February 23, 2011
I will be offering a wild edible plant walk this weekend at the Green Garden Festival – come check it out!
July 2, 2010
My love for margaritas and key lime pie inspired me to grow limes. The key lime or Mexican lime (also known as the bartender’s lime) is easy to grow here in Austin and is especially easy to grow in containers. Like most citrus, it is very sensitive to frost so will need protection in the winter. You can move the pot to a protected area or you can cover the tree with a heavy blanket (though a blanket might not work during a particularly hard freeze.) One of the cool things about this tree is that it is often grown on its own roots (meaning it was not grafted onto a different rootstock) so if the tree freezes back, it will re-sprout from the base and produce key limes again.
To get started, we purchased 5-gallon lime trees and potted them up into 15- or 20-gallon plastic containers. Always be sure to give your tree roots enough room in the pot – it’s a good idea to re-pot your tree into larger containers every few years, if possible. We use rose magic soil from the Natural Gardener as a potting mix for the limes. Of course, there are many other fabulous potting mixes that will work for container citrus. Once the tree is potted up into an appropriate container, you should mulch the container to help with moisture retention. Also, container trees need more nutrients since so much is leached out during watering. We sprinkle about 1/2 cup of Dr. Earth’s Fruit Tree Fertilizer on top of the soil in the pot every few weeks. There are several liquid fertilizers that would help your tree thrive as well such as fish/seaweed solutions or compost tea.
May 9, 2010
This cool, gentle weather has been such a treat for our Austin gardens but remember that the brutal heat and dryer summer is almost here! If you haven’t already mulched your gardens, now is a good time to cover your soil. Mulch is essential for retaining moisture, regulating soil temperatures, suppressing weeds and maintaining fertility in your soils. I recommend that you use anything that will break down easily in one or two seasons. If you have a lot of weeds, you might consider adding a layer or two of newspaper first. Then add a 2-4 inch layer of leaves, grass clippings, pine needles or anything else that is finely shredded. Check out Kati Ohlmeyer’s well-mulched garden. She used pine needles for the beds and a finely shredded bark mulch for the paths:
A couple of months ago, I helped Kati rescue a garden that had been worked by the previous owners of her house. Though overgrown and weedy, the garden site was still producing a few vegetables and the soil was full of earthworms! She and her family are new to Austin and she called me in to help her dig her first beds. After I helped her dig her beds and provided her with a planting plan, I left her gardens looking like this:
I also left her a few tomato starts. Notice how the middle fence is used as a trellis. The previous owners had planted some sugar snap peas before they left – the fence is a perfect trellis for peas, cucumbers, melons and other vining crops.
Kati has been carefully tending her garden since planting in March and now, she is producing some gorgeous crops:
April 26, 2010
The weather was perfect for the wild edible walk yesterday. Thanks to everyone who participated! We saw several edibles on our walk along Blunn Creek in Travis Heights. You can incorporate most of the plants we saw into your own edible yards. Here’s a few shots of the plants we tasted:
We saw a lot more on our walk and I hope to post more photos soon. If you do decide to head out on a foraging walk, be sure to take a wild edible guidebook so you know what you are harvesting! When in doubt, don’t eat it! Here are a few more foraging tips:
- Be sure it’s legal and/or you have permission to harvest from the site.
- Harvest responsibly; take only what you need.
- When gathering flowers and fruit, leave enough for reproduction the following year.
- If collecting perennials, cut the top and leave the roots.
- When harvesting roots or tubers, you do kill the plant so harvest sparingly.
- Wear long pants, carry harvesting bags or baskets, and bring along all the tools you’ll need (edible wild plant guide, pruners, scissors, gloves, shovel/trowel, etc.)
- Be sure you know what you are harvesting and what parts of the plant are edible!
April 19, 2010
Spring is a fabulous time to find wild edible greens, berries and flowers in and around Austin. The white flowers on this Spanish dagger yucca are edible and can be eaten raw in salads or on sandwiches. These unique and abundant flowers crunch like iceberg lettuce, taste slightly nutty, and are high in Vitamin C. The petals are the tastiest part of the flower – you’ll want to pluck out the bitter green center. Also, test the flowers first before harvesting since tastes vary from plant to plant. You can also fry, steam, pickle or saute the flowers in some butter. Yum!
I will be leading a walk on wild edible plants this weekend in Austin. It’s almost full but you can also check in with Lynn over at Useful Wild Plants of Texas – they might be offering one of their weedfeeds soon!
