Adventures in Central Texas Gardening – Part 1, by Lisa

As a child growing up in North Texas, my family was of the Depression era. We raised beef for the freezer, milked our cow for milk, raised chickens for both meat and eggs, raised a hog occasionally but always had a huge garden. I can’t tell you how many times I spent a summer day picking green beans on what seemed like the endless rows of the ½ acre garden. Of course, as I grew older, being the typical teen, I couldn’t wait to leave the country and move up in the world to the big city, which I did.

Fast forward to the 21st century – now as a more mature woman, I yearn for all the forgotten wisdom that was passed down to me. I’m not sure now if it was lack of attention on my part or if it has just faded away with a lot of other memories from that time, or maybe a little of both. However, in the early 2000s, I began to realize that to really take care of my family, I really needed to start growing my own garden for fresh vegetables and to can, freeze and dehydrate as much as I could for long term storage. This is the story of how I began the journey to attempt to return to my roots and the adventures and lessons learned along the way.

Mental Preparation

I began by researching vegetable gardening. I had moved from North Texas to where I currently reside in Central Texas. I was amazed at the difference in gardening lore and planting between the two areas. Identifying your USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Planting zone based on their Plant Hardiness Map is an important part of planning a garden. I was originally in zone 8A but now am in 8B (really on the border of zone 9). The planting times are much earlier, the range of plants that can be planted are greatly expanded and with care, gardening can be done year-round, as opposed to the traditional spring/fall garden.

While I remembered the basics, I needed to determine watering, lighting, the plants that would produce the most, best times to plant, etc. If possible, reach out to your older family members or become acquainted with older members of your community who garden. They will have a wealth of knowledge and will appreciate your interest in gathering their wisdom! In addition to speaking with experienced people, research on the Internet for vegetable gardening. A tip: Be very careful about video sites. While I used this method before, I have found it is best to stick with reputable sources and not necessarily individuals, especially when they post “ideas that are short cuts”, “no work gardening” or seemingly “too good to be true” methods (which they normally are).

Some Useful Websites & References

Some of the reliable websites I have found include:

SurvivalBlog archives – they have a very good selection of articles and practical how-to articles regarding vegetable and herb gardens

Your specific Agriculture Extension Office – They will have such information as the basics, a “recommended plant list” for your specific area, planting time tables based upon last frost and first frost dates and estimated amounts to plant per person and for canning/freezing.

The Old Farmers Almanac – this usually has good articles on planting different plants and the best time to plant based on the moons and the signs. As an interesting side note – this is also a lost piece of knowledge from my past that I am trying to re-educate myself on. My grandparents followed the dates in this book when planting all of their crops. I have attempted to follow this but Mother Nature always seems to have other ideas such as when the exact date that is perfect for planting it’s actually raining cats and dogs!

The Mother Earth News – Disclaimer: I stick with the gardening articles and some of their DIY articles. I am not a follower of some of their ideas regarding other matters.

Most Seed/Nursery Catalogs have a “how-to” section, especially for specific plants.

While I do like the Internet for quick fast searches, I also rely on a vast library of hardbound books. I guess I am really old school as there just seems to be no comparison to holding a good book in your hand. A few of the books which I have that are my primary “go-to” resources are:

As with the Internet, you must use your own judgment/common sense when purchasing and reading books on gardening. While a technique might work in the upper Midwest, it is highly unlikely it would work down here!

Site Selection

If you have the available room and want to have a more “traditional” garden, then site selection is a critical step. Ideally, the perfect garden spot is one that has enough light far enough away from trees/shrubs that do not cast too much shade, enough drainage (slope), and good soil. Unfortunately, as in life, perfection is very elusive. Most often, you must do a careful evaluation of the area you do have available.

In my situation, our property is mostly trees, except for an area fenced in by 6-foot privacy fencing approximately 30 feet by 50 feet which attached to one side of the house. The “top” part of the garden nearest the house, would have shade most of the time, while the “bottom” part would have full sun. I determined I would plant my traditional row garden in the “bottom” part.

I mowed the area I was planning on cultivating approximately 30 by 20, basically scalping the lawn as low as possible to prepare it for tilling. I purchased a small 4-cycle Mantis tiller and proceeded to till up the grass and weeds. Before I was halfway finished, I was already beginning to doubt the logic in my idea of putting in a garden, but I was never brought up to be a quitter.

