About Us

Enjoying the modern conveniences of life in a sustainable manner through technology, resourcefulness, and Zone 8a (North Texas) Gardening.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Our Virtual Garden

Sustainably Modern.

That is what we call ourselves. But, I've noticed that I haven't shared much of the modern aspects of what we do, so there will be some changes coming to this blog.

Modern living is about convenience, technology, and efficiency. Modern families have a lot going on and not enough time to do it. Unfortunately, there are some negative things that are associated with modern life: fast food, TV and video games at the expense of reading and outdoor time, we're more wasteful now of our food and our resources (electricity, water, etc) because they are available in abundance (to most of us). So our goal is to learn to live a modern life without some of these negativities and to pass those lessons on to our kiddos...so you will see a lot of them in this blog.

Periodically, I'll bring you a post about something that we do that is Sustainably Modern. We'll start with an example of where Technology meets Gardening: Our Virtual Garden.

It is basically an Excel Spreadsheet. Each square represents 6"x6" of garden space. I combine squares when I need more room than that. I use this virtual garden as a diagram for my real garden. You can see it below. The first two beds are shown for the Spring garden. You can scroll to the right or down to see more of the spreadsheet (the fall garden is to the right of the spring garden). You can also open it in excel if you would like. The brown areas are the walking areas of the garden.

It makes planting a snap; I know exactly where to put everything and I know exactly what is needed when. It helps me visualize spacing and companion planting and makes crop rotation a snap. When something doesn't work out like I planned; I simply make the changes here for next season. I never have to wonder what is growing where because I can simply refer to my virtual garden and it tells me which variety is planted in each spot; so there is no need for garden markers.

And best of all, at the bottom of my spreadsheet, I have equations that tell me exactly how much of each crop I am growing for each season. For example, it will count how many broccoli plants I am growing in the fall, how many I am growing in the spring, and provide a sum for the entire year. If I move crops, delete crops, or add crops these totals automatically update. I use this information to be sure that I am planting the number that is needed to met our needs/goals. The spreadsheet will tell me if I need to add more or plant less.

Basically, it makes planning a snap and takes almost no time out of my day to make adjustments (once I got it all set up of course).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

September Garden Tour

My have things changed! We've cleaned out the beds and planted fall crops.

Why didn't you tell me that Okra grew into mini trees?
Well we finally got those buggers cleared out and you wouldn't guess what has come of them...stay tuned, it will be a hoot (later post).

The boys garden has been overcome by vines. Gourd vines.
Bottle Neck Gourds
Luffa Gourds
and Spinning Gourds.
Amazing how things flourish in the absence of squash bugs. We'll leave these planted until the frost kills them. I have planted three vining tomatoes in this bed, but I imagine we won't see them rise above the vines for another month or so.

Is now the home to a real crop! At the back, you can see some Georgia Collards. In the front I have seeded more collards, leeks, and radish. Let's see if they can germinate. Its still quite hot here. Garlic will also go in this bed when I plant that in about 3 weeks. We've already put the hoops in place to make our hoop houses...one-to protect the crops from cabbage worms (they get so bad here) and two-to grow through the winter as we only need a few degrees of protection here.

Bed 2
This bed doesn't look too much different. The okra is gone, but the peppers are still there. I decided to leave them and see if I could get another crop. I also added a few jalapeno peppers and a couple of vining tomato plants. You can see the bamboo sticks in the back of the bed. That is where I hope to grow the tomatoes. I am going to try a method that I saw in Italy. They were planted about a foot apart and heavily pruned. This is an experiment because I got plenty of tomatoes this summer, so I don't need a whole lot this fall.

Bed 3
A cover crop of vetch and oats...nothing to see here but dirt.

Bed 4
Empty right now. Will be cabbage, turnips, and onion.

Bed 5
My first attempt at fall tomatoes. I have Brandywine, Aunt Lou's Underground Railroad, Big Boy, and a left over Cherokee Purple just to see if a spring planted tomato can produce through fall. All of those sticks you see is my attempt at doing the Florida Weave method. We'll see how that works because last spring all my toms bent over and grew on the ground.
The left over CP is blooming...

Bed 6
This is a bed of beans. All green beans. Kentucky Wonder up the poles in back, Blue Lake and Tendergreen bushes in front. That big plant in the back right of the bed; is the volunteer squash plant. That is how much it has grown in two weeks.

You can't see them because of the leaf mulch; but they are there. Broccoli and Cabbage are planted throughout this bed.
See; here's my proof:

Bed 8
The potato bed; not sure that potatoes do well in fall here bc the nurseries don't sell seed potatoes in fall. I used seed potatoes from my spring crop. I also planted some bush beans in this bed for companion planting.

