Hot Weather, Cool Weather

It's kind of a weird garden time for me. The week before last, we had four or five days with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees. I think the hottest it got was 106 or 107. Naturally, my garden looks terrible--the tomatoes are withering, the pumpkins and melons wilt from the heat every afternoon, and the rhubarb looks awful, even under shade cloth. I'm still getting purple hull peas and cantaloupe, but that's about it. So how am I reacting to this awful heat? Why, I'm working on cool weather crops, of course.

I have started almost the whole array of cole crops--broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, and collard greens. All I lack are kohlrabi and turnips, and I will start those in the next couple of weeks. It feels a little odd to be working on winter crops when it is 100 outside, but I guess it's no stranger than starting summer crops inside while the lows are still in the high 20s.

Incidentally, the species Brassica oleracea and its sister Brassica rapa are one of the most flexible crops we have; every single part of the plant has a strain bred to produce that part of the plant. Bred for roots, it's called a turnip. Bred to produce a thick stem, and it's kohlrabi. Mature leaves are kale and collard greens; immature leaves (buds) are cabbage and brussels sprouts (terminal and lateral buds, respectively). The flowers are cabbage and cauliflower. Finally, let the plant go to seed, and you can harvest the seed used to make canola oil. I can't think of another garden plant that comes in such a wide array, with so many different parts that are useful.


I had a "learning experience" last week. It's time to plant my fall cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, etc.), and I wanted to re-use some old transplant pots. I washed them with the hose, then I set out to sanitize them. Trying to be organic, I avoided using a chemical sanitizer and tried to harness the power of the sun. "Solarization" is a technique that uses a sheet of clear plastic over a garden item to raise the heat high enough to kill all the bacteria and fungus spores on the pots.

I laid out all of the pots to be solarized (over 300), placed the plastic sheet over them, and weighed it down with rocks. Then I sat back and waited a few days to let the sun work its magic.

Did it work? Well, we had temperatures in excess of 100 three or four of the days the pots were out. I'm pretty sure the heat was high enough to kill the nasties, but it got a little higher than I intended. Just look at the pictures:
The layout--all the pots

Close-up. These used to be square.

Sometimes you can learn from the mistakes other people make, and sometimes you can be the other people. This week, I am the other people. Oh well.

Peach Festival

Last Saturday was the Parker County Peach Festival. I had a booth at the festival, and did very well-I sold everything that I brought. My dad came up from Bryan to help out, and we had a good time working the booth. Here is a photo of us at the booth:

Harvest Time

Since I had today off from work, I was able to catch up in the garden. Here are some pics I took of the things I picked last week.

Tomatoes (clockwise from the big one): Mountain Pride, Mr. Stripey, sliced Mr. Stripey, Green Zebra, Arkansas Traveler, and Red Zebra.

Part of the week's harvest. Green beans, black-eyed peas, zucchini, and squash.

The variety of peas that I'm growing is called "Pink-eye Purple Hull." I like them (and Mississippi Purple Hull, too) because they are easy to pick. The pea patch is the dark green down the middle of this photo:

Unripe peas are green and hidden, like this:

However, when they get ripe, the pea pods turn a nice maroon color so they are easy to spot:

They also taste great. If you haven't had fresh black-eyed peas (or pink-eyed, or crowder or knuckle or cream peas, which are all pretty much the same) you are are missing out. And if you call them "cow peas," you just weren't raised right.


I'm still here, but very busy. I spent Saturday and Sunday afternoon installing a drip irrigation system. It wasn't too complicated, but took quite a bit of time. The biggest difficulty was the heat--over 100 both days. I finished it on Sunday about 5:30, and it waters quite well.

I spent about an hour tonight picking green beans, squash, and black-eyed peas. I have cukes and more tomatoes to get tomorrow.

Once I'm caught up on picking, I'll have some pictures of the irrigation system, and a few notes on the black-eyed peas.

Garden Pics

I took a few pictures today to show y'all what my garden looks like. Enjoy!
Baby squashes.

Cherry tomatoes. I got my first harvest of tomatoes yesterday--about a pound and a half of cherry and plum tomatoes.

Pole beans.

Baby cucumber plants under shade cloth. The shade cloth keeps the worst of the sun at bay, so the plants don't just cook every day. It is especially helpful for transplants and new seedlings, because they don't have extensive root systems.

Cantaloupe blossom, with a visitor.

My alarm clock, hard at work building soil for a new raised bed. He's called "El Patron."

Young bourbon red turkeys. Turkeys always make me smile; they are usually up to something goofy.


I've started getting a few cherry tomatoes this week. I'm only getting about one little mater every other day, but it's a start. My paste tomatoes (Roma, etc) are loaded with green fruit, and there is lots of fruit on the beefsteak plants as well. I should be rolling in tomatoes in just a couple of weeks.

Rough Weather

There has been a lot of rough weather around this week. Wednesday had 10" of rain in Dallas, and a tornado in the north part of our county. Tonight, we had two tornadoes in the county, and reports of hail as big as grapefruit.

No problems here, though. I believe that we got about two and a quarter inches on Wednesday, and about an inch and a half tonight. (I have to estimate the rainfall because I have lost my rain gauge. I poke it in the ground, and move it around based on where I'm running the sprinkler. Wherever I put it last, the plants have grown up and hidden it. I need to make a detailed search next time I weed.)

At any rate, we got some good rains, there was no damage, and everything is growing well.

What I'm Doing

There are things I want to accomplish as a farmer:
  • work with nature to grow great food
  • preserve traditional varieties and methods
  • connect people to the source of their food
The best produce is grown by working with nature rather than against it. I use natural plant and animal products to feed the soil; this adds not only the major elements plants need, but also trace minerals and healthy soil life. This healthy, living soil in turn produces strong, healthy plants that are naturally more able to resist pests and diseases. I also provide habitat for predatory insects that keep pests in check. I don't use synthetic chemicals to fertilize or control pests.

I grow mainly traditional varieties in my garden to get better flavors. Many of these strains are true heirlooms, handed down from one gardener to another for years (one of my tomato varieties was introduced in 1870!). Why have these varieties been kept for so long? Outstanding flavor. Many of these varieties don't ship or store well, so they have been neglected by the big commercial growers. These days, they are only available to people who have a garden (or know someone who does). By growing heirloom varieties and using natural methods, I can grow the best tasting produce around.

Finally, I want to connect people to the source of their food. The anonymous nature of our food supply chain keeps us from really knowing anything about what were eating. (Remember last summer when bad salsa kept all the tomatoes off the shelves?) I want people to know where their food came from, and trust that it is safe.

I will be updating this blog periodically (between working, taking care of twin toddlers, and of course actually working in the garden) with updates about how things are growing, what I'm doing, and of course what is ready to eat. Feel free to comment or drop me an e-mail with comments or questions.