I continued on with the arduous task stopping every 30 minutes or so to clean the tines of Bermuda grass that had wrapped itself tightly around the blades. This “should have been simple task” (had I purchased the right equipment) took almost two full days to fully till the soil. Then came the task of adding soil additives. We have very sandy soil so I proceeded to add bagged organic topsoil, garden soil, and cow manure to my area, once again tilling it into my new garden area. Once that chore was completed, using the plow attachment on my tiller, I created 28 rows for my new garden! I was so excited! My mind was full of all the visions of my family’s garden overflowing with fresh vegetables, juicy blackberries ready to be made into jelly!

I planted all the “basic” vegetables – broccoli, cabbage, onions, corn, okra, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelons and on the last outside row 4 blackberry bushes.

Outcome and Lessons Learned:
  1. I did not have the right equipment to really till the garden site properly. I should have used the money to buy a full-size tiller (or at the very least, found someone in the area which I could hire to do the job). Very quickly after planting, Bermuda grass and other weeds begin showing back up in my garden. It was a constant battle trying to keep them out and working a full-time 40+ hour week job and trying to keep a garden weed-free is extremely difficult!
  2. In trying to get the most from the garden area, I spaced the rows too close together. 1 foot sounds like plenty of room, however, once the plants in the rows mature and you need to traverse down the rows for routine maintenance, it is very constricting.
  3. I bought the cheapest seed I could find (I’m sure you have all seen the little 20 cent packages at a big box store? ) While those seeds were not a complete waste, they would not have fulfilled the necessity of providing food for a family. The germination rate was (at most) 70%. The labeling on the packages was totally inaccurate. What should have been “bush/compact plants” turned into a winding menagerie of vines. My beautiful dream of a “picture perfect” garden turned into the scene from Robin Williams Jumanji when the vines took over the home!
  4. While I thought I did my due diligence in site selection, I did not take into account another aspect of garden planning: The identification of wildlife threats to your garden. I knew we had abundant deer and wild hogs in the area but the privacy fence alleviated that threat. What I forgot was the constant nuisance of pocket gophers. Before my broccoli and cabbage even had a chance, they were devoured from below! (Think Bill Murray and Caddy Shack, only on a smaller scale). Once I literally had a tug of war with a broccoli plant and a gopher. I maintained possession of the plant but the gopher had already eaten/mangled the roots so bad, it was a lost cause.
  5. Planting Blackberry bushes in the garden is a bad idea!!!! While I didn’t really get a good crop the first year (which was to be expected) but the second year, I had Blackberry bushes sprouting all over my garden area! Sometimes as far away as 20 ft.!

With all the unexpected issues and the frustration of wasted time and effort, I had begun to once again rethink the whole idea of gardening. My husband (who was primarily a “city boy”) was steadfast in his opinion that it was a waste of time, that our ‘garden site’ would never produce anything which we couldn’t just ‘buy at the store’. Well, I mentioned that I wasn’t a quitter but did I also mention I’m slightly stubborn?

I’m an analyst by profession and know when 1 idea/process does not work, that only opens the door to improvement on the existing process or an alternative process. I decided to do more research, looking into alternative gardening methods. What I found combined both improving the existing process AND using an alternative process.

Challenge to Solution

Challenge 1 – Imperfect site selection for traditional gardening, i.e. soil conditions, size constraints, wrong equipment.

Solution – Expand the area to be a complete “garden space” utilizing raised beds and vertical gardening

Raised bed gardening is great, IMHO! While the initial work is tough, the outcome is more than worth it. I now have 9 raised beds (8 ft by 4 ft) and a hay bale trellis area (16 ft by 3ft). That basically gives me 324 square feet of gardening area.

Raised bed gardening is beneficial in conserving water, cutting down on weeds, fewer pest problems, space-saving and for those of us that find it hard to bend/get on our knees, it is easier to work. Raised bed gardening can be as versatile as traditional gardening, actually even more so with different methods. Some prefer Square Foot Gardening, Intensive Gardening, and/or Companion Planting. I actually incorporate all 3 methods in my raised beds.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)




54 Comments

  1. Chuckling you have pocket gophers and in NH I have voles 🙂 It is sad to see a row of beans one by one eaten from below. I even built a raised bed garden with hardware cloth bottom to keep them out. Worked pretty good for 3 years before I lost rows of beans again. After applying caster bean oil spray (gopher gone repellent) it’s been two years so far of peace. Not fond of poisons as the owls here will get killed eating dying rodents.

