Thursday, December 16, 2010

Time for Onions in Southeast Texas

A few of our raised beds that are home for Heirloom Tomatoes

We've been working the garden beds over since mid fall with green cover crops of peas and beans and agri musturd being turned in to the soil. Layers of mulched leaves cover most of the garden as well as chicken poop and our homemade, rich and beautiful compost being worked in. The milestone of the organic garden is getting your soil nutrient rich as deep as possible. Earning some beneficial nematodes and earthworms takes a whole lot of shovel and wheelbarrow time. A lot of onions will be planted in the raised beds this year, as well as in other parts of the garden.

Our onion starts arrived on December 29th. They were shipped to us by Dixondale Farms located in Carrizo Springs Texas in only 2 days after they were ordered. Dixondale specializes in onions and have been in business since 1913. They have a fantastic planting guide to help you know exactly when to start your onions going by your zipcode and then they help you determine which varieties are best for your area by mapping out an onion zone for the United States. We could have actually been planting our onions in mid December because of our zipcode on the Gulf Coast. Because of being is such a severe drought for such a long time, we decided to hold on a bit for some rain. Our zone calls for growing the short day varieties of onions. However, this year we are experimenting a bit by ordering a couple intermediate day varieties as well. The storage is actually longer for intermediates so we thought we would at least try and see what they do. Our short day varieties keep stored for about 3 months. I'll keep you updated on the experiment. We also are planting Lancelot Leeks, which are not daylight sensitive and can be planted in any zone. They are so pretty in the garden mixed in with all the lovely spring blooming flowers. Leeks are fabulous to cook with and even better chopped up fresh in salads and summer time veggie dips!

This is a picture from the beginning of our 2009 harvest of onions layed out on the drying racks. We grew a few hundred that year. We have 600 or 800 to plant for 2011. The racks are located near the south side of the garden and get plenty of breeze to dry, but also sheltered by the little roof and by a few trees to keep the rain and sun off of them. The onions begin to finish up in May in time for the other vegetables to take over the garden. The drying racks will be used again for potato harvesting and I always seem to be throwing flower heads on them to dry for saving seed.

I'm so happy to be getting a chance to play in the garden again. I've been dreaming of the spring garden, going through catalogs and planning and ordering a few new heirlooms. It's a good time to be finding out your zones and not miss out on some sweet organic onions this year.

Happy Gardening!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Putting on Your Christmas Scents

After the Christmas tree and all the trimmings are up, it's time to put on your Christmas scents. It's looking a lot like Christmas at my house, but the scents of Christmas are what gives life to all the decorations. I've given up on burning candles and buying cans or bottles of scents. For one, I'm a very frugal person on a budget. To buy the real scents and candles made of pure ingredients can be quite expensive. The majority of commercially made scents and candles are mostly made of toxic chemicals such as toluene and benzene and harmful paraffin's that can cause asthma as well as other illnesses. In order to keep my family breathing healthy air as well as the joy of being creative, I'm feeling great about making my own scents. I love using pure and natural herbs, spices and selective items from nature and my garden.

Every year I collect items for a fresh basket to place on top of the fireplace. This year I'm filling it with pine cones, rosemary cuttings, cinnamon sticks, simple homemade potpourri, pomanders and a few pine tree branches.

I also enjoy keeping a simmering pot on the stove top or in my crockpot filled with things like lemons, limes and orange pieces, along with cinnamon sticks, cloves and vanilla extract in a little water and sometimes even a little apple cider. It fills the entire house with warm and cozy intoxicating scents throughout the day. Simply keep an eye on it occasionally to be sure it has liquid in it and keep the heat on the lowest setting.

I love the look of an old fashion grapevine wreath filled with lovely items from my garden along with warm spices. This year I'm trying a few new things that I've learned on Growing Herbs for Beginners Holiday Craft Classes online. The classes are very nicely done with a video and a print out page with instructions for making it simple to create an array of beautiful Christmas crafts and scents. The first thing I couldn't wait to try was the cinnamon applesauce dough. She shows how to shape fruits, beads and several adorable cutouts with the dough. I went for the gingerbread cutout and some beads. It's been all I can do to keep my husband and son from trying to eat my crafts!! I can't believe how intense the cinnamon and apple scents are. I'm thinking these will retain the scent for the entire year if I keep them out for display to enjoy. Visit Growing Herbs For Beginners and sign up for the Christmas Craft Classes by clicking on the Texas logo on my blog "Guest Blogging for Growing Herbs for Beginners." Once on the website you will find the link for Herb Classes.

Happy Gardening and Merry Christmas!!