Sunday, November 4, 2012

An Olla in the Garden

A few months ago, I received an Olla. In my case, it's an unglazed terra cotta jug with a wide neck and a lid to close it.

This one is from Dripping Springs Ollas in the Texas Hill Country. The Olla is placed in the garden bed- or container- with the soil up to the neck. Then, keep the jug filled with water, and plants to about 15" away from the Olla will be watered.

On October 18, I decided to plant salad greens in a large tub with my Olla. I mixed the soil I wanted to use and started to fill the tub.

 I set the Olla so when the tub was filled the top would be about even with the rim of the tub. Since salad greens aren't deeply rooted plants, I didn't need the tub filled to the brim with soil mix. Then I finished filling the tub and planted the transplants.

This is how it looked upon finishing planting. I watered them in with a hose to get them situated. I found I did need to water with a hose a couple of times for about the first 10 days. The weather was hot with no rain.

Below, is how my Olla Tub Garden looked on November 2, 15 days after planting. Now, I only need to keep the Olla filled, which I do about twice a week. Since the roots aren't very deep, I've found I need to keep the water level topped off in the jug.

I've already harvested some of the greens, and they are quickly regrowing for further harvests of succulent, tender and tasty salad greens.

When I first got my Olla, I did some reading about this method of gardening and found it's used all over the world, especially is very dry areas like North Africa, China, Central Asia, Mexico, Central and South America as well as the desert Southwest in the United States.

There are varied themes on this same principle. YouTube has quite a few videos and people have posted other ways to create a self watering pot in the garden. Here are some references:

Global Buckets
Urban Homestead
Olla Irrigation
Tree Hugger, Unglazed Clay Pots Create Efficient Irrigation

Until Next Time- Good Gardening to you!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Luffa Gourds

I planted Luffa Gourds, also known as Dishrag Gourds, in late Spring. Luffa is the gourd also used as a body scrubber in the bath or shower. When dried, the inside of the gourd turns to a tan fibrous material. When small, some people eat them like a squash... to which they're related.

The flowers are a pretty yellow, with male and female flowers as in all curcubits.

Luffa Flowers

The vines can be quite long and it takes a lot of water to keep them healthy looking. Our rain kind of stopped in July. We've had little amounts of rain the last 6 weeks or so, but not a lot, so the Luffa plants are suffering. I water them every day, but they need a good soaking from some rain.  I am getting fruit, though, just not as much as I would get if we had more rain this summer.

Baby Luffa Gourd. (Gee... I could have removed the dead leaf behind it.) This guy is about 3 inches long right now. You can see where the flower was on the open end.
Here's a much larger fruit. You can see how big the leaves are

 and why they need so much water.

This is a closer pic of the Luffa. Like all gourds, it needs to dry on the vine so it does not rot.

Here's what the dried fruit looks like before it's peeled. When you shake it you can hear the seeds rattle inside. There are lots of seeds, like a cucumber would have if it dried like this.

Dried Luffa with skin still on
To peel the Luffa, I just soak the dried fruit in water for a few minutes, and the skin comes right off. To remove the seeds, cut an end off and pour the seeds out.

Luffa are fun to grow and do very well in warm weather. As I mentioned, they do need quite a bit of water, like any vine.

Until next time, enjoy your gardens!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mulch, Mulch... & More Mulch

Arp Rosemary.... all nicely mulched.

Now that high summer is upon us and my production level is low, I have time to tend to my garden beds. During the height of Spring, I am much too busy with The Herb Cottage business to weed and do much other than the occasional glance at my beds. By July, Bermuda Grass and other weedy species have invaded my cultivated areas and it looks terrible. 

So, what to do on a nice hot summer's day but get out the garden fork, gloves, trowel and get to it! None of my beds, but one, are very big, but they are in the sun in the afternoons, so I worked in the mornings. It took about 2 hours per bed, I guess, to get all the grass, etc. out of the beds. 

I didn't think to take any pictures of the mess before I started clearing the beds. But, here's what part of the herb bed looks like after all the Bermuda Grass is gone.

My personal reward for clearing beds is to plant new plants! So, in the herb beds I added some marjoram, stevia and cutting celery. In the bed with lots of succulents and drought tolerant perennials I added gaura, Wine Cups and sedum. I moved some other plants around with the results much to my liking.