More beans. Cherokee Trail of Tears and Pinto on the poles. Cannellini white bush beans in the front.

In this bed you can see the broccoli, cabbage, and kohlrabi that is planted. The problem is; I don't know what is what. I grew all of these from seed and failed to label them. I made my best guess. We'll have to see what is what as they get older and hope the spacing is ok. I may have to sacrifice a cabbage or two if they are planted in the wrong spot.

This bed is fairly bare as well. You can see 6 Romaine Lettuce plants in the back right, but that is it for now. The rest of the bed will be more lettuce, celery, and celeraic, and spinach. All of these have been started indoors because the soil may be too hot for germination right now.

This bed is still a mess because I have two canteloupes still maturing. Once they mature, we will clean this bed out and plant a cover crop of red clover.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Texas Weather

The motto here in Texas is: If you don't like the weather, just wait a day...it'll change.

Now this isn't further from the truth in the summer when its 100+ everyday.

But in the shoulder and winter months......well look at our 10 day forecast and keep in mind that within the last two weeks we were over 105.

Volunteers anyone?

I've heard of volunteers showing up randomly and unannounced at gardens all over the world. But none had shown up in my garden; perhaps because this is only my second year of really having a garden.

Well, I was out and about two weeks ago and what did I find...a few garden volunteers.

Basil growing in the perfect spot.
Some type of mystery squash. These probably don't have a chance because it will be a winter squash.
A bean! Growing in the middle of a walking row. Sorry, but it had to go.
Onion. Maybe I'll let these grow for the tops bc I doubt I'll get a bulb at this time of year.
Broccoli (these have already died or been eaten....well, their gone and I didn't pull them)
Wheat - I did pull these; they're in the way.
Here the volunteers are the two potatoes that have sprouted at the end of  the bed...not the two dudes planting more potatoes.
So we've finally had volunteers show up in our garden. Can't wait to see what they do.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lemon Balm Vinaigrette

This may sound a bit off, but generally, I like to put up (preserve) everything that we harvest during the summer months and buy what we need locally. This is because food is cheap in the summer and we don't produce enough food to feed us year-round (yet!). During the winter months, when food is more expensive, I like to pull from our stash.
With that being said.......well, we needed room in our freezer.
So out came, some zucchini and squash to make zucchini relish (yummy!) and squash and onion relish (salty). All of this is from the garden.
More zucchini for some delicious zucchini bread with chocolate chips added.

And we used some of our salsa stash to make salsa chicken.  This was very good. We used our Cherokee Purple Salsa and chicken breasts. Sorry, I didn't get a picture after it was plated.
But, I have two rather large lemon balm bushes in my herb garden and I wanted to find a use for them. I found a few recipes worth trying ..... first up was Lemon Balm Vinaigrette.

Start with all the ingredients needed. I used my herb cutting scissors (with green handle) to 'chop' up  the lemon balm.
I quadrupled the recipe and I actually left out all of the olive oil just because I didn't want to add those calories. It tasted great to me. You definitely need to like the taste of lemon because it has that lemony flavor. I also enjoy adding a fruity taste to my salads, so this is perfect for me. You could also process the food more to make it more liquid and less chunky, but if its going on a salad, then the chunks shouldn't matter much.
Update: I had some of this on my salad and I think it was too lemony. It was a refreshing splash for my salad, but the lemon was strong enough for me to *almost* make the lemon face. So if I make this again, I would hold out some of the lemon juice, or I would try this recipe instead.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Harvest Ends and Outs

I must say that this is a peculiar harvest monday for me. Not what a harvest usually looks like, but interesting none the less. Given that its September, I'd suspect a few gardeners are experiencing the last few trickles from their spring planted gardens. After finishing up here, check out more harvests at Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday.

For us, we've got more toys coming in. I won't count them until we dry them and decide which ones are keepers. We have at least this many more still out there on the vine. We'll probably wait until November before we decorate them. The one at the bottom left is spinning...these things are quite fun!

I did pull three more canteloupe from the garden. They were hiding and slightly overripe; but not so much that they weren't still good. We have one more that is near ripe. Once it ripens, I'll pull it out.

We pulled the last of the southern peas. I didn't get a picture of them, but I gather that they will make another pot full. Add some hot water cornbread and we have ourselves a meal.

I harvested some lemon balm; about a cup worth, to make a Lemon Balm Vinaigrette...I'll share more about that later.

Finally, we harvest seeds! The dill and coriander seed have finally dried and I've bottled them up. These can be used to season food and for next years planting. They may not look like much, but have you checked the prices on spices lately?! This is about $6 worth of spices that you're looking at.
We also harvested some free organic pears from a neighbors backyard tree. They were nice and juicy.
I sure hope others are harvesting more than we are right now. Don't forget to check them out (link above).