Friday, February 12, 2016

Gardening events you won't want to miss - here and around Texas!

Want to learn more about gardening and herbs and have fun doing it? Attend as many programs as you can. I've compiled a list of ones that I'm aware of locally and around Texas with links to register or to gather more information.

Know of any I didn't list? Let me know.
Good Gardening!

with Chuck Malloy, Cameron County Master Gardener.
Be the first to pre-order your certified citrus trees.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Cameron County San Benito Annex
1390 W. Expressway 83 San Benito, TX. 78586
Register by contacting Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Cameron County office at 956/361-8236
followed by:

Same location as Citrus Greening program above
11 - noon, $50 fee includes rain barrel

Saturday, February 20, 2016, 1-3 PM
Rivers End Nursery, Bayview, TX
Hands on grafting/budding class.
Learn to propagate tropical/subtropical fruit & flowering
trees with techniques used by commercial producers.  
Bring your own grafting knife.
A limited number of grafting knives will be available for sale.
Other materials will be furnished.
Cost $20 - includes the avocado and mango tree
that you will graft in class to take home with you.
Sign up by clicking Grafting Workshop Tickets
followed by:
Saturday, February 20, 2016, 3:30 PM
Rivers End Nursery & Farm, Bayview, TX
Easy Edibles: How to Grow & Enjoy Fresh Food
with well known author Judy Barrett.
Saturday, March 19, 2016, 1 PM
Judy has authored several books and blogs on organic
and all things gardening on "Judy Barrett's Homegrown" blog.
FREE Gardening Classes
Next program -  March 3, 2016, 6 PM with speaker:
Texas AgriLife Extension Agent Scott Kunkle.
on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month at 6 pm 
Sessions: 1 Garden Site Locations, 2 Soils, 3 Composting,
4 Raised Beds and Container Gardening/ Garden Maintenance,
5 Pest Management, 6 Harvesting
City of Brownsville Parks and Recreation building, 1387 East Tyler
I go to this event every year!

Friday-Saturday, March 18-19, 2016
Round Top, Texas featuring herb of the year, the Chili Pepper!
Workshops, speakers, herbal luncheon, herb plant sale.
Pearl Farmer's Market area, San Antonio, TX
​Saturday May 21, 2016 9 am - 1 pm
All things basil - need I say more?

April 23, 2016 in beautiful Wimberly, Texas
Early registration deadline $99 to March 15, after that $119.
(Space is limited so please register early!) 
I plan on attending this event.
Austin School of Herbal Studies 2016 Classes
begins April 29th, 2016, Austin, TX.

Visit for complete info and registration.
Ellen Zimmerman is awesome and this is the last year
she will be offering her apprenticeship program so if you can attend, 
it will be well worth it.

Huntsville, TX  April 9, 2016,  936-891-5024 
Herbal vendors, plant sale, speakers.

June 10-12, 2016
Blanco, TX
This festival is all things lavender!
Totally fun to attend. I attended several years ago.
A friend and I even attended a cooking class at 
(830-833-0910) while there - totally fun weekend!

Saturday, October 15, 2016 
at the Historic Pearl Brewery, San Antonio, TX
FREE family fun event with herb vendors, free programs, cooking demos.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Rabbit Control

Customer Question – Something ate all the plants I had just planted into my garden a couple days ago. What could it be?
My speculative answer - It could be rabbits.
Meet Dilly.
Our cat Dilly seems to keep the rabbits living around our property in check (knock on wood) from getting into the garden and we have plenty of rabbits in the front and back area.
I wish I had a motion sensor camera to answer questions like this – at least one you could check out at the library as needed right indefinitely? From a quick review of my many gardening books and online I found the following regarding rabbits.

Rabbits – are attracted to your garden plants due to their moisture (like birds are to tomatoes – for the moisture content). George Brookbank, author of The Desert Gardener’s Calendar, scoffs at all of the home remedies you read about and writes: the only effective thing to do about rabbits is to surround your garden completely with fencing, at least 3’ wide with small mesh. Bury it 6” deep so the rabbits can’t squeeze under it and never leave the gate open.”
The Iowa Gardener website showcased the
example above of a fenced garden to keep out rabbits.
My friend Kate McSwain gardens uses horse troughs for her raised beds.
I expect the height of these deter rabbits from getting into them.
This is the only rabbit we are OK to have in the garden and we call this our
cwazy watch rabbit. He moves around to wherever new gardens are planted
and he has been on the move lately - whoo hoo!
The Gardener’s Supply Co. had a couple other good tips for Rabbit Control worth reading which I found helpful (including looking for rabbit droppings). Let me know what works for you.

