Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wildflowers and Wildcrafting Wednessday

I was very excited to find two new blog-hops/linkies this week: Wildflower Wednessday, a place to celebrate wildflowers and  Wildcrafting Wednesday...a blog get together not just about gathering and using wild plants, but about all uses of herbs.  

Why am I so excited?  Because I mow around the wildflowers in my yard (the little gifts I didn't have to plant and cultivate).  Because there's tons of gardening linkies but this is the first I've found that celebrates the roadside flowers too!    Because it's hard to find others who look at the "weeds" in their backyard as useful, not just as something to get rid of.     Though I've been dabbling in wildcrafting since high school, I'm still very in-experienced, and I'm looking forward to learning from everyone.  And I'd love to find some other wildcrafters from Texas, too!

My back yard is fairly weedy.  I like to let some "weeds" (like dandelion) grow because they're useful, and others (like the Texas wildflowers I find) because they're beautiful.  But there's a lot of wild plants in my yard I haven't identified yet.  Some are "old friends."  Some are new neighbors, and  taking to heart the West Texas Gardener's warning to "beware of weeds bearing gifts,"  I'd like to know more about them before I let them take over my yard.  If any of you recognize these plants,  you'ld make my day if you help me identify them, or letting me know if they come with any unwanted surprises (like prickers or thorns), or any benefits (like medicinal or culinary uses). 

Know what any of these are?

Flowers smaller than a dime...texasflip on the Garden Forums
thought this was Oenothera biennis (a type of primrose), 
but I'm not sure.  Going to have to take a closer look at the 
plant and compare it to the pictures I googled.

Thanks so much any info you can give me on these plants!  Much appreciated!

These ones I had asked about were identified.
Thanks a bunch!  Haven't had a chance to look them up
to see if they have any uses or problems associated with them.

This is Sherardia arvensis or Field MadderOn Wikipedia it said
that the root could be used as a red dye. Thanks to Teri, from the Garden Forums for identifying this!

Ty from the Garden Forums identified this as a vetch (Vicia sp.).
According to wikipedia, though some types of vetches were once used as a food crop, many are toxic to humans.  I checked at the Texas Forager , and since I didn't see this listed as an edible, I'm avoiding it.  I can say from experience this one is pretty invasive...I left just a few of these plants in my yard last year and now they are covering half of it!  Really need to take a whack at them but I've been too busy trying to root out burr clover, my mortal enemy of the yard.

Ty from the Garden Forums and an anonymous poster helped me identify this as a sandmat spurge, possibly Euphorbia serpyllifolia or Euphorbia nutans. but I'm not sure because there's a ton of varieties of this and I didn't try to go through them all.  If it is that one, wikipedia said the Native American's used this medicinally.  This plant has a really unusual feature I discovered last summer.  The seed pods EXPLODE!  Last summer I was walking where a bunch of these were growing, and I kept hearing a popping sound.  Then I actually felt some of the seeds pop onto my leg!  The picture above was taken just before then.

(Oh, and the flowers at the top of the page are Wild Primrose...which is actually edible!  You can eat the flowers and new greens. Haven't tried the flowers yet.  The greens aren't bad, but I hate to take much for fear of having less flowers later.) 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Harvest Monday - Zone 8a

I've been looking around to see what gardening linkies there are out there. Quite a few it seems! One I found is Harvest Monday, where you get to show off your weekly harvest.

Oak Leaf Lettuce

This is my first year trying lettuce.  Below is heirloom Oak Leaf Lettuce I got from Azure Dandelion  (I think it was a freebie with some other stuff I bought).  I planted it last fall and for the longest time it stayed about 3 inches high, and I started wondering if that was all it was supposed to grow.  But the seed packet said "Harvest 1" -2" off the ground" so I figured it was supposed to be bigger.

January 7 - 2" high

Then in February they started to take off....

February 27 - Larger Ones about 5" high

 And look at it now!

March 26 - 1 Foot High

That one above is my biggest, and one I haven't touched.  I've been harvesting some of them, and learned something exciting!

I harvested as the the seed packet instructed and soon noticed tiny new leaves growing from the center...

And before long the center begins to regrow...

Didn't know that would happen!  I couldn't have been more excited!  Does all lettuce do this?  Or just certain varieties? 

And, here's the what the leaves look like...

They are the perfect size for hamburgers, and they've been tasting great in my salad.  All the wrinkles do hide dirt well, so I find I have to wash each individual leaf well.  Other than that, I'm really liking this variety of lettuce.  And the best part--no worries about using the lettuce before it wilts!  I just go out and grab what I need and it's always crispy and fresh.   I'll miss it when the Texas summer heat takes over and I have to bid my lettuce farewell!


This is also my first year to grow raddish.  It's not something I care for, but my husband and oldest son love them, so I'm happy to have a fresh supply.  And look...this one isn't even split!

Onion? Nope!

I have a bunch of onions I put out as sets in January growing in the garden, but most aren't very big yet.  There were a few that I planted earlier.  A couple were from seeds (most of my onions seeds never grew), and some were from pearl onions that had sprouted.  (I didn't know whether pearls were just baby onions taken before they matured, so I thought I'd plant them and see).