    Thinking seriously about getting a rat terrier to control the vole, ground squirrel (chippy) and in general be my little buddy. So far hard to find them around here, thoughts?

    Thoughts, solutions for the smaller pests please? Careful use of chickens and ducks have greatly reduced the bug issues as bugs generally come from eggs and larvae IN your own soil. Nasty bugs but tasty eggs.

    1. Good afternoon Michael,

      From what I can gather off the internet, the pocket gophers we have are very close to your voles. They are very irritating critters! I also use hardware cloth under my raised beds. That has really helped.

      I did have chickens at one time but we have almost every predator available – hawks, owls, foxes, raccoons, possums, wolves, coyotes, bobcat, feral hogs, and even the occasional but rare Mexican jaguar. My flock of 15 lasted about 3 years before the last 2 came down with a parasitic infection. 🙁

      A good dog for the critters might be a “cheweenie”. They are a cross between a dachshund and a chihuahua. Ours is almost 5 now and has delusions that he is a 300 pound rottweiler! He doesn’t know the meaning of the word fear but is a great little companion. 🙂

      1. A cheweenie! I’m ROTFLMAO about the visual 🙂

        What kind of parasitic infection? Not much aside from mites has bothered my chickens after I learned how to fence and chicken tractor them properly.

        Feral hogs are the most troublesome part about your story. They can tear through most fencing and destroy even raided bed gardens.

        Does your cheweenie keep them away 🙂 I’m sure it’s heart is big enough!

        1. Hi Michael,

          sorry I’m just getting back to commenting on this. Yes, he is a medium size terrier about 27 pounds. Standing on his back legs, he can be “very sneaky” around the kitchen counters! 😉

          The vet never explained but said that a parasite had invaded their ear canal. They were completely off-balance when they walked, they couldn’t even get on their roost at night. I gave them the recommended general antibiotic in their water but it didn’t help them. 🙁

          Yes, the feral hogs can do real damage. Our first encounter was one morning we got up a and our front yard looked like it had been “plowed by a large tractor” over night. Holes almost a foot deep! One year they almost completely dug out our water meter!

          Yes, Geronimo (my dog) wants to tear into them when he sees them. They do not like dogs so they head back into the woods. Unfortunately I can’t let him run loose except in my garden area. He would be too much of a tasty snack, especially for the big boars.

    1. Good morning, RKRGRL68!

      Thank you for the kind words! I am really hoping I get some good feedback and suggestions to improve my gardening knowledge! When reading about everyone’s gardening comments, especially on Saturday’s, I am both jealous and inspired to continue my path. 🙂

      The topsy turvy conditions of 2020 has also plagued my garden efforts this year but I am prayerful for a good fall garden. We are expecting a tropical development to form in the Gulf late this week which will bring us some much needed rain! Everything plant based crunches when you walk outside. 🙁

      Have a Rockin great day! (would love to hear some of your favorite tunes sometime, we appear to be of the same time frame 🙂 )

  2. Thank you for this article, and I will be anxious for the article tomorrow. My Mother was raised on a farm outside Waukomis, OK, and passed away on 5 June at the age of 93. She talked of working the “garden” of 3 acres. I can only imagine how long that took.

    1. Hi Dan, I can totally relate.

      Not only did we have a large garden for ourselves, we also shared a “potato plot” with my Aunt. It was also about 1/2 – 3/4 acres. The planting would take the four of us, my grandfather, grandmother, aunt and myself, all day. Harvesting the potatoes was even more of a job but they always produced. We shared the harvest, with my grandparents keeping the majority of the larger potatoes and my aunt canning the smaller ones.

      I’m amazed at how all of the “old folks” worked so hard! At this time, I’m the same age or slightly younger than they were then but I sure don’t remember them complaining about the aches and pains that seem so common now. If they were alive today, I’m sure they could all outwork me in heartbeat!

  3. I can relate to your situation…I was raised in the Texas panhandle on a homestead, although at that time I’m not sure they were called that. We gardened and raised chickens for eggs and meat (when they stopped laying). Now I wonder how we knew which chickens did or did not lay. Also a couple of calves each year for beef. We have recently tried gardening again with very poor results (I have thought about getting advice from the New York gov or whoever it was that said anybody could be a farmer just throw some seeds in the ground and cover them up, I obviously need instruction in throwing or covering). All the wisdom that my parents had passed with them ( I am 71 and my parents have been gone for many years now). Fortunately we have quite a bit of food stored (I have been “prepping since the early 80’s …19 not 18). Looking forward to the rest of your article. May God bless all.