Friday, August 28, 2015

New for Me - How about You?

Rivers End Nursery out of Bayview, Texas specializes in delicious tropical fruits from around the world and the plants that produce them. You can find their seasonal fruit at Franny's booth at both the Brownsville Farmers Market (FM), 9-noon every Saturday and the South Padre Island Farmers Market,11-1 every Sunday. Franny is a wealth of information and it's always a treat to visit with her.

Kathy Pechacek of Rivers End Nursery reports this week you will find Longans (the end of their harvest is fast approaching) along with Star Fruit, Guava, Strawberry Guava, Sugar Applies, Citron (Buddha Hand) and Jambolan Plum at Franny's booth.

You can see the black seed in the middle of the fruit of the
one sliced in half above. 
You don't want to eat the seed
but you want to eat the fruit around it, after it's been peeled.
If you are like me, alot of these fruit are new to me. Last week I tried a Longan. They are easy to peel and have a nice taste. Its kinda of like eating a pomegranate but without the tart flavor. They have a pretty black seed inside of them.Be sure and try some at the market this week while they are still available. 

If you are like me, alot of these fruit are new to me. Last week I tried a Longan. Be sure and try some at the market this week while they are still available. They are easy to peel and have a nice taste. Its kinda of like eating a pomegranate but without the tart flavor. They have a pretty black seed inside of them.

According to Kathy of Rivers End Nursery "Longans are probably best eaten out of hand. They are certainly a challenge in cooking because the flesh is hard to separate from the seed."

The Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida website states Longans are sometimes called "Dragon Eyes" because when the peel is removed, you can see the dark seed through the translucent flesh of the fruit and it gives the appearance of an eyeball! They have a great video on Longans worth watching. Don't miss out on buying some of these locally grown longans while they are still in season!

For anyone industrious enough to try, here is a recipe using them:

Chicken with Longan & Macadamia Salad
Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 1/4 cup macadamia nuts
  • 2 chicken breast fillets
  • lettuce, washed, dried, torn
  • 2 c. longans, peeled and halved, seed removed
  • 2 c. snow pea sprouts, trimmed (other sprouts can be used)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 tsp. finely shredded fresh mint leaves
  • Pinch sugar
Cook chicken in small amount of oil until fully cooked. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Combine the lettuce, longans and sprouts and place on plate. Place the oil,
juice, mint and sugar into a screw top jar and shake until blended. Pour dressing
over salad and toss to combine. 
Slice the chicken and serve with the salad. Sprinkle with macadamias to serve.

~From the Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida
Someone posted the fruit was good in jello too.

Don't miss out on buying some of these locally grown longans while they are still in season! 
Speaking of Franny previously, look whose on the cover? This book, by Judy Barrett, looks really good and you can a pre pub discount if you order it before September 30th. We hope to get Judy down for one of her programs in the spring. She writes an informative newsletter on organic gardening and is the author of several books.
There's Franny on the cover (right bottom)
of Judy Barret's new book Easy Edibles
Judy Barrett posted on facebook: "Just got the preview copy of my new book! Easy Edibles: How to Grow & Enjoy Fresh Food. Lots of ways to grow and find fresh, local food without all the work of becoming a farmer! Add food to your existing landscape, pick-your-own opportunities, farmers markets, plant in containers and much more. It's $20 includling shipping and tax until Sept. 30. Order from me, Judy Barrett to receive this pre-pub discount before September 30, 2015."

Friday, June 5, 2015

Yes, I eat my Homework

My homework from class - Chinese Burritos in the making.

I am learning a lot from attending the La Cocina Alegre cooking and nutritional education class sponsored through a grant from WalMart and brought to us by the Brownsville Wellness Coalition (the wonderful folks who head up the Brownsville Farmers Market and Community Gardens along with gardening classes). I have three more classes to go and see why these are so popular. 

