About ‘The Homestead Gardener’ Site

We live in San Antonio with our two troublemakers, which we rescued from the pound: Cupcake (aptly named as she is a bit portly) and Rosie.  Our daughter is a corporate attorney based in Arizona and visits occasionally.

This blog is intended to be a collection of my many musings, thoughts, and opinions on gardening, cooking, and life at home, as such, you may find the site an eclectic collection of information.

So, where do all my thoughts on gardening come from? First, it comes from a youth spent gardening on my family’s farm in rural America.  For us, gardening wasn’t just a leisurely past time, but rather, it was a legitimate and necessary source of nourishment for our very large family.

After leaving the farm, I joined the U.S. Army where I proudly served until my retirement.  The military provided me the opportunity to see and garden in many parts of the world which I otherwise wouldn’t have, including Alaska, Japan, Panama, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia.

Although I am far from an “expert”, my experience gardening around the world, my almost obsessive nature in reading all things gardening and the fact that I was, once upon a time, a Master Gardener has given me many insights into the world of gardening vegetables.

Although I never set out to be a gardening enthusiast, gardening is a path to self-sufficiency (and for all those concerned with pesticides, GMOs and all the other scary things lurking in our foods these days, it provides control over the food we eat). Even now, most of the produce my family eats comes from my garden in the backyard, which has often led to many conversations stemming from the curiosity of neighbors who could only speculate as to what crazy things I was growing.  Much to my wife and daughter’s chagrin, there have been times that my backyard looked more like Jumanji than a garden!

Gardening has not only provided a means to commune with mother earth but has become a way to connect with a larger community.  From my wife’s friends wanting vegetables to make delicious Mexican family recipes to my daughter’s pink-haired, tattooed friend looking for fresh produce to sustain her vegan diet without a scary Whole Foods price tag to a new friend learning how to keep slugs off of her tomatoes in a community urban garden in Brooklyn New York—all of these unlikely people are now part of my gardening community.  I have always found that sharing the bounty is a good way to make and keep friends in both new and old familiar places.

Finally, gardening is my very own yoga class.  It is where I go when I am in need of some inner peace.  No matter how dire life’s troubles, I have always been able to enter the garden and leave feeling calmer—it’s as though nurturing the ground also nurtures the soul.

I hope some of my posts are useful and I am always more than happy to get requests for topics or specific questions!


3 thoughts on “About ‘The Homestead Gardener’ Site

  1. Hi Bert,

    I recently purchased a Podocarpus Gracilior tree which is to remain indoors. The tree is approximately 5 to 6 feet in height. I am trying to determine the best approach in caring for the tree, including the right amount of water for a tree that size and how often to water it. Also, I have recently noticed a few gnats in/around the soil of the tree. If you had any thoughts on either, I would really appreciate it!

    Thanks very much!

    1. Hello Mike;
      While the Podocarpus Gracilior (fern pine) is not really an indoor plant, as it can grow to 60 feet in height and 25 to 30 feet wide. The tree is sometimes grown in pots, but even then, it will need period pruning to keep the focused on a central spire and to have a manageable shape. Also, as time passes you may need to transplant the tree to larger pots with fresh soil to keep it from becoming root bound.
      The gnats are most likely fungus gnats, which is an indication of prolonged over watering, which can also be a problem for the tree’s health, as well. So, here are few notes, get you tree back on track. The good news is the fern pine is generally considered to be a tough tree and not prone to disease problems.
      I would start by attacking the root cause of the gnats, which may take a while to eliminate.
      Here a few steps to attach the problem:
      • Kill the food source for the gnats
      o Make sure you drain port in the bottom of the plant pot is unplugged and free of obstructions. If in doubt, take a short section of a wire hanger and probe a few inches into the bottom of the soul (3 or 4 inches should be enough).
      o Clean your pot, specially, the water catch saucer to make sure there are no molds or funguses growing. This is an external cleaning, do not remove your tree.;
      o Treat the soil with a fungicide once a week until the gnats are gone. A stand hand held spray bottle should be sufficient.
      • Kill the Adult Gnats
      o Place a coup Yellow Flag traps for the adult gnats, which can be order from amazon or purchased in your local garden store. I do not recommend bug sprays, which can have more than adverse effect when used indoors.

      • Let the soil dry out
      o Fist start by allowing the soil to tryout as much as possible before watering again,
      o Then water only enough to keep the tree alive. This can vary depending upon how dry your home is. I generally use the finger test, which is to poke your finger into the soul to the first knuckle and feel for moister. The soil should feel cool and damp/moist, but not soggy wet. You can also purchase indicator gauges, if you don’t trust your judgment on soil moister.

      Example items:
      Yellow Dual Sticky Fly Traps (10 Pack) for Gnat Whiteflies Fungus Gnats Small Insects Houseplant

      Garden Safe Fungicide3 (Ready-to-Use) (HG-10414X) (24 fl oz)


      Soil Tester Meter 3-in-1 by Alotpower, Moisture, pH , Light Meter Plant Tester for Indoor and Outdoor Plants


  2. Very nice to meet you Bert. Gardening gives me inner peace too! I know I will be able to learn a lot of gardening tips from you. With every move I make there are new challenges in the garden. I’m in the south now and wow the bugs and weather challenges i’ve never had to deal with when I lived on the west coast. Looking forward to perusing your blog and learning. Take care! Koko

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