November Gardening: Playing with Frost

November is here and with it comes the first frost for my garden. I live in north central Texas in USDA zone 7b with an average first frost around November 10.

But I always flirt with danger, hoping to extend my garden season for a few warm season plants. With the impending doom lurking with the first freeze, I will be spending my weekend preserving what I can for the winter.

What’s thriving in my garden at the moment:

 

Fall okra. No kidding. I planted okra at least a year ago, but it’s just now coming up. [soon to be killed by frost]

Cucumbers … another one waiting to be bitten by the frost… Maybe I can make a makeshift vertical row cover… I had bad luck with my summer cucumbers because the aphids and mites sucked them dry.

Of course my favorite volunteer Porter tomatoes, god love them, they are tenacious, if anything.

 

Tomatillos. My first endeavor with this plant. I had no idea it would go all over the place. It’s growing habit is more like pumpkins with how it spreads and takes over.

And the ever-resilient Swiss chard. This stuff is hardy and fairest of all. It grows in the winter, spring, summer and fall. It tastes the best in early spring and late fall. It’s frost tolerant to about 25 degrees, which makes it a perfect choice for my winter garden! It’s also delicious, bright and beautiful.

 

Spring is Here

Spring is here in North Central Texas. It is obvious in all the sprouting and flowering plants.

Icelandic Poppy
Daffodil
Ornamental Pear

The winter wheat practically glows in the sun. The daffodils are a bloom and the perennials are starting to come back to life. But I happen to have a greenhouse so I’ve got a bit of a jump on things.

Today it was 78 degrees. It’s February 28. I don’t know what that is going to mean but I don’t think it bodes well for the garden season this year. We’ll see.

But for now I’m happy with what I got going on in my little garden.

View into the greenhouse to the left.
View into the greenhouse to the right.
The herb project.
Someone spilled some of my seeds ... I'm not saying who (Jdubs) but I didn't want to throw them out so I just stuck them in a pot to see what sprouted. I have no idea what this is, maybe tomatoes or peppers
A little tomato is forming. And considering how warm it's been, early season is best.
More tomatoes ... these are Celebrity.

Random Awesomeness in Pictures

Sometimes things don’t quite come together. Tonight was one of those nights… I had plans for this blog post, but Jdubs is not cooperating so I had to redirect. But now maybe it’s going to be something more awesome than I had originally planned.

I looked through my random photographs and there are several I haven’t been able to use elsewhere. So I decided to write this post as random awesomeness in pictures.

A few days ago United Supermarkets had a sale on berries. I LOVE berries, and since it was cold, I made oatmeal and berry awesome in a bowl. And I have serious coffee every day. This is pressed coffee. The French version of Cowboy Coffee; it’s not for sissies.

French Press Coffee. Old fashioned oats, fresh berries, walnuts and a splash of cream.

Supper tonight. I made vegetable soup and chicken salad from a leftover roast chicken. The bread is the awesome country French bread we got at Central Market on Sunday. Oh and those are the little garden tomatoes I picked when they were still green, just before the killing frost. If you leave them out, they will ripen.

Soup and sandwich supper.

I almost peed my pants when I saw this (at Central Market on Sunday). You know how I love Scharffen Berger chocolate. Well here is a giant block of San Francisco chocolaty awesomeness!

OMG. I've died and gone to chocolate heaven.

The UPS man left a great big cat playhouse on the front porch. (That’s what I told the cat, anyway). Awesomeness in a cat toy.

This is awesome until the cat tries to play at 2 a.m., then not so awesome.

Who doesn’t love Sock Monkey? This hat is random awesomeness!

This Sock Monkey hat was a big hit at the supermarket tonight.

Tomato Tutorial: Determinate v. Indeterminate

Tomato Tutorial: Determinate v. Indeterminate

Determinate or indeterminate, who knew?

 

 

 

If you start paying attention to the info on the back of seed packages or catalogue descriptions you will start to notice one of two words showing up. Determinate or Indeterminate.

