Comal Master Gardener Association

Comal MG Garden EntranceEarlier this Spring, I was privileged to present a program for the Comal (TX) Master Gardener Association. Their facility is on the west side of New Braunfels, TX. I arrived early for my talk since I wasn’t sure exactly how long it would take me to get there. I’m very glad I did!

The facility has been planted with various gardens, all flourishing under the care of many dedicated volunteers.

The following is an annotated photo tour of the gardens.

Comal MG Rose Bed

The rose bed was past it’s first big flush of blooms, but still was full of blossoms. Comal MG Rose Bed

The bed borders the vegetable area.

 

Neat rows of mature vegetables with drip irrigation installed.

Comal MG Vegetable Garden

 

Onions, Swiss Chard, Cabbage, Broccoli, a huge patch of Potatoes! And more!

 

I was so impressed with the condition of this vegetable patch. Volunteers must put in many hours of hard work!

IMG_0380

And, here is one of my favorite features of the garden –Comal MG Keyhole Garden

A Keyhole Garden done in limestone and actually mortared together. Very nice!

 

 

Comal MG Succulents

 

Across the parking lot, near the building is this bed full of succulents and other native or adapted plants for the Hill Country. The day I was there, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds were visiting the Aloe blossoms.

 

Then, I discovered the beds in the back of the building!

Herbs! Lots of herbs! Comal MG Herb Garden

 

 

 

 

 

Native plants, including various types of Bluebonnets were planted with Salvia greggii, a fabulous blooming plant for dry and sunny areas. Notice the limestone edging bordering the beds.

Comal MG Herb & Native Garden

Comal MG Herb Garden Comal MG Herb Garden

 

 

Comal MG Bluebonnets

Did you notice the little touches such as the brightly painted mailboxes used to store tools? Stacked rock wall bordering the Herb Bed?

Most of the plants in the beds are clearly marked, which I particularly like. The facility harvests rainwater for the gardens and everything is well mulched. I’ll say it again- I am very impressed with this facility and the gardens surrounding it. Good job, everyone!

If you live in or around Comal County and have never been to this facility, I highly recommend a visit. It’s at 325 Resource DrNew Braunfels, TX

Here’s a link to the Comal County Master Gardener Facebook Page

Until Next Time,

Good Gardening to you,

Cindy

QUOTE FOR THE MONTH

We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color. -Maya Angelou, poet (b. 4 Apr 1928)

Cover Crops- Nature’s Fertilizer

Improve your soil naturally

The use of cover crops dates back to ancient times. Over 2500 years ago, the Japanese and Chinese noticed that many crops grew and produced better following the growth of certain other plants.

There is a finite amount of nutrients in soil, and with every harvest, nutrients are removed from the system and put into your vegetable or flower. This removal of nutrients and organic matter from the garden is what makes adding nutrients back into the soil necessary.

Cover crops improve soil health because they add organic material and nitrogen, bring buried nutrients to the soil surface, break up hardpan soils, improve water percolation, suppress weeds, increase microbial activity and diversity, and reduce some soil pests. By sowing cover crops, you are essentially growing your own fertilizer in addition to improving soil quality!

The Herb Cottage carries Botanical Interests Seeds for cover crops for all seasons:

Soil Builder Peas/Oats:

A dynamic duo of peas and oats that improves your garden’s soil fertility and structure. Sow in the fall, 6 to 8 weeks before your average first fall frost, or spring, when the soil is at least 40ºF.

Crimson Clover: A hardworking cover crop for your vegetable garden that fixes nitrogen for improved soil fertility. Sow in the fall, 4 to 6 weeks before average first fall frost, or spring after the average last frost date.

Common Buckwheat: In just a few weeks, grow your own green manure for healthier soil that is more productive.Spring through fall, when soil temperature is above 55ºF.

Cover Crop Clover

Cover Crop Clover

Cover Crop Common Buckwheat

Feeding Your Plants- The Low-Down on Fertilizer, Part 2

This post is a continuation of the March 2015 Newsletter. Here is the Part 1 of the Newsletter.