Classes are given in both English and Spanish. You not only get to take part in a cooking demonstration and get the ingredients and recipe to take and duplicate at home but you learn about the amount of sugar and salt content in food, how to read ingredient labels and not be misled by the wording on packaging to tell you what's in it, tips on using fruits to add sweetness in place of sugar, swap tips with other attendees and the list goes on and on. We also get a cookbook at the final class that includes the recipes we are using.

Since I posted photos of this week's class on FB, I had several requests for the recipe - so here it is. Realize you can substitute other veggies, add shrimp, chicken beef or tofu if you want. We had mushrooms in the class demo and powdered ginger where I had fresh at home. Spice it up with hot peppers. Serve it with a side salad of sliced fresh tomatoes, chopped basil with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and goat cheese, depending on what you have in your garden or in the frig. It's very simple and doesn't take much time to prepare. I didn't make the peanut sauce but will get that recipe when we finish and we get the cookbook. 

I was thinking I need a medium size sauce pan but remember I have a wok pan that would work very well with this recipe. Need to get it out, dust it off and put it to use. I wonder if they will teach me the art of cleaning as I cook. I like the cooking and eating but not so excited about the cleaning up after. My mom and brother know how to do that, something I haven't quite mastered or tried to master actually.

Chinese Burritos

(from the Brownsville Wellness Coalition cooking class)

4 servings  / cost per serving $0.62


1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 head cabbage, sliced
2 carrots, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 medium bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 leaves Swiss chard, chopped (we substituted fresh spinach)
3 tablespoons canola oil (I used less, and used grapeseed oil)
4 large whole wheat flour tortillas or 8 small whole wheat tortillas


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
Saute the onion for 5 minutes.
Add the cabbage, carrots, garlic, ginger, and bell pepper and cook for 5-10 minutes. Stir constantly to keep from burning.

Add the Swiss chard or spinach and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
Remove pan from heat.
Please 1/4 of the mixture on each tortilla.
Roll up the tortillas.
Place the tortillas on a baking sheet, seam side down.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Serve with peanut sauce.

Cabbage, bell pepper, spinach, onion, garlic and mushrooms.

Kudos to everyone who makes this program happen.To learn more about upcoming classes contact or 956-755-0614.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Growing Fabulous Lettuce

 Fall and early spring is the time to plant your lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, mustard greens, kale, swiss chard, spinach, arugula and cilantro transplants
in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

What do you think chef extraordinaire and gardener
Jessica Monique thinks of the flavor of her just picked
from the garden gourmet lettuce? I totally agree!

Let Us Talk about Lettuce

Gardening Question

My lettuce is really big - do I continue pinching the outer leaves off for salads or do I cut them back? If I cut them back will they continue to grow?


For those of you who planted your lettuces in the fall - they are really big and full now in mid January. (See Jessica's photo above.) Hopefully you have been getting lots of good salad fixings from them. (Some lettuces can be cut and will sprout leaves again but we are referring to the type you can harvest from the outside as the plant continues to grow in the middle.)

Once you see your plants are starting to grow vertically,
that means they are fixing to flower and go to seed.
The main stalk will start to thicken and stretch upward.
Harvest beforehand or they will become bitter tasting.

Once you see your plants are starting to grow vertically, that means they are fixing to flower and go to seed. You want to harvest the whole head beforehand, otherwise they will be bitter to the taste.

Some lettuces have anywhere from two or more multiple heads
that make up that big beautiful head of lettuce. Some have only a single stem.

When you go to cut them back, you may find there are several heads that make up that one beautiful lettuce. You can just cut one stem portion if that is all you need right now and let the others continue to grow unless they are starting to grow up and flower. If it looks like they may be starting to flower, I would cut them all and use or share. You can let them go to flower, die and they will reseed. I usually pull them out to make way for new plants. Once cut back to the ground, they won't regrow.

This lettuce variety has two main stems below the lettuce head.