    1. The Texas panhandle…. from the Palo Duro on up to Perryton, I love it all and everything in between.

      When I moved to the panhandle in my early adult years, I cried because I thought I had moved to the ends of the earth. When I left there, I cried because I understood I was leaving one of the best places on earth.

      I return there regularly and am always smiling when I am “home”.

    2. Thank you Texas Prepper! I really needed that good laugh today regarding your comment about the NY guy. When I read the original article/quote that he just throw some seeds in the ground, I could only say to myself, he doesn’t have a clue!

      I’m sorry for your lose of your parents and the knowledge they had. I too wish I had paid more attention or at least had the chance the talk to mine (grandparents) when I finally came to senses about gardening, but they were long gone by then.

  4. I can totally identify with you and growing up on that farm. We were so busy with our chores etc. that when it came to the garden, I remember dropping seeds and that is about all. Our gardens had plenty of grass and weeds. I have learned since that time that gave shade to the hot summer sun. It rarely was irrigated as the pastures and tobacco fields received that much needed moisture. I wish that I could gather so much of that wisdom that got lost with their deaths too. I look forward to your next installment.

    1. Thank you sewNurse,

      Your comment actually reminded me of a “potato plot” we had. It was about 1/2 – 3/4 acres and once we planted the potatoes, we didn’t do anything with that piece of land until it was time to harvest them.

      I have also heard about letting the “grass and weeds” grow up to give shade but I just haven’t had the heart to try that. My grandmother spent hours in here garden hoeing out the weeds and aerating the ground around her main veggies. Maybe that is something that I will try next. thank you for the suggestion!

  5. What an awesome article to find first thing in the morning! I am looking forward to tomorrow’s post. I too live in TX. I am still figuring things out and learning a lot along the way. One of my most difficult issues is figuring out how much to water my 5 gallon buckets. I am thinking I still am bot watering as much as I should be.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences!

    1. Thank you LSM,

      While I am not a master gardener as some of the folks here on SB, I think it depends a lot on several factors for your 5 gallon buckets.

      Where are they located – South side meaning they get major heat as well as sun?
      Do you have drain holes drilled in the buckets to allow for excess water to escape?
      The type of plants you also have planted is a factor as some need more water than others.

      The rule of thumb that I use is sticking my finger into the soil, about an inch. If it feels dry, then I give them a good soaking. That of course, is with drain holes to allow the excess water to escape.

      I’m so glad you are continuing your learning. I’ve been doing this since 2009 (current home) and I’m still learning!

    1. Thank you SaraSue,

      I am in awe of you folks that live in the north with your gardening successes! I dream of having a greenhouse but it is just too hot here and the hail storms can wreck it in a matter of minutes. 🙁

  6. Gardening in Central Texas is quite interesting. I’ve gardened on and off through the years. I’ve been attempting to branch out on what I grow this summer in an attempt to have more variety and learn more. We also have fig, pomegranate and peach trees that do quite well here. We’ve always had chickens and have done well with them as well. Great article! I look forward to part 2.

    1. Thank you SaraLee,

      I am currently doing research on what fruit trees would be good for my area. I have very sandy soil and have not had success in the past. I have found a (what I think) is a good online nursery in Texas.

      I am just waffling on paying for something now that will not be shipped until late October/early November in the current “climate”. I’m still waiting on items I ordered back in March (that were in “stock”) but now not expected to ship until late September.

  7. Thank you for the book lists!

    I’m in Texas, zone 9. We have heavy clay soil so we amend it and do raised beds.

    My property will flood during super heavy rains and hurricanes due to a nearby river. It’s a guess every summer. So far this summer it hasn’t flooded, but we moved the garden beds to the high hill by the house. Still, I want to be able to grow on the rest of the property. We are drawing up plans for raised garden boxes at least.

    Anyway gardening is a constant learning process. I’m glad you persisted!

    To anyone wanting to give up, don’t. Gardening is hard work and has a learning curve. But it the rewards are bountiful!