Until recently, I would just shrug not understanding what that was all about. Occasionally you will see semi-determinate, which is usually an heirloom cultivar. However the classification is similar to pole beans or bush beans.

 

What’s the difference?

Determinate= a bush-type plant, meaning that the plant has a “determinate” height. It will grow to a point then will stop growing up. All new growth will then take place from side-shoots off the main stem. And the plant will be bushy. These plants usually set fruit and ripen in a concentrated span of time, making this a great type if you want to can tomatoes.

Growing determinate plants: use a tomato cage, a good sturdy one, it might be helpful to also put a stake near the main stem and tie the stem to it. It will keep the plant from toppling over when its heavy with fruit.

Sturdy tomato cage.

Indeterminate= vine-type plant. This is a tomato that will continue to grow and has an “indeterminate” height. These can be unruly, if not staked and caged well. For those of you in Texas you know what I mean. In August the tomato vines will be heavy and 10 feet tall and still growing. And you will be looking at this profuse vine thinking “what am I supposed to do with this?” These types set fruit and ripen continuously, so you have an ongoing supply of tomatoes from the vine.

Growing indeterminate plants: use a very tall stake or tomato ladder so the vines can grow up. This helps to keep the fruit off the ground which leads to a whole other set of problems.

I’ve also been known to drive in a T-post and use in conjunction with a cage. When the vines get too heavy for the cage to support it, the T-post will prop the cage up. T-posts are in abundance on the ranch because we use them to build barbed-wire fences.

An example of using a T-post with a cage (this is not my garden, BTW)

One type is not better than the other, but it’s helpful to know what kind you are growing when planning your garden. You can select specific types depending on what you want to accomplish or the planting space you have available. Personally I like a variety of both in my garden. I have a small raised-bed garden at my house and a large plot in our family garden out at the ranch. In my small home garden I’ve planted a variety of both indeterminate and determinate tomatoes.

The determinate types will suit my purposes better at home because they are compact plants and will ripen in a concentrated period of time. I can harvest my main tomato crop, then move on to my next crop and get the most out of my small garden. I’m also hoping to have enough come off at one time to can (aka put up) my crop.

Canned tomatoes

At our ranch plot, I’ve got more indeterminate varieties because we have much more space and can provide plenty of room for the plants to spread out. I’m hoping the indeterminates can provide a just-in-time regular delivery of homegrown tomatoes to eat throughout the season.

One last note about growing tomatoes in Texas: think of growing tomatoes in 2 shorter growing seasons, instead of one long season. Tomatoes will take a hiatus from mid-July to late August when it’s too hot. In fact, most tomatoes will not set fruit when overnight temps reach 80-85 degrees.

My plan is to grow an early crop, pull up spent plants, then replant in late August for a fall harvest.

Flowers on the tomato vine now hopefully mean juicy tomatoes later.

Fingers crossed. Happy Gardening 🙂

Tomato time in Texas

Tomato time in Texas

About 2 more weeks and we North Texas gardeners will be able to plant our tender crops.  And that means Tomatoes!  [Why exactly do we have to add an “e” when we make the word “tomato” plural – don’t answer that Micki Jo].

If you have ever had homegrown tomatoes you can fully appreciate the greatness of having fresh garden-ripened tomatoes.  Unfortunately half the year we are relegated to those hard, sorta red tomatoes—I call them red baseballs in the grocery store.

Garden tomatoes!

You can never have enough tomatoes during the summer months … when you are up to your eyeballs, all you have to do is can them.  Then in the winter when you are making a stew or chili, pop open a couple jars of our canned tomatoes, and ta-dah – happiness in a jar.

Canned tomatoes

I went nuts in my greenhouse this winter with tomatoes … There are about 100 or so plants. Yikes! 

Lots and lots of 'maters ... Tomato plants galore

Calling all Gardeners! I need a few of you to take these off my hands!