Ultimate garden gloves


 

I told you about my socks, but I didn’t tell you about my new gardening gloves…by far the coolest present I received this year.

They’re called Honey Badger gloves, and I absolutely love them.

First, I love digging in the dirt. A gardening friend of mine will remind me that there is a difference between “soil” and “dirt.” And she’s right, or course. But digging in the dirt has a greater connotation for me that digging in the soil.

I’ve planted seedlings often by digging holes in my garden with my bare hands instead of using a trowel. And my family can tell you that I often resemble the Peanut’s character Pigpen when I come in from the garden or from sifting compost.

There’s something about feeling the tilth of the soil, the warmth stored in it from the sun’s rays, dirt under my fingernails, and smudges on my face that not only bring back memories of my misspent youth, but also create new memories every day.

Before I wax too poetic, I need to tell you that I think these gloves are brilliant. I’ll still be digging in the dirt with my bare hands, but I’m also looking forward to using these gloves to do the same thing.

If I get tired of digging with them, I can always use them to frighten neighborhood children.

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Sock it to me!


 

Christmas is always interesting at my house. My family has an…er…rather unique sense of humor. For some reason, it’s usually directed at me. To those of you who know me, you probably know that, in many things, I often lack circumspection (yes I know what circumspection means – look it up) and foresight.

Several weeks prior to Christmas, on the little chalk boards above the mantle, where we write down our Christmas “wants,” I naively wrote “Socks.” I thought it was a good idea, since my current ones were getting a little threadbare. It would also be an easy, inexpensive gift, and, since I would probably be paying for it anyway, it seemed a thrifty thing to do.

Christmas morning. I’m sitting in the living room, groggily drinking my morning coffee, when my daughter plops a very large, bulging stocking on my lap. I reached in and pulled out – yep, you guessed it, a pair of socks. But not just any old pair of socks, and certainly not the socks I am accustomed to wearing (black, conservative). These socks looked like something that a Dr. Suess character would have worn. (see photo).

But wait, that’s not all of the story. As I withdrew the socks from the stocking, a ribbon tied to the first pair pulled out a second pair. Then a third, then a fourth. All told – 24 pairs of the most outrageous socks I can imagine. (Again see photo for example – and that pair is one of the tamer ones.) I figure now I have enough socks to last several years…which is good, because I’m not going to ever ask for socks again – EVER!

It’s a good thing I wear boots most of the time.

 

 

Spring vegetable varieties that do well in The Woodlands


 

As reported in the last blog, it’s not too early to begin planning for your spring vegetable garden, if you’re so inclined.

My winter cabbages are well on the way, lettuce is up and broccoli is looking good. Raccoons got into my onions and wreaked havoc. None of them have sprouted yet, so I’m doubtful I’ll have a good crop. I’ll probably need to plant again.

I’m already planning for my spring garden.

Tomatoes

Everyone loves tomatoes.  Some of my friends start them from seed. However, starting tomatoes from seed is not for the faint-hearted, or the impatient, or the forgetful…I fall into at least two of those categories, which is why I prefer to buy my seedlings, come warm weather.

Tomatoes from seed need to be started in January INSIDE. Why? Because it takes about six weeks for tomato seeds to sprout and grow into seedlings large and healthy enough to transplant into the ground. And, since spring weather here comes around the middle to the end of February, tomato seeds need to be planted early. Since it’s a little involved, I’m going to spare you the details. However, if you’re really interested in experimenting, here’s an excellent how to video: Growing Tomatoes From Seed To Harvest. Remember to order seeds soon.

If you’d rather do as I do and purchase seedlings, remember that it gets hot here quick, and tomato plants quit producing when the ambient temperature at night is 90 degrees or hotter. If your seedlings are not in the ground by mid-March, you’ve probably waited too long.

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service has put together a list of tomato varieties that do well in Montgomery County. The list actually includes all vegetable varieties that are proven producers in the area.  Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Montgomery County. The list includes vegetables all the way from green beans to watermelon, and also indicates “days to harvest. Another valuable tool is the Vegetable Garden Planting Chart, available on the Montgomery County Master Gardeners website.

In my last article, I have provided a list of good seed companies. Order the catalogues now, or access the websites from that post.

 

 

Spring ain’t here yet, but it’s not too far off


Spring always arrives early in The Woodlands…at least earlier than it does in most of the rest of the country. And when spring arrives, gardeners begin to get itchy fingers.

Worldwide, spring officially begins on March 20, the date of the spring equinox. The spring equinox is the date when the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of day and night is almost equal.

But to gardeners, farmers, and horticulturalists, spring arrives the day after the last frost.

When we lived in Santa Fe, NM, the last frost generally didn’t arrive until mid-April. The same is true for Chicago and New York. Milwaukee and most of the Upper Midwest and the West don’t see the last frost until May.

But, here in The Woodlands, spring usually arrives in mid- to late-February … a surprise for newly arrived Midwesterners and East Coasters. To complicate matters, this information is based on the AVERAGES of last frost dates from 1980.  In actuality, predicting exactly when that last frost is going to occur is an inexact science. Who knows when that last norther will zip down from the Arctic and freeze everything.

That happened to me three years ago. February 27 came along. The temperature had been in the high 60’s for a week. According to weather reports, no more cold fronts were expected. We put in tender baby tomato plants on that day. That night, from out of nowhere, a freeze freight-trained down through the Plains, devastating the tomatoes.

For me, it was disappointing, but not the end of the world. But it did make me understand how the vicissitudes of weather affect farmers who rely on crops for their livelihood.

Regardless of that, it’s important to get your spring garden in as quickly as you can. Spring comes early here, but so does summer.

For instance, tomatoes are a warm-season annual that grow best when the soil temperature is at least 55°F and the air temperature ranges between 65° and 90°F. Over 90°F, production decreases rapidly. At 95°F, production generally ceases. There are, of course, ways to extend the growing season for tomatoes and other warm weather crops, but I’ll save that for another time.

Early spring is also a great time to put in fall blooming plants like Barbados Cherry, Turk’s Cap, Carolina Jessamine, Rock Rose, Plumbago, Passionflowers, and a list of other plants. Getting them in the ground in early spring allows them to create root systems before the dog days of summer arrive. For a list of fall plants that do well in The Woodlands, search the Texas A&M Earthkind Plant Selector here.

February comes fast, so it’s probably a good idea to start planning your spring garden now, with seed catalogues (great for rainy winter days) and great gardening websites.

Here are some sites that you might be interested in:

 

Wildseed Farms

Johnny’s Select Seeds

Burpee’s Seeds

Gurney’s Seeds

Park Seeds

Mother Earth’s List of Best Seed Catalogues

Rodale’s Organic Life Seed Catalogue List

You can order seed catalogues from the above. If you’d prefer to save a tree, you can search their websites.

These two sites below are great sites for local information or more specific information about plants. The Lazy Gardener, Brenda Buest Smith is a local (and knowledgeable) gardening blogger who gives invaluable advice on growing locally. Dave’s Garden has tons of information on plants, has reqional chat rooms for gardeners to exchange information, and also has a seed exchange operation.

The Lazy Gardener

Dave’s Garden

Plant early, but be careful of the weather. Landscape perennials tend to be more forgiving than tender vegetables. And enjoy all those wonderful color photos of bountiful vegetables and gorgeous plants.