In this post I’m discussing how to use fertilizer in various types of garden situations- raised beds, traditional row gardens and for flowers and herbs, of course!

Raised Garden Beds

Raised Bed

Great raised bed from http://www.raisedgardenbedshowto.com/

Raised beds for vegetable gardens are very popular right now.There are basically two ways to do raised beds: one is to create the sides to contain the soil and simply place it on the ground, filling with soil and amendments to make a place to plant your crops. The other way is to put down some sort of landscape fabric or layers of newspaper or cardboard so the bed is not directly on the soil. That way, you’re sort of making a really large container and the bed must be treated as such.

In my opinion, compost is the best all around soil amendment you can use in a raised bed. You can use your own top soil if you can dig it from somewhere and bring it to your raised beds and mix it with compost. That’s really all you need for a good vegetable garden to start. The compost will contain all the nutrients your plants need.

When planting tomatoes, peppers and eggplant lots of folks like to put a handful of rock phosphate (phosphorus) in the planting hole to give the plants a good start. Another product sometimes used is Epsom Salts. Chemically, Epsom salts is hydrated magnesium sulfate (about 10 percent magnesium and 13 percent sulfur). Magnesium is critical for seed germination and the production of chlorophyll, fruit, and nuts. Magnesium helps strengthen cell walls and improves plants’ uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Here is a very informative article on using Epsom Salts in the garden from the National Gardening Association.

During the growing season, you might want to use a seaweed based foliar spray to help repel insects, give the plant extra protection from temperature extremes, as well as add nutrients to the plants. Plants will take up nutrients through all their above ground parts.

Vegetables that produce a fruit are considered heavy feeders. So, supplemental fertilizer at bloom time or when fruit starts to form and several more times during the growing season is also a good idea. You can use a balanced organic fertilizer or if you prefer using man-made fertilizers, use one with less Nitrogen or with Nitrogen and Phosphorus levels about the same.

Traditional Row Gardens

Row gardening

Nice lettuce gardein in long rows.

Row gardens are grown in a style that makes it easy to use machinery if the garden is large enough, and to keep the garden plot looking neat and clean. A fertilizer program is very similar to that of the raised beds, except you’re using the native soil for your region.

Make sure your soil has lots of compost tilled in to start the season. Then, proceed during planting and growing as for raised beds. Keep the weeds down, as they will compete for nutrients in the soil and if they get too tall, can shade out your vegetable plants. Using companion planting among your rows is a great way to bring beneficial insects to the garden.

Flower and Herb Beds

GardenFlower and Herb bed at The Herb Cottage Herb Garden

Full herb bed at The Herb Cottage

Flower beds are somewhat different than vegetable beds in that you’re going for blossoms rather than fruit. Still, you need to start with a good, well draining soil amended with compost. You can use raised beds, of course, or an in-ground bed. And, if you’re growing for a cutting garden, row-crop gardening might work best for you.

To have and maintain good flowering, especially with annuals, you need to keep up your fertilizer program with a product that has plenty of phosphorus. A balanced organic formulation works great for flower beds because the flowers find the fertilizer they require. An organic fertilizer might need to be applied every 3-4 weeks instead of every 6-8 weeks for a man-made product.

I have found annuals to need more water than perennials and most herbs– basil, stevia and mints being exceptions. Fertile soil holds water better than soil fertilized only with man-made products, making it easier for the plant to acquire the moisture as well as nutrients it needs.

As I have suggested many times before, herbs do very well in beds with flowers. The extra fertilizer you might add to flowers doesn’t seem to negatively affect herbs, even though they can be grown with less nutrient rich soil on their own. Herbs and flowers are wonderful companions bringing more complex aromas, leaf colors and textures to a garden area.

For more on Fertilizers, go to March 2015- Feeding Your Plants-

The Low-Down on Fertilizer, Part 3