    1. Thank you Texas Gal,

      Just please remember, some of these books have great advice in general but they need the “Texas modification”. 🙂

      I’m right on the border of zone 9 only with very sandy soil. The raised beds has been my solution on that. (stay tuned tomorrow for more on raised beds 😉 ).

      As a side note, I see we might have a tropical disturbance developing in the Gulf this week. Any excess rain that you don’t want, please send this way! I walk out my front door and everything crunches, even the weeds. We need rain desperately!

  8. Thank you, Lisa in TX! What a great article — fun and informative. The sharing of your experiences is greatly appreciated. Compliments also on the organization of your article from the introduction, to insights about your learning process, to the issues you encountered and the solutions you developed in the process. This is an excellent way to structure thought processes and action plans surrounding any endeavor!

    A couple thoughts on raised beds to share as well.

    A little background… Our garden includes outdoor raised beds in addition to raised beds inside the greenhouse. We’re between zones 6 and 7, and so have a little different growing climate (although we can mimic zones 8 and 9 within the greenhouse and have been able to grow a banana tree — still a starter at this point — as a result).

    Within the greenhouse (although this application may also work well for outdoor growing too) we use both traditional raised beds (soil top to bottom), and self-wicking beds. You might consider trying a self-wicking bed which includes tubes placed in the bottom of the bed for the storage of water, a drain for overflow (toward the top of your tubes and out the side of your bed), and the capacity to fill the water storage tubes from just above the soil on the top. These systems water from the bottom up, and are very efficient with regard to water conservation. Our plants love these beds, and have done very well generally. We haven’t yet tried the self-wicking beds in the outdoor garden, but we may yet do this too!

    A couple helpful tips:
    1) Start these with a top watering once the water reservoir tubes are filled when you first begin.
    2) Don’t let these dry out. Top off the reservoir tubes every few days. The schedule for this, and the water needed, will vary with the season.
    3) Experiment with what works. Persevere!

    Hoping this helps, and adds an interesting idea to the development of your garden projects!

    1. Wonderful! Thank you Telesilla of Argos!

      I will get my husband to read your comment. I’m not that great at plumbing but he is! This sounds like an excellent idea as it seems it would really cut down on evaporation when watering.

      I would love to have a greenhouse. I actually tried it at a “burb” house before we purchased our property here. It got entirely too hot and then a hail storm came through and that was the end of it. 🙁

      If you have the time, the self-wicking sounds like a GREAT article for the SB community! I know I would be reading and saving it! 🙂

      1. Hello Lisa in TX!
        Thanks so much for your note in reply, and definitely check out the some of the self-wicking bed videos available at YouTube. Will include a link here for one that shares a lot of information to help. This fellow’s design (by Albo Pepper) is much smaller than the beds we’re using with the same basic set-up, but he provides a lot of very helpful detail and instruction. The beauty is that these can be scaled-up, and they should be excellent for outdoor use. Our beds are constructed of pressure treated and stained lumber for the frame, and corrugated steel for the side panels.

        Here you go: https://youtu.be/Lp9Jdyno9hI

        So sorry to hear about that hail storm, and the loss of your greenhouse! Those storms can be tough — it’s true. We built ours substantially in-ground, and the exterior is clad with twin wall 8 mm polycarbonate panels. The good news is that we don’t usually see much hail — some with thunderstorms, but thus far no severe hail storms.

        Cooling is also a challenge, we know! For any reader tackling the question of too much heat, we have a couple of strategies to share: 1) in-ground construction for geothermal exchange; 2) vents tied to temperature; 3) shade cloth; and 4) an evaporative cooling system (such as an overhead mister).

        Hope all of this helps, and that you enjoy lots and lots of success!!!

  9. Enjoyed it much. And with your advice, I’m more motivated to go pick up a rototiller that is being given to me. The hard work of establishing a large garden and making good soil for it this year was a tough one, but now it is indeed a joy to work it.

    1. So glad you are still here, Tunnel Rabbit! I was saddened when you posted the other day you would be focusing on other areas (understandable but you would still be greatly missed!).

      Yes, the right tool for the right job makes all the difference! Definitely go pick up that tiller! 🙂

  10. Gardening is great adventure. I found the more I learned/experienced changed the way I grew. In long run organization and partnering with nature rather than opposing or trying to over control in some way was the most profound piece for me. It made growing easier, more understandable, and the plants/soil/produce so much better as well.

    Look forward to next part.

