Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Week 2014 - Including Our Attempt at Killing a Fire Ant Mound

We have had both very cold and warm days this fall.  Even though the plants are looking winter drab, we still have new and interesting things going on now.  Since the trees have been losing their leaves, we have to clean out the swimming pool filters more frequently.  We found this frog in our pool basket.  The water was SO COLD.

This frog is very different from the one I found in September 2014 - that frog was solid green, where this one is spotted.  I believe this frog is a "Plains Leopard Frog".  See link for a picture of the green frog:

We found this wooly caterpillar.  I believe it is the caterpillar of the giant leopard moth.  We did not touch it as we were concerned about getting stung.

Due to all the recent rains, the fireants have been building large mounds in the backyard.  Here is one in the blackberry patch.  We boiled a large stock pot of water and poured on it.

It is amazing that any of the ants lived through the boiling water, but they did.  The live ants brought all the dead ants out of the mound and placed them on the edge of the mound.  See picture below.

This is a close up shot of all the boiled alive dead ants.  I wonder how many ants survived?  Must have been a lot for them to have been able to bring up so many dead ants to the surface!

We found this centipede in our house - he was removed promptly to the outside.

On to the vegetable garden.  We have some broccoli that are starting to produce heads now.

I thought the summer heat had killed the artichoke plants however, they have "risen from the ashes" so to speak and are looking great this fall!

Blooming trailing rosemary - in late November!

Red Yaupon holly berries are out now.  Birds that eat these berries are bluebirds and other thrushes; woodpeckers; catbirds; thrashers; mockingbirds.

Here are the blue wax myrtle berries - I have learned that yellow rumped warblers eat these berries and I took a picture of one last year in my yard!  See post:

And finally - here is a picture of our Asian persimmon tree.  It has lost all its leaves now.  We picked most of the fruit, but left the fruit on top for the birds.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

November 11-12th 2014, First Freeze in North Texas and Making Green Tomato Salsa

Our first freeze of the season in North Texas was the evening of November 11th.  We ran out to the garden and made a last final harvest of beans, tomatoes, and bell peppers.  We also picked most of the persimmons off our Asian persimmon tree.

The first order of business was to make some Tomato Salsa using up the peppers and tomatoes.  I had about 2 gallons of green tomatoes to use up.  This is the link to the recipe I used which started with 5 gallons of tomatoes.  We like it very much and I recommend it to anyone with lots of green tomatoes!
I used the following proportions with a little over 2 gallons of tomatoes.

Green Tomatoes (approximately 2+ gallons before cutting and chopping)
Onions (4 large onions)
Garlic (4 large elephant garlic cloves) Peeled
Green and Red Bell Peppers (6 large bell peppers)
Jalapenos (8 large peppers)
Water (1 cup)
Ground Cumin (About 1 1/2 tablespoons--taste and see what you like)
Canning Salt (2 1/2 tablespoons)
Pepper (1 tsp)
Lime Juice (1 cup)
About 3 tablespoons of dried parsley (I couldn't get any fresh parsley)

The link below is to the original recipe which uses 5 gallons of tomatoes.

To the chopped tomatoes I added 6 large bell peppers, 8 large jalapeno peppers, and 4 large onions along with 1 large elephant garlic (with about 4 large cloves).

I also added lime juice, salt, cumin, and parsley flakes (I didn't have any fresh parsley).  We were initially going to can the salsa but later decided to freeze it so I didn't add any vinegar. 

Next I chopped all the ingredients in the blender.

The final mixture was put in a stock pot and brought to a boil.  I cooked the liquid down until the salsa was thick enough to my liking.

I continued to stir to ensure no scorching.

We froze 18 pints of Salsa today!

I took some pictures of the fall flowers around the house before the first freeze.  Here is some Mexican Marigold.  This herb has a nice scent and blooms all fall long.  It is a perennial.  I cut it back to the ground in the winter.  Here is a link to information on this herb which can be used in cooking.

Butterfly weed has interesting seed pods this time of year.  The seeds are very wispy.

The blue salvia in the backyard is blooming now.  I don't see many hummingbirds around in November though.

And finally, I wanted to show a picture of the persimmon tree before we picked all the fruit.

