Garden Fridays: Garden 2.0 (Already)

by Shawnda on March 14, 2014

in Garden

It’s a good thing the growing season here in Texas is so long. Because I get to start aaaaaalllll over this year. And I’m still pretty bitter about it.

Two weekends ago, we’re standing along a mountain bike course west of Austin, bellies full of Kerbey Queso, and pretty excited about the day ahead. My “trusty” weather source says we’re going to be done with Jason’s race and nearly back to Houston long before the cold front hits Austin.

The race started, the guys disappeared into the forest for the completely treacherous (why do people think that’s fun?!) 16-miles and then the wind blew. For 10 seconds straight. It was very cool air.

Everyone and everything had fogged up – cameras, sunglasses, helmet shields. The mass confusion was funny at first. But then reality hit: just like that, it was 20 degrees colder within seconds. 5 hours earlier than it was supposed to be – thanks for keeping the forecast updated, Weather Channel!

We always have a couple of below-40 cold snaps after our last frost date (when I usually plant) but it’s very manageable. But the low that night ended up being 12 degrees lower than projected 24 hours before, which is a big deal when we’re talking 25 vs 37. And the wind – I mean, it’s windy out here in the Katy prairie but I wasn’t prepared for the steady 20+ mph with gusts over 30 that ripped all my tree covers and frost protectors away, leaving the new citrus and garden vulnerable to the elements. And leaving my covers no where to be found.

Tomatoes, peppers, squash, and green beans: toast.

New growth on the blood orange and pomegranate: toast.

200+ baby peaches?

I’m clinging to the smallest sliver of hope. But my gut says toast.




I’m gonna need a bigger backyard.

by Shawnda on February 24, 2014

in Garden


I’ve gotten really good at cramming too much stuff into too little a space, having had to lay on the bed to get my jeans to zip for the last couple of weeks. But even then, I’m hardly a miracle worker. And I’ve completely maxed out my 8×4 raised garden bed.

The carrots and non-tomato-bug-repelling herbs have already been exiled to pots. I see only one solution: knock down the fence and take the neighbor’s backyard by force.

Jason sees another: stop trying to hoard the state’s supply of tomato seeds.

Sometimes I’m not sure how we stay married.




by Shawnda on February 20, 2014

in Garden

White Peach tree in bloom

Guess what time it is?! Squueeeee!

I seriously thought we were going to be stuck in some &^%$#-weather Groundhog-Day loop forever. But finally a break. THE break.

I’ve been busy ripping out weeds, pollinating peach blossoms by hand, ripping out more weeds, getting ready for the new gardening season.

4x4 garden boxes

I’ve gardened with those four 4×4 boxes the last several years. But last weekend, I ripped those out to make room for margarita citrus trees and a new, single 8×4 box. My square footage might be cut in half, but I’m actually planting a far larger crop than I’ve ever planted before.

But man. What a mess.

To build the new 8×4 garden box, the 4-year-old and I snagged:
– 3 1x8x8 cedar planks*, one of the pieces cut in half for the short ends.
– 1 2x2x8 cedar plank**, cut into ~15-inch lengths for the corner posts (~6-inches of the posts are below ground to provide stability, 1-inch sticks above the bed for aesthetics)
– Exterior screws
– Measuring tape
– Drill (and a just-smaller-than-the-screws drill bit for pilot holes)
– Saw
– 1 hour

*I wanted a 2×8 but they were out and I didn’t care enough to hit a second store. Or wait. Because garden NOW!!!

**Or, you know, 2 1x2x8s sandwiched together because see *.

I attached the corner posts to the inside-ends of the long planks, moved them to the garden area, dug 4 holes for the corner posts, then attached the short ends to form the box, and then leveled the box. It took Landry & I maybe an hour from start to shovel-drop.

San Marzano Tomato

To fill the box, I simply used the “Mel’s Mix” that I reclaimed from the old garden boxes. If you’re familiar with The Square Food Garden Method, you know that Mel’s Mix is a mixture of dirt, vermiculite and homemade compost (which I’ll talk about later). If you’re not familiar with the method, I cannot recommend this book enough.

Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

So let’s talk about that vermiculite. It’s kiiind of expensive. Especially when you’re just starting out and you only have what you think are “just” these 4 small beds that all of a sudden turn into bottomless pits and – OMG AM I GOING TO HAVE TO SELL A &^%$#@! KIDNEY TO FILL THESE THINGS UP?!

But it is completely necessary – especially when barely 4 inches below your grass is good ol’ Texas clay. I only had to invest in the vermiculite that first year and if you’re starting out new, so should you. Bite the bullet. Eat grilled cheese and soup for two weeks. Totally worth it for years to come.

So here we are 4 years later. And the soil is still so perfectly workable and aerated and has excellent drainage. When soil levels get low, I’ll work in a bag of garden dirt or some homemade compost into boxes to bring the level back up. But I’ve never added more vermiculite.


Right now, everything is just starting to wake up from the coldest winter I can remember. I’m behind on starting seedlings – my heirlooms just went into the tray last weekend – but a few starter plants are in the ground already.

That said, most of the backyard still looks this sad. And worse.


I need a garden fairy. Or a volunteer that accepts promise of payment in 9 varieties of tomatoes.