    1. I agree, SCGal,

      I think it was Lily that mentioned Saturday that she was leaving an area of her garden to let nature do it’s thing. I’ve started thinking about that and trying to determine ways I can incorporate it into my garden plans.

      On the other side of the coin though, I’ve tried companion gardening (thinking natural pest control) without much success. 🙁 I’ve gone to several websites and consulted several books but it’s still a gap in my gardening skills.

  11. Your article made me smile this morning. Been there and done that so many times! Now I have made the decision to do a bit of a lot of different growing methods, raised beds, grow bags, buckets, row crops and permaculture beds. I have successes and failures using each method. The most important thing is that you are grow your food.

    I look forward to part 2.

    1. Thank you Cal!

      Yes, adaptation, IMHO, is best. What I have found is not everything grows well in this area using one specific method.

      Experimentation is the key to learning. I try to maintain a gardening journal each year. That is one thing I really need to work on! I start out strong out of the gate (spring) and then by early summer I realize “oops, I’m a couple of weeks behind”! 🙁

    1. Thank you TJMO,

      Yes, the differences in gardening is amazing from one area to the next. I was originally in zone 8a and it doesn’t sound like a big difference but being in zone 8b is different frost times, planting times, etc.

      I am so close to zone 9, i am thinking about experimenting with some plants that are only zoned for zone 9. I think with a little TLC, I think they may do just fine here.

  12. Hi Lisa, excellent article! Looking forward to tomorrow’s installment. I love your attitude! 🙂

    I hear you on the Mother Earth News. I had a subscription back in the olden days when two hippies were publishing it out of their garage. It was basically like SurvivalBlog on paper with the major emphasis on self-reliant living, no nasty ads, and articles written by real people who were actually living and doing the things they were writing about. The Mother Earth News was my original inspiration way back when to someday have my own self-reliant little homestead. How far they have strayed from their original mission and become corporatized. One good thing that I haven’t gotten around to yet is ordering their complete back issues stick for $30 so I can get those original issues.

    https://www.motherearthnews.com/store/product/mother-earth-news-classic-archive-1970-2019

    Thank you for underscoring how different gardening is from one location to another, even a short distance. People can’t get started on gardening soon enough due to issues like that.

    The weeds are definitely the biggest killjoy in gardening. I just spent the morning weeding and mulching the beans with grass I had cut this week. I actually don’t mind weeding since I think of it as “harvesting compost” and I love watching my compost pile grow.

    Tillers are definitely a live-and-learn thing. I only use mine like you did, for breaking soil for new garden or tilling new compost in. The want ads can be a great place to find tillers, and I got mine at an auction for $50. It’s probably older than I am but gets the job done and is built very sturdy like things used to be built.

    “Planting Blackberry bushes in the garden is a bad idea!!!!” Arrghhh, I had to learn that same lesson! lol. But I took all those plants which had self propagated themselves and within three years my original two plants turned into a 100′ blackberry hedge outside the garden. And what possessed me to plant two fig trees right in the middle of the garden? Definite cerebral flatulence that day. Luckily I was able to dig them up year three and move one WAY outside the garden and the other to the extreme NE corner of the garden near the asparagus. The asparagus is done with its thing before the fig tree leafs out so a good spot.

    No matter how much experience we get in gardening, there are always new things to learn. But it’s very satisfying to see the progress and to have that feeling of empowerment that we get from harvesting and canning our own food, produced by the sweat of our brow. Yes, it would be easier to buy it at the market but you can’t put a price on that feeling of empowerment. I’m sure you’re already feeling that. You’re an inspiration, hang in there! 🙂

    1. St. Funogas! You always bring a delightful perspective to the postings — and lots of smiles to go with it too.

      From your post: “I actually don’t mind weeding since I think of it as “harvesting compost” and I love watching my compost pile grow.”

    2. Thank you St Funogas!

      I really appreciate the link to the archived articles from ME News! I will be ordering one very shortly!

      I totally agree on your comment that people cannot get gardening soon enough. Texas Prepper ( comment above) actually mentioned a gentleman from NY who was highly uninformed that to garden/produce food, one just needs to throw some seeds in the ground. Yeah, good luck with that buddy! LOL, I’ve never been to NY but it doesn’t work that way here in Texas and I seriously doubt it works that way in NY!

      I really wish I had thought about taking the offshoots of the berry plants and transplanting. However at that time, I was thinking “inside the box” of my wooden fence.

