Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pole bean timeline

Pole beans are green beans that have feelers that flop about in the breeze and grasp anything they can climb on. It's kind of creepy when you think about it.

Moving past that haunting mental image, I had great success with my first pole beans last spring. I had grown bush green beans with success for several seasons, but wanted to save space and have my bean plants grow up instead of out. This necessitated giving them something to climb on.

Making a good start, 28 days after planting. 
For garden structures, I usually make do with whatever I have. I could have made a nifty teepee structure out of rebar, but I decided to splurge and buy two of Burpee's Pole Bean and Pea Towers. I'm glad I did, because the beans sure liked them.

Putting out feelers, 36 days after planting.
Growing, 39 days after planting.
Climbing, 48 days after planting.
Flowering, 64 days after planting.

First pole bean, 70 days after planting.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Come on, harvest some rainwater!

Did you know you can get 600 gallons of rainwater for each inch of rain on a thousand-square-foot roof? It's true!

Here is an article I wrote for Image magazine:

Rainwater harvesting
By Karen Nace

You probably already have gutters to deal with all the rain we've been getting. If so, you're halfway toward collecting free water to use for your water features, bird baths, gardens or trees.

When you harvest rainwater, you're simply diverting the water from the roof into strategically placed containers, and it's amazing how much you can collect. For every inch of rain that falls on one square foot of roof and is guided to a rain barrel, you will get about 0.6 gallon of water. Thus, a 1,000-square-foot roof will yield about 600 gallons of water from just one inch of rain.

If you decide to harvest this free natural resource, you can start small by building a simple rain barrel out of a 30- to 72-gallon plastic garbage can. You'll need a few things from the hardware store such as plastic screening to keep out mosquitoes, a spigot for dispensing the water into your hose or watering can, some caulking, and a PVC pipe elbow for handling any overflow.

Rich Tillman of Brazoria (Texas) calculates that building your own rain barrel will cost about 60 cents for each gallon of capacity.

"The storage tanks are the main expense," Tillman says. "In most guttered homes it takes very little modification."

As a Master Gardener, Tillman helps with that organization's rain barrel systems that service many of the experimental gardens and other areas. The simplest of these is a converted garbage can set underneath the condensation drain of an air conditioner.

Of course, you can go with a much larger system, placing barrels at several gutter downspouts or piping several together to deal with the abundance at a single gutter. Whatever system you use, it's important to secure it so it can't turn over on someone, and that the people around you realize that it's not drinking water.

"Plants love rainwater because it doesn't have the salts and minerals that you might find in tap water or well water," says John Gordy, Brazoria County Extension Agent - Agriculture and Natural Resources. With up to half of water use in urban areas used for landscape irrigation and about 50 percent of that water lost due to inefficiencies and improper operation, according to Texas A&M University, it pays to harvest rainwater. It will reduce your water bill now and in the future. The Texas population is expected to grow by 82% in the next half-century, increasing demand greatly in an already strained public water supply.

You'll find many resources by searching for "rainwater harvesting" at .

Copyright 2014 Image magazine

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Make a rain barrel

At Master Gardener class, I made a rain barrel, then after the fact I wondered how I was going to bring it home in my Honda. Thank goodness one of the irrigation specialists was there to help me out with her pick-up. Thanks, Dana!

So, what do you do with a rain barrel? Big Blue is made to put under a gushing gutter downspout. There is screen at the top, an overflow pipe on the side and a handy faucet at the bottom for draining water into a watering can or irrigation device.

It's a good thing to work toward being a good steward of what God has given us so abundantly -- precious water. We need to do what we can to preserve and protect our dwindling water supply.

If you would like to learn more, please see this excellent article.

Next: All about rainwater harvesting

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Backyard farm girl - then and now

Here this little farm girl is 2 ...
... and now at 8, she's ready to dig into gardening!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Preventative ear drops

I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but these homemade ear drops were prescribed by my ear-note-throat doctor to help me prevent the outer-ear-canal infections I'm prone to. I swish one drop in and out of each ear after my shower, when even one drop of water can start festering into an outer-ear-canal infection. I got a cute dropper bottle at a health food store and filled it with half rubbing alcohol and half white vinegar. Cheaper and stronger than the commercial swimmer's ear drops. Of course, use common sense and don't use them in your eyes or let the dog lap them up or anything. And always check with your health-care provider. Naturally.

Monday, March 30, 2015


Any time I pass a rosemary bush, I am compelled to pinch off one of the pointed leaves and crush it between my thumb and forefinger. I love that aroma!
Rosemary is super easy to grow

Rosemary is simple to grow, and a good herb to try if you're just starting out. It's pretty much foolproof.

Rosemary can get 3 to 4 feet tall with very little care. You'll see a lot of landscape rosemary in the Hill Country because there are a lot of deer, and deer leave rosemary alone.

Rosemary is one of the most popular and useful in the kitchen. I like to place it in the cavity of a baking chicken. The aroma permeates the meat and perfumes the whole house.

Rosemary lends itself to hedges, formal shapes and topiary. Were I to make a formal garden, I would use rosemary as a border. Think of sitting out on a breezy evening and smelling the rosemary.

I found out that you can propagate (grow a new one) from an existing rosemary plant: Clip a 4- to 6-inch shoot from new, soft growth. Strip off a few leaves and stick it in the dirt. I will conduct an experiment and report back on the progress.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Beautiful bougainvillea

Bougainvillea sprawls from the cut-glass vase that was my grandmother's from her wedding in 1927. I just love old stuff. Except I didn't like my old kitchen, so we remodeled a few years ago. This is my kitchen window before we remodeled. See the old wallpaper and "rugged" looking windowsill? Lovely.
Bougainvillea is showy and colorful and lovely. It's one of my favorite plants.

But while bougainvillea is beautiful, I have nominated it to my list of Plants That Take Over the World. They keep branching out and to such lengths that you feel like you constantly have to cut it back. But very pretty, so it's worth it. As long as you're wearing long sleeves and Playtex Living Gloves to guard against the plant's menacing thorns. Just believe me and wear the gloves.

My bougainvillea in the front flowerbed is struggling back after
unusually cold weather bit it back to ground level last winter.
In my front landscaping, bougainvillea is a graceful vine struggling back after a series of hard freezes last winter. Give it a few more weeks, however, and it will be back to a vibrant fuchsia, though you can find bougainvillea in many other colors including pink, lavender, red, gold and orange.

Have you ever looked at a bougainvillea up close? If so, you've probably noticed that what you thought were colored flowers are really papery leafy things. These are colored bracts, or modified leaves. The flowers are little white clusters surrounded by the bracts. I looked that up. Interesting.

Bougainvillea cascades across a cute armadillo lawn ornament
that I got from Mary Kate Bennett at her shop, Treasure Chest.
I also just found out that it's best to keep the branches 18-20 inches long for the best blooming.

Plant bougainvillea with plenty of room around it so that when it's full size it won't crowd other, more polite plants.

A long time ago, a co-worker told me that bougainvillea thrives when it is root-bound, thirsty and non-fertilized. This proved to be true. The perfect plant for me.