One of those early ones looked big enough to harvest, so I pulled it out and gave it a taste.  Ack!  Not onion!  At first I just thought it just didn't do well in my soil, like the awful bitter carrots I grew one summer.  But then I recognized the taste.  IT WAS GARLIC!     I had forgotten I had put some sprouting heads in my garden along with the pearls!

I could see the cloves in the center, though the outside looked like on onion. I gather that the cloves will eventually fill up the bulb, though I've heard Texas doesn't often give enough time for that to happen.  I'm wondering if you can use other parts of the bulb and stem too?  They did seem to have a garlicky taste.

So, that was my adventure in gardening this week!  If you'ld like to share what you're harvesting, head on over to Daphne's Dandelions and link up!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This is Texas

Yes, that's right...that is a truck/limo sitting there next to the Sports Bar at the mini-mall.  This is Texas.


I'm linking up to my favorite linky, This is Wherever Wednesday.  Also linking this up for Wordless Wednesday at  It's Ok to Be Weird, The Lack's Boat, Laugh Quotes, and Planet of the Aples.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gardening in Texas: A Gardening Book for New Texans

Month by Month Gardening in Texas: What to Do Each Month to Have a Beautiful Garden All YearI first started getting interested in gardening in High School.  Then, I lived in the California mountains, a place where the main  challenges for gardeners was the short growing season and too much shade.  Texas couldn't be more different.

I was clueless about how to garden in Texas.  I knew that there were two growing seasons here, but didn't really understand how to garden for them.  I started my plants way too late in the Spring, and wasn't sure when the fall season started so just didn't try.  Not knowing that different plants should be grown in different seasons, I planted a lot of things at the wrong time.  I didn't even know there was such a thing as cool season and warm season annuals.  And lets not even get into how little I know about maintaining a on a boat and then in the mountains, we never even had a lawn growing up.

This year has been different, cause I've had help.  The book Month-to-Month Gardening in Texas has been teaching me when to plant things, and I've even been starting to inch my way towards proper lawn maintenance.   I wish I had gotten this book years would have saved me, and the poor plants I was trying to grow, a lot of agony!

I love the month to month guidance!  I like knowing exactly what to plant, and what maintenance to do on my plants each month, what conditions to expect, etc.  It's written in a way that's simple to understand, and the layout makes it easy to find what you need.  I recommend this for anyone who's new to Texas.

While I absolutely love this book, there's a few things I think could be improved.
  • While I love the month to month layout, I wish they hadn't separated it into different types of plants (grass, trees, shrubs, vegetables, etc.) they way they did.  I think a better layout would be to have all the things you do in a certain month in one place, to cause less flipping around.  
  • They could have given more guidance on when to plant herbs.  I realize herbs can be planted with more flexibility, but if they had been included in the "what to plant this month" section, that would have been nice.  A few herbs, like Basil, were mentioned, but not many.
  • Though the book is perfect for a newcomer like me, I should note that many people who reviewed this book mentioned that it was too basic, so if you feel like you've got the basics of Texas gardening down, this may not be the book for you. 

Other Resources

Though I highly recommend this book for new Texans, you can also find a lot of this info online.  Also, if you have a local garden club, they may have info on their website, or sell a book of their own, with even more specific info for your area.

Here's some online resources for gardeing in Texas:

For Finding Planting Times 
General Resources
Regional Resources

Roses and Other Gardening Joys

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chartiy Spotlight: Food Bank of West Central Texas

I was browsing some articles on Charity Navigator, and found  the Food Bank of West Central Texas on their Top 10 List of Highly Rated Charities with Low Paid CEOS.  Nice to know that people can donate to this great charity knowing that more of their money goes to help Texans, not to administrative costs!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

This is Texas - Roads

We went up to the Dallas Arboretum this weekend to take some family pictures for my husband's parents 40th anniversary.  It was beautiful out.  The kids were even fairly cooperative--smiled and stood still and everything (most of the time). Don't have any pictures to share myself because I figured the photographer (who happened to be my husband's cousin) would take more than enough. 

On our way there we spotted something that drove me crazy when I first moved out here....TEXAS sized road bumps.

You know those little safety disks that they put on the middle of the road or the edge of turning lanes?  They're usually about the size of a half a tennis ball...if that.  Well, in some parts of Dallas and Fort Worth, the "safety bumps" in the turn lanes are about the size of salad bowls.  These things are intimidating.

Here's a picture I found on flickr:

Bump in the Road
Picture by  Diorama Sky 

Here's some other features of Texas Roads and Texas Driving:

  • Do Not Drive on Median You'll see these signs on the edges of highways and freeways.  And you know why they need a sign?  Cause people do...frequently.
  • Useless Turn Signals.  My biggest pet peeve about Texas driving (specifically Dallas driving) is that no one uses their turn signal to change lanes...they just inch over.    I don't take "inching over the line" as a sign you're about to turn...I take it as a sign you're drunk.  But the reason people don't use their blinker to show they're moving over is probably because if you do people often speed up to close the gap and keep you from coming into their lane.  UG!  Texas civility ends as soon as people get in a car.
  • Roads With Multiple Names.  It's not unusual for a road in Texas to have both a name, and and number.  It's also common for one road to change names several times, even in the same city.  I've gotten lost due to road name changes many times, and it makes asking directions really frustrating.