The biggest bed is in front of my workshop and it has a very invasive artemisia in it, which is tamed for now, but only takes a couple of months before it's taking over the area. In that bed, I tossed lots of seed: zinnia, orange cosmos, borage, a pack of mixed seed and I'm not sure what else. The zinnias have sprouted, as have some of the cosmos and borage. I also planted some of the new salvia I'm growing: James Compton. Pictures when the bed has filled in will be forthcoming!

West facing bed with succulents and really tough perennials... before mulch

Same bed... after mulch. See the tiny sedums on the right? They look like little dots. They'll spread and add a nice ground cover effect.

THEN- to try and keep the beds looking good and to keep the soil cool and more able to hold moisture I mulched. Yesterday and today I used up 11 bags of mulch. I like the Soil 
Conditioner from Landscaper's Pride brand produced in East Texas. It's inexpensive and as it breaks down, it adds some nutrition to the soil. 

After weeding... before mulching
Ahhh... the mulch looks sooo nice!

Mulching in and around established plants is hard work! Lots of bending, not to mention lifting the bags and moving them around. And, it's hot! At least 90ยบ F by mid morning. In the morning hours I worked each day, I ended up with mulch stuck to me and my clothes. T-shirt, shorts (and, of course anything under those garments), shoes and socks... all completely sodden with good, honest sweat.

Today, when I was done I came in for water and watermelon. Ummmm.... cool and refreshing! 

Boy, does the place look good. And, I have the pictures to prove it. Too bad it won't stay looking this good. Ah, well.... even though I go to Yoga at the local fitness center, gardening is a great workout. And, there can't be a single speck of a toxin left in me after all the sweat that poured out of me!

Friday, July 6, 2012

An Olla For Your Garden

Yesterday a couple stopped by here at The Herb Cottage to tell me about the Ollas they are marketing from Dripping Springs Ollas. Do you know what an Olla is? I didn't, but when I saw it, I knew immediately how it functioned.

An Olla is a pot- in this case it's unglazed terra cotta- which is buried in the ground and then filled with water. Plants are planted around it and the water seeps out of the pot as the soil dries out. It's an irrigation system!

Here is a YouTube Video from Laurie explaining how it works.


I found lots of other videos on YouTube about this type of irrigation. A lid is important so the water doesn't evaporate and mosquitoes don't lay their eggs in the water. There are also videos showing ways to make automatic filling systems into the Ollas. 

This is all very good for economic water usage. Apparently it's a system that has been used for centuries in North Africa, where water is very precious.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Busy, Busy Spring

We have had the most beautiful Spring this year. Many times here, it seems like Spring lasts about 2 days then Summer sets in. But, other than some pretty hot weather a few weeks ago- a harbinger of Summer, surely- our days have been in the 80's and the nights in the 60's.... quite pleasant for Texas, to be sure! 

Arp Rosemary. Lots of new growth!
The garden herbs are looking very good, after being overrun by bluebonnets and nasturtiums earlier in the season. I've removed the bluebonnets since their seeds were flung out. And, the nasturtiums were not looking too good anymore, so I took those out, too. The rest of the little garden plot is now able to grow.

The mullein I planted last year is looking great and should flower this year. I'm hoping it'll reseed and I plan to save seed, too, for planting.

 I have room now to plant basil in the garden now, and hope to do it this week. I have several varieties of Holy Basil that I'd like to grow out to dry for tea.

White Yarrow just starting to flower
I planted a small native, white yarrow in late winter and it's spreading nicely and blooming. Yarrow is good for staunching blood flow from wounds. It's also antimicrobial, so it disinfects as well. Yarrow Tea is a diaphoretic- it causes sweating, and has been used as a cold and fever remedy. I like it because it attracts butterflies and other beneficial insects, even though it can get a little out of hand. There are other colors of Yarrow that have been bred: yellow, red, pastels- that don't seem to run as much as the native white, but I suspect their medicinal properties have been lessened. I plan to make a Yarrow Hydrosol from the flowers when I have enough.

Even with lots of positive energy and healthy plants, there is a blot on my garden. I have acquired a gopher... or mole... or some underground critter that enjoys certain of my herbs. Fennel seems to be a favorite. I've lost all the fennel plants that were so lovely earlier, and my big flat-leaf parsley was taken out, too. Tell-tale signs are wilting leaves even after a rain. When I pull on the plant, it just comes up with no roots at all! What to do?? 

