Bohemian Bounty

Austin Organic Vegetable and Herb Garden Design, Installation & Maintenance

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Spring 2010 Garden Rescue

The Bohemians are in full swing for Spring – new and current clients are emailing and calling in preparation and we are still accepting clients. At the end of last year, new clients made Christmas wishes for gardens in 2010. Our first client to get their Christmas wish had an existing garden space that needed refurbishing.
This northwest Austin garden had great soil that was just waiting for dry weather to break ground.
We had 2 glorious days of sun in mid February to begin our work. The original space was wonderful and plentiful. The garden needed set pathways to make the space more usable and soil amendments to add nutrients for the Spring.

When anyone plans out a garden it is good to designate pathways from garden beds to preserve the health of your garden soil. Avoid stepping on your garden soil. Keep your garden beds between 3 and 4 feet wide. It is also a good idea to add natural slow release fertilizer (Medina Granular was used here) and a boost of Nitrogen from a low cost, natural cottonseed meal. We like using newspaper as a natural, biodegradable weed barrier and then cedar mulch over it. Walking and kneeling on mulch is more comfortable than stone but it needs to be refreshed as it degrades. Adding natural material onto the soil keeps the surface permeable for not only rainfall but living creatures like earthworms.

Posted 4 years, 2 months ago at 3:59 PM.

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New Year Gardening: Food in 2010

Over the holiday of 2009, the Bohemian crew hibernated and took some time to work on our own gardens and catch up with family and friends. Work in the bohemian garden started out great – lots of great production from new seed varieties but the poor amount of sun has not been helpful. Plants have been growing slowly – healthily but slowly. The month of January has also been very trying – dry, cold winds and heavy freezes. Sadly the temperatures got so low on the January 7th and 8th that cool tolerant plants like mint, lettuces, and chards were damaged some. The recent rains have perked them up, though. Cabbages, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts look great.
As we head into 2010, we are noticing an increasing trend toward local and organic food support as well as home gardening. New products are showing up in stores and great events are planned around central Texas. Manufacturers are responding to market demands – your purchases are making a difference. We found raised bed kits (great for the do-it-yourself-er) for only $39.99. Another new item are nifty peck baskets filled with starter potatoes, onions, strawberries, and more ($9.98). Very nice kits for home gardeners. We continue to expect more of these items around this year. Seed sales have been very good and I’m sure the Bohemians have bought their fair share.
Other exciting changes in the local food trends are workshops and agritourism. Slow Food and the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA) are hosting a year of farm tours. Look for workshops and volunteer opportunities on TOFGA’s websitee. Workshops vary from new farmer training to backyard gardening and animal husbandry to cooking from the garden.

We should also mention Jennifer has been elected the Volunteer Region 2 Director of TOFGA. Take a look at her Region 2 Webpage and give some feedback.

Posted 4 years, 3 months ago at 11:18 AM.

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Hard Freeze hits Central Texas Gardens

For new gardeners, you will be shocked and saddened by the loss of many of your plants but over time you will come to see how erratic Texas weather can be. This fall was exceptionally good – spring plants that survived the summer found a reason to bloom and fruit for us. We had tomato salads for Thanksgiving, and more basil than we could eat. But alas, the hard freeze that is always estimated for mid-November hit last night. If you awoke early enough and braved the frost you would have seen a garden captured beneath a crystal sheet. As the sun peaked out and melted the ice the crisply decorated plants turned to a mushy, droopy mess. Our rain water bucket froze over and we found lots of interesting ice sculptures.

So here is what did and did not survive last night:

Kicked the bucket (some covered with grow web, other left uncovered)

Squash (summer, winter, pumpkins, melons)
Blooms from various flowers
Irish Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Malabar Spinach

Survivors (covered with grow web unless otherwise noted)

Brussels sprouts (year old plant left uncovered, young ones covered)
Parsley (uncovered)
Tarragon (uncovered)
Celery (uncovered)
Asparagus (5 years old)
Artichoke (3 years old)
Leeks, Garlic, Onions, Scallions, Chives, Shallots (uncovered)
Beets (uncovered)
Catnip (uncovered)
Chili Pequins (uncovered)
Mints, Sage, Oregano, Lavender (uncovered)
Sugar Snap Peas
Collard and Mustard Greens
Sweet Peas (uncovered)

Our next step – clean up the garden and dig up the potatoes.

