Winter veggies from seed

This morning, I started three more seedings in my soil flats I cut and saved from the clamshell packaging used by grocery markets to sell fresh produce.

The Tatsoi greens may be too late to get much growth before our first freeze, still perhaps over a month away.

The Kale and Pak Choy should come in just fine, and they have a good chance of surviving well into the mild winters we typically have.  The harshest months are usually mid-December to January, and I have had Kale survive well into the coldest months.  Gotta love Texas weather for gardening!



Napa cabbage

It’s been difficult to find time to post this last week.  I’m a baseball fanatic, particularly a Texas Rangers fan, and we’re in the postseason playoffs.  It hasn’t prevented me from my gardening, but it has kept me off my blog a good bit.

I’ve been experimenting with using butt cuttings from my bought organic produce to see if I can successfully get them to sprout roots before planting them in soil.  I’ve had some success with brussels sprouts and some red onions, but I especially like the way this Napa cabbage is leafing out.


I planted it in soil this morning after letting it sit in water in a sunny window sill for about 10 days.  There are about a dozen roots that have grown some length while sitting in water, so I’m optimistic about this plant taking to soil well.  I have plans in a few weeks to put this in a large container to be a part of my front yard edible plants.  The front yard has usually been reserved for ornamental plants, but I am converting much of it to edibles now.

I love the way nature needs so little work from me to make this happen.

New pleasures in gardening

Since picking up my old gardening routines a few weeks ago, I’ve been working at it steadily.  I had a lot of cleanup to do: weeds, weeds, more weeds, and lots of old vines growing on my fence lines that had died and gone to heaven long ago.  They are now composting, and I need to build another bin this weekend to accommodate more of them from the front yard as well.

It is steady work, and I never have to worry about being laid off or bored.  Doesn’t pay much, though.

I take a few pictures now and then, and when I get a little extra time on weekends, I’ll try to post some of them.  In this short time, the appearance of my backyard has changed, and it’s becoming my favorite hangout again.  If I could only watch the baseball playoffs out there, I’d work into the night.

It has become a stress reliever.  When I get home after my one-hour commute every weekday, I get a kiss from my wife, I give my dogs a couple of treats, and then I change into my grubby clothes and spend at least 30 minutes before cleaning up and starting dinner.  The evenings pass much more pleasantly and without the usual stress of the work week.

Besides stress relief, I have a growing sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  Taking care of the “garden”, in a spiritual sense, always provides an abundance of good feelings, and it leaves some of the unnecessary things, like worries, behind.  There will be enough of those for tomorrow.

Catching rainwater and pleasant memories

When I was very young, during the summer, when school was out, I stayed at my maternal grandmother’s house while my mother and father were working.  My grandmother was a gardener.  She grew flowers and shrubs and trees mostly.  Her yard was beautiful.  In fact, she was featured occasionally as the “Yard of the Month” in her Dallas suburban home, and, at least once, I remember an article in her local newspaper about her garden.  She was a member of the local garden club, and it was a big deal to her, and it made her happy.

Aside from this, she was a beautiful lady, very kind, and had an awesome laugh, especially when she couldn’t stop laughing and got on a roll.

My paternal grandmother also grew lots of flowers, especially heirloom roses, that had a fragrance so strong you could smell it as soon as you got out of the car to go busting into the house to say hello and raid her candy dish.  Her pink roses were what my definition of “rose” was.  I took them for granted because she had hundreds of them, it always seemed.

I have always been intrigued by the process of gardening, of “making things grow.”  When people spoke of a “green thumb”, I took it literally and frequently looked at my grandmothers’ hands to see what color their thumbs were…hmm, same as mine, mostly pink.

One of the most interesting things at my maternal grandmother’s house was her rainwater collecting habits.  I didn’t understand why she did it — had no understanding of drought or even the needs of plants for water — but she had several jars she kept on her back patio to catch water, and we were warned to keep away from them, my cousins and I.

Now that I’m gardening, and living through an extended drought in this Texas climate, I’m considering the rain catching habits of my grandmother.  I may invest in several rain barrels, but for now, I think some large containers of any type will do.  I have some old plastic storage barrels, and I can manage to improvise, I think, though I may have to figure out how to dispense the water once I have some collected.  I’ll figure that out when we get some rain.

Any ideas?

Home-grown microgreens

I enjoyed my first taste of soil-grown sprouts this weekend, and I was impressed with how much this technique of growing them in soil intensified the flavor.  I grew these in partial sunlight, and this picture was taken fter only six full days from seeding.

These are lentil sprouts, grown in a clamshell packaging flat, with just a few drops of water added as needed during the week.  We had a couple of 90-degree-plus days, lots of sunshine, and plenty of TLC from the gardener (me!).

