Ongoing Garden Plans

Ongoing Garden Plans – and a Lament

by Celia Hayes

Well, we’ll need a bag or two more of potting soil to properly fill up the big raised bed that I wrote about a couple of week ago, so there’ll be a delay in planting it. There’ll also be a delay in constructing the two narrower raised beds, which will be placed against the fence, with a bit of latticing attached, so that that plants which wish to climb – like beans, peas and cucumbers – can go to town. The big bed will be planted with zucchini and summer squash, which are supposed to produce by the ton, but which last year got attacked by some nasty kind of crud/parasite which attacked their stems and killed the plants themselves almost overnight.

The patent topsy-turvy tomato planters, which saw stout service these last two years by actually producing a nice little selection of tomatoes, were not up to another year. The heavy plasticized fabric that made up the body of the planter disintegrated to the point where I could tear it merely by poking it with a finger, and not very hard at that. The two planters which had been intended as a kind of hanging butterfly and humming bird garden fell apart even faster; one of them shredded spontaneously as we were taking it down from the tree. But the good news is – the rest of the unit, especially the metal ring and the wire loops and hooks which the whole thing hung from are still perfectly sound. And that gave me an idea to just create my own topsy tomato planters with those useful bits. I have a number of inexpensive plastic pots; just cut the drain hole a little larger, trim an ordinary cellulose sponge to fit inside the pot, insert a tomato seedling in the pot drain hole and secure it with the sponge, fill up with potting soil, and suspend the plastic pot from the hanging frame that we built last year, using the metal ring and wire loops that I saved from the old topsys! Here we go – a whole new forest of suspended tomato plants, and with luck, and the judicious application of the right kind of fertilizer and insecticides … more tomatoes!

The one remaining topsy that I don’t think we will use this year is the one for peppers. I’ve removed all the plants which survived from last year, and replanted them in large pots – just like I did with the ones from the year before. All the peppers – cayenne, Bell and jalapeno alike – are thriving. The one seedling vegetable variety that we do not need to re-stock the garden with this year is pepper. Seriously, I think there must be about fifteen individual pepper plants.

Which brings me to a lament a local casualty of the drought over the last couple of years; the Antique Rose Emporium outlet on Evans Road has closed. It actually closed six months ago, and when I first heard of this, I thought it must be a rumor. Surely we had been there – just before Christmas, sometime in September, I thought. But no – and there went a place which not only supplied me with darned near everything the least little bit exotic in my garden, but with gave me an example of what a beautiful, blooming, native Texas garden could be, stocked with roses and herbs and adapted perennials! So passes the glory of one of my favorite retail outlets, although there is some comfort to be had in knowing that their main establishment and website is still in business. I have no idea where we will go now for vegetable starts and herbs; split our devotion between HEB, Lowe’s and Rainbow Gardens, I guess..

South Texas Garden Plans

Plans for the Garden – Spring 2013

by Celia Hayes

When just about everything in the garden was done producing for the year and the weather began to cool off, my daughter and I put up the folding gazebo-greenhouse which one of our San Antonio neighbors decided was surplus to needs. Into it went all the surviving plants, and the delicate things, like the patchouli plant, the pepper vine, an earth-box full of salad greens and lettuce, and another with three tomato plants which had self-seeded from last year’s crop. In advance of the first cold snap, we zipped up the window openings and doorway, and aside from unzipping the door long enough to water everything once a week, we pretty much ignored it. All the plants inside thrived on this regimen, and one of the tomato plants has already put forth baby green tomatoes the size of grapes … in late January. We do not know, of course, what kind of tomatoes they are – could be the black cherry sort, the yellow pear-shaped sort, the heirloom beefsteak variety or even the egg-shaped roma tomatoes … all of which we had in the hanging planters last year, or in one of the earth boxes. Any of them could have self-seeded – and the resulting plants are thriving. So – yes, we will keep the gazebo-greenhouse up. As a matter of fact, it was such a pain to assemble that we are extremely reluctant to take it down.

