Thursday, July 31, 2008

Feelin' Fruity

I love fruit! My small suburban lot is home to several fruit trees which are mildly successful in providing fruit.

Plum - I have a plum tree of undetermined variety that in 2007 produced enough nice, juicy plums to make some jam. And it was pretty good! In 2008, though, it didn't make as many plums but it did make quite a few. Before they could ripen they began to disappear. Not fall on the ground but just evaporate! What in the world? Birds will peck holes in them but this wasn't what was happening. Then, one evening I was sitting in the backyard and saw a very chubby squirrel running along the top of the fence with... no! of my plums in his greedy little mouth! I couldn't believe it. I know squirrels eat nuts and seeds but plums? And here comes his buddy with another plum. Good grief. My husband used to say squirrels are just rats with fluffy tails, so here we go with the rat issue again. Trying to avoid poisoning them (I admit they are one of the cute rodents, even if they are pests) I purchased a big plastic scary looking owl and hung it in the tree. Too late for this year but maybe it will help next year.

Pomegranate - Pretty good crop this year. It's still a relatively young bush but there are around a dozen fruit on it. The problem with pomegranates is getting the seeds out is not an easy proposition but they sure are tasty. And good for you. They ripen in the fall so maybe my lettuce will be ready about the same time so I can have a really lovely salad.

Lemons - Two trees this year. Little trees but prolific for their size. I have a Meyer Lemon and a Verigated Eureka Lemon. Meyers are a sweet lemon (still too sour to just eat all by itself) and Eurekas are very sour. Both make good juice, the Meyer producing a little more juice per fruit than the Eureka. I'll have ripe fruit in late October or early November. Yum! Lemon meringue pie for Thanksgiving!

Peach - I have a small La Feliciana peach tree. I got it too late this year to have peaches but should have some nice freestone peaches next June. The label that came with it says it requires 550 chilling hours. What is a chilling hour? How low does it have to go? It says it is disease resistent, heavy bearing, and ripens in mid-July. grows 20' tall and 20' wide. Prune in late winter. This variety was developed by LSU. Geaux Tigers!

I'll probably add some berry plants - blueberries and blackberries. Just not sure where to put them. Will have to research their needs regarding sun, water, and soil and see if I have a spot that matches.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Planning the Planting

Keeping in mind I have no idea what I'm doing, other than planting stuff I like to eat and seeing if it will grow and make veggies, here is the garden plan. It isn't to scale, it's just a plan of what to plant where.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


On July 4, not having any family in town for the first time in many years (on the 4th, that is), I decided to turn my compost pile. It is supposed to be turned every three months but over the last year I'd gotten lazy about it and hadn't done anything except just toss in grass, leaves, and kitchen scraps.

Sure enough, though, the bottom 8" of the compost bin was great, friable dirt, so I left it in place and moved the bin crate and turned the part that was not-quite-dirt into it. This was going to be the start of an organic garden!

Now comes the part that is probably normal to a farmer but was totally unexpected and vile to someone who grew up in the sterile suburbs. As I was moving the compost contents, a nasty rat ran out and up my pitchfork, scaring both of us half to death. I screamed, the pitchfork went over the fence (thank goodness the kids next door were not in the yard to get speared!) and the equally terrified rat went flying into a flowerbed.

I am absolutely rat-phobic. My last house turned into Horror House when rats found the bird feeder and dozens of the beasts were outside my bedroom window one night crawling all over the feeder and stand. Then a couple (or more) got into the attic and subsequently fell into the walls where they made scratching noises. My son had to come over to cut a hole in the wall and then catch and dispatch the doggone things. Apparently a few died in the walls, became home to maggots, which crawled out under the baseboards and looked like wiggling rice. Then the maggots still in the wall hatched into flies and I came home from work to a house FULL of flies. I sold the house and moved away. Not just because of the rats/maggots/flies but that was the last straw and I moved to a brand new house in The Woodlands, where I've been for four years now.

Back to the rat in the compost. I got into the car, muddy clothes and all, went to Home Depot, and bought rat poison, which I set out in my now not-so-organic garden. The rat poison drew fire ants, which took the torquoise block of poison apart and carried it off tiny bit by tiny bit to wherever they were living at the time, then set up shop in the garden, leading to ant poison in the garden. I am way too much of a city girl to know what to do with rats and ants in an organic way. Must learn quickly. What do I need? Snakes? Yikes! This gets worse and worse.

I found some old packets of seeds that I bought a year or so ago at Walgreens (really!) for ten cents a package. I'll write about my fanatic coupon shopping another time. I planted pumpkins, zucchini, and summer squash. The heat of a Houston summer is not the best time to plant anything but with cheap seeds I thought I'd give it a try on July 5 and see what happens. According to the package they should be ready for harvest by October. We'll see.

I decided to buy some more compost and make a BIG garden - about 250 sq ft - on the side of the house, replacing a useless strip of grass with a walkway and gardens. I bought 4 yds of a mix of compost and organic soil and had it delivered. It arrived at noon on a 100 degree day, and I started trying to move it to the garden. I stopped before I dropped dead and called my son who sent his son the next morning to finish the job for me.

The pumpkin seeds sprouted on July 10 and the squash on July 11.

More later. I'll try to get this blog caught up over the next few days.