On a cool breezy Saturday morning, San Antonio Parks and Rec. offered a group of eager San Antonians a chance to give back to their city. They brought tools, mulch, arborists, and about 300 trees to the Salado Creek Trailhead on F Street. Starbucks brought hot coffee and pastries to keep us fueled.
I represented ProRangers and Bexar County Master Gardeners at the trailhead tree planting project. The 40-odd volunteers represented about as many backgrounds. I had the incredible fortune to be able to teach folks (the very little I know) about planting trees and learn about their motivations for getting up so early in the morning to play in the dirt!
I met representatives from the Navy (Hi Miguel and Monique!), arborists (Mr. Booker it was a pleasure meeting your lovely family, Hi Brooke, Mike, and Angelique!) SAWS (Mike, thanks for all your help! I’ve been groping sycamore trees all around the area trying to tell if which variety they are!) and folks who just wanted to spend a day with their family and teach a lesson about the value of volunteerism (Jayvon, thank you very much for helping me carry that bag mulch, it was very heavy!). I met Al and his father of Al’s Lawn Service who is a strong supporter of The Alamo and other Mission parks and acted in their First Friday Reenactments. I got to spend more time with one of my favorite ProRanger cadets Angela; I learn something from her everyday, it so great!
How did you celebrate Earth Day? Do you get the chance to volunteer often? What has been or is your favorite volunteer activity?
The San Antonio Water System is sick and tired of taking your hard earned money!
So they go out into the community and teach citizens about water conservation, landscape maintenance, and how to protect the Edwards Aquifer. During one of the several FREE education events they hold each year, The SAWS Spring bloom, SAWS gave away plants, trees, held workshops, and did anything they could do to convince you to stop paying them so much!
This year’s Spring Bloom, the rain tried to scare off some folks but failed miserably. When I tell you this is one of four events around town to get great plants on the cheap, man, I mean it! I was with the Garden Volunteers of South Texas this year selling plants to raise money for the organization. GVST is where I got my start and met all sorts of amazing teachers! September of 2010, I saw an event listed in the paper and went to one of their Essentials Classes. Life has been amazing ever since! If you discover a particular field you want to learn more about, don’t be afraid to just show up at an event or trade show or anything. But remember, and this is key, you have to talk to someone! Make your presence known and offer to become an integral part of their organization!
Per usual I had a great time and spent money but all the herbs I bought are doing great!
I planted two flowering trees in my yard! What is your favorite kind of flowering tree or shrub?
The flowers are what got me. Beautiful delicate pops of yellow dancing softly next to the ornamental cabbage and red kale in the nursery’s greenhouse. I reached for the plastic 4 inch pot and put my nose to the flower. Nothing special but it was still pretty. I put the plant in my basket. “Why not?” I thought and moved on to the geraniums.
Hon Tsai Tai is another Oriental vegetable in the same choy family as Komatsuna. It has purple stalks, green leaves, and sporty yellow flowers. This plant requires full sun and a lot of water. It is a little thing, though, only getting up to 10 inches tall and 4 inches wide at maturity. Put down your transplants in early fall. It can tolerate a couple of frosts but nothing too intense. If you are trying to propagate seeds, sow them in the late summer. Hon Tsai Tai takes over 100 days to reach maturity so you’ll want to get an early start.
Of course there’s what the plant likes on one hand and what I’m willing to do on the other. The Hon Tsai Tai is treated much like Komatsuna. It gets about two hours of direct sunlight and an inch of water weekly. I think it likes San Antonio’s alkaline water. There’s none of that weird discoloration that I usually notice with new transplants. This is what it looks like as of January 11:
The above plant is kept in a pot just in case I have to pull it inside one night. It gets more sunlight and more water as a result. #I’mLazyAndIKnowIt
I sauted the leaves in olive oil and sea salt and they reminded me of mustard greens. I expected something sweeter. At first, I worried that not pinching back the flowers (i.e. allowing it to bolt) effected its flavor. Come to find out that the whole thing is edible anyway and that’s just what it tastes like. I’m not the biggest fan of this plant but I really like the flowers!
Have you ever tried Hon Tsai Tai? What did you think of it? Would you consider adding it to your own garden?
Volunteering event at Mission Branch Library in San Antonio, TX
Finally, my front bed looks like the picture I had in my head!
…and I apologize. I’ve been busy with finals but to make it up to you, I’ve uploaded three, count ‘em THREE new videos to my youtube channel. I may upload a fourth tonight. Check them out and let me know what you think!
Going into the second week of things the plants are getting bigger and are drinking alot of water. I worry that they are not getting enough sunlight. It already evident which plants will be thinned. I’m starting to see true leaves on some of the plants and that is exciting! Soon I’ll have a salad! I think today I’ll make a second sowing of swiss chard, and those two varieties of lettuce greens!
I have to be honest, I’m not sure how to feel about the look of the sunflowers. I may lose them but they aren’t to be grown during the winter anyhow. Lesson learned….