Tips for Growing Tasty Lettuce
in the Rio Grande Valley

  • Lettuce grows in cooler temperatures which means the fall and spring in our area.
  • As most soil here is a heavy alkaline clay it is best to plant in raised beds either together or interspersed in your vegetable garden for good drainage or in 12" or larger containers that include holes for drainage so as not to drown the roots. 
  • A good compost added to the soil will provide nutrients needed.
    Nothing beats fresh picked lettuce for easy salad fixings.
  • As lettuce has shallow roots it is best if the soil is kept moist so it will taste sweet but not so wet that it drowns and rots the roots or so dry that the roots dry out making it taste bitter.
  • A drip system can help with this or water early in the mornings to prevent foliar diseases caused by late evening watering practices. Check the dampness of the soil of the top inch of the soil with your finger to determine if you need to water or not. 
  • Often my other veggie plants don't need water but my lettuce plants have started to dry out due to the wind so I will water around their base and not soak my other plants.
  • Rather than pulling up the plants to harvest, you can pinch off outer leaves or cut them straight across with a serrated knife, above the crown (where the base of the leaves meet the root) and some may grow back. See the first half of this article for more details. 
  • For later season greens sow seed or plant transplants a couple inches from the original plant after the 1st harvest. Harvest the first crop before it goes to seed or once the second crop is big enough to start harvesting.

Enjoy the Bounty

Once harvested I use a salad spinner/colander to rinse lettuce leaves, than cover with water and a few ice cubes for several minutes, swish, drain until the water is clear then spin-dry. I wrap leaves in paper towels and place in the lettuce drawer till ready to eat. Tear them into bite size pieces. Enjoy with a fresh vinegar and oil dressing topped with fresh herbs, edible flowers and other goodies from the garden.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hors D'oeuvres Anyone?

Eggplants grow very well here in the Valley due to our mild winters. Whenever everything else has given it up in the garden, in the heat of the summers, the eggplants seem to thrive even more. I think more people would grow them if they just knew what to do with them.

One of the market vendors makes homemade babaganoush (pureed roasted eggplant, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil) and says he's going to bring me some but I'm still waiting. I've read you can stuff and bake miniature eggplants with a mixture of feta cheese, pine nuts and roasted peppers which sounds very tasty.

As I've said before, I like them sliced, brushed with olive oil and grilled for a few minutes on either side for a quick, easy tasty side dish.

Here's another way that has my mouth watering, just looking at 'em. Many thanks to my friend Angela Barnard for sharing what she did with hers.

Mini Eggplant Parmesan made w/garden fresh basil,
eggplant and homemade tomato sauce.

My friend Angela Barnard shared her photos
above and the 
Mini Eggplant Parmesan recipe link she used to
make these tasty hors d'oeuvres from her "Pot Black" eggplant
(see plant below).

Eggplant “Pot Black”
A compact variety for container
growing that produces many
2-3 oz. glossy oval black
fruits over a long growing
season. Attractive plants and
tasty fruit. Sun.
I am so excited about these compact varieties as they make such a pretty container plant and make great gifts. When Angela's husband came looking for a birthday surprise for her last year, I suggested this plant, as it was the first time I had brought it to the market so I knew she hadn't seen it before. As a fellow Master Gardener, we are always looking for the new and unusual, at least to us and I knew she would appreciate this one.

Another great new container variety that is really producing as you can see here is the "Patio Baby". I plan on potting a couple or one of each of these two to put in the entryway of our front porch as my new fall decorating scheme. Another good reason for us to sit outside and enjoy our front porch.

Eggplant “Patio Baby”
A 2014 AAS Winner. An eggplant
variety that is great for pots & container
growing. Plants produce lavender
blooms and a big crop of shiny black
small fruits that is bitter free.

I just love how eggplants come in all sizes and shapes.
Here's another new variety for us that I think I failed to mention, in my last blog on eggplants.

Eggplant “Shooting Stars”
A showy variety with small (4") oval white
fleshed fruits that are vivid purple
with white stripes. Good in the garden
or pots.  Height 30"x20" wide. Sun.
Maybe the trick to get more people to consider trying eggplant is to call it an Aubergine - that's the British English name for it. Try a search using aubergine recipes and you'll have lots to choose from.
(Plant photos by Debbie Cox)