red death and the bugs are large and a little bit scary. Second, my yard is tiny and I wasn't sure if I had room to grow what I wanted in such a small space. And third, the weather is really kinda punishing - no gentle rains here! Would my garden be beaten to death by monster hail, flooded out by torrential rains, or fried by the death star above?

Well, I decided to give it a shot. I dug a drainage trench all the way across my yard and out under the fence where it would run off into the street, then I dug out a little section of grass in the back yard near the fence for the garden and removed about a foot down of awful earth (I can't really call it soil or dirt, because it really wasn't either), and I brought in bags and bags and bags of garden soil and compost (my neighbors surely thought I was building that Devil's Table sculpture that Roy Neary built in his kitchen in that movie 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind').

I had in mind that I would create a small, squarish Potager garden in this new planting spot I made. I went out and bought a Texas Persimmon tree and put it in the middle and I planted everything else around it. I strung up twine along the fence at the back of the little garden and planted Scarlet Runner beans along it - which the pill bugs promptly mowed down - TWICE - after which I started them INSIDE and moved them outside. Oh, and I finally discovered that upside down, half-grapefruit trick that worked great at catching those little buggers! Too bad I didn't think of that sooner - before they plowed over every set of dill seeds I tried to plant...and even ate the dill starts I planted....but I digress...

I then planted some yellow cosmos in front of the beans, some Cocozelle Zucchini at the front of the garden (because they are supposed to stay relatively small), and some sweet basil. All of those items are doing pretty well. I also planted some blue Bush Morning Glory seeds and some Red Corn Poppy seeds. The Morning glories are doing great, the corn poppies were mowed over by the birds - TWICE - so needless to say, there are no red corn poppies this year. Oh well, maybe next year.

I also added peppers because that was one thing I had a TERRIBLE time growing back home (I should have planted them in tires to help retain heat up there, I venture) and I thought they would grow great down here. So I tucked in 3 Chili tepin plants around the persimmon tree, and planted a Jalepeno pepper plant, and some type of yellow pepper plant. Those seem to be doing ok so far.

Check it out:



Here is a closer shot of the Zucchini:



I think they are looking pretty good - I was having a mildew problem on the leaves until I tried that old milk trick: spray leaves with a 50/50 milk/water mix - it worked GREAT! No more mildew. I hear horror stories of some sort of bug that burrows into the squash plants here, so far I haven't seen any of those (crossing fingers).

So how dost my garden grow? Well, so far, so good (except for the dill and corn poppies). My little potager garden has survived strong winds (I had to prop up the Zucchini with sticks to keep it in place), nickle-size hail (a few torn leaves), and a few torrential down-pours (that drainage ditch I dug is working splendidly!), a hundred degree day, and relentless pill bug attacks. We shall see how it fares the rest of the season.

As for the rest of the yard, here is an image of one of my new pink rain lilies - Zephyranthes Grandiflora:



And the Geckos are back! These guys hang out on the back porch by the light and catch bugs for dinner. I always have to be careful when opening the door in the evening because they like to scurry inside and then a-gecko-huntin' we go!:



These are Mediterranean Geckos - Hemidactylus turcicus. They are an introduced species and in Texas, are mostly found in the southern third of the state.

18 comments:

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

You might try planting the corn poppies earlier. Unless an annual is really frost-sensitive, they do best when planted in the fall so that they can bloom in March or April before the heat sets in.

Lee said...

What's the half grapefruit trick?!

Lori said...

I still haven't had the guts to start a veggie garden down here. Next winter I plan to build the raised beds and then try out some winter greens and then try growing my own ingredients for salsa.

I've been lifting tips from other Austin gardeners, but I've never heard of the half-grapefruit trick.

Pam/Digging said...

I never knew that those geckos were an introduced species. I just assumed they were native Texans. Thanks for the info.

Bonnie said...

great start on the veg plants. I just always figure I am going to lose 1 or 2 plants- a sacrifice to nature. This year I lost my Russian heirloom tomato- twice! That hurt.

katina said...

Yeah, what's this half grapefruit trick?

Anonymous said...

Cool Blog! I have experienced the squash burrowing worm. Lost a Patty Pan yesterday. Will everyone take a look at this hole in my garden? Any ideas? It definitely came up from underneath the ground. The hole is about 3/4 of an inch in diameter.

http://gallery.mac.com/pittzer#100042

Thanks- Jeff

Lee17 said...

mss,

I will try that - thanks, I never know when to start stuff down here!

Lee17 said...

Lee,

See the blog I just posted today (May 14th) It gives details ;)

Lee17 said...

Lori, yeah I learned it from my neighbor. See today's post ;)

Lee17 said...

Pam,

I know, huh? I looked them up the other day and sure enough, they are an introduced species - probably came over in a box of fruit of some type years ago or something ;)

Lee17 said...

bonnie,

Sorry to hear about your tomato plant! It is all part of gardening isn't it? As much as we hate that!

Lee17 said...

Katina,

See the latest post, all is explained ;)

Lee17 said...

Anonymous,

Hmmm, about that hole, maybe a mole? We used to have those in our old garden and that was about the size of their holes, but then you should see mounds around the same area too....

Jeff said...

Lee,

Thought about a mole too. But if I was a mole, I'd be hanging out a few feet to the left, in the soft dirt of my double-dug bed, cheerfully munching on green beans. I guess I'll see if I can bait whatever it is out. I'm hoping it's a tarantula.

-jeff

vertie said...

Looks great, Lee. If you see what looks like dust around the base of your zucchini plants, that's the EVIL squash vine borer. You can split the stem, stab the borer inside, and cover the wound with soil, and you might be able to save the plant. But you have to act quickly! those little suckers work fast.

Lori said...

Vertie - Wow, that sounds exciting and bloodthirsty. And here I used to think that gardening was relaxing. Faster, pussycat, kill, kill! ;D

Anonymous said...

Brunswick, GA (SE Coast)

The squash fruit borers have been active here about 2-3 weeks and are ruining me. Only prevention that I can think of is a cloth string-tie bag : Hard to find now & expensive.
Powder mildew decimated squash until I sprayed with Neem oil - works good.

Tomatoes gone : Leaf miners and fruit borers. Neem oil ineffective.

HELP ! !
.