Garden Planning

It’s spring in south Texas! It has been unusually cold. The last two nights froze and we’ve had many nights like that since our first freeze of the season. This is really unusual. In zone 8b we usually have nice weather peppered with freezes. Not this year, though.

Spring has sprung down here!

Usually I put my spring corn in by the end of February. It’s now mid-March and I’m only now looking at putting out my corn seed. All of those freezing nights will knock down this year’s insect issues though, so it’s not all bad.

My bananas have been in their tarped bed with Christmas lights for warmth. (see here: Putting Bananas To Bed For The Winter Zone 8b) I’m hoping that the stems made it. Otherwise I will be putting out the two bananas I brought inside for the winter. One of which is a 9 month fruiting banana and I could possibly see fruit from it this year.

Bananas ready to go back outside.

I am still using my seed organizing system and I still love it! (see here:Conquering Seed Packet Clutter) I’ve pulled the seeds from my photo album storage pages, that I am using for spring, and bagged them according to which bed I’ll be using them in.

My seed saving photo book. Read about it here: Conquering Seed Packet Clutter

Everything is marked. I have put a grid of string and painters tape across the beds and I drew a key for the seeds so that I can keep track of the many specialty seeds I purchased this year.

Since I have such a unique set of growing conditions I am always looking around for specialty seed that may do well in my warm spring conditions and my blazing hot summers. I have been growing in Texas for over a decade and I know what traditional vegetable plants do well for me.

When I need it, I load up on seed from Morgan County seeds. That site has the cheapest, most reliable, largest volume per seed packet, seed that I’ve seen on the internet. I’ve been ordering from that company for over fifteen years now and I’m always pleasantly surprised with the seed I get from them. The site carries heirloom seed mixed in with varieties of hybrid seed. If you are new to seeds and want to save seed from year to year, avoid anything that says F1 in the description. Those are hybrid. However, there are reasons hybrid seeds are available. Sometimes hybrids are necessary if you have specific disease issues or, like me, are growing in an area with unusual temperatures. I still swing heirloom if I can, but sometimes I do buy hybrids for crops I have problems with, like tomatoes and melons.

My growing grid from last fall. I use string and painters tape to mark off my beds. This system works well unless my dog decides to run through the bed. Which he does on occasion. I will grow slightly different veggies for spring. I’m keeping an entire bed of just herbs. If you look at what costs the most in a grocery store spices are above almost everything else, per weight. It’s so silly, since most herbs are almost weedy and super easy to grow. I am building an area around the base of my fruit tree line that’s against my back fence. The perennial herbs will be moved to a lasagne type bed after the straw starts to rot under the soil. (I’m using the straw that’s currently in the banana bed. The birds stole all of my straw last year. I actually have to cover it to prevent that from happening!)

The other thing I do is keep an eye out for specialty seed. I usually order those online through “rare seeds” from the Baker Creek nursery. It’s Jere Gettle’s site and he grew up saving beautiful seed packets, like other kids collected baseball cards. His seed is outrageously expensive and a lot of that is from the glossy, coffee table quality catalog he has as well as the beautiful, collectible seed packets. However, he is a genuine seed hunter and has been all over the world collecting rare seed. I buy from him for that reason. He has stuff that I can try, that may work in a similar climate somewhere else in the world, that nobody else has for sale here in the US.

One of my big problems with seed is that something will steal it if I don’t cover my beds. If you are having trouble with getting seeds to sprout outdoors, you may be having this issue too. Ants, especially fire ants, and birds steal all of my unprotected seed and seedlings. I suggest using soaker hoses and row cover to keep the thieves at bay until your plants get a little bigger.

So today is supposed to be the last freeze. I can’t see us freezing in ten+ days from now (as far out as my weather app predicts), although it’s been such a weird spring I may be surprised about that. So, today is the day I start planting.

I’m super excited because I built two new beds and this is the first time I will be planting them. Plus, I have not pulled back the tarp, straw and Christmas lights on the bananas yet, so we’ll see how my experiment worked! Hopefully the stems did not freeze and my antique gros Michel bananas can fruit on two year old stems. I have already looked and the rootballs survived and are shooting out pups.

My progress as I was writing this post.
My marked and seeded bed in front of the huge straw craziness over the bananas. You can see the tarp has been removed.

With a little more digging I’ve discovered a ginormous fire ant mound out in the bananas. Luckily: I can sprinkle amdro around the outside of the bed and the queen will reliably die, and so end the fire ant invasion. Man I hate those things! I stood one of the banana stalks up and I believe that the conditions that enabled the fireants also meant I didn’t water enough and the pseudostems may have dried out. I will have to cut into them to see how far back the damage is.

I have more to uncover, but I need to wait until it’s safe to mess around in there, to see the ultimate result. I may find everything desiccated from the lights and lack of consistent water and I may be in for yet another winter with the lights, tarp and straw but this time try to really keep it moist in there.

Considering my husband has been working out of state for almost two years now, I am incredibly happy I’ve been able to be in my garden at all. Hopefully he’ll find work around here soon. This has been a long, hard row to hoe. But outside of that separation: my boys and I are doing really well.  Chaos is the norm and has been the entirety of our 16 years of marriage. But we do alright. You get used to it. Plus: I grew up with my father in the same profession my husband is in, so I’ve really never known anything different. It’s why I’m very good at starting a garden from scratch every 2-4 years! And that is also why I write what I write about, on this blog. I have an unusual background and this is its full potential.

If you look closely at the ground around this photo: these are the limbs I cut back today on my pear. Crossing limbs, dead stuff and watersprouts come off yearly (except I didn’t do it last year) This pruning will also make it easier to squirrel proof what I can easily reach. They can throw the pears at the top of the tree at my dog all they want, but I’ve also purchased a squirrel trap. We’ll see how that goes. This is a dumb time of year to prune (while flowering), but winter is so short here I frequently miss late winter chores. Today was when I had the time for it, so it’s finally done. Pretty sure I’m going to be super sore in the next couple of days (as I also cut back all of the dead, above ground growth on my zone 10 bushes.) I just see progress towards my goals, so I’m happy.

I love spring! Can’t spend enough time outside! Go out and get your hands dirty! See you in the next post.

8 thoughts on “Garden Planning

    1. Thank you! Yes, gardening is my passion. I am willing to do a lot to keep things running smoothly over my fall, winter, spring and the hot as Hades summer I have down here in South Texas. Some seasons are easier to grow in than others! Thanks for coming by and commenting, I appreciate the visit.

      1. My mother was a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic gardener and her garden was a sight to behold. Sadly only my youngest sister has inherited her green fingers.

    1. Yes. I only have a little down time in winter. But I still am working on finding things that will get through my summers here in South Texas. It gets crazy hot and we have insect and disease pressure at the same time. I’m happier doing twice the work in spring to avoid having to do much in our triple digit summers. Thanks for commenting! I appreciate the visit.

  1. Frost is why I delayed the sowing of the esperanza and poinciana (pride of Barbados) seed. It does not happen much here, but it happened rather late this year. I am confident that it will not happen again though.

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