To bring this garden post to a close I want to chronicle that during this week we are also have extremely cold temperatures with no relief.  The link discusses the cold snap gripping the country. 

That's all for now! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall Begins - October 2014

It is been almost a month since I last posted - time has been getting away from me.  The day temperatures are now in the high 70's to mid-80's and the evening temperatures are in the high 50's to low 60's.  Perfect weather.  The fall roses are now blooming in my yard. 

Sombreuil Antique Rose

Belinda's Dream

Another Sombreuil Rose on same bush as the one above!


Red Cascade

This spider re-builds a new web on my back porch every night.  I believe it is a Barn Spider which is an orb weaver.

A close up shot of the Barn Spider.

Broccoli and cauliflower were planted in the fall vegetable garden.  We have had a real problem with grasshoppers and bunnies this year eating our plants and the growth on these plants is very slow - I'm beginning to wonder if we are going to harvest anything.  The bell peppers in the center bed are still doing great though.  The tomato plants in the back are loaded with blooms although they aren't producing many tomatoes.

We also planted swiss chard, beans and english peas.

We received over 2 inches of rain in the past couple of weeks resulting in beautiful blooms on the Salvia Greggii and Flame Acanthus.  Unfortunately, many of our hummingbirds have now migrated through and can't sip the nectar.

I planted Pentas on the front porch.  They attract butterflies.

Here is a picture of a perfect garden spider web in the morning sun.

We found another garden spider that had caught a grasshopper in its web.

Close up.

It is the time of year that the spider lilies (otherwise known as naked ladies) are blooming.

The Monarch butterflies began their annual migration several weeks ago.  I leave my backyard unmowed to let the tiny asters bloom in September and October so that the butterflies have nectar for their long journey south.

And finally, a wild sunflower - we always have lots of these growing in our backyard in the fall.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Week Following Fall Equinox - 2014

I took the following pictures during the past week.  This is my garden journal post for the week following the Fall Equinox here in North Texas. 

We've had serious issues with grasshoppers this year in the vegetable garden - they insist on munching the leaves off the new foliage.  The marigolds planted on the edge of the beds are purported to keep pests away.   Maybe it helps with some pests, but grasshoppers could care less. 

Watering the beans, peas, broccoli, squash, and cauliflower.  The back raised garden bed contains tomatoes from the spring - they continue to flower and produce tomatoes, although not in great quantities now.   We are watering by hand this fall.  We plan on replacing the soaker hoses in the spring - they were at least 8-9 years old and had begun leaking. 

The bell peppers that were planted in the spring continue to do well.

A  giant swallowtail butterfly is sipping nectar from the pink/yellow lantana.  The long leafed plant next to the lantana is Mexican marigold - it has not started blooming yet.

Orange/yellow lantana

 Female Ruby-throat Hummingbird with pollen on its beak - sipping nectar from red salvia greggii.

Close up shot of salvia greggii with a paper wasp in the background.

A ruby throated hummingbird sipping nectar from blue salvia variety. 

A gulf fritillary landed on a dried purple coneflower head.

Gulf fritillary with its wings open.

Garden Spider

Garden Spider with zig-zag pattern on web.

A small butterfly sipping nectar from the blooming Lantana

We planted a couple of flowerbeds this weekend.  The fall is an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs because the days are getting cooler and shorter and the plants don't have to endure the searing heat.  The first bed I worked on needed some color.  Because I have so many green dwarf yaupons in my yard, I decided a deep red or purple was needed in a small shrub.  I found these dwarf loropetalums with beautiful purple leaves - they only get 1-2 feet in height which is perfect for the spot I put them in.

 Five dwarf loropetalums - we staggered them in the garden bed in front of the dwarf yaupons.  I think they will be either the same size as the yaupons or slightly smaller.

We also took out an old rose bush that was looking very ratty and replaced it with a large loropetalum shrub that has been pruned in the shape of a tree - it will get 10 feet tall.  Around it we placed 4 dwarf silverado sage plants - they are significantly shorter than the usual cultivar.

The tag of the dwarf sage - it will only reach 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide - I'll keep it pruned a bit shorter than that.

Fresh hardwood mulch was placed around the new plantings to help retain moisture and give the garden bed a clean and fresh look.

And finally - I caught a picture of a beautiful sunset in my neighborhood on September 27, 2014