Free Lemonade!!!!

posted under “Guerrilla Organics”

Well, it has been three weeks since our nasty hailstorm.  Here is a little photo collage of all of the bagged leaf debris still sitting on the roadside just within a few blocks of my house.  It appears that the waste management company isn’t hasty about picking it up.  Can’t say that I blame them!  I wish the Leaf Bandit had more time, energy and space………

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Making Lemonade

Posted to Guerrilla Organics:

A few days ago, we had a pretty bad hailstorm in our area.  Aside from disturbing peaceful sleep and sweet dreams, the hail shredded our neighborhood trees, blew a few over, damaged roofs, and churned up my veggie and herb garden. Bah!  Happily, the apple and pear trees still have most of the immature fruit still hanging on, so there’s a bit of good news.  Below however is my newly decorated green driveway. It’s a little more devastating in person – not the best photographer.  Anyhow – what to do….what to do. No problem. When life hands you lemons……

Fresh green tree leaves are a rich nitrogen source if shredded immediately, so all that fell into the lawn were mowed in right away to feed the grass and the soil microbes as they break down.  As for those in the driveway, I got out the blower and blew them into little piles and wheeled them to some weedy spots to smother and mulch.  A thick mulch of any type of decomposable material is the best solution to smothering annual weeds. As long as you don’t till or dig into that area, the weeds and their seeds will be smothered for life.  And the soil will become richer and richer as those leaves and twigs decompose. By the way, my blower/vac and my mower are my best friends.  So much easier than raking and raking.  Especially on larger properties

My son and I took a hike this afternoon as part of his summer heat conditioning for sports (don’t know why I had to add the extra details, but if you know that I live in Texas, I didn’t want you to think I was crazy, or an abusive parent!!), and house after house, there were piles and piles of black trashbags filled with the very same product – raked up leaves and twigs.  What?!!!!  Nightmare!  And at our town hall parking lot is a dumpster already loaded to the brim with more bags.  What a rich resource for each homeowner to use right on the spot!  But no.  They rake it up, bag it up and expect the waste management company to modify its trucking schedules and logistics to send in more vehicles to haul it off to lord knows where.  I sure hope it’s not the landfill!  Gee, golly….I guess that’s what we pay them for.  Talk about a waste of resources.  And then in a week or so, these lawns in their sterile environment will be burning up in the July heat, so the very same people will dash out to the big box store…and buy bagged water soluble high nitrogen fertilizer…and water the lawn to death, wasting more resources…when instead, the nurturing leaf matter from the trees right above their heads could have been cooling and feeding the grass below, for free!  Again, BAH! Well, let’s try to find a bright side to the ‘old school process’, if there is one.  Potentially, I suppose, these homeowners burned off a few of their burgers and fried chicken sandwiches from lunch while they were doing all that raking and bagging!  Now there’s a good thought!

Hmmm…….free bagged leaves by the roadside?  I think the Leaf Bandit will be lurking tonight…… :)

be a guerrilla

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Here is a little photo log of our latest tepin garden.  Little by little, we are chipping away at our yard and converting it to chiltepin, food crops, and other herbaceous and flowering loveliness.  Removing Bermuda grass is labor intensive, and there is truly no other way to do it other than hand removal.  The rhizomes go deep, up to six or more inches, and if even the smallest piece of root is left behind, new grass will sprout.  Below is progress during the first pass of grass removal and some planting.  As you can see, the soil is quite sandy.

Below is our mini nursery of plants.  We overwintered all of these in our garage.  Chiltepin is a tough little bugger.  The temps went down to 18 degrees several times, and no clue what the temp was in our garage, but the plants stayed green.  The most difficult part was watering in the garage.  Even the lack of sun didn’t seem to affect them.  The larger plants will be put in the new garden.

Here below, the bed is a bit further along.  The “stepping stones” are from a neighbor down the road.  He had tried to use large concrete squares to make a parking spot in his backyard for his huge truck, but when he drove on it, the concrete cracked up.  He had it stacked by the road for weeks, expecting the trash guys to pick it up, but they refused.  Lucky Me!  The ultimate in recycling.

Already, the weeds were infiltrating our first efforts due to plenty of rain and exposed soil.  I didn’t have any mulch at the time, so I started using the clippings from my red tip photinias as a source of mulch.  Not too pretty, but I wanted to do what I could to suppress any more weeds

A month later, we have the results below.  I called my favorite local tree service and asked (nicely) if they needed to get rid of any shredded tree trimmings.  Tree service companies are usually happy to give away their tree trimmings, otherwise they have to pay a fee to dump it, a fee that they pass on to the homeowner.  Fresh native tree trimmings are truly the best mulch.  You get all parts of trees that were locally grown in your area – bark, branches, shredded green leaves and the live cambium cells which have tons of energy, so the green stuff and the brown stuff eventually all breaks down into lovely soil.  Some day I will show a photo of an area where my soil has been transformed from dry sandy ugliness into rich lush cakey amazing soil full of earthworms, mainly by using free mulch from the tree trimmmers.

