Plan for the spring.

January 19, 2013

Spring is such a wonderful part of the year. Nature is exploding with new growth, buds, flowers… Gardens come to life again. Birds are in love and ready to start a family. Landscapes become abuzz with life and related activity. It’s also the time of year when things get out of hand pretty quickly. Weeds seek their opportunity to take over the world. Plants hurry to grow and multiply – often ending up in the wrong places, overgrown, reseeding everywhere, out of place. It also means our gardens are hungry – they Winter garden (6)need energy to grow, bloom and produce. Winter takes its toll on our landscapes, and spring is the time to make it right again.
The best way to maintain a landscape is to do it regularly, and not wait until things are out of control. Proper trimming and pruning, weed control, amending, feeding, mulching, insect and disease control go a long way when done right and on time. It is easier to prevent problems or nip them in the bud when they arise, then to put out fires.

When thinking about your garden, think about its foundations– soil and balance. If you nurture the soil, it will repay you with happy plants. And happy, strong plants are more resilient, more beautiful, more drought tolerant and better adapted to the Texas heat. Healthy soil means healthy turf. And happy plants mean less disease and insect problems. Creating a balanced eco system in your garden is a key to success. Nature has a way of taking care of its own problems. Plus, a garden alive with plants and wildlife is such a beautiful place to be and enjoy. It is also a great way for the children to reconnect with the outdoors. Provide butterfly food and host source and let them observe a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis. Add plants that attract hummingbirds and watch them come back year after year. Start an herb garden and let the kids to be hands on. They can pick their own favorite herbs or veggies to grow. Hummingbird (12)Provide shelter for lizards, geckos and other garden creatures and teach your kids that variety and balance is very important in nature. And in return they will help you keep your insect (including mosquito!) population in check.

There are so many ways to you enjoy your garden. The same outdoor space can provide the perfect entertaining area for the adults and a secret garden, full of wonder and life lessons for the kids. No matter how small or big your piece of land is, you can make it work for everyone.

There is no need to preach about organic gardening. It is evidence enough to observe the abundance of life and how a healthy bio-diversity creates balance.  Images below illustrate the intertwined nature of life.

Planting the right plants in the right spots, creating food, water and shelter sources enable to create a wildlife habitat even in small urban setting. Our tiny city lot was completely bare when we moved in. We planted a desert willow and Mexican plum among other trees, and added plenty of perennials (Turk’s cap and salvias among many others), we created a veggie garden where there is place for annuals as well. Within a year this completely changed our landscape – from barren and devoid of life to beaming with life. From honey bees to sphinx moths to hummingbirds to lizards and garden snakes and everything in between.

I discovered this year that bees need water, but they drown easily. So I set up a shallow bird bath with stones in it, so that bees have easy access to water and be safe at the same time. They gather around the water source by the dozens every day in the summer.

Desert willow is our hummingbird magnet and never fails. Bumblebees love it too! As well as many other insects. I found several Assassin Bugs on it this year. The veggie garden, with its changing crops and successions of annual flowers, creates an eco-system of its  own. There is always something alive there, busy to gather pollen or lay eggs. We always have abundance of butterflies, which are drawn to the butterfly bush, desert willow, Turk’s cap and salvias, among other things. Damselflies, dragonflies and paper wasps (which are not aggressive and help to control mosquito population) were particularly drawn to the Hyacinth Bean vine I planted on the fence along the chicken run, close to the water source and the never-ending source of pollen – basil.

Lizards particularly like the shade area of the garden, where potted plants are stored on wooden pallets. It also is the favorite hunting ground for Carolina wren.

It is a circle of life – good bugs taking care of the bed bugs, birds, lizards and snakes taking care of the excess of the bugs, spiders weaving spider webs…. Let nature take care of itself… and help only when needed. You will see the difference!

Spring Planting Guide.

January 20, 2011

Spring planting guide dates are based on the average freeze dates, which may differ within cities and counties. The guide is for Fort Worth- Dallas metro area. Please treat these guides as general guides and don’t be afraid to experiment. For instance, if you plant onion starts for growing green onions, your window of opportunity for planting is much wider.  Trial and error often produces wealth of experience that is priceless. Enjoy and have fun!

Asparagus (crowns) Feb 2-16
Beans, snap & lima bush Mar 16 – Apr 13 
Beans, snap pole Mar 16 – Apr 13
Beans, lima pole Mar 16 – Apr 13
Beets  Feb 2-16
Broccoli Feb 2-16
Brussels sprouts  Feb 2-16
Cabbage  Feb 2-16
Carrot  Feb 2-16
Collard (kale) Feb 2 – Mar 2
Corn, sweet   Mar 16 – Apr 27 
Cucumber    Mar 16 – Apr 27 
Eggplant   Mar 30 – Apr 27
Kohlrabi  Feb 2 – Mar 2
Lettuce    Feb 2 – Mar 30
Muskmelon (cantaloupe) Mar 16 – Apr 27
Mustard     Mar 16 – Apr 27
Okra       Mar 30 – Apr 27
Onion (sets)    Jan 5 – Feb 16
Onion (seed)   Jan 19 – Feb 2
Peas, English     Jan 19 – Mar 2
Peas, Southern  Mar 30 – May 25
Pepper     Mar 23 – May 11
Potato  Feb 2 – Feb 16
Potato, sweet      Apr 10 – May 11
Pumpkin    Mar 23 – Apr 13
Radish       Feb 16 – Apr 28 
Spinach    Jan 19 – Mar 9
Squash, summer   Mar 23 – Apr 13
Squash, winter      Mar 23 – Apr 13
Swiss chard    Feb 2 – Mar 2
Tomato (starts)       Mar 16 – May 11
Turnip, greens & roots   Feb 2 – Mar 2  
Watermelon           Mar 16 – Apr 27