As it turned out for us last year, although the hanging turvy planters, the earth boxes and the pots of various sizes produced a splendid-looking assortment of vegetables, and the garden looked nearly the best that it ever has been, the actual crop wasn’t that impressive. It wasn’t enough to entirely supply our salad green and vegetable needs throughout the summer and fall, and certainly not enough that we were going around to the neighbors leaving sacks of zucchini and peppers on the doorstep, ringing the doorbell and running away.

So, this year, we’re moving on to Plan …well, by this time it is Plan C. Plan A, back in the beginning was in just digging in lots of sand compost to what is essentially hard clay – which worked for some things, but but vegetables. Plan B, which was to plant the vegetables in containers, was what we did last year – and there just isn’t enough container space. Plan C is – a series of raised beds, made from wide pine planks, and filled with compost and good potting soil. This is what we have started; last weekend I built the largest one, from a pair of 12-foot planks, which the nice people at Lowe’s were kind enough to saw into 4 and 8 foot lengths. Four pairs of corner joist fasteners and a handful of wood screws – and there we go. Fill with soil, and put square concrete pavers around the edge so that we’re not waiting through the mud every time we water … and there’s the first raised bed. We should be able to build and fill two or three more, and fit into various unused spaces in the back yard, which will offer lots more space for vegetable-growing.

We’ve carried over enough cayenne, jalapeno and bell pepper plants from last year that we need not buy any more for this year. Alas, one of the tomato turvys has split and disintegrated under the stress of two years hard use, and I suspect the remaining two are very close to following suit – so, here we go, looking for more. With the greater space available in the raised beds, we might better be able to grow more squash, zucchini and bush beans – and just today when we were at Lowe’s for some shelf brackets, I noticed that they had bags of onion starts and seed potatoes … and those are definitely things that I’d like to have. And that’s the plan for my garden this year – what’s yours?

Libraries

Libraries

 

by Celia Hayes

Knowing how important historic ‘firsts’ are to civic life and the partisans of hometown institutions, I expect that any day there will be a showdown between Lockhart and Galveston over which town has the oldest continuously operating public library in Texas. A routine googlectomy turns up the competing claims of the Rosenburg Library in Galveston (1871) and the Dr. Eugene Clarke Library in Lockhart (1899), despite the 30 years difference. Perhaps the Rosenburg Library was sidelined in the aftermath of the great hurricane which struck in 1900, and that is why the ‘continuously operating’ caveat is in play.

In any case, San Antonio’s public library system was late to the game, with the oldest library branch only opening in 1930. (It’s the San Pedro Branch, in San Pedro Park.) A round of public libraries in Texas were funded around the turn of the century by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, a bare handful of which still exist as libraries, although many of the buildings are still in use for other purposes. Generally, it appears that any lover of books and reading in Texas before the last quarter of the 19th century was pretty much on their own, although this does not rule out private libraries and friends circulating books among themselves. Having so many other civic and personal needs – such as sheer survival, defense against bandits, Indians, wild animals, poverty, drought, flood, and all – the life of the mind and of literary interests rather naturally took a lower priority until relatively late in the game. Once established, though – and especially in smaller towns – libraries took a central part in civic life. I wonder if establishing libraries, schools and churches wasn’t as much of an outlet and focus for the women of a town, at least as much as the militia, volunteer fire companies and fraternal organizations were for their husbands.

Perhaps Texas were late to the game in establishing public libraries for citizens, but I’d have to say they’ve made up for it sine then. And local libraries in smaller towns are still a mainstay of the community – especially if they are centrally located. I did a talk for the library in Harper, and another in Junction a couple of years ago, and found it to be so. The Junction library even had a lovely little coffee bar set up in the facility, so that patrons could read and caffeinate at the same time. The library in Comfort is also on the main street, in an old two-level store building. Fredericksburg’s main library is also right in the very heart of town, in a Beaux Arts building that once was the Gillespie County Courthouse. Boerne’s main library is also in a historic building on the main town square – another indication of how important a repository of books for the loan of, to the public, can become.

As many books as I do have myself – the library will always have more.