Lentil microgreens

After trimming these, I placed them back on my outdoor shelf to see if I could get more growth from some of the “slower” seeds.  After one day, I’m seeing more sprouts, and I’ll get a full second harvest, it appears.

Microgreens, such as these, deliver a large dose of antioxidants for just pennies a cup, when you do it yourself.  Another big plus is that you can grow your own salads 365 days per year.  Whether grown in soil or in a Mason jar, the nutrient density per dollars spent make it worthwhile for your health.

Another tip: I continue to grown them even when I have plenty in the fridge.  I package the excess in reusable containers in my freezer to use for my morning smoothies.

Here’s a link to Dr. Greger’s blog regarding micronutrients.  It also links to some of his short videos that explain the cost effectiveness a little more.

Bean bed and make-shift gardening

I thrive on beans of all different sorts!  Since going to a plant-based (vegan) eating plan, beans have become even more important to me than before, even after liking them my whole life of 60 years.

Beans are cheap!  Even so, they are so easy to grow that it seems like it just has to become a part of my gardening plans to grow them myself.  This ensures me that they are grown organically and fresher from soil to fork.

Bed prep

Last weekend, on my backyard garden conversion project, I cleared out an area on my fenceline to start my “bean bed.”  Voila:bean bed

I have some old fence posts already in place from a previous dog run we had.  I will use these posts this weekend to string with some kind of wire mesh so the vine beans can climb.  I need to pull some weeds and plenty of organic matter to the bed to prepare the soil for the babies I sprouted this week.

Sprout prep

Aside from the indoor sprouting method I’ve used for awhile, I decided to sprout some beans in soil, some of which will be used for eating immediately, and others to provide plants for my new bean bed.

I made use of some of the clamshell packaging that many of my “bought” fruits and veggies come in.  I feel really great about saving this for something useful now.  They have built-in drainage, and each clamshell provides you with TWO planting beds by cutting the top off the packaging.  The shallow side (the top) is PERFECT for “no-soil” sprouting, using paper towels to lock in the moisture.

I chose among the beans I have in my pantry: mung, adzuki, and lentil.  Here are some pictures of the sprout preparation:


Since I didn’t have any compost yet, I used a bagged potting soil.

lentil sprouts

Lentils for eating immediately, on wet paper towel. I also covered this with another paper towel and kept these moist throughout the past week. I have sprouts ready for eating this weekend.

lentil sprouts in soil

Lentils, using soil sprouting method. These are sprouting as well, for this weekend. I will use some of these for planting when they get big and strong.


Mung beans, using paper towels, non-soil, method. These sprouted within two days. Tasted some today, and they are much richer tasting than the indoor “Mason jar” method I’ve been using. Delicious!

adzuki sprouts

I love these adzuki beans. These are ready for the plate this weekend, too. (Wet paper towel method)


Kept all covered with wet paper towels, watered twice a day if needed in our 90+ temps this week. Ready to go!

This is the shelf that faces the south side of my house. It gets good sun, but is protected from the wind and hard rains when we get them. This will become my "greenhouse" during the colder months, and I will install some temporary heat lamps and plastic covers to keep the project going.

This is the shelf that faces the south side of my house. It gets good sun, but is protected from the wind and hard rains when we get them. This will become my “greenhouse” during the colder months, and I will install some temporary heat lamps and plastic covers to keep the project going.

I don’t have finished product pictures yet, but will harvest most of the eating sprouts this weekend.  My starter plants are coming along well.  I will transplant them into small containers for a couple of weeks before planting in my new bean bed.

It’s late in the traditional growing season, but, this is Texas, and we don’t have freezing temps, usually, until late October, and they are usually mild until mid-November at the earliest.  I should get some harvest by the time the colder temps come into play.


The spiritual connection: the garden

“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.” — Wendell Berry

It never fails.  Gardening is both physically taxing and spiritually rewarding.

My first day back into the garden after a couple of years of neglect, then abandonment, led to profound soreness this morning as well as a pleasing, and calm, satisfaction.  Unlike the struggles I sometimes have with mental tiredness and the stress of the day’s agenda, the focus on physical labor, applied to the earth, in the cooperative effort between myself and Nature to provide food for my own consumption and to feed the soil, otherwise devoid of nutrients in this suburban wasteland of chemical dependence, is invigorating and inspirational.

Rather than bemoaning the fact that urban gardening, at least in the beginning, is more about undoing the damage done to Nature through “hurry-up” landscaping and propping up a “magazine-ready” curb appearance, teaming up with natural processes and using the earth’s own medicine produces an optimistic calm in the face of devastating opposition, the essence of joy.

The link to gardening is not lost on me.  The decision to eat a plant-based, cruelty-free diet, permanently, has brought my focus upon “the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.”

It is a spiritual exercise, though it’s the muscles that ache this morning!

Source for Wendell Berry quote at header: 32 inspirational gardening quotes | MNN – Mother Nature Network