I enjoy basil. I love the fact that it comes in so many beautiful delicious varieties— cuban, thai, cinnamon, purple ruffles, I could go on for a solid hour about basil and its awesomeness. But the sad truth is that out of the five types of basil plants I have, I maybe used a single leaf of Sweet Basil all summer. Why? Well, aside from pesto, I have no idea what else to do with this stuff! I figure as the time comes for basil to peter out, some of y’all may be searching for interesting things to do with the herb. Here are a few that I found.
1) Chew a leaf!
Basil is a great source of Vitamins A & K. Remember Vitamin K can only be absorbed through ingestion so eat up! See how many different ways you can incorporate basil into your meals. Maybe try adding a couple of leaves to a salad, or adding a few Purple Ruffle leaves to your raspberry lemonade. Basil also relieves gas and nausea. I like to mix in a couple of chopped cinnamon basil leaves into some slices of nectarines, plums, and peaches.
2) Try out a new recipe
The seeds of Thai basil (called subja in India) swell in water and the mixture is used in Asian and Indian desserts and drinks. You could host your own bubble tea party!
3) Put away the Glade and plug in on basil!
Allowing your herbs to bolt (flower and go to seed) effects its flavor. If you aren’t too concerned about the culinary potency of your basil let the plant flower. Cut the flower stalks, tie them together with a ribbon, and hang then on a door jamb. Basil releases it’s beautiful scent when it’s touched so hang up a few stalks in any high traffic area and enjoy!
4) Make an herb tussie musie!
5) Store it
There are several ways to harvest and store basil. My favorite is to puree it and put it in ice cube trays with a little water. Once they freeze, I can put the cubes in a baggie and use them at my leisure.
6) Infuse some oil or vinegar
For infused oil, with a pestle and mortar, pound about 5-10 leaves into a paste. Add a few drops of olive oil and mix well. Then pour the mixture into a sterile jar, cover, and store for two weeks. Lightly stir or shake up the mixture every three days. Pour the now infused oil into a neat looking jar along with a stalk of the basil you used as decoration. The process is similar for vinegar. Bring a pint of white wine vinegar to boil in a glass or enameled pan (if you use a metal pot you’ll have to throw it out…#LessonsLearnedTheHardWay). Put your basil paste in a heatproof jug and pour the vinegar into the jug. Stir it well and let it cool. Then pour the mixture into a sterile jar, cover, and store for three weeks. Shake it up one in a awhile. Finally find another set of neat looking jars to pour the vinegar in along with a stalk of the basil you used as decoration.
7) Get rid of the RAID
Basil repels flies. Start a container plant on the windowsill.
8) Share the wealth!
Save the seeds and start some basil plants for your peeps! Give away stalks to the neighbors! Make a tussie mussie for your significant other! Anything to get it out of the house, lol!
Post your favorite use for basil on the Facebook Page. www.facebook.com/urballife
Also stay tuned for updates on the greenhouse and the front bed!
The days are getting shorter and the ol’ mercury is steady dipping but there’s still time to get in some of your favorite crops (think leafy greens, broccoli, taproot vegetables, and the like) and to start planning for the spring.
- Take this weekend to decide what you want to plant and where you want to put it. If you aren’t going to eat it, perhaps you may not want to put in the time and effort it takes to grow it. For example, this season I’m growing beets. I don’t eat beets but I like the way the chard looks next to the lambs ear. Planting it will add some texture to my vegetable garden (and hopefully distract pests from eating the Bright Lights Swiss Chard that I actually want).
- Once you got that down, visit your local nursery and select the best transplants you can find. You want strong, unwilted, lesion free, and green baby plants. If you see bugs, mites, or aphids on them leave them at the store.
- Now is also the time to pick out your favorite tulip, crocus, daffodil, and narcissus bulbs for the spring. Put them in a brown paper bag and set them in your fridge’s crisper drawer till Jan. 1st. We’ll get back to that as planting time approaches
- If you rather work with seed you can direct seed into your bed or pot parsley, dill, cilantro, chamomile, and nasturtium. Remember that different varieties offer different results. “German” Chamomile is the herb used in teas and compresses. “Russian” chamomile is a bitter tasting weed. When picking out your seed packets check twice to be sure you are getting the variety best suited for our area. If in doubt, look for the All American Selection tag. You will have the most success with vegetables, rosemary, sage, salad burnet, and chives if you buy transplants from your local nursery.
- Sow some wildflower seeds. You can spread them over a well-prepared bedor sprinkle some on your lawn’s bald spot; doesn’t matter as long as you are able to water them weekly through the winter.
- Harvest the last of your summer squash and basil
- Sharpen/clean/oil your gardening tools.
- Pull out the frost covers and stock up on mulch. It should be on clearance now as the season is winding down.
- Plant/prune trees and rosebushes
- Enjoy the weather and try something new!
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