      I’m actually researching the best fruit and berry varieties for my area. I’ve heard that Natchez is an upright berry and doesn’t tend to spread as much as the others. Do you have a recommendation?

      1. Hi Lisa, from what I’ve read, Natchez is a vining type and will probably spread. They spread when the long canes touch the ground and begin to root so one simple solution is to cut the tips off the canes when they reach a certain length. With mine, I have a bunch of #10 cans a friend gets for me from the school cafeteria, filled with soil and lined up all along my blackberry hedge at the base of the plants. As the tips reach the ground, I bury the tips in the #10 cans so they can root there. In the spring, I cut off the old cane at the soil level in the can so I can pull the can out. I can then sell them or use them to start a new hedge.

        Here’s a link describing some of the thornless varieties, the only one that says it needs no trellising is Nahaho, but that doesn’t mean it still won’t spread via the tips. I would imagine that they all do that.

        https://www.hunker.com/13426526/varieties-of-thornless-blackberry-plants

  13. I learned years ago in Central Texas its all about good mulch to deal with our grasses/weeds and high heat. Avoid anything with cedar, pine, bois d’arc, or citrus. Also, was always told to grow 3x’s expected harvest. 1/3rd as sacrifice to critters, 1/3rd for you, and 1/3rd for either weather loss or to give away to neighbors and/or charity if weather doesn’t take it that year.

    1. Hi spamreader,

      As far as mulch, (I’m no expert but have had good results for raised beds) is to use a hard wood mulch. The wood breaks down over the season and is mixed in with the old soil when hand turning the bed to get it ready for the next planting.

      As far as citrus, I have been told by a major peach producer in Central Texas, they incorporate citrus peels (not as a complete mulch and not for vegetable gardens) to alleviate ants (especially cutter ants) from decimating their crops/trees.

      As to the 3’s, it reminds me of an old saying – plant one for the wood chuck, one for the crow, and one to grow. That is the philosophy I use when planting squash, cucs, and pumpkins. 🙂

  14. I am sure other people will mention this, but next time you are planning a new bed, consider the lasagna mulch method. Requires planning in advance, but removes the need for tilling your grass and reduces the weeds for the coming years.

    I used it for a 300sqft area this past year and it dealt with the sod nicely.

    1. Good evening Paul,

      Yes, I have heard of the lasagna method. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry to get my new garden in. If I had the time (and patience, which btw isn’t a virtue of mine as my husband keeps reminding me), I would have given it a try. If I decide to expand my gardening area, this will definitely be on my list to do!

    1. Good evening, John

      LOL, You are spot on recognizing why I am not a professional writer like JWR! 🙂

      I’m actually a child of the 60’s but raised by grandparents that were old enough to remember the Great Depression. My Great Aunt actually saved sugar and tire (rubber?) ration stamps. I asked her why one day and she replied “It happened before, it can happen again”. I know she never thought they would be valid but I think she kept them around as a reminder.

    1. Love it, GritsInMontana!

      With your permission, I would love to create a poster with that saying and put it on my door going out to my garden! That statement says it ALL! 🙂

      1. It’s not my original saying, I saw it somewhere too, so I put it in quotes. I should have added “author unknown”! I think that would make a fabulous sign! (I have a small marker in my garden that says “Little Miss Happy Plants”.)

        😉

  15. Hi Y’all,

    For those of you that till your soil, you might want to read Bryant Redhawk Ph.D. (soil science) Soil Series Thread on permies.com

    link below:
    https://www.permies.com/wiki/redhawk-soil

    He explains why you might till once to loosen soil, but if you do it repeatedly, you are destroying the mycellium network that creates the food for the plants.

    It is fascinating reading.

    I highly recommend it. Even if you want to continue tilling, at least you will be aware of what the microbes in the soil do to feed your plants.

    Warm wishes and God Bless you all.

    Will in Florida

  16. Greetings Friends –

    I grew up in Iowa and was as Lisa, ran away from the rural area and gardening as fast as possible, my heart an roots have now taken me back. My grandma just passed at 103 and I still can remember the days of canning for weeks and being the corn shucking guy. I now love it, I grow raised bed gardens at 7000 ft. In Colorado successfully. They said I couldn’t grow tomato’s from seed and have 17 plants healthy and producing. Challenges in life are always there, It’s a matter of how we approach them. Cheers to all who live the life we do,

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