It was 104 degrees today, and things look a little sad.  The closer plants were planted in the heat a couple of weeks ago and are still suffering, but the earlier plants have established pretty well!  Happy times.  I have about five more feet to go to finish the entire pathway.  Hopefully it will be finished in a few weeks. Yay!!!  Ps – should I have used a plumb-line to make things perfectly straight? Naaaaah…..what’s the fun in that!!!    :)

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Never Satisfied

Note to Reader once again!  Started this post in Mid-May.  At this time, this new bed is 90 percent complete and doing fine.  Will submit photos of the progress very soon.  Now that the Texas heat has taken over, there might be more time to stay indoors and work on this blog.

For the past few weeks, we have been expanding some of our garden beds in order to incorporate more tepin plants.  We were lucky enough to overwinter most of our little nursery of potted peppers that we grew last summer,  in our garage.  Here is a photo of father and son removing grass for our NEXT chiltepin planting bed.

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Germination Aggravation @$%#$@%#%!!!

Note to Readers:  I originally started this post on May 5th.  Spring has been busy crazy, and there has been no time to get back to my blog.  I thought I had posted this one, but I guess I didn’t!!  Soon there will be an update to this one, as  the little seedlings have been transplanted to their own individual pots…..stay tuned…..PS – blogging is more time consuming than I realized!!  :)   Well, here goes again…..

Some People have all the Luck. Aaargh.  HE, who will Not be Named, decided to throw down a handful of seeds in a “home-made” potting soil, which was a combination of sifted soil from our veggie garden mixed with the potting soil that I have previously been using.  As you can see in the photo below on the left, he had almost a hundred percent germination!  To the right is the pot that I had started in January, that only sprouted about 5 little seedlings.  HE started HIS about a month ago when he got tired of waiting on my experiments to succeed.  Science, Schmience.  I give up!!!!  (but I’m grateful for the new crop.  Shhh….don’t tell HIM!)

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Happy Mother’s Day

“I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.”

– Song of Solomon 6:11

A number of years ago, too many to count, my Mother and Father In-Law, Nancy and Bill, came to pay us a visit.  We had recently moved to this new property in order to accommodate our ever expanding family.  The time of their visit was around Mother’s Day.  So…..on Sunday, Mother’s Day, we spent the day on a Master Gardener’s tour of home gardens.

At one particular garden, we came upon an amazing sight.  It was a large shrub in full bloom, ablaze in a fiery orange/red color.  The photo above doesn’t do justice to the color.  Nothing any of us had ever seen before.  I cannot express how incredible the sight was, but we were enthralled.  I don’t remember who inquired, but we all had to know what was the name of this amazing specimen.  It turned out to be a Pomegranate, of all things!  My lovely Mother-in-law, Nancy, decided to make it her mission that I must have one of my own as my mother’s day present, and after a little exploration, we found one at a local nursery!  The guy said that it was an ornamental pomegranate when he sold it to us, but he was wrong, because it definitely bears fruit.  BONUS!

So…..every Mother’s day Year after Year, I am greeted with a vibrant color that cannot be described, but must be seen in person.  A joyous sight that reminds me of that happy weekend.  Then… the fall, our family is rewarded with a nice crop of actual yummy pomegranates!!  This spring, as you can see from the photo, there are still a lot of buds not open, probably due to all of the crazy winter weather.  No Worries.  Something to look forward to…….Happy Mothers Day, Mom!  Lots and Lots of Love and Hugs and Kisses from all of us

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Gee whiz, it’s so true – a watched pot never boils (Man, I’m getting good with the cliche’s these days.)  I started these seed experiments on January 19th, and here it is almost two months later.  People have asked how the progress is going, and so far it is pretty disappointing.  Here is a photo I took just an hour ago:

The left pot is the control group planted in commercial potting soil, the center is seeds planted in coconut fiber, and the right is the seeds that I soaked in a vinegar solution in order to break up the seed-coat.  I cut off most of that in the photo because there is nothing to see.  The control group is progressing the best so far.  Even though there are probably a hundred or so seeds in there, only a handful have germinated.  In the middle pot with the coconut fiber, there are only two struggling seedlings, that sprouted a couple of weeks ago, but they are not thriving – they haven’t even shed the seed-coat.  Check it out. Pretty sad.