Poison is out of the question... the cats seem totally uninterested in catching him... I don't have a dog any longer... any ideas would be welcome. 

There you have a quick overview of what part of my garden looks like.... I didn't take pics of the parts not yet cleaned out!! 

I hope you're all having a wonderful Spring, enjoying your plants and gardens.
Until next time, 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Guide to Growing Herbs in Texas

I've just posted a Guide to Growing Herbs in Texas on the website. It's a primer on some of the best practices for successfully growing herbs in Texas and in other areas along the Gulf Coast.

It's been a busy, busy Spring since my return from a wonderful, family-filled trip to California. Lots of people are replanting gardens that wilted and burned up in last year's drought. I'm so happy to be able to supply healthy, hardy herbs and native and adapted perennials for their gardens.

You might also have seen me at one of the many programs I've done this month and last. I've been at the Antique Rose Emporium in San Antonio, The Enchanted Nurseries in Richmond, Bloomers in Elgin and today I'm going to the San Antonio Herb Society meeting to present a program on container herb growing. 

This Saturday, the 14th, I'll be presenting How to Choose Herbs for Your Garden at the Enchanted Nurseries in Richmond. Go to their website for the schedule.

And, I'll be at the Antique Rose Emporium in San Antonio for a program to Pep Up Your Garden With Peppers! on the 21st.

I'll be back at La Centerra with the Katy Farmers' Market on April 28. 

Whew!! That's all for now... I have to go water some plants!

Until later... have fun in your gardens...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

California, Here I Come!

I'm off to California to visit my family for a week. I've been working hard, along with my helper, to get lots done before I leave. We have almost all the tomato seedlings potted up and I even delivered some today to a local feed store. Then, we planted warm season veggies: several varieties of cucumbers, summer squash, acorn squash, watermelon, including the heirloom Moon & Stars, and even some corn and broom corn which is wonderful for a decoration and for the birds to eat the little seed.

I planted lots and lots of basil: Genovese, Lemon, Lime, Thai, Cinnamon, Serata, Holy and African. There will be basil plants everywhere in a few weeks!!

The herb beds look so good right now with the rains we've had and the warmer temps, too:

I just love this bed with the nasturtiums, green and bronze fennel, bluebonnets peeking through- almost ready to bloom, garlic chives and the cilantro blooming in the background.

Here is parsley with a sorrel and a Syrian Oregano on the right. The Syrian Oregano came through the heat and drought like a champ with very little additional water. The new growth is a nice light green. This is a very flavorful type, too! You can see some Calendula flowers in the background, if you look very closely.

This Arp Rosemary has done beautifully here. It's actually planted in a one gallon pot with the bottom cut out of it.

And, just to show we're not all workaholics around here, Miss Ruby Begonia taking a nap on the pots of Chamomile and Mint. 

Must be nice! She didn't even open her eyes when I called to her...

So, I leave my little nursery in the capable hands of husband, Mike. Even though he's not into the plants much, he does a great job watering and monitoring everything. He might even chase a cat away now and then! 

Upon my return, maybe I'll have some exciting new pics and a story to tell about a horticultural adventure in California.

Bye for now. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

New USDA Hardiness Zone Map!!

In one of my nursery magazines today, I learned we now have a new, updated USDA Hardiness Zone Map!! 

The old map has been in place since 1990. Now, you can focus on your state up close. Here's what the USDA has to say:

"This is the most sophisticated Plant Hardiness Zone Map yet for the United States," said Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. "The increases in accuracy and detail that this map represents will be extremely useful for gardeners and researchers."

Here's the link to the new map:

Check it out!!! 

January Newsletter- Winter Gardening

I've published the January 2012 Herb Cottage Newsletter. It's all about gardening in Winter. Whether you live where winters are mild or cold, there's something for you!

2012 Newsletter

Hope you enjoy it!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

December Newsletter from The Herb Cottage

I published The Herb Cottage December Newsletter on Dec. 31!! Better late than not at all, right! I don't quite know what kept me from writing the newsletter earlier in the month. So, one of my Resolutions for 2012 is to write the monthly newsletter in a more timely fashion.

If you'd like to read the Newsletter here it is. The title of the Newsletter is Prepare for Spring... and it's all about ... well, preparing your garden and your plans for Spring.
I hope you enjoy it! 

Happy New Year and may this year be your best gardening year yet!