April 8, 2010
I recently installed this small vegetable garden at a home in the Mueller neighborhood. It is the first phase in a traditional, patchwork-style kitchen garden that will eventually include two more beds and some blackberries along the fence. (In case you were wondering, the family finished the outline of their beds with river rock they collected on their land near the Llano River.)For those of you who have never been to Mueller, the yards are tiny! Ah, but the community there is LARGE. I also did a workshop and garden installation there last fall and I quickly learned that folks who live in Mueller are serious organizers! They organize many events such as potlucks, festivals, workshops, walks and even farmers’ markets. While I was installing the garden, a neighbor across the street asked me if I would be willing to speak about vegetable gardening at the Mueller Plant Fest. So, I will be giving a short talk about vegetable gardening in small spaces at the Mueller Plant Fest this Saturday, April 10th at 11:30. If you’re interested in attending, come on out! The garden I installed will be on a walking tour. Here’s the list of other activities and information:
March 17, 2010
Last week, Don and Ursula invited me to their house in Cedar Park for a consultation. Don, Ursula and their two daughters recently moved to our area from Seattle and were interested in building a raised vegetable garden bed. During the consultation, we discussed many things including the best location for their garden, materials to use for outlining their beds, good soils and compost, how to build it and when to plant. They were inspired by Eastside Cafe’s Garden and liked the idea of using cinder blocks to build a raised bed.
I knew they were anxious to get going, but I didn’t realize how quickly they would spring into action! A few days after my visit, I received these pictures of their garden. Don and Ursula designed and built this garden themselves and I am proud to have been a part of their planning! Way to go, Don and Ursula!
March 6, 2010
Just before Valentine’s Day, a client of mine asked me to install a garden for his wife for Valentine’s Day. What a great idea! A garden is definitely one of those gifts that keeps on giving. I was able to do a quick sketch for him (see below) to give his wife on Valentine’s Day. I installed the garden the following week. I was also recently asked to give the gift of a vegetable garden consultation and design to a family that wants to grow some of their own food in downtown Austin. I love being a part of people’s gift-giving! And because I am having so much fun being a part of this process, I’ve decided to offer gift certificates from Edible Yards. Contact me if you’d like to give a garden to someone!
Valentine’s Day Garden
February 24, 2010
Snow today, sunny and warm tomorrow! Yes, it is time to start your spring gardens. Don’t let this snow fool you! It’s a good time to build your garden beds, prepare your soil, and sketch out your spring planting plans. You can still plant some cool weather crops in your garden like lettuce, carrots, and beets, but you can also work your soil in anticipation of planting your tomatoes in early to mid-March and your peppers in late March. Yum!
I am experimenting with some interested borders for raised beds this spring. My kids call the snow-covered coil next to our snow gardener (snow gardener because he has a flowering rosemary feather, a bamboo nose and a yarrow smile) a coconut snake. It is actually coir or tightly wound fiber from ground up coconut shells. (Coir is also used in some potting soil mixes since it is considered more sustainable than peat moss.) My husband uses the coconut snakes for erosion control in his trail building projects so I thought they might make lovely, soft and round borders for raised vegetable gardens. You can lay them out in any shape and stake them down with wooden stakes or metal pins. There are no sharp edges on the snakes that might be dangerous. Like most materials that are used to outline raised garden beds, they do weather and change colors. But these coconut snakes last many years out in the woods, along trails, so I think they’re worth a try!
After figuring out the shape of my beds, I’ll stake the logs, prepare the soil (by forking the existing soil, spreading some newspaper, and then adding some “rose magic” soil), and plant some vegetables. I’ll let you know how things work out.
Joe Henry helps me lay out the coconut snakes.
February 15, 2010
One of the best parts of my job is meeting many fabulous, interesting and inspiring people doing really cool things. I feel lucky to live in such a creative city. Of course, I also love that there are so many folks digging in to where they live, literally. Almost everyone I know has a garden or backyard chickens. And so many of my conversations, whether they are short and sweet while dropping off my son at school or long and serious at an evening get-together with friends, involve talk about soils, vegetables, fruit trees, bee hives or our wacky Central Texas weather! People are really in touch with this place and their passions and I am grateful to be a part of their lives! Dawn Johnson of Rabbit in the Rain Studio and MamaBubbleFish is one of those creative and inspiring Austinites that I taught in a backyard workshop a year ago. (She participated in the workshop with her baby strapped to her chest the entire time.) She recently posted her story about her edible yard and her experience working it. It made me realize how valuable her story is and how I’d love to hear from more of my (past) students about their experiences! If you have a story to tell (or a question or concern), please send them my way!