I didn’t want to apply any liquid fertilizer until I had a larger group germinating, but it seems as these seedlings are starved for some type of nutrient, if they cannot even shed their seed coat for two weeks.

It might be time to go back to square one and try a few different things.  But literature has shown that it might take up to 100 days to germinate chiltepin, so it is not really time to give up on this batch.  In the past years, we threw tepin seeds in a pot and went along with our business.  Life is busy and fast-paced, and we never really counted the days until they sprouted, although we knew it did seem like a long time.  But thankfully we never watched the pot, and it finally boiled.  A watched pot never boils.  I hope these pots will eventually…….

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Being Selfish – Part III

Note to Reader: The more I read this post, the more I think that it is an extremely sophomoric piece of writing, as if I was trying to make a good grade in my high school english class.  But I still like the analogy, and I hope it communicates how I feel about changing from conventional methods to organic methods.  Here goes….

Converting to Organics was akin to a metamorphosis for our family.  We used to be creeping caterpillars, trudging from one big box store to the next, purchasing the highly marketed weed and feed, weedkiller, and fungicide products that were “guaranteed” to give us the most beautiful lawn and garden imaginable.  When our daughter was born and we became apprehensive about exposing this fragile life to such harsh chemicals, our enthusiasm for the yard and garden was squelched.  We formed a cocoon of inactivity as we waited for our yard to rid itself of toxins.  For a long period of time we had many questions, and no answers.  Slowly……slowly, new gardening methods were discovered and a new education began, and the results were beautiful.  Our family and lifestyle emerged from the cocoon anew, like a butterfly.  Each year our gardens soar higher and higher – they only get better, tastier, more beautiful and more successful as they are fortified with compost,  natural fertilizers and other forms of organic matter.  Being selfish can sometimes be good. :)

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Germination Frustration

It has been almost a month since planting the tepin seeds.  The control group was planted on January 19th. The other two experiments were planted on the next two successive days.  The control group of seeds on the far left is planted in regular potting soil that you can get from the big box stores (not organic).  I am trying to get away from using this super convenient and inexpensive product, since being 100% organic is my goal.  The second tray is tepin seeds planted in pure coconut fiber.  It is light and fluffy and resembles peat, but it is not anti-microbial.  I had hoped this aspect of the coconut fiber would increase the germination speed.  The third tray is tepin seeds that i soaked in a 50/50 vinegar mixture.  I had thought maybe a mild acid solution would help to break down the seedcoat and help the seeds to sprout faster.  Thus far, I have had only two sprouts.  They sprouted in the Control Group tray.  The first on February 10th, and the second on February 11th.  That is 22 and 23 days from planting.

To the left are the two seedlings.  This morning I observed a sprout breaking through the soil in the tray that is using coconut fiber.

So far, my experiments are inconclusive.  It appears that the control group is winning, but the first two sprouts could be an anomaly.  I’m waiting for a larger flush of sprouting, which is typically what happens when the tepin seeds germinate.

The only other thing that I observed that may affect the germination rate is the moisture level.  I believe that I allowed the control group to dry out a bit more than the other two trays.  It might be necessary for the seeds to go through several cycles of being moist and then dry out.  This is something that I have observed in the past by happenstance.  Well, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and will keep you posted!

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How to start Chiltepin seeds

I like to re-use the mushroom styrofoam containers from the grocery store.  Just poke holes in the bottom for drainage.  It can rest inside another container to keep from dirtying the counter or other indoor surface where the seeds are being housed in the winter-time

Next, fill the container with soil.  Currently I’m experimenting with a couple of soils.  Don’t use a peat-based soil, because it will inhibit seed germination due to the fact that peat is anti-microbial.  Have your dried peppers on hand.  Each tiny pepper houses about 20 seeds on average.  So in that bowl, you are looking at about 200 seeds!

I like to crush and sprinkle the seeds over the soil without worrying about the red skins.  It makes things pretty easy.  Just remember to wash your hands afterwards, or wear gloves.  Learned that the hard way!

The seeds can be sprinkled pretty densely.  After they germinate, I’ll show how to “prick” out each seedling and pot up separately.

Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.  Water thoroughly.  Cover with plastic wrap.  I like to use a gallon sized baggie – the mushroom container fits perfectly inside.  Label the baggie and mark the date, so you can keep track of germination time.  Place in the warmest spot that you can find.  Some people use a sunny window or the top of a clothes dryer.  Wait patiently……

I started several containers of seeds on January 19th and 20th.  I’m trying a couple of ideas to see if there is any way to speed up germination.  I’ll post on that soon.

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