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago at 8:48 PM.

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What to Plant in your Organic Garden in Winter

Organic gardening in Central Texas is never the same every season. There are some standard dates to keep on your calendar for changing over your crops but the weather really dictates your garden activity.

For instance, we have had a true fall season for the Austin area. Rains, cool days, and a few humid hot ones in between but most Septembers are just plain warm. In fact August 2009 was more pleasant than June and July 2009.

So what should you be doing now? Getting ready for winter and harvest the last of fall crops. You may be harvesting the last of your okra, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, winter squash and summer squash for the next month and a half. That’s right – if you kept your plants alive and did a squash seed planting at the end of July to beginning of September you have another load of veggies. Personally, I help my tomatoes last from April to December and they will give me a couple of crops but it takes a lot of effort in the summer and summer gardening was tricky this year.

If you are starting from scratch or just prepping for winter, here is your to-do list:

  • Utilize the rain to collect rainwater in buckets.
  • Water your compost piles and turn them
  • Measure your garden beds and sit down with a ruler, paper and pencil – Draw your garden
  • Make a list of winter crops you would like to grow (see winter plants below)
  • Measure out sections of your garden for each crop based on the seed packet or plant tags (see my suggestions below)
  • Pick a date in October and November to plant.
  • Find a date one week before your planting date for soil amendment work. (see soil amendment below)
  • Start buying plants and seeds

Example Planting Schemes on 4 by 4 foot raised beds (notice the sizes)

Winter plants for Central Texas Organic Gardens

  • Lettuces (Leaf lettuces-spread seed, thin later; head lettuce-1/square foot)
  • Spinach (spread seed, thin later)
  • Arugula (spread seed, thin later)
  • Strawberries (1/6 in)
  • Brassicas (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Kale, Greens- 1/ sq ft)
  • Onions (1/ 4 in)
  • Garlic (1/ 3 in)
  • Beets (1/3 in)
  • Radishes (1/ 1 in)
  • Turnips (1 / 6 in)
  • All herbs except Basil
  • Carrot (spread seeds in rows, thin later; do alternating rows with leeks or scallions for companion planting)
  • Snap Peas (1 every 2 inches along trellis)
  • Kohlrabi (1 / 6 inches)

It is best to follow planting directions that come with the plant/seeds. Try staggering larger plants for more space. Intercrop large plants with small ones (example: broccoli, lettuces, radishes). Mix up the plants around the garden to confuse bugs that might harm your plants and try some companion gardening techniques.

Soil Amendments

Soil amendments are materials we incorporate back into our garden beds to revive the soil – not just fertilizers. I often add in some of the following after I do a soil test.

  • Charcoal, not activated (Phosphorus and potassium; not briquettes – just the plain-jane variety you can find in a bag at HEB)
  • Wood ash (Phosphorus and potassium; good for promoting flowering)
  • Finished Compost (revive the microbial life in the soil; adds nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium)
  • Cottonseed meal (Nitrogen and small amounts of phosphorus and potassium)
  • Ground eggshells or oyster shells (Calcium; around base of tomatoes, squash and peppers)

When I put transplants and seed in I often add the following in the dug out hole before I plant. Mix 1 part greensand: 1 part gypsum: 2 parts rock phosphate: 2 parts diatomaceous earth and another mix of 1 part Earthworm castings: .25 part Medina Granular slow release fertilizer. Depending on the soil type, the organic matter already present and the soil test, you may want to play around with ratios. These amendments are not inexpensive. However, applying the amendment in a mix directly during planting give the plants what they need and the products will last much long than broadcasting. Look for my next post on soil amendments in the coming month. Cheers!

Posted 4 years, 6